The Associated Press has discovered that Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil, the leader of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a terrorist group that has threatened the US and carries out terror attacks in India, is living in the open in a suburb of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Khalil is the man Osama bin Laden consulted before issuing his infamous fatwa against the US. His group has been involved in numerous acts of terror in the region, including the hijacking of an Indian airplane, an attack on the US Consulate in Karachi, and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. From the AP:
On the outskirts of the Pakistani capital lives a militant considered so powerful that Osama bin Laden consulted with him before issuing a fatwa to attack American interests.
Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil heads Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, a terrorist group closely aligned with al Qaeda and a signatory to bin Laden’s anti-US fatwa in 1998. Khalil has also dispatched fighters to India, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya and Bosnia, was a confidante of bin Laden and hung out with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Pakistani authorities are clearly aware of Khalil’s whereabouts. But they leave him alone, just as they tolerate other Kashmiri militant groups nurtured by the military and its intelligence agency to use against India.
Khalil is also useful to the authorities because of his unusually wide contacts among Pakistan’s many militant groups, said a senior government official who is familiar with the security agencies and who spoke on condition he not be identified fearing repercussions.
Khalil’s presence in an Islamabad suburb, confirmed to The Associated Press by Western officials in the region, underscores accusations that Pakistan is still playing a double game – fighting some militant groups while tolerating or supporting others – even after the solo US raid that killed bin Laden on May 2.
Read the whole article. Then, to see that this sort of thing is commonplace in Pakistan, read this LWJ piece from May 27 on Syed Salahuddin, the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, who said that Pakistan has permitted the establishment of “hundreds of training camps” to operate within its borders. Salahuddin is free to operate as he pleases in Pakistan.
Now I’m going to refer you back to a Threat Matrix post from November 2010 that discussed the US’ desire to expand the Predator/Reaper airstrikes outside of the Waziristan ‘box’ and into Baluchistan. The point of the post was that the whole of Pakistan is used to serve as an engine of jihad, and until this problem is dealt with meaningfully, the US/West can only chip away at the edges:
Northwestern Pakistan is what is called a target-rich environment. There are cells and camps for al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Group, Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, and a host of other terror groups in Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Arakzai, and Mohmand (where no strikes have been recorded). This doesn’t include the settled areas of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , such as Swat, Dir, Chitral, Nowshera, Peshawar, Bannu, and a host of other districts (Bannu is a settled district in this province; the three strikes there occurred in what are called the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas).
If the US is seeking to expand beyond the tribal areas, the city of Quetta wouldn’t be the main focus of the strikes. The US would want to strike Taliban forward command centers in Chaman and Gerdi Jangal, as well as camps in the districts of Zhob, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, and others. And even if the US could hit targets in Baluchistan, Punjab province and Karachi in Sindh are rife with terror camps and safe houses. Pakistan is literally infested with terror groups, many of which are supported by the military and the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.
And this gets to the heart of the real problem with US strategy in Afghanistan as well as against al Qaeda. Pakistan remains the real problem in the region, while Afghanistan is a sideshow. As long as the Pakistani state shelters, supports, and covers for the Taliban and allied terror groups, and either refuses to act or refuses to allow the US to strike, Pakistan will remain the epicenter of terrorism.