Leaders of Swat Insurgency Surrender

Four of the leaders under Mullah Fazlullah who led forces in the Swat insurgency have surrendered to authorities. From The International:

MINGORA: In a dramatic development, four prominent militant commanders and close aides of rebel cleric Maulana Fazlullah here on Thursday surrendered to the government and promised to give up militancy in future.

The commanders, who laid down their arms, were identified as Khalil, Fazal, Kabir and Mumtaz. In the past few days, a number of militants, who once fought against the security forces in Swat, have surrendered to the government and pledged to quit militancy and live peaceful lives.

Those who surrendered on Thursday belonged to Koza Bandai area, a town near Mam Dheray that was earlier known as the stronghold of the militants. Three commanders surrendered at an unpublicised ceremony, which the former union council Nazim Sher Khan had organised in Matta where Major Abdullah of the Pakistan Army was present.

The fourth commander who surrendered to the military authorities was identified as Maulana Muhammad Siraj. Maulana Siraj, who had laid down arms along with his four fighters, belonged to Kala Kalley of Kabal Tehsil.

Perhaps they saw hellfire coming in their future, or perhaps they just got tired of being hungry, cold, and on the run. Mullah Fazlullah and some key deputies are still on the run.

In another case of you can’t win for losing, Human Rights Watch says the US is at fault for Musharraf’s emergency rule. This even though he was heavily urged to end it and pressured through all channels from Washington. Story at The International. The US election watch delegation also pulled out from monitoring elections saying that it was insecure. It’s unknown whether John Kerry will still travel to Pakistan for the elections.

South Waziristan Mehsuds are begging the government to come to a jirga, but this is more likely delaying tactic by Baitullah.  At the same time they are negotiating with the AQ/Taliban forces from North Waziristan, “the Uzbeks” as reported yesterday.

7 Al Qaeda Arab operatives were among the dead from the strike on Al Libi from Dawn. Here’s the Daily Times article on Al Libi’s death.

Jundullah Update: 6 More Suspects have been arrested in new raids, and more evidence is recovered on groups and finances as authorities roll up the chain of the Al Qaeda allied group (Jundullah doctors worked on most wounded AQ leaders the past few years.) From The International:

Acting on this information, police carried out raids in the Gulshan-e-Maymar, Allahwala Town (Korangi), Shershah and Mominabad areas and rounded up more than six suspects with a recovery of latest weapons.

They also captured strong evidence related to the banned organisation’s future terror plans, said the sources.

Meanwhile, sources, providing more details on the detained militants, said that, during the process of investigation, it was discovered that terrorist Qasim Toori was once a constable of the police department and had later been dismissed. Toori, who was appointed in Sindh police department in the mid-90s, had indulged in criminal activities a policeman.

Finally, when he was posted at Shah Faisal Colony police station, he committed sodomy on a minor boy and was arrested and sent to jail. Later, he was dismissed from the police department, after which, using his contacts with criminals, he joined Jundullah.

Sources maintained that Qasim Toori, alias Hamza, son of Mohammed Farooq Toori, a resident of Rafayaam Society, Al-Falah, Karachi, was a Matric pass and usually spoke in Urdu. Sources added that he bore an identification mark on his left wrist mentioned in the Red Book of the Crime Investigation Department. He was involved in the attack on a Corps Commander in Karachi and several other terrorist cases and was a native of Sialkot.

Also see my earlier article here where I noted that AQ would work through criminal gangs in urban areas. 

Also note this article in Asia Times, a media outlet almost as sympathetic to AQ as As- Sahab is – Jundullah gets a mention.

There was a terror blast near the District Coordination Office (DCO) in Quetta, five were injured. Daily Times.

Three more ammo trucks have been recovered from Dara Adam Khel. Daily Times It also turns out that parts of the tunnel were damaged when militants blew up one truck inside, as I predicted they might.

Near Quetta militants continue attacks on Energy infrastructure, from Dawn.

Also note that this week Mullah Omar sacked Baitullah as head of Tehreek-Taliban-Pakistan because he was fighting in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan. This comes after Baby Dadullah (Mansour) was similarly chastised. It seems to have had little effect. This continuing schism was more evident last fall, when the Afghan Taliban and South Waziristan were fighting – rockets were coming cross border into Pakistan at that time.

Finally, in neighboring Srinagar Indian troops killed four Hizbul Mujahadeen. From Dawn.

Al Qaeda Under Pressure

abu-laith-al-libi.jpgUPDATE: Al Libi Dead

A leading al Qaeda member in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, a website often used by the group and other Islamists said on Thursday.

A banner on the Ekhlaas.Org site said Libi had fallen as a martyr, without giving further details. It was not immediately clear if Libi’s death was linked to a suspected US missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region this week. 

More at The Long War Journal 

Pakistan has become a bubbling cauldron of news the past week, both good and bad. I’ve not posted about it because events seem to be at critical juncture and uninformed speculation could upset good results.

Let’s summarize quickly what’s been going on:

The army retook the Kohat Tunnel, and the groups involved according to government sources were HuJI, JeM, and LeT – or the Kashmir nexus of Jihadi terror groups which appear to be in the Dara Adam Khel area. The bodies of thirteen soldiers captured at Dara Adam Khel have been found, some reports state they were dragged headless through the marketplace.

TNSM is still on the run in Swat, with the goverment making small advances daily.

7 “militants” in NWFP province took 32 children hostage in a school after a failed attempt to kidnap a government figure. The children were released, and the militants captured. It’s possible that some or all of them could have been TNSM.

Now to the new reports:

An American Diplomat, Keith Ryan in the consulate is reported to have been murdered or have committed suicide with a pistol, but there are questions remaining.

A miltant ring was captured in Karachi, but the neighbors now are worried that there might still be more in the area. Note the hedging in the article and the failure to note what type of militants. More at Dawn, where they identify the militants as belonging to Jandullah. Also note this previous article regarding Jandullah Doctors from 2006.

[Ed: Note that Jundullah is a murky group tied to Pakistan’s military, the Balochistan Liberation Army, and purportedly is at work against Iran as well. There’s a muddy trail here, and some very well could be red herring.]

Update: Wall Street Journal on the hunt for Baitullah Mehsud.

In Peshawar a “work accident” killed three Taliban suicide bombers.

Islamabad reports discovery of five hand-written letters from Osama Bin Laden to various AQ commanders, one to Mansour Daddullah. Mansour was recently rebuked and removed from command.

In Orakzai Agency 18 tribes are banding together to clear the area of Taliban:

LAHORE: After the killing of three levies personnel by local militants in Orakzai Agency on Saturday night, 18 tribes of the agency have decided to form a Lashkar (tribal army) against the Taliban to flush them out of the area, reported BBC Urdu on Tuesday.

A grand jirga of the 18 tribes was held in Ghuljoo, Orakzai Agency headquarters, on Monday morning, which was attended by around ten to fifteen thousand armed men.

Talking to BBC, head of Rabiakhel tribe Malik Zaman Shah said all tribes had unanimously decided not to give shelter to any militant in the area and any tribe breaching the pledge would be punished with Rs 10 million in fine and a hundred houses of the tribe would be burnt down.

End to fight: He said the jirga had also settled ‘Islam Zona’ to temporarily end mutual enmities between the local tribes. The local tribes will, according to the decision, not fight each other until the area is cleared of militants.

Another tribal Elder in Mohmand was assasinated, and his sons kidnapped.

A bomb or missile strike was made against an unknown High Value target near the border in North Waziristan:

Pakistani officials initially said that 12 suspected militants had been killed in a midnight strike against a home in a village in North Waziristan, Khushali Torikhel.

Both the Pakistani military and the CIA have used missile attacks in the past to target top al Qaeda leaders.

The CIA uses missiles attached to the unmanned Predator aircraft which fly over Pakistani airspace with tacit Pakistani government approval.

More at Strata-sphere.

UPDATE: An aide to Al-Libi was slain according to Jammie.

Pakistan is trying to renegotiate the Waziristan Accords in North Waziristan (hint: they didn’t work last time…)

In South Waziristan it appears negotiations are going on between the Afghanistan Taliban and or Al Qaeda, and the Mehsud tribes there to re-admit the “Uzbeks”, who were pushed out last year in a short campaign by the tribes and Baitullah Mahsoud (Mehsud alt. sp.) Note that some speculation had it that the “Uzbeks” were Al Qaeda, and possibly Osama Bin Laden’s personal troops during the Taliban campaign last year, others were stating it was the “Afghan Taliban,” meaning Mullah Omar.

Five Afghan Taliban were arrested in Zhob (story here)

Chashma was shut down on the 28th due to flooding on the lower floors during maintenance, and will be restarted today.

My analysis? I don’t have a clue. The only thing I can say about this is that I get the very real sense that the bubble’s been pushed, people are fleeing, and the old boundaries and alliances are in tatters as forces re-align. The next few days should prove interesting, I will be watching and reporting.

Note on the lead up to where we are: The Lal Masjid incident, coupled with transit of funds and troops from Iraq to Pakistan last May onward led me to believe that AQ was refocusing on Pakistan, and not just the tribal regions. Taliban and AQ were noted as being picked up at Taftan Border Crossing with Iran coming into Pakistan. AQ had given up in Iraq during the surge and was refocusing on Pakistan. Subsequent events, including AQ’s declaration of Jihad against Musharraf, multiple assasination attempts, and the successful one against Benazir Bhutto show that analysis was correct.

I believe that that Al Qaeda took advantage of several things to start their Pakistani insurrection:

  • The closing of the Government funded Jihadi camps on the Kashmir border in October 2006 turned many jihadi groups lose from the government reservation, and against them.
  • The registration of foreigners and the closing of Afghan Refugee camps caused dissension in the frontiers
  • The Waziristan peace accords (whenever you make peace with a Jihadist, you are merely allowing him to re-arm and recruit.)
  • The instability of politics in Pakistan – when Musharraf arrested the Chief Justice it decreased his support in the Sindh and the Punjab greatly, thus decreasing the latitude of actions he could take.
  • TNSM and Mullah Fazlullah aka “Maulana Radio” or “Maulana Earthquake” (this from the tendency to preach over the FM airwaves that Allah would send more earthquakes if the people of Swat did not do x, y, z. This led to the Red Mosque incident.)
  • Lal Masjid, or the Red Mosque

The last event was final spark to tinder, it was bigger than Waco, and an event that for the first time glued all Pakistanis to their televisions, newspapers, and radios for several days. Some forums and commenters were likening it to “Pakistan’s 9/11”.

Surprisingly Liberal

This well-crafted ad is a lesson for the McCain team – if you are going to flame, you shouldn’t do so from a matchstick house. Recently they criticized Mitt Romney for “being for timelines in Iraq”. While you could take a bit out of context and say that it was true (Mitt was talking about setting non-public politcal goals with the gov’t of Iraq) it was essentially untrue when put in context.

Here are things that are true, and not a stretch:

My single greatest beef with John McCain has always been the gang of fourteen. Contrary to public perceptions it was not just about judges. It was about allowing the minority party veto power by requiring a super-majority for anything the Republicans did. It took the “nuclear option” of stopping the filibuster-everything tactics of the minority off the table, and hamstrung the Republican majority in many ways. The rancor and disunity afterwards was everything Democratic strategists could hope for.

Rudy Bows, But not Quite Out

Rudy Giuliani made a concession speech in the Florida primary last night that was close to an “I’m quitting” speech. That appears to me to be the signal that he’s going to stay in for the debates, and save his campaign ending speech for a moment that’s opportune to endorse another candidate.

Rumor has it that it will be McCain, but we won’t know until it happens. That in mind I’ve pulled his campaign button off the site and will be replacing it with a Romney button as soon as I can find one.

If Rudy endorses McCain, I’ll still be voting Romney.

Update: Rudy Giuliani endorsed McCain.

McCain’s ACU Ratings

John McCain’s ACU rating that he cites in speeches aren’t that conservative at all, as American Thinker points out this morning. Stop by for a quick read, it’s eye-opening.

Sherpao: NWFP in Danger of Talibanisation

In an interview with the New York Times former Government official Aftab Khan Sherpao speaks out against the current lackluster opposition to the Taliban in the frontiers of Pakistan. It’s a pretty blistering condemnation from one of the best known and most respected politicians in Pakistan.

Just one revelation from the interview before I link it: Apparently the Taliban is paying the opposition parties in the frontiers not to run against their picked candidates.

New York Times Sherpao Interview.

Previous articles on Sherpao.

For an update on the battle for the Kohat Tunnel, as well as the ongoing Wazir War, please stop by and read Bill Roggio’s update at The Long War Journal.

ASA 200 vs. 1600

flame-ii.jpgflame-1.jpgI’m playing with my camera again, these photos were shot in a dark bathroom at 1/125th.  One is ASA 200, the other 1600. Ignore the yutz on the mirror, and don’t tell my wife I used one of her crystal vases for this experiment.

Endearing, Enduring Culture

In some of the recent debates across the blogosphere one of my key arguments has been that only endearing culture endures across time. Ugly, undesirable culture isn’t adopted willingly unless it is force-fed to youth with immature critical thinking and judgement skills. In other words the only way ugly culture can perpetuate itself is through indoctrination, and over time that breaks down.

Some examples:

  • In Palestine they teach children a grievance, revenge-based story of history, and they create murdering suicide bombers imbued with hate. (no need to detail this as it’s available here; read a few of the entries with the term “child abuse” in them.)
  • In the extreme Belgian political party Vlaams Belang they teach their youths grievance theater based on hate, (your grandmother had her head shaved, your grandfather had to flee to Argentina, the Walloon officers got us killed in the first world war because the orders were in French instead of Dutch, etc.) It’s how they propagate Flemish supremacy and nationalism, which keeps concepts like apartheid and neo-nazism alive in modern Europe. See here.
  • In the hinterlands of Pakistan they teach their children that their tribe is best and that to marry outside it is to bring dishonor on the family – hence honor killings.

These are all vain attempts to keep the current ugly culture of tribal supremacy and  cultural barriers of pride and grievance going forward.

The tribalists are losing the battle to keep the ugly parts of their culture over time. In the hinterlands of Pakistan there are Trekkies, in Palestine they love Star Wars, and American pop music is heard more by the youth of Antwerp than nazi punk rock.

Left to their own devices humans are innately curious, and they explore. They try new things, and those which are endearing they keep. The power of beautiful art and culture cannot be underestimated, and over time it survives while that which is ugly rots in its own bile.

Sometimes in America we forget things that are beautiful; the power of them reaches from the past and makes them continually new again. Iowahawk loves hot-rods and the beauty of detroit styling of yesteryear, and he keeps it living on the web. Others do the same, and over the past few years you’ve seen that reborn in Detroit showrooms full of “retro-styled” vehicles.

At the Atlantic, Virginia Postrel tells the tale of how the forgotten children’s story of Mr. Pine is new again through the inspiration of the internet as well.

So the power of our culture relies not on how well we propagandize, but rather on how beautiful and open it is. In the US we tend to be adopters of good things from other cultures – you can find great sushi in the midwest, pinatas at kid’s birthday parties are common here, and you can find almost as many flavors of Vodka here as you can in Europe.

That’s right: we will steal the good parts of your culture and make them ours. Over time that becomes so powerful that everyone except the indoctrinated wants to be us.

Endurance

endurance.jpgWhen I feel down and out I pull out a book titled “The Endurance“. It’s the tale of Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole and how he and his crew survived trapped in the Antarctic Ice Shelf for nearly two years, and how they all lived to tell the tale.

They went through hell unimagined, and nothing I’ve faced in my life has ever been that dire. (Once when my car’s gas line froze 30 miles north of Tok, Alaska while the temperature was -70 and the wind blowing thirty miles per hour things were grim, but that was short and we didn’t even get frostbitten during that four hour glimpse of infinity.)

The tale itself is both an example of terrible leadership, and a tale of supreme will begetting  great leadership. Shackleton could have made several smarter decisions before he became trapped in pack ice with his crew, but he didn’t – that’s the bad leadership. The great leadership comes into play in how he kept his men going even though they were in a ridiculously terrible environment and most dire strait all due to following him.

It helps me put things in perspective. No matter how bad things seem here, they certainly aren’t that bad.

To the left you can see their ship, The Endurance, trapped in pack ice at night. The photograph was taken by Frank Hurley, and in another six years it will be 100 years old. This post is mostly about this photo, please click on it and enlarge it. Then imagine yourself there, thousands of miles from anywhere in 1915 while the First World War was on with no one coming to rescue you.

Then be happy, happy that you are warm, happy for whatever you have, and for whoever you can hold. Think of the ship next time you flip on a light, or open the fridge, or turn on the TV, and you will know joy.

Waziristan War Spreads North

The Mehsud Taliban have attacked in the rear at supply lines to the North of the Wazirs in Orakzai agency, Bill Roggio has the details over at The Long War Journal. If you are a regular reader there please take a moment to donate, Bill’s trying to put together four embeds now.

dara-adam-khel.jpgDarra Adam Khel is also known as “Gun City”, it’s where many weapons are hand-made, from antique replicas to modern automatics nearly indistinguisable from the real models. For an overview, see this article.

Update II: The Taliban has captured Kohat Tunnel, a strategic North – South chokepoint. They either are holding it with forces, or have it rigged to explode. (Perhaps the captured ammo convoy is parked inside?)

Update: Richter dropped off another story on this, The International News has more detail on the Jirgas to gain the trucks back.

PESHAWAR: Tribal elders were holding negotiations with the local Taliban in the gun-manufacturing town of Darra Adamkhel on Thursday to seek the return of five trucks loaded with ammunition that they allegedly snatched along with five soldiers accompanying the military cargo destined for South Waziristan.

Tribal sources in Darra Adamkhel said the Taliban and the tribal Jirga had been given time until 10 am today to return the trucks or be ready for a military crackdown. Pakistan Army troops had been sent to Darra Adamkhel to set up camp in the Government Degree College there and wait for orders to start action against the miscreants in case they refuse to return the snatched trucks and ammunition.

Through its spokesman Maulvi Omar, the Tehrik-i-Taliban, Pakistan, earlier claimed that its fighters had snatched and driven away the trucks to a safe place. Speaking for an undisclosed location, he said the trucks were loaded with artillery and mortar shells, all kinds of bullets and other ammunition. “This ammunition is war-booty and is enough for our Taliban to fight for another two years,” he remarked.

According to tribal sources, the trucks were intercepted and snatched by armed men during the night near the Kohat Tunnel in Darra Adamkhel at around 1 am Thursday. They said the military convoy had six trucks, but one managed to evade the roadblock set up by the suspected Taliban and drove into the tunnel before it could be stopped. The remaining five trucks were snatched and driven back to some place in Darra Adamkhel, which lies in the foothills and is populated by Afridi tribe.