Pakistan Reopens Torkham Border Crossing to NATO Supplies

Pakistan shut down the border crossing at Torkham to NATO fuel supplies after a series of raids by the US in Pakistan aimed at taking out the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They reoppened the crossing today, and it demonstrates the power Pakistan has over Nato supply lines at the moment. The only other options to supply are by air, or overland and sea via Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, or through Russia. Either presents problems at the moment, as does negotiatng new supply routes from China via the silk road.

These raids have increased in tempo since the beginning of the year, but have not to our knowledge taken out anyone higher than mid level in either organization. Osama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Baitullah Mehsud, Haqqani, and Abu Yazid Al Masri are still all out there to the best of my knowledge.

While many Taliban and AQ were killed, the identities are largely unknown until we get confirmations from other sources.

More on the interdiction of supplies from Bill Roggio:

The US has recently stepped up attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda safe houses and training camps inside Pakistan’s tribal areas of North and South Waziristan over the last week. The US has conducts five strikes in the Waziristans in the past week, including a controversial helicopter assault in a village along the border.

But other Pakistani officials are maintaining that the border crossing was closed due to a deteriorating security situation. Rahmin Malik, the advisor to Prime Minister Gilani on internal security, said the road was closed after members of the security forces protecting the road to Afghanistan were kidnapped.

This is a political move, demonstrating the new President’s independence from US control, but ultimately the Pakistan economy could not withstand the shock of stopping the supplies permanently, as well as the other likely reprecussions. It is significant that Pakistan also made this move as the India nuclear deal took place, allowing open trade with India and bringing them back into the nuclear arms treaties. Similar deals were in the works with Pakistan, but those fell through, more from the chaos of the elections and the aftermath of forming a new coalition after the initial one collapsed.

Pakistan’s future could be bright: They sit on the best path for energy and food supplies to most of the subcontinent, but as long as their frontiers remain out of control they will never be able to leverage that geopolitial advantage very well.

Senior Al Qaeda Leader(s) Killed in Damadola

It appears we got an Algerian Al Qaeda leader in the Damadola village hellfire strike last week, this is the third one in the area. ( as reported here in February.)  Jammie Wearing Fool has more

The Algerian, known by the nickname Abu Sulayman Jazairi, apparently died May 14 in the strike that killed as many as 14 people and destroyed a compound near the village of Damadola, an Al Qaeda stronghold in northwestern Pakistan, officials said. A knowledgeable U.S. official and a senior European anti-terrorism official said Jazairi was thought to be dead.

U.S. anti-terrorism forces are targeting front-line planners in Pakistani hide-outs, and Jazairi would be another in a series of recent losses for the Al Qaeda leadership, the two officials said.

More also at the Asia Times:

US intelligence is closely monitoring the area, acutely aware of its importance. The strike had some success, taking out two senior al-Qaeda leaders – Sheikh Osman, know for his amputated hand, and Sheikh Soliman. However, a famous Taliban commander, Dost Muhammad, escaped unhurt. **

** Note that when you read an article by Syed you will be reading the Taliban’s agitprop — sometimes they lie, sometimes they don’t; so you will find nuggets of truth in his articles. I don’t think Syed lies but he is sympathetic, and prints verbatim what they tell him.

Update: More from the Pakistan Daily times:

They said the Algerian, known by the nickname Abu Sulayman Jazairi, apparently died on May 14 in the strike that killed 14 people and destroyed a compound near the village of Damadola.

A knowledgeable US official and a senior European anti-terrorism official told the Times that Jazairi was thought to be dead.

They said that US anti-terrorism forces were targeting frontline planners in Pakistani hideouts, and Jazairi would be another in a series of recent losses for the Al Qaeda leadership.

“He was a significant person within the Al Qaeda ranks,” said the European official, requesting anonymity. “Not in the top five, but he’s up there. The suspicion is he was one of those individuals involved in training and targeting Western interests. There is uncorroborated intelligence that he was involved in plots against Europe.”

According to the Times, officials declined to discuss last week’s operation because of political tension in Pakistan over US airstrikes. In fact, it added, some doubt lingers about the identity of the man killed. The report referred to a statement of a senior Pakistani official in which he said he believed the slain man was not the Algerian but another foreign militant.

Despite the confusion, the US and European officials told the paper that their information about the militant’s identity seemed solid.

“There are good reasons to think that Al Jazairi is dead,” the US official said. The European official said that there recently had been allusions to Jazairi’s death on radical websites.

Explosives expert: Jazairi was an explosives expert and “important terrorist trainer”, the US official said.

“When it comes to training, this individual was an important figure … People like him are vital to terrorist plots. That doesn’t mean he can’t be replaced. But when Al Qaeda loses someone with his experience, it matters.”

UPDATE: More at The Long War Journal