Al Qaeda Camp struck in North Waziristan, Pakistan


NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; yellow under threat. Click map to view.

32 reported killed in strike launched from Afghanistan; follows news of Taliban, al Qaeda suicide squads graduation

A joint al Qaeda and Taliban training camp was struck in a missile attack in Pakistan's lawless Northwest Frontier Province. A strike, believed to have been launched by U.S. forces from Afghanistan, hit a train camp in the town of Mami Rogha in the Datta Khel district of North Waziristan. Upwards of 32 Taliban and possibly foreign al Qaeda were killed in the strike on the camp, which is situated about 26 miles west of Miramshah.

"A U.S. pilotless drone aircraft carried out the attack at around 10:30 a.m. (0530 GMT)," Reuters reported, based on an anonymous Pakistani intelligence source and local residents. "There was a cluster of three houses and a tent which were hit. There were about 45 people in that area... Intelligence officials said some foreigners were among those killed in Mami Rogha, raising the possibility that al Qaeda fighters might have also been present."

An anonymous intelligence source familiar with al Qaeda's training camps in the region told The Long War Journal that the Mami Rogha camp known to the intelligence community. "There is a camp there, also barracks and supply posts," said the source. There are "dozens" of camps in the Northwest Frontier province, but the source refused to give specific numbers. There are also several camps "run by lesser groups," such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, "in Azad Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan."

The strike on the Mami Rogha camp is the latest in a series of U.S. strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban training facilities strung across the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda camps in Damadola, Danda Saidgai, Chingai, Zamazola, and again in Danda Saidgai over the course of 2006 and 2007.

The Taliban/al Qaeda ceremony. Click image to view. [ABC News]

The news of the attack on the Mami Rogha camp comes as the Taliban released a video of a graduation of suicide teams assigned to strike in the U.S., Canada and Europe. "Some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12," were in attendance, according to video obtained by ABC News.

Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, the successor of recently slain Mullah Dadullah who was killed in Helmand province in May addressed the graduation and "congratulated each team as they stood." "These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places," Dadullah says on the tape. "Why shouldn't we go after them?"

The Taliban/al Qaeda camp where the graduation ceremony was held is believed to be inside Pakistan. Recently, the Taliban held a major rally of upwards of 10,000 gatherers in Baluchistan to mourn the death of Mullah Dadullah.

The Northwest Frontier province continues its rapid decent into Taliban occupied territory. Art Keller, a retired CIA case officer who served in Pakistan and visited Waziristan, stated the Pakistani Army has given up the fight in the province.

"Their approach was to pretend that nothing was wrong because any other approach would reveal that they were unwilling and unable to do anything about Talibanisation," said Keller to Guardian. There are the moderates [in the Pakistani Army] who fear Talibanisation, the professional jihadis who want to embrace the Taliban again, and the middle group who aren't too fond of the Taliban but resent doing anything under pressure from the US out of sheer bloody-minded stubbornness... Because of [that], the Pakistani military remains paralysed."

The Taliban continue to dominate the tribal agencies and are expanding into the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. The settled district of Tank is now Taliban controlled territory (we noted the serious decline of the security situation starting in February of 2007.) "The government has lost its writ in Tank," said Sardar Ahmed Gul, a resident of Tank City. "Every evening there is shooting and people cannot go out."

In North Waziristan, the Taliban have banned TV and video CDs in public places. The move was made by the Taliban's "peace" committee and in Orwellian fashion, implemented to keep "children away from watching jihadi CDs." The same peace commission is threatening to end the Waziristan Accord, which the Pakistani government ceded the region to the Taliban. The reason given was attacks by the Pakistani Army - which have been non-existent. The Taliban routinely violate the agreement by setting up a parallel government, instituting laws, conducting executions, attacking government security forces and recruiting for jihad in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban have grown so powerful that Maulana Fazalur Rehman, the secretary general of the Taliban supporting Muttahida Majlis Amal political party, which runs the Northwest Frontier Province, has demanded the Taliban be part of the joint Pakistan - Afghan Peace Jirga. This, despite the Taliban is conducting the attacks in Afghanistan and has vowed to destroy the Karzai administration and eject NATO forces.

In Bajaur, the Taliban are up in arms over the building of a proposed U.S. helipad across the border in Kunar province, which is viewed as a "threat to Pakistan, particularly Bajaur Agency". "The Taliban are spreading the word that they will resist the construction of the helipad. They are urging the local tribes to resist the US designs," sources told The Daily Times.

The Pakistani government also surrendered Bajaur to the Taliban in a "peace deal" earlier this year and the security situation has declined ever since. Bajaur is a known command and control center for al Qaeda operations into northeastern Afghanistan.


See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information.



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda Camp struck in North Waziristan, Pakistan"

Posted by crosspatch at June 19, 2007 4:02 PM ET:

The message here is very clear. After the release of the video of the graduation ceremony where they specifically stated that their goal was to attack us, we show a clear determination to hit them first even if they are inside Pakistan.

In other words, if you express a threat to our people in our country, you are not protected by simply locating yourself in Pakistan. The arms of justice are long ones and can reach out and touch you.

I believe this is a very important strike for strategic reasons going well beyond the tactical reality on the ground.

Posted by joe at June 19, 2007 5:02 PM ET:

Hopefully we killed some senior Taliban or Al Qaeda leadership in this strike. We usually dont target their camps inside Pakistan unless we know there are leadership present. The pakistan army should be going on high alert immediatly. Last time we struck inside Pakistan they killed 42 soldiers in suicide bombing soon after. Bill, do you think this attack and the ABC news video was connected?

Posted by Bill Roggio at June 19, 2007 5:40 PM ET:

joe,

I don't know. Best case is this is the same camp in the video, but more likely this was a return message. Unfortunately the NWFP is so riddled with the camps and is under Taliban/AQAM control that these strikes are merely cosmetic. Even if we get a HVT, we can't get enough - the problem won't go away unless the Pakistani government addresses this, and I see no indication they wish to. Art Keller nailed the Pakistani Army's position in my opinion.

Posted by joe at June 19, 2007 6:00 PM ET:

Thanks for your reply. You mentioned that the problem wont go away unless the Pakistani army addresses this problem but do you think that the Pak army is even capable of defeating the forces present in the tribal territories? They received a pretty bad beating last time they tried and I can only assume that the Taliban/AQ is stronger now than before.

Posted by Bill Roggio at June 19, 2007 6:12 PM ET:

The Pakistani Army would have to put in its best troops and be willing to take casualties. They can do it, but as Mr. Keller states, the will isn't there.

Posted by crosspatch at June 19, 2007 6:37 PM ET:

So which path causes more political fallout for the Pakistani administration; taking an unpopular action or being seen as unable to prevent us from taking action? Would this action by us possibly nudge some fence-sitters onto the side of the Pakistani military doing something about this problem is better than seeing a foreign country operate in their territory and doing it? Or is the attitude that it is better a foreign government expend their treasure in this than Pakistan expend theirs (i.e. tacit approval). It probably boils down to a question of egos in the senior military ranks, in my opinion.

Posted by Tony at June 19, 2007 7:39 PM ET:

Perhaps I have a minority perspective on this video, but I thought it looked like a pretty ragtag bunch. Every body was broken down into separate cliques during the ceremony. There was one very large group of guys sitting together and and then quite a few groups of "graduates". The distances between several of the groups was quite large.

I tried to figure out why there were so many diverse groups, if this was one graduating "class". Perhaps they were from different countries and the Pakistanis sat apart from the Yemenis, sat apart from the Chechens. I'm not sure, but it even occurred to me that they may have been separated to keep them from attacking one another. I simply don't know, but it was a remarkable scene and very noteworthy. It looked like the very largest grouping might not be even able to have heard the "commencement speaker", they were so far away.

It just didn't seem like a terrifying video to me. It looked more like a medieval assortment of fools and idiots. Militarily they seemed trivial.

Posted by Tony at June 19, 2007 7:45 PM ET:

Upon reflection, if anything, this seemed to be a very low level "graduating class". Almost a grouping of future suicide car drivers (which requires very little military skill) rather than highly trained students part militarily complex operation.

I just couldn't see any signs of military discipline. They waved their little flags randomly like 4th graders at a pep rally they didn't want to be at.

Posted by Bill Roggio at June 19, 2007 7:48 PM ET:

They were separated by different cells. Cell members only know the identity of other cell members. The white flags are the flags of the shaheed, those preparing to conduct a suicide attack.

A motley assortment of 19 gave us quite a shock on September 11, 2001, and they threaten to force us to withdraw from Iraq. Six years in we should not underestimate this enemy.

Posted by joe at June 19, 2007 8:01 PM ET:

I think your right that the will just isnt there. The reason that the will isnt there isnt because a fear of taking casualties but because its in Pakistans national interest for the Taliban or a similiar Pashtun dominated islamic group to once again rule Kabul. Pakistan needs a friendly regime in Afghanistan incase of war with India. Right now India has very good relations with Karzai and that is simply intolerable for Pakistan. For Pakistan the Karzai/ Northern Alliance backed government must fall. Any serious move by Pakistan against the Pashtun tribes will result in civil war and the eventual break up of Pakistan with the likely creation of a pashtunistan. Nothing not even the wrath of the United States is worth this occuring.

If there is any silver lining its that almost nothing for Pakistan could be worse than a 9/11 style terror attack leading back to Pakistani territory. It will ruin Pakistans project to reclaim Afghanistan for the Pashtuns. The ISI is probably doing everything it can to prevent another 9/11 from leading back to its territory .


Posted by Srirangan at June 19, 2007 10:10 PM ET:

Negroponte lands in Islamabad, something happens on the Western Front..

Posted by Bill Roggio at June 19, 2007 10:14 PM ET:

Srirangan,

Too funny. I missed Negroponte's visit. I noted this pattern of behavior (and called it such) on January 16, 2007.

Posted by Tony at June 19, 2007 11:02 PM ET:

It's almost to the point where any time a major strike happens in Pakistan we need to ask, "Who just arrived to visit?"

Posted by DJ Elliott at June 19, 2007 11:23 PM ET:

Wrong angle: Schedule a VIP visit every day and double up during peak periods...

Posted by iuiuiiu at June 19, 2007 11:39 PM ET:

I think your right that the will just isnt there. The reason that the will isnt there isnt because a fear of taking casualties but because its in Pakistans national interest for the Taliban or a similiar Pashtun dominated islamic group to once again rule Kabul. Pakistan needs a friendly regime in Afghanistan incase of war with India. Right now India has very good relations with Karzai and that is simply intolerable for Pakistan. For Pakistan the Karzai/ Northern Alliance backed government must fall. Any serious move by Pakistan against the Pashtun tribes will result in civil war and the eventual break up of Pakistan with the likely creation of a pashtunistan. Nothing not even the wrath of the United States is worth this occuring.

If there is any silver lining its that almost nothing for Pakistan could be worse than a 9/11 style terror attack leading back to Pakistani territory. It will ruin Pakistans project to reclaim Afghanistan for the Pashtuns. The ISI is probably doing everything it can to prevent another 9/11 from leading back to its territory.

Posted by hamidreza at June 20, 2007 12:48 AM ET:

I'm no expert but this sounds like a combination of a drone and the GM*** thingy.

This is the way to go. I just read today the US is employing in Baquba. Now pls. put a few on the Iran border - faster please.

This is the best way to get terrorists while they are napping.

American forces have already fired more than 20 satellite-guided rockets into western Baquba.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/20/world/middleeast/20military.html?ref=middleeast

Posted by RTLM at June 20, 2007 1:07 AM ET:

How many strikes have US forces launched into Pakistan territory?

Posted by crosspatch at June 20, 2007 2:03 AM ET:

This is the first one that I am aware of where we have come out immediately in public and claimed 100% responsibility. How many there have been might not be known for decades.

Posted by RHYNO at June 20, 2007 9:10 AM ET:

its been a long time coming, since the p-stani gov. has given up, we should take matters into our hands. these camps and staging areas should be hit around the clock for a week. a short, violent bombing campaign should drive the message home that we are watching, and willing to cross into p-stan to eliminate enemies. 1 of our worst enemies is the ISI. they are up to thier necks with t-ban and AQ. i would like to take a page out of the Mossad's book and eliminate the ISI agents involved. why is Hamid Gul attending t-ban meetings in p-stan? coz he's in on it. we are backing the wrong gov. we need India on our side. stop paying 1 billion a year, don't sell them military hardware, P-stan is a non-factor along the border. maybe we invaded the wrong country. P-stan is more of a threat than Iraq could ever be. this is just wishful, reckless thinking, but the p-stani's have run up the white flag in the tribal areas. i say its open season on t-ban and AQ. W-stan is now a free fire zone.

Posted by David M at June 20, 2007 9:46 AM ET:

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/20/2007
A short recon of what's out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by Tony at June 20, 2007 9:34 PM ET:

If you bring India into the military mix within Pakistan you will see sectarian violence erupt the likes of which will make the Shia/Sunni carnage in Iraq look like trivial child's play.

Study why Pakistan was partitioned from India in the late 1940s. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of innocents slaughtered, over a smaller geographical area in a very short time.

Key concept: literal rivers of blood. Not streams. Rivers.

Think it through.

Posted by RHYNO at June 21, 2007 12:06 PM ET:

iam not in favor of a war involving India, P-stan, A-stan and the US. although i would love to smash the double talking, backstabbing Pak's, it is not practical. i did read somewhere that AQ was ready to start ops. in India. is there any truth to that? if so, the ISI would be suspect#1. the Afghan Army is not prepared to cross the border themselves. this is a problem the US can-and should deal with. should we air-assault into W-stan, take prisoners, destroy camps? yes, but iam not in favor of a prolonged campaign. the 3 day air blitz, followed by Spec. Ops and quick air-assaults should be considered. all with the help of the ANA. Mussharraf has surrendered in these territories. we should hit them while they are still in 1 place. W-stan=free fire zone.

Posted by Honza P at June 21, 2007 12:08 PM ET:

I wonder how Musharraf's one serious claim to legitimacy, that he has restored solidity ot public finances and brought about 7% yearly economic growth, would itneract with the other considerations. Simply spooking capitl markets and closing our market to Pakistani textiles and such could have quite the effect on such pockets of support and/or acquiescence to Musharraf as there are to date, no?

I mean, the economy and the related issue of the public fisk are the only big (relative) success stories for the generals, and their only serious claism to legitimacy. The strong afflatus of the old "secular" parties, bad as they are, would come roaring back if those supports collapsed, a la Suharto (and Sukarno before him) in Indonesia without growth to calm the elites, no?

Posted by Tony at June 21, 2007 6:51 PM ET:

Rhyno-

I'm fully persuaded AQ operatives or adherents are already active in India. Look at all the activity vis a vis al Qaeda in Kashmir and how disaffected Islamic Kashmiris are conducting terror attacks in India (including the horrific massacre at the Indian parliament building in New Delhi last year).

Honza P, it's good to see your accurate characterization of Pakistan's ostensibly commendable GDP growth. Most of that new money is reaching the corrupt elites through privatization schemes, etc. and it's downward mobility for everyone else through forced elimination of price supports, mandatory wage cuts for government employees, and elimination of subsidies on rice, heating oil and other essentials of day to day living.

In no way is Musharraf enjoying popularity knockoff effects from alleged generation of what economists describe as a "wealth effect" from nominal increases in GDP growth.

Posted by RHYNO327 at June 23, 2007 11:19 AM ET:

Tony, thats why i do not feel comfortable at all when it comes to selling P-stan F-16's w/ advanced avionics. the $1 billion per year is a joke. P-stan helped put the T-ban in power, and i think its safe to say the ISI is aiding and abetting our mortal enemies. why keep shelling out $ to them? they probably use it against us by helping AQ & T-ban buy weapons and bribe officials. we are not paying enough attention to India. there is only so much P-stani backed terrorism they will tolerate before retaliating. i hope our intel. services are working with India, they could turn out to be a great ally. Pervez says one thing, but the ISI, his Generals and army do something different. this is the true P-stan. they hate us. they want to spread to thier islamic "brothers" nuclear weapons. AQ Khan had free reign, and Pervez knew it. why he is still alive is beyond me. same with Hamid Gul, ex-ISI chief, who attends T-ban meetings. we best cozy up to India, coz with trouble in the east, we can destroy our enemies inside the Pak border. Radical Islam is more dangerous than WW2 Nazi's. ALL INFIDELS MUST DIE. doesn't get any clearer than that. Germany, are you listening?

Posted by anand at June 23, 2007 9:56 PM ET:

RHYNO327,

Many opinion polls have shown Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to be the most passionately anti-American countries in the world for a long time. As you are probably aware, the US embassy in Pakistan was burnt to the ground in 1979 by an angry mob.

That said, by far the greatest threat to world (including America, the Europeans, Russia, China and India) is not Pakistani strength, but Pakistani weakness.)

Remember Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

The world needs a long term strategy to pour over a hundred billion dollars of economic grants into Pakistan to empower civil society, governance, education and the private sector (the natural and long term enemies of the Jihadi/Takfiri cause) over the next decade. The aid has to be conditioned on a series of painful reforms in Pakistan. There also needs to be a stick if the Pakistanis don't comply.

I don't understand the rationale for giving Pakistan F16s, and other offensive weapon systems (Pakistan can't afford to buy them). To my understanding (limited), the uniformed US military (and Secretary Rice) are not very comfortable with this. Former Secretary Powell, and VP Cheney appear to have pushed the current strategy. The VP appears concerned about negative consequences if the Pakistani President falls. Many realists point to democracy in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine as a cautionary tale (I disagree with them).

I don't understand the VP's and realists', since the major Pakistani political parties (if you exclude the Maulana), publicly campaign against Jihadis. Pakistanis increasingly watch Indian television programs and movies, and envy the economic success of Indian Muslims.

Moreover, President Musharraf is in the middle of a major political crisis at the moment that is sinking his poll ratings. I think we need to support freedom and democracy at the expense of stability, and hope for the best.

Regarding collaboration with India in the war on terror; the Afghan government should ask for Indian help to train their security force officers and senior NCOs (in coordination with the NATO effort). India (which has already given Afghanistan more than $750 million in grants since liberation) should be asked to do more to encourage Afghan economic development and governance. China also needs to be asked.

The Iraqi government, and all the major Iraqi political parties in its national assembly, need to ask India to contribute to the training of the ISF, as well governance, civil affairs, and economic development. Again, China also needs to be asked. The requests will need to be continuous over a prolonged period of time to convince them to contribute.

Posted by RHYNO327 at June 25, 2007 9:12 AM ET:

ANand good strategy. i had it wrong. it is PAK weakness that should worry us. Pervez is hated by the wahhabi moslems, and would love to see him dead. can there be a democratic movement in P-stan? I don't know. i tend to lean towards a P-stan still ran by the military. under the present circumstances, this is the safe bet. sometimes people like radical moslems understand 1 thing clearly-VIOLENCE. rule from the barrel of a gun. in the interim, we should take advantage of this by scorching W-stan. does a 3 day, [24 hrs a day] air blitz on known terror camps, HVT's, etc. sound feasible? it can, and should be done. after targets are hit, follow on air-assaults to "clean up" gather intel and EPW's, if there are any. Or, the opposite can be done. Quick air-assaults on high value targets, then the destruction of these camps. we have options, the worst option is to do NOTHING.