Pakistan: mobilization against drone strikes
Hundreds of Pakistanis, joined by dozens of activists from the US, on Oct. 6 launched a motorcade "march" against US drone strikes that they hope will reach the Afghan border region in the South Waziristan tribal area. The march—actually, a long vehicle convoy—is being led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) party. The American activists are from the US-based anti-war group Code Pink. Authorities say the foreigners will not allowed into the tribal areas, and warn that the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack the march (presumably because of the PTI's moderate—although not secularist—politics). But Khan implied that the government had created the threat. "I condemn the hypocrisy of the government, who tried their best to make this march fail," Khan told around 5,000 supporters at a rally along the way. "They are saying that Taliban have sent nine suicide attackers. If [President Asif Ali] Zardari sends even a 100 suicide attackers this march will not stop."
Jihad against the phantom menace hits Sinai
The jihad against a non-existent "film" produced by non-existent "Jews" continues to claim lives, with the most recent attack Sept. 23 launched by militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Israeli troops guarding the border, killing one and wounding another. AFP informs us that an outfit calling itself Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) took credit for the attack, calling it a "Disciplinary Invasion Against those who Dared Against the Beloved Prophet." The statement posted on Islamist websites read: "As the defence of the honour of the Messenger of Allah is one of our duties and responsibilities, your brothers...carried their weapons and became determined to discipline the Jews for their heinous acts." Hey, read the small print, willya Ansar Bait al-Maqdis? "The Jews" had nothing to do with this one—the non-existent "film" (really just a "trailer" on YouTube) was produced by a Coptic Christian who cynically assumed the fabricated identity of an Israeli-American, and falsely claimed to have Jewish financial backers. Talk about "Anti-Semitism without Jews."
US drone strike kills Haqqani network commander?
Afghanistan's intelligence agency said Aug. 26 that the operational commander of the Haqqani network, held responsible for audacious on Kabul, was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. "We confirm that Badruddin Haqqani, who was the mastermind of almost all sophisticated attacks in Kabul, was killed in a drone strike," National Directorate of Security spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told AFP. "Our information is based on interception of the conversation of the guys [Haqqani members] on the ground who confirmed he was dead," Mashal said. The death of Badruddin, the son of network founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, has been rumoured for days despite denials from the closely allied Taliban, whose spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP: "This is propaganda of the enemy. Badruddin is alive and he will soon talk to the media. He is inside Afghanistan and busy with operations." In Pakistan, senior Haqqani network commander Maulvi Ahmed Jan also denied Badruddin had been killed. He told Reuters that a distant relative, aged 13, was killed in the strike and his funeral had been mistaken by locals for Badruddin's. (AFP, Aug. 26; Reuters, Aug. 25)
Next: nuclear Taliban?
What great timing. On Aug. 16, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta spoke to reporters at the Pentagon about a new report from the Congressional Research Service entitled "Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues" (online as a PDF at the Federation of American Scientists). Panetta said: "The great danger we've always feared is that if terrorism is not controlled in their country then those nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands." That same day, militants from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan attacked Minhas Air Force Base near Kamra, outside Islamabad—a site where aviation research takes place, and is believed to be closely linked to Pakistan's nuclear program. Nine attackers and one guard were killed, a senior officer injured, and a surveillance plane damaged. It was the fourth and most audacious attack on the base. Pakistan Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the death of leader Baitullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in 2009, and the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year.
Ramadan drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan
US drones killed 10 supposed al-Qaeda militants in separate strikes targeting moving vehicles in Yemen Aug. 7—in the midst of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The official SABA news agency said one of the dead was Abdullah Awad al-Masri AKA Abou Osama al-Maribi, described him as one of the "most dangerous elements" of al-Qaeda in the militant stronghold of Bayda province and the man in charge of a bomb-making lab. Another US drone targeted a second vehicle carrying three supposed al-Qaeda militants in the Zoukaika region of Hadramout province. (AP, Aug. 7) A US drone attack on Aug. 5 killed at least seven in Pakistan, striking a compound in Khushhali Turikhel village of North Waziristan tribal district. (NY Daily News, July 29)
China launches bid to undermine trans-Afghan pipeline project
Regional security has been seen as the biggest challenge for the planned trans-Afghan gas pipeline—officially the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project, which would pass the war-torn Afghan provinces of Herat and Kandahar as well as Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province. But recent reports of a rival pipeline project being negotiated between China, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan may pose a more fundamental threat to the TAPI. On June 6-8, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperations Organization summit in Beijing, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and China National Petroleum Corporation's (CNPC) head Jiang Jiemin to discuss the proposal. CNPC offered to conduct a technical and economic feasibility study for the proposed project on Afghan and Tajik territories. That the route would avoid the conflicted Pashtun-dominated areas of southern Afghanistan, making the project more attractive for investors. India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses says the Chinese pipeline could undermine the TAPI "akin to the manner in which TAPI played spoiler to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project." (IDSA, July 31)
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