Al Qaeda operative, 'Punjabis' thought killed in South Waziristan Predator strike


A senior al Qaeda operative and several "Punjabi" terrorists are reported to have been killed in yesterday's Predator airstrike in an area of South Waziristan that remains under the control of the Taliban.

Abu Zaid al Iraqi, an al Qaeda operative who is also known as Ali Khan, is said to have been killed along with several "foreigners" in the Feb. 20 strike in the town of Kaza Panga in the Azam Warzak area of South Waziristan. Reports indicate that between five and seven "militants," a term used to describe Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and operatives, were killed in yesterday's strike.

Abu Zaid is said to be al Qaeda's top financier in Pakistan, The Associated Press reported, based on information from Pakistani intelligence officials. Previously, al Qaeda's top financial official in the Afghan-Pakistan region was Mustafa Abu Yazid, the Egyptian commander who also led al Qaeda in the Khorasan. Yazid was killed in a US Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on May 21, 2010.

According to The Associated Press, Abu Zaid shifted operations from Afghanistan to South Waziristan sometime in 2008.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said they were aware of the reports of Abu Zaid's death, but would neither confirm nor deny the reports. One official cautioned against accepting the report without some form of confirmation from al Qaeda.

"We've been burnt by numerous bad reports of supposedly dead al Qaeda and Taliban HVTs [high value targets] from Pakistani officials," an intelligence official said.

Another report, from the BBC, said that several "Punjabis" were killed in the Feb. 20 strike in South Waziristan. The names or number of the so-called Punjabis was not disclosed, however.

The term Punjabi is often used to describe one of the several Pakistani terror groups based in Punjab province. These groups include the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Harkar-ul-Ansar. Also, these is a group known as the Punjabi Taliban, which is made up from members of the various Punjabi terror groups. And finally, there is a group that calls itself al Qaeda in Punjab.

The strike against al Qaeda and Punjabi terrorists in the Azam Warzak area of South Waziristan highlights the failure of the Pakistani military and government's policy of selectively battling Taliban groups in the tribal areas. Although the military went on the offensive against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan, it ignored the Wazir Taliban, under the control of Mullah Nazir.

Pakistan's military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers "good Taliban" as they do not overtly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state, while the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan openly attacks the state.

Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, however, and wages jihad in Afghanistan. Significantly, more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir's tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan. Nazir also shelters the Mehsuds from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in violation of a peace agreement with the Pakistani government.

The US has killed several senior al Qaeda leaders in Nazir's territories. One of the most senior al Qaeda leaders killed was Midhat Mursi al Sayyid Umar, who is better known as Abu Khabab al Masri. Abu Khabab was killed along with four members of his staff in a July 28, 2008 Predator strike.

Two other top al Qaeda leaders killed in Nazir's care are Osama al Kini (Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam), al Qaeda's operations chief in Pakistan; and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, one of al Kini's senior aides. Both men were wanted by the US for their involvement in the 1998 suicide attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In another strike in Nazir's territory, US Predators also killed Abu Hazwa Jawfi, who is said to have led Jundallah, a Pakistani terror group that is based in Karachi and maintains with close ties with al Qaeda.



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READER COMMENTS: "Al Qaeda operative, 'Punjabis' thought killed in South Waziristan Predator strike"

Posted by mike at February 21, 2011 6:50 PM ET:

Perhaps the lull was to allow for a buildup in identified targets, or a recognition that the Taliban effectively eliminated a number of our spies? Or was it really about Raymond Davis, and we've given up on him now that the Guardian outed him?

And, just wondering, why has the relative proportion of strikes decreased in South Waziristan?

Posted by Anonymous Bill at February 21, 2011 10:24 PM ET:

The State Department has ordered the CIA to stop the drone strikes while this crisis with Davis is going on.

Stop trying to defend the powers that be with unsubstantiated claims - this latest lull does not fit the most recent drone strike patterns. Unless I am totally missing something, the lulls in strikes have not happened for many years since the expanded program took off a while back.

I read the LWJ everyday ... anyone with half a brain can determine the lull in the Predator strikes is related to Davis being in custody.

Posted by KaneKaizer at February 21, 2011 10:47 PM ET:

I don't quite get this, it's the Pakistanis who always get all riled up when we launch these strikes, yet they're the ones who keep claiming that top AQ or Taliban leaders were killed by them?

Posted by kit at February 21, 2011 11:34 PM ET:

Not to underestimate the enemy, but does anyone take into consideration the amount of illiteracy in the region with all the misinformation?

Posted by Villiger at February 21, 2011 11:41 PM ET:

"COAS (Kayani) stated that proponents of conventional application of military forces, in a ’nuclear overhang’ are chartering an adventurous and dangerous path; the consequences of which could be both unintended and uncontrollable."

This while visiting Baluchistan. Make what you want of it.

The US had better shift to Plan B, if it has one.

Posted by Lister at February 22, 2011 3:04 AM ET:

Bring the rain.

Posted by Villiger at February 22, 2011 5:59 AM ET:

Bill: "The term Punjabi is often used to describe one of the several Pakistani terror groups based in Punjab province."

Impressive list there Bill, but how could you have missed the ISI, the Mother of them all!
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I'm surprised at myself that i have any sense of humor at this point at all, having just read that hereon its all talks, talks and talks
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/22/how_obama_lost_karzai?page=0,0

Guess i've been in denial that a cut-and-run negotiation is not only a distinct possibility but may actually be the central strategy.

If Pakistan is going to be the next US President's problem, we may as well have him in sooner rather than later. Pity about Obama--nice guy, but apparently ineffective.

Wonder if he's still planning to got to Islamabad this year?

Posted by ArneFufkin at February 22, 2011 4:03 PM ET:

@Anonymous Bill: I read the LWJ everyday ... anyone with half a brain can determine the lull in the Predator strikes is related to Davis being in custody.
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Or, it could be as simple as a spate of weather unfavorable for drone sorties.

Posted by sports at February 23, 2011 9:07 AM ET:


@Anonymous Bill: I read the LWJ everyday ... anyone with half a brain can determine the lull in the Predator strikes is related to Davis being in custody.
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From my perspective the lull was simply let us keep them guessing when we'll strike next strategy or perhaps there was no strategy involved.

Posted by Villiger at February 24, 2011 9:25 AM ET:

http://tribune.com.pk/story/123238/conspiracy-against-balochistan-being-planned-in-afghanistan-malik/

conspiracy-against-balochistan-being-planned-in-afghanistan-malik

Oh good!
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As for the lull, i reckon this was broken partly because the US didn't want to lose its claim over its drone 'rights' through inordinate suspension, and partly to test Pak reaction. I expect the pace to slow down substantially in the foreseeable future while the CIA and ISI rework their equation. Also there may well be temporary disruption to intel flow in the wake of Davis's outing.
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Bill, it would be good to track news of what goes on in Baluchistan through, at a minimum, your news on the web section.

I believe Pakistan is not immune to action in Quetta or for that matter Gwadar. Imagine if the US had that territory in its control. Would Pakistan dare use its nukes?
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Whatever, i think the Davis event has unwittingly thrown up a strategic inflection point. We'll have to wait and see what the US response is.
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Final point. I read that Mullen is meeting now with Kayani at a luxury resort in Oman. Good opportunity to grease the wheels and get Kayani to be decisive about Davis's release.

If he, Gilani and Zardari had any brains they'd show up together and announce a bold decision to release him AND state that there is a war going on, the US are our allies, this country is under threat (replay the HM/Col Imam execution) and that its time for the whole country to rise above and unite against the Taliban. Even if its just the Bad Taliban, thats good enough.

Who could stand up against them? Nawaz Sharif? Well get the Saudis to call him and tell him he has to do it.

Do the Pakistanis have any idea how much they would gain in international esteem? Rather than constantly being termed a terror State.

For once they have the opportunity to play with a straight bat, rather than constantly tampering with the ball and fixing matches.

If i were them i would also make it a pre-condition to get Hillary to resign. She's made an absolute dog's breakfast of all this and she's past her sell-by date anyway, imho.

Posted by ArneFufkin at February 25, 2011 12:21 AM ET:

Some good insights and comments Villiger. Thanks.

Posted by Villiger at February 25, 2011 6:08 PM ET:

Hey Arne thanks for reading! And good weekend!

Btw i read your other comment about the Col's beard growing white. How quickly one can age when one's on death row!

Posted by bard207 at February 28, 2011 11:17 AM ET:

Villiger


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Final point. I read that Mullen is meeting now with
Kayani at a luxury resort in Oman. Good opportunity to grease the wheels and get Kayani to be decisive about Davis's release.

If he, Gilani and Zardari had any brains they'd show up together and announce a bold decision to release him AND state that there is a war going on, the US are our allies, this country is under threat (replay the HM/Col Imam execution) and that its time for the whole country to rise above and unite against the Taliban. Even if its just the Bad Taliban, thats good enough.


Who could stand up against them? Nawaz Sharif? Well get the Saudis to call him and tell him he has to do it.
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There is substantial Anti American sentiment in Pakistan, so taking and Anti Taliban stance could be viewed as siding with the Americans. Nawaz Sharif and General Kayani aren't the bold patriotic leaders to lead Pakistan in the right direction, so it is unlikely that they will step forward and lend support for a strong effort to eliminate the Taliban.

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Do the Pakistanis have any idea how much they would gain in international esteem? Rather than constantly being termed a terror State.

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If they cared about esteem - dignity, they would stop going on the International junkets with their Begging Bowl.


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Posted by Villiger at March 1, 2011 9:28 AM ET:

Bard, i fear you are right.

The internal divisiveness ensures that there is no possibility of a political solution to the problem that is Pakistan.

A head-on military confrontation will lead to a free-for-all chaos with unpredictable and possibly unsustainable outcomes.

So the best outcome is to unravel Pakistan which was cobbled together as a State in 1947. It was a troubled birth, has been troubled ever since and only spells trouble today. With society becoming more global each day, this menace has a deeper reach. Their nuclear stockpile widens the threat to the whole of global civilized society and carries risks heightened well beyond the erstwhile USSR.

Ironically the only reason they are getting away with it is that the US needs the logistical corridors running through their territory.Else this matter would be center-plate at the UN.

Therefore i reiterate that the US together with all its allies, including India, should turn the key in Baluchistan and confirm Pakistan's worst fears.

The key variable i don't pretend to understand is what is the US's preemptive capability to safeguard against Pak nuclear action, perhaps directed say at India. (Maybe someone here can enlighten me?) Then again, perhaps India should stay out of it, not that that risk will be mitigated completely.

Posted by bard207 at March 1, 2011 4:55 PM ET:

Villiger,

So the best outcome is to unravel Pakistan which was cobbled together as a State in 1947. It was a troubled birth, has been troubled ever since and only spells trouble today. With society becoming more global each day, this menace has a deeper reach. Their nuclear stockpile widens the threat to the whole of global civilized society and carries risks heightened well beyond the erstwhile USSR.

Pakistan is already paranoid about the possibility that the CIA, RAW and Mossad are acting to destabilize Pakistan. The ISI and the Pakistani Army are creating this paranoia by leaks to the Urdu press so they can justify the massive amounts of money that they are taking from the budget.

If there was peace between India and Pakistan, the ISI and the Pakistani Army would lack a reason to have the large expenditures that they do.

Think of the Pakistani Army and the ISI as firefighters that start fires to give themselves job security.


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Ironically the only reason they are getting away with it is that the US needs the logistical corridors running through their territory.Else this matter would be center-plate at the UN.

Therefore i reiterate that the US together with all its allies, including India, should turn the key in Baluchistan and confirm Pakistan's worst fears.


The U.S. is weary for the moment in fixing problems across the world and the Europeans can't even think - act in concert in regards to the events in North Africa, much less consider a solution for Pakistan.

India is left all alone on this issue and it has shown great reluctance to act decisively in the past and is likely to continue to move very slowly rather than act boldly.

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The key variable i don't pretend to understand is what is the US's preemptive capability to safeguard against Pak nuclear action, perhaps directed say at India. (Maybe someone here can enlighten me?) Then again, perhaps India should stay out of it, not that that risk will be mitigated completely.


I am glad that you have asked for feedback on this particular topic, but I doubt that you will get an indepth answer on a web site open to the public.