December 01, 2008

We must all stand together

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, urged to India to resist striking back at Pakistan for the terror attacks in Mumbai. 

Speaking exclusively to the Financial Times, Pakistan’s president warned that provocation by rogue “non-state actors” posed the danger of a return to war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Even if the militants are linked to Lashkar-i-tayyaba, [a prominent militant group linked to previous attacks against India] who do you think we are fighting?” asked Mr Zardari, whose country is battling al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on its shared border with Afghanistan.

“We live in troubled times where non-state actors have taken us to war before, whether it is the case of those who perpetrated [the] 9/11 [attacks on the US] or contributed to the escalation of the situation in Iraq,” said Mr Zardari.

“Now, events in Mumbai tell us that there are ongoing efforts to carry out copycat attacks by militants. We must all stand together to fight out this menace.”

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June 15, 2008

Advanced Warheads on the Black Market

A front page story in today's Washington Post says that A.Q. Khan's black market smuggling ring may have sold the blueprints for an advanced nuclear warhead.

An international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups.

The drawings, discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen, included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries, the report states.

The computer contents -- among more than 1,000 gigabytes of data seized -- were recently destroyed by Swiss authorities under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, which is investigating the now-defunct smuggling ring previously led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

But U.N. officials cannot rule out the possibility that the blueprints were shared with others before their discovery, said the report's author, David Albright, a prominent nuclear weapons expert who spent four years researching the smuggling network.

According to the Post, former CIA director George Tenet's 2007 memoir claimed that the agency had been extensively involved in tracking the Khan network for over a decade. That would mean that by 1997 the CIA was already aware of Khan's activities, but how much the agency knew is apparently open to question.

The extent of Khan's operation was not revealed until Libya decided to renounce its nuclear weapons program in December of 2003 and to invite U.N. inspectors in to oversee its decommissioning.  That let the cat out of the bag.  In January of 2004 A.Q. Khan was sacked from his position presidential adviser, and in February 2004 he made a televised confession to the Pakistani people about his nuclear black market dealings.

In light of these new revelations, I have to wonder at the continued insistence by Democrats that Saddam Hussein was not a threat that had to be addressed.  In many large projects a key decision is whether to build or to buy.  To insist that Saddam was not really a threat because the weapon stockpiles that we expected to find weren't there is to promote a false sense of security.  Saddam could very well have been planning to buy the technology once the U.N. sanctions were lifted.  It would have made more sense for him to do it that way.

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March 19, 2008

A certain doctor

AJ Strata suspects that the "doctor of Arab origin" mentioned in this report was none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command to Osama bin Laden.  Says Mr. Strata:

It seems someone very high up in AQ may have been in that compound in Pakistan that was recently bombed - maybe a certain Arab doctor...

...As I noted in my previous post above the amount of fire power brought to bear indicated a very high valued target. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two leader, is a doctor. I also noted recently that Gen Hayden (CIA) mentioned casually Zawahiri was an easier target given his penchant for the media. I thought at the time that was a near blatant admission we had him in our sights. Reporting from this part of the world is always dodgy. I’m keeping my fingers crossed...

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March 14, 2008

Coalition strike in North Waziristan

An article in the Long War Journal by Matt Dupee carries the headline, Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan.

A decisive Coalition strike against a high-level meeting of Taliban-linked insurgents on March 12 took place one and a half kilometers inside Pakistani territory, US military officials have confirmed to The Long War Journal. Several precision-guided munitions struck a compound owned by a senior member of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban splinter group that is based in the Pakistani tribal state of North Waziristan. The strike occurred shortly after multiple intelligence sources confirmed the presence of the group’s upper echelon inside the compound. Several other high-level Haqqani commanders, including Sirajjudin Haqqani, had planned to attend this meeting, intelligence sources confirmed.

At 9:40 PM local time, US officials declared the group posed an imminent threat to forces inside Afghanistan and the call to strike the compound was made. After the orders were given to launch a coordinated strike, fixed-wing and rotary-wing air support along with Predator surveillance and reconnaissance began scanning likely insurgent attack positions inside Afghanistan. US military officials confirmed no women or children had been seen in the targeted North Waziristan compound or in any structures near it over the last five days.

Nearly four hours later, a salvo of indirect fire targeting the compound hit its mark, completely obliterating the building and killing an unknown number of people inside of it. Several insurgents working sentry posts around the compound were observed by aerial surveillance leaving the area on foot. Initial intelligence reports on March 12 indicated three “high-level Haqqani network commanders” were killed and that “many” Chechen fighters also died in the blast.

The targeted strike inside Pakistani territory is the first public announcement by US military officials confirming the coordination of a cross-border attack. The attack is said to have occurred in the village of Lwara Mundi, a flashpoint for clashes between insurgents and security forces, according to AFP. Thousands of pro-Taliban insurgents, al Qaeda fighters, and tribal militias associated with the Taliban operate unhindered in the tribal states of western Pakistan, especially in their stronghold of North Waziristan. Previously, the Pakistan government has denied Coalition and NATO forces permission to conduct raids against targets inside Pakistani territory.

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February 20, 2008

"From Box to Box"

With threats and murder they did what they could, but al Qaeda and the Taliban were the losers.  The voters and the people were the real winners in the Pakistani elections.

Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies did all they could to disrupt things, killing some 300 candidates, election officers and party activists. Their sinister slogan "From Box to Box" - i.e., anyone who cast a vote into the ballot box could end up in a coffin - was posted or scribbled on many walls. The terrorists also destroyed at least 12 polling stations and stole several dozen ballot boxes.

Still, they failed. And their political allies did no better.

The Unified Assembly for Action (MMA), a coalition of Islamists, saw its share of the vote drop from almost 11 percent in the last general election five years ago to around 3 percent. It lost control of the only one of Pakistan's four provinces that it governed, and all its main leaders lost their seats. In the provincial assembly of Sindh, the MMA won no seats.

A Shiite group, heavily financed by Iran's Islamic Republic, suffered an even bigger rout. If the latest results hold, it will end up with 1 percent of the vote.

The politicians linked with the military and security agencies also lost, if not as heavily. Their chief party, the Pakistan Muslim League, lost almost two-thirds of its seats and control of the national parliament and the three provincial assemblies that it had dominated for years.

The message of this election is clear: The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis reject both military rule and its political twin of Islamism.

According to Amir Taheri Monday's election has returned Pakistan to about where it was before the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup in 1977.   The Pakistanis deserve our support.  With Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan having all held legitimate elections, I'd have to say the chances for real democracy taking hold in the Middle East are better now than they have ever been in history.

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