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”.