Musharraf and the Bear’s Bad Bargain

While many are portraying the resignation of Musharraf as either a bad thing or a good thing, in effect it happened two months or more ago. His old friends and associates have been ignoring him, the stalwarts in PML-Q and MQM have deserted him, and even General Kayanni who he appointed as his replacement Chief of Army Staff has deserted by ducking meetings. His popularity with the Pakistani people of all stripes is almost as low as the US congress is with the American People. He lasted the six months past the elections that I previously predicted he would make it at least as far as, but not much further.

The religious conservative nature of more than half of Musharraf’s base has been decaying since 2006 — it started when he turned his back on the government sponsored terror camps for Kashmiri Jihadis, and this turned some factions within the army and ISI as well.
It accelerated as he started flushing the Afghanistan Refugee camps and repatriating them, with the hudood ordinance wrangling for women’s rights, with the de-certifying of madrassa diplomas, and sped up more with the well-constructed Al Qaeda’s cape of Lal Masjid Mosque to Musharraf’s bull.

Then he lost the urban moderate part of his base with the barring of the Judiciary and the censoring of media in the run-up to elections. If there’s someone in Pakistan that Musharraf hasn’t pissed-off, I’m certainly not aware of who it is. At some point you have to step back to admire his tap-dance across the razor wire of Pakistani politics, and the panache with which he carried off several actions of his tenure as president in a country so factionalized you need a score card to know how to dress when you travel.

In the end patronage is what got him post election. The political and business communities in Pakistan thrive on patronage, and without his partie’s people in the bureacracies and positions of power Musharraf has been a thin paper icon and not a real power the past few months, and the final dregs of his support trickled away.

With Musharraf now gone, the US got the bear’s bad bargain from him, as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been securely in Taliban hands the past two years, and during the last year and a half they’ve made steady progress in trying to take over the North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP). Ayman Al Zawahiri and Bin Laden have been directing events, and they’ve created the next generation of Jihadi leadership under his nose. There’s been billions in aid and hardware spent, and now like the bear in the story, we are rambling off with empty paws.

The effects of Musharraf’s departure, like all multi-faceted events, are much more complex than any single pundit can predict, but I will do my best to sketch some possibilities here.

This will put Zardari, a questionable character in his own right, in charge of PPP, as the likely next president – if it’s not then it will be a puppet of his. (This goes with the usual codicil in Pakistan: If he lives, his name probably heads Baitullah Mehsud’s assassination list of 300.) There’s a slim potential to make Nawaz Sharif president, but the chances of that aren’t likely.

I think you will see Al Qaeda declare that PPP is just the newest US puppet, and they will continue their war against the government of Pakistan; they need to do that to survive. Brokering peace in the frontiers isn’t likely except under one scenario, and it’s probable that it will be floated or tried at some point so watch for the following possibility:

I would wager that the the new government would be willing to turn Jihadi ire away from Afghanistan and back towards India and the Kashmir standoff if they think that will bring them peace. With the Kashmir intifada heating up, it’s a likely ploy and scenario to regain the conservative sympathizer vote and to shore up the peace in the frontiers. Without an external enemy to focus the jihadis upon the jihadis will continue to eat the state of Pakistan.

The other challenges before the government are many, and how they answer them will be instructive over the next few months. The economy is floundering, in stagflation from energy and food inflation, coupled with decreased productivity and increased joblessness. Hunger is beginning to stalk the subcontinent once again, and that’s something that could snap the populace into their face very quickly if not abated.

Pakistan is energy deficient, which leads to many of their other woes for you can not support a dense population without abundant, cheap energy.

If they agitate in the Kashmir too much, they will find food supplies shortened, which certainly won’t help matters.

Then of course there are the Islamists, who are trying to overthrow the Government of Pakistan, and if they fail in that, they will next attempt to create the breakaway state of Pashtun land (there are many spellings for the envisioned state to be carved out of FATA, Southern Afghanistan, and NWFP, I’ve anglicized it.)

So lots of challenges, and at this point I have no firm predictions.

For a run down on potential candidates, here’s a list from Pakistan policy blog.

 Also just a couple notes to correct some misconceptions in other articles I’ve seen in the blogosphere:

It was Richard Armitage who took the message to Pakistan that we would bomb them to the stone age if they did not cooperate according to Musharraf’s memoirs.

It was under Bhutto that the Kashmir genocide through forced migration started, and prior to that General Zia al Haq had been using Bin Laden and AQ to cleanse the hinterlands of Pakistan, like Chitral etc.

Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid aka “Sa’id” Al Qaeda Leader Dead

Originally billed as Al Qaida’s leader in Afghanistan way back in May 2007 in an As Sahab video, he later seemed to have been replaced in subseqent announcements by other AQ leaders in Afghanistan as AQ tried Emir after Emir. He was the quick fill-in after we killed Mullah Dadullah.

He was the one who declared Jihad against Turkey, and later he pops up in the news claiming credit for the Benazir Bhutto assassination for Al Qaeda.

Pakistan has announced the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” al-Masri in the Bajaur region as a result of their ongoing offensive there. (The Reuters story specifies an “Unamed Official, but that’s normally how these reports come from Pakistan.) 
UPDATE: In the International Times they have both Taliban and “Arab” sources denying the death of Abu Yazid “Saeed” Al Masri. This looks like another false report from Pakistan’s Military at the moment, but note that the military also states that intercepted insurgent radio chatter is where they first heard of the death, we’ll give this another 48 hours since Al Qaeda ususally does confirm when we kill a leader.

Originally billed as Al Qaida’s leader in Afghanistan way back in May 2007 in an As Sahab video, he later seemed to have been replaced in subseqent announcements by other AQ leaders in Afghanistan as they tried Emir after Emir. I think this was by design after Dadullah’s death, their second tier now leads from the rear. He was the replacement after we killed Mullah Dadullah, and from what I can see he was in the second tier of leadership of Al Qaeda, managing both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here is the video announcing him as leader in Afghanistan from Memri.

While I’m calling Abu Yazid as a “tier II” leader, some refer to him as Al Qaeda’s number three, he also served time in the same cell alongside Ayman Al Zawahiri in Egypt. Regardless of where you place his position, he is part of the critical strategic leadership for AQ, and this is a tremendous blow to them if the initial reports pan out.

He was the one who declared Jihad against Turkey, and later he pops up in the news claiming credit for the Benazir Bhutto assassination for Al Qaeda. ( Rememeber that many think Baitullah Mehsud did it as well, I would still wager that AQ ordered the killing and that Baitullah managed the logistics.)
You can also see in this dispatch at Memri that he doesn’t distinguish between civilians and government for purposes of Jihad.

Here’s the story from Fox News:

Senior Al Qaeda commander Abu Saeed al-Masri has been killed in recent clashes with Pakistani forces in a Pakistani region near the Afghan border, a security official told Reuters on Tuesday.

“He was believed to be among the top leadership of Al Qaeda,” the senior security official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

Al-Masri, which means Egyptian, was the senior most Al Qaeda operative to have been killed in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the death of his compatriot, Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, last month

You can also see that Abu Yazid Al Masri, like all Al Qaeda leadership, interprets Jihad the way he wants to at the moment. Here he specifically states that blowing up mosques is forbidden, but later you saw Al Qaeda suicide bomb the mosque at Charsadda in an attempt to get Aftab Ahmed Sherpao:

In the interview, Abu Al-Yazid stated that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad last June. He said that the bomber was a Saudi, and added: “We are proud to have carried out [this operation], and we congratulated our brothers for completing this task. We timed the attack in such a way that no Muslims were in the vicinity.” Abu Al-Yazid also stated that Al-Qaeda had been responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On a previous occasion, he claimed that the organization had carried out the December 27, 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime-minister Benazir Bhutto.

Referring to the permissibility of suicide bombings, Abu Al-Yazid said that eminent Islamic scholars around the world had issued fatwas sanctioning them. He added: “Suicide attacks are justified by Islamic shari’a. [However, Islamic] scholars [who are affiliated with] governments issue whatever fatwas they are told to issue… However, suicide attacks inside mosques are forbidden.”

Meanwhile the offensive in Bajaur is continuing, I think the ruling coalition in Pakistan has realized that they must get AQ and Baitullah before the terrorists get them. ( Baitullah circulated a list of 300 PPP and PML-N stalwarts up for assassination last month.)

More at Jawa Report

More at The Long War Journal

Zawahiri Rumor Update: Mehsud Letter Likely Forged

This is an update to the previous story from CBS with rumors of Zawahiri’s injury or death from the July 29th strike in Pakistan. WIth help from Pakistan the document has been examined by experts – the letterhead appears too old, one no longer used since Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was consolidated under Baitullah Mehsud, it’s in Pashto instead of Urdu, and doubt was expressed about the signature. More from Dawn:

They noted that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan no longer used the letterhead. According to them, they now used an Urdu letterhead while the one shown by CBS was in Pashto.

Mehsud’s signature also seemed different from the one he usually uses.

The letter is dated July 29, a day after a US missile strike killed six people, including an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert near Azam Warsak village.

A Mehsud spokesman Maulvi Umar, however, rejected the letter and said it was a fake. “We deny it categorically,” he said

The remaining question is whether CBS will take up the “fake but accurate” defense in this case.

UPDATE: US Intelligence: Zawahiri not Believed to be Dead or Injured

Al Zawahiri Injured or Dead? UPDATE: False Report From CBS Based on Flimsy Doc.


FINAL UPDATE:

 Pakistan Taliban Deny Zawahiri’s death. Maulvi Omar is the spokesworm for Baitullah Mehsud, and while he might be lying, it’s not likely. The Taliban are quick to promote the death of leaders on the internet when there are deaths (as they did this week with the real death from the missile strike) as this gains them more recruits at times. Once again CBS news has run with a weak story based on probably fraudulent documents. From Maulvi Omar, Spokesworm:

“Ayman al Zawahri was not present there. Ayman al Zawahri is neither present in Waziristan nor in Bajaur,” Omar said, referring to another Pakistani tribal region known as a sanctuary for al Qaeda militants.

A senior Pakistani intelligence officer also rejected suggestions that Zawahri was present when al-Masri was killed. “It’s absurd,” he told Reuters, adding that the only notable casualty had been al-Masri.

Once again I will mention that if Zawahiri and Bin Laden are in Pakistan it’s more likely that they are in a large walled compound in the exurbs of Peshwar, Lahore, or Islamad. (Remember where they found Kardazic?)

Previous Report:

CBS has an unconfirmed report up that Ayman Al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s number two but also their strongest master of strategy, might be injured. Judge for yourselves, I’ve seen no mention of this in Pakistani papers, but I’m on my way out to dig now:

CBS News has obtained a copy of an intercepted letter from sources in Pakistan, which urgently requests a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. He’s believed to be somewhere in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas of Pakistan.

The letter refers to Sheikh Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri by name – and says that he is in “severe pain” and his “injuries are infected.”

It is reportedly written by local Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, whose signature and seal are visible on the letter.

The Taliban logo and the Mehsud’s seal have been confirmed by experts as legitimate.

However, CBS News has not been able to confirm the authenticity of Baitullah Mehsud’s signature and seal.

Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the TTP and AQ have shown that they want nothing less than a separate state for themselves carved out of the frontiers of Pakistan. Failing that they will attack Pakistan, and have throughout the negotiations. Baitullah Mehsud’s previously mentioned assassination list of 300 PPP and ANP politicos also sends clear message that Pakistan needs to get the leaders of AQ before AQ gets them. Against that background I could see this happening…

Update: more at the Jawa Report

UPDATE: Bill Roggio is reporting that the information CBS is basing the story on comes from a suspect source. Unfortunately there’s a conflict out there that seems to be between IE and Sitemeter.com, which Bill uses. You can’t get to the site with IE, so use firefox if you want to read.

Update: More from Hot Air and from Lawhawk

Four days later, two reports emerged that stated Zawahiri was either killed or seriously injured in the strike. The first news on Zawahiri’s involvement in the strike came from STRATFOR, which repeated the claim from a Pashtu television station that Zawahiri was killed. The Pakistani station broadcast the report of Zawahiri’s demise on July 29, yet the report was not repeated in Pakistan’s robust, independent media outlets.

Update: AFP writes that there is not yet confirmation.

[Editor: I will back up what Bill is saying – surfing all of the Pakistani major newspapers, blogs, and forums reveals zero stories on this. The factor that’s different about this story is the letter that CBS in theory has. As we know however, they’ve been suckered by fraudulent documents in the past.]

Interesting, but probably unrelated.

Factors for Doubt:

  • Zawahiri has been referenced in missives to the Doctors in Jundullah in the past, along with Bin Laden however they have always been referenced by code names, and vagueness – like “the good doctor in Quetta”.
  • There are active raids, like the one against the Haqqani compound Monday, but so far they seem to have come up dry.
  • So far no secondary confirmation in the Pakistani press, I’m still looking for news that does not circularly reference the CBS article.

In other news from Pakistan the TTP insurection in Swat continues, with the Army using convential tactics to fight against the Taliban. Also note that security forces are swinging into place on the borders of Swat, possible to bottle up the Taliban. NWFP will continue operations in Swat.
The order transferring the sometimes renegade ISI of Pakistan under the Interior Ministry is still standing. [editor: I seem to have lost the four links in the bottom section during my updates, you can see the stories confirming the “other news” section in Saturday editions of The Frontier Post, The International News, The Pakistan Observer, and The Daily Times.]

Pakistan Taliban Schism Confirmed – 50 Dead

The schism that has stewed for a couple of months within Baitullah Mehsud’s loose alliance of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan broke out into open large scale fighting in the Mohmand agency Friday. Initial reports had ten dead up until the point when the Afghan Taliban leadership brokered a peace through a Jirga. Fighting broke out again immediately after the Afghanistan Taliban left, demonstrating that they have little authority anymore.

Baitullah’s Wazir Taliban  ended by capturing the opposition forces with 50 dead and dozens injured on both sides. As Mehsud works to extend his warlord power you can expect to see more of this as he moves into regions with other tribes who will oppose him. Continue reading “Pakistan Taliban Schism Confirmed – 50 Dead”

Baitullah Mehsud Calls on Pakistan to Use Nuclear Arsenal “to Defend Against the Enemies”.

In this brief interview you will see Baitullah Mehsud, leader of TTP, or Pakistan’s Taliban, deny the assasination of Benazir Bhutto (methinks he doth protest too oft and too much…) as well as praise Bin Laden. He states that Bin Laden is not “in this region”, but they would do whatever he asks.

Then he goes on to exhort the Pakistan government to use their Nuclear power against the enemies, later he identifies the enemies of their Jihad as Christians and Jews.

Watch here at Memri.

Keep in mind that Baitullah is a well practiced liar and manipulator — way back during the putsch of Uzbeks in his region he had me hoping that he was actually anti-AQ. That hope was false, and like the rest of the Neo-Takfirist Pashtun Jihadis in Pakistan, he is their lapdog.

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