Commander killed in drone strike 'funneled Pakistani jihadists' to al Qaeda


A senior Taliban and Qaeda commander said to have been killed in the latest US drone strike in North Waziristan played a key role in funneling fighters from a radical Pakistani jihadist group to al Qaeda camps.

Pakistani and US intelligence officials believe that Badr Mansoor was among four terrorists killed in last night's Predator airstrike in Miramshah, the main town in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Four "militants" were reported killed in the strike. Mansoor's death has not been confirmed.

Mansoor is known to run terrorist camps in North Waziristan that are used to train fighters to wage jihad in Afghanistan. He is also said to be the mastermind of the May 2010 suicide assault on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore that killed scores of Pakistanis, as well as several attacks in Karachi.

Mansoor was the "de facto leader of al Qaeda in Pakistan," a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. A US intelligence official described Mansoor as "al Qaeda's go-between with Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement and a member of al Qaeda's leadership shura [council] in Pakistan."

"Badar Mansoor had moved between the militant groups of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda where he became a key figure," according to a report in the BBC.

The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) is a Pakistani terror group with thousands of members that operates primarily in the Indian state of Kashmir. It is closely allied with al Qaeda, and is known to have sent its fighters to other theaters of jihad, such as Chechnya, Bosnia, and Somalia. Fazl-ur-Rahman Khalil, the leader of Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, was an original signatory to Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa that declared war on the West. He also was close to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. Khalil lives openly in Islamabad and enjoys the support of the Pakistani military.

Two US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal confirmed that Mansoor uses his ties to both the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan to recruit from their ranks, train them, and place them into al Qaeda.

"Mansoor funneled Pakistani jihadists from HuM and TTP [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] into the ranks of al Qaeda," one official said. "He didn't just recruit low level-jihadists, but also convinced more experienced commanders to fill positions in al Qaeda."

Another US intelligence official said that Mansoor is part of the "deep bench" of commanders who are culled from the plethora of Pakistani and Central Asian jihadist groups operating in Pakistan to fill vacant leadership positions in al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda is taking advantage of decades of networking in Pakistan, not just in the tribal areas, but in Pakistan proper, to develop a deep bench of leaders and foot soldiers who can be brought into the organization when there are vacancies," the second official told The Long War Journal. "Badr Mansoor and Aslam Awan are perfect examples of how al Qaeda takes advantage of this relationship."

Before he was killed in the Jan. 11 drone strike in Miramshah, North Waziristan, Awan was a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda's external operations network. Awan was a Pakistani citizen from Abbottabad, the same town where Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in a cross-border raid in May 2011.

The second US intelligence official said that the US's strategy to defeat al Qaeda with limited drone strikes is flawed as the program only focuses on "a narrow slice of al Qaeda's network in Pakistan."

"The targeted strikes in North and South Waziristan only hit al Qaeda's vanguard, the ones who are at the front lines, in select camps in a small area of Pakistan" the official told The Long War Journal. "But al Qaeda has camps elsewhere in Pakistan, and also relies on the camps operated by allied jihadi groups. Its [al Qaeda's] network in Pakistan is expansive, and it leverages the deep ties with the Pakistani jihadist groups that have been built over years. Harkat-ul-Mujahideen is but one such group. And Pakistan has no interest in dismantling this terrorist infrastructure."

For more information on al Qaeda's network in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the limits of drone strikes, see LWJ reports, Analysis: Al Qaeda is the tip of the jihadist spear, US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda, and Analysis: Al Qaeda martyrdom tape shows nature and extent of terror group's reach in Afghanistan.



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READER COMMENTS: "Commander killed in drone strike 'funneled Pakistani jihadists' to al Qaeda"

Posted by Nolan at February 9, 2012 6:35 PM ET:

I can't help but wondering if this guy is the same person mentioned as having supposedly been killed alongside of Qari Mohamed Zafar. http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/al-qaeda-leader-qazi-zafar-killed-in-drone-attack-3495 He was listed as Bahadar Mansoor and is reported to be important with the Taliban, Punjabi Taliban and even to have his own group and training facilities. http://www.paklinks.com/gs/pakistan-affairs/402580-the-butchers-of-lahore-and-karachi-killed-in-latest-us-drone-attack.html Zafar was reportedly killed at a "Badr Mansoor training facility." Future strikes even targeted members of a Badr Mansoor group. Anyways, I only bring it up because, if it is indeed the same person, then he obviously didn't die in that Feb 25, 2010 drone strike. THat would in turn lend credance to the idea that Zafar and Rana Afzal, another important Punjabi Taliban leader, also did not die in the strike. There are still numerous articles that continue to list both Afzal and Zafar as alive and leading the Fedayeen i Islam, for example: http://www.shamsulislamnaz.com/2012/02/faisalabad-carnage-car-bomb-kills-25-injures-over-100/. The LongWar Journal publication lists Afzal as a leader in the Fedayeen i Islam post Feb 25, 2010: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/04/suicide_bombers_kill_3.php. On top of that, Zafar has continued to be named as a suspect for attacks and some believe his death was faked: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010%5C08%5C05%5Cstory_5-8-2010_pg7_23. Zafar is also still listed on the Rewards for Justice page, even 2 years after his supposed assassination. If Badr Mansoor is the same person originally listed as being killed with Zafar, I think this brings up a bigger point about that particular strike in 2010: That it may not have hit its target. What are your thoughts? Should we begin to assume that Zafar is alive. It would be similar to the situation with Rashid Rauf where he was listed as dead for so long, but yet you guys and other media outlets slowly began to list him as alive, until it became obvious he was still alive. Also, I wonder about the assertion that Mansoor is the Al-Qaida chief in Pakistan that is being made by major media outlets. He seems to have been just as you describe him: A Taliban leader and go between. Unless of course he shot up the ranks.

Posted by mike merlo at February 9, 2012 8:34 PM ET:

"deep bench," at what point in 'time' does this 'reach' critical mass? In other words when will all the players involved with supporting Afghanistan finally come to their senses & begin publicly declaring that the 'forces' opposing Afghanistan are not Afghans but foreigners?

Posted by JRP at February 9, 2012 10:42 PM ET:

So how long before this "deep bench" either takes over control of Pakistan or simply skips that formality and just lays its hands on a half-dozen or so Pakistani nuclear weapons for transport & detonation on or near the U.S. mainland? The U.S. seems more ready to go to war with Iran on Israel's behalf than to go to war with Pakistan on its own behalf. It's high time we started taking care of ourselves and let others fend for themselves. With China having usurped all our manufacturing jobs and other countries tapping into the U.S. Treasury & U.S. Armed Forces instead of taxing/drafting their own people, we are becoming increasingly vulnerable while at the same time going broke.

Posted by Farukh Sarwar at February 10, 2012 4:39 AM ET:

It’s good news finally. Pakistan needs to get rid of such people and should negotiate with the rest to bring them back to normal life. I strongly believe that every stakeholder in this war is now tired or fighting. One of the most important things that need attention is the issue of IEDs. There has been a recent surge in the number of IED explosions and part of the blame goes to the Pakistani fertilizer in Afghanistan. There should be a complete ban on the import/export of such items that could be used for such nefarious purposes.

Posted by JRP at February 10, 2012 6:27 PM ET:

Just read MSNBC article about Saudi-Pakistan pact whereby Pakistan would give Saudi Arabia the A-Bomb, if Iran tests a nuclear device. If Pakistan is willing to share its stockpile of nuclear weapons under the preceding scenario, then it simply means that Pakistan is willing to share its nuclear stockpile under circumstances of its own choosing. One of those circumstances could be to supply nukes to terrorists. The vaunted security of Pakistani nuclear weapons means nothing, if Pakistan is conciously willing to supply others with them. Today, Saudi Arabia; tomorrow Al Qaeda. The situation over there in South Asia becomes more precarious with each passing month.