Monday, October 4

Recent attacks on NATO supply convoys in Pakistan prompt Pundita to play Miss Marple

Lots of news from Pakistan:

> AFP reports that a U.S. drone strike today killed "Five German rebels of Turkish origin and three local militants" according to local security officials. The attack took place "20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district in the northwest."

> Today there were two attacks on NATO convoys; one attack near Islamabad. The Paksitani Taliban (TTP) claims responsbility for the attacks.

> The estimated reopening date for the Torkham border crossing is now in doubt.

> TTP claims to have murdered the leader of Pakistan's mysterious Asian Tigers terror outfit.

The TTP, which was initially formed to avenge victims of the Pak military-led Lal Masjid massacre, is itself becoming a mysterious outfit. Given that the TTP's major stated aim is to attack the Pak military and ISI, it is an eyebrow raiser that they'd take it upon themselves to kill the head of the Asian Tigers, which kidnapped and murdered a former ISI officer.

Well, perhaps TTP had a bone to pick with the Asia Tigers or its leader that hasn't come to light yet. But I have a few other questions about TTP's recent activities.

Friday's attack on a NATO convoy in Shikarpur took place in a region where there was no terrorist activity and hadn't been any. The method of attack, which used rocket launchers and a convoy of Land Rovers, also raises suspicions that the attack was the Pakistan military's nice way of saying that Washington isn't going to boss them around. Yet the TPP is claiming responsibility for the attack. And reportedly the TTP has now set up a wing specifically to attack NATO convoys in Pakistan. (See report below).

Long War Journal has more information about attacks on the NATO convoys; this statement from the report caught my eye:
The Taliban spokesman Tariq also claimed the Shikarpur attack, and said a group based in Sindh known as the Siyara Group carried out the attack.

“They were local militants and had acquired training in South Waziristan and returned to their native towns to start attacks on government and security installations,” Tariq told The News. [See blog for links to the news reports cited].
Methinks Tariq explains too much. And somehow a ragtag group of fighters returned to their village with a convoy of Land Rovers in tow? Those vehicles don't come cheap.

Well, anything is possible in Pakistan's ever-shifting landscape of terrorist affiliations and motives. It could be that the TTP is simply claiming responsibility for the Shikapur attack to put a feather in its cap. If not, if they actually did the job or contracted it out, this raises my other eyebrow.

Of course it could be that Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP leader, is just ticked off that the U.S. government designated the TTP a terrorist outfit; this happened on 1 September 2010.

The U.S. accused the TTP of involvement in the suicide attack that killed seven CIA officers in Khost, Afghanistan and Faisal Shahzad's attempt to set off a bomb in New York's Times Square.

But moving along, the big question would be if Pakistan's military/ISI co-opted the TTP at some point, just exactly when did this happen? Before or after the Times Square bomber was videotaped hugging Hakimullah?

That exhausts my capacity for today to view Pakistan as the village of St. Mary Mead.

From the Foreign Policy AFPAK Channel's daily roundup blog. See the blog for links provided to the news reports cited:
Daily brief: Taliban attack NATO supply trucks in PakistanBy Katherine Tiedemann
October 4, 2010 Monday, October 4, 2010 - 9:05 AM Eastern Time

A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has taken responsibility for Friday's attack on NATO tankers in Sindh and for another attack early this morning on the outskirts of Islamabad in which gunmen shot up about 20 NATO trucks, killing at least four (AP, The News, AP, AFP, AJE, WSJ, Geo, Tel, Guardian, Pajhwok).

The TTP claims to have set up a new wing specifically to focus on attacking NATO supply lines (AP, BBC). There have been four such attacks on NATO supply lines across Pakistan in recent days, as the Pakistani government's blockade of the Torkham checkpoint in northwest Pakistan continues into its fifth day (Post, Reuters).

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, told CNN yesterday that supply lines at Torkham, which Pakistan closed after several NATO helicopter strikes on Pakistani territory last week, will be opened within a week, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman said there is no firm date for reopening the border, which he said was closed "for security reasons" (Geo, AP, CNN, FT, NYT). The other main route from Pakistan to Afghanistan, the Chaman border crossing in southwest Pakistan, has remained open.

At least two drone strikes were reported in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan over the weekend, killing between nine and eighteen said to be affiliated with either the Haqqani network or Hafiz Gul Bahadur's group (AFP, AP, BBC, CNN, Geo, NYT, AJE, ET). The bullet-riddled bodies of three men accused of "spy[ing] for the Americans" and the drone program were found on Sunday along the main road between Datta Khel and Miram Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, in apparent militant retaliation for the recent uptick in drone strikes (Dawn/AP).

The Journal and the Post report that the U.S. military is providing the CIA, which is believed to operate the drones program, with more drones and other equipment to help escalate its campaign in northwest Pakistan (WSJ, Post). Graeme Smith has the weekend's must-read describing life in villages in Waziristan where the majority of the strikes have occurred (Globe and Mail).

Elsewhere in the tribal areas, militants blew up two schools in Mohmand and one in Bajaur (Daily Times, The News). The TTP has reportedly killed the leader of another militant group, the Asian Tigers, which was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of former ISI official Khalid Khawaja earlier this year (Daily Times). [...]

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