« Taliban launch another attack from Afghanistan into northwestern Pakistan | Main | Pakistan again tips off terrorists before raids »




Harakat-ul-Mujahideen chief lives in open near Islamabad



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.



READER COMMENTS: "Harakat-ul-Mujahideen chief lives in open near Islamabad"

Posted by David at June 16, 2011 12:36 PM ET:

This situation has the awfully familiar smell of Vietnam, where
the enemy had sanctuary in the North, as well as across the border in Cambodia, etc. It seems that we have a lot more at
stake this time, with 9/11 being much closer to home.

However, it also seems that the Pakistani military/intelligence
is determined to wage war on us. If they only wanted these groups for help with India, they could easily have cut out the world-wide jihadists, stopped their support, arrested them, and tmust cause them an enormous headache, andold the rest to focus on India. Surely the the fact that Al Qaeda has brought the US back to the region sets back their plans for fighting India. But instead, they really seem to like these groups, they actually nurture them. So we can only conclude that they *intend* for these groups to wage war on us.

The course of action would be straightforward but for our supply lines to our troops in Afghanistan running through their territory -- sanctions, raids, blockade, airstrikes.
I doubt our alternative routes have enough capacity, and
the Russians are not reliably on our side, here, anyway.

Additionally, I think it is not politically feasible for us to pull out of Afghanistan, and wage war on Pakistan until she REALLY gives up these groups. The US electorate wouldn't stand for it. It may well take another Sept. 11th for that.

We are in a bind.

Posted by Ben at June 16, 2011 1:08 PM ET:

Bill,

I, as I'm sure many others, appreciate the quality of work you do. It is quite obvious, as your efforts have illustrated over a number of years, that Pakistan is the problem.

In light of all that is wrong there, what are we to do? Given the Pakis have a nuclear deterrent, what are our options are there?

Posted by Paul D at June 16, 2011 3:37 PM ET:

He lives next to Mullah Omar and Zawihiri across the road!

Posted by Mr T at June 16, 2011 7:05 PM ET:

We have played this double game for a decade. Our money is used in some fashion to kill our soldiers and help prolong this long war. Its about time the US issues an ultimatum.

The US should not have to go this alone. The internatioanl coommunity should step up and do its part. They were so interested in Libya but Pakistan is the hub of worldwide terror.

There are many options on the table and its time for us to get serious about what needs to be done.

The supply pipeline to our troops, Pakistani nukes, and inciting Muslim violence are our main constraints. I don't have to be the guy that figures this out but the people in charge have to.

We are making big strides in Afghanistan right now so maybe we don't do anything that would set that back this fighting season but we should start with putting them on notice that it is no longer acceptable and actions will be taken. Cutting off their aid dollars is numero uno in that regard. Bombing and invasion and escalating the current war may also be considered.

We can not be constrained by the negative possibilities that these entail any longer. We can take out their nukes, we can damage a lot of terrorist infrastructure and if Pakistan wants to engage us militarily without our aid dollars, they may find thats not a good strategy for them, especially if we bring India on board to help us.

We can help them or destroy them. They need to be told that so they understand. They seem to be telling us what we will be doing. That needs to be flipped. They are helping bleed us to death with our own blood and treasure. The bully on the block known as Pakistan needs to have its comeuppance.

Posted by dr burke at June 16, 2011 11:17 PM ET:

Protect the home front and let the rest of the world stew. When the pot start to boil, then they will come knocking on our door and ask for help. America's problem is we go it alone and spend billions to
accomplish nothing. Let the Taliban prick the skin
of their neighbors, then the fight will be on.

Posted by Villiger at June 17, 2011 3:10 AM ET:

Hi Bill, yes i remember very well your bottom-line in that piece:

"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."

I also remember being struck how emphatic it was and thinking that one couldn't make it clearer than that.

Unfortunately it appears that neither Pakistan nor the US is going to do anything significant enough to be conclusive. Not yet anyway.

My guess is we'll still be at much the same point a year from now.

Posted by M. Muthuswamy at June 17, 2011 7:33 AM ET:

David and Ben:

One of the greatest inventions of humanity is the western refinement of what is known as “problem—solving approach.”

This approach has given us the modern world we live, save us from dangerous pathogens, and yes, the very nuclear weapons you had mentioned.

Like all countries, Pakistan has strategic weaknesses. Specifically, its very strength, that of the ideological basis inspiring it to wage jihad, is also it weakness. This is what a good problem-solver woould want to take advantage of.

The good news is not all scholars have been burning the midnight oil trying to device means of building relations with Pakistan that will “work.” Some of us knew that that would be a pipe dream, especially those of us brought up in a neighboring country to the East of Pakistan.

The possible answer may lie in where to get the insights one is looking for.

Posted by naresh c. at June 17, 2011 9:13 AM ET:

The goal of the US is not to promote democracy or eradicate terrorism or Islamic radicalism. It is not even to win wars. The goal is to be in 'control' in the world for as long as possible. Machiavellians like Kissinger and
Brzezinski will keep exploting political fissures to stay in control. Was it not Brezinski, along with Abdullah Azzam and Zia Ul Haq, who founded Al Qaeda? So, what I expect is US will give more P3C Orions and F16s to Pakistan and also increase aid substantially. The US policy looks irrational only if you misunderstand the goal. Pakistan's ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic Khilafat. It lacks the power to wage wars to do it and so it uses hashishins or terrorists. Why should it dismantle the terrorist network? And yes, ultimately, this will all end in a disaster. But the long war
has not even started.

Posted by madashell59 at June 17, 2011 11:01 AM ET:

Naresh C.:

US wants to be in control? NO. The US wants to be safe and that requires both military and economic efforts world wide. It also knows that it is best if a society is more democratic or free. Because when a government has control over its people instead of the people having control over its government, that is when they can start blaming the other guy because they control all information. This is why the middle east is starting to crumble because with the information aga the people are seeing the truth. There is still a long way to go but from Chaos will come order(and freedom).

Posted by Villiger at June 17, 2011 6:42 PM ET:

IS PAKISTAN THE BOILING FROG?

The parable is that if you throw a frog into boiling hot water, the frog immediately jumps out of the pot and saves itself. However, if you place the frog in a pot of regular water and place the pot on the fire, it stays in there even as the water comes to a boil and eventually dies.

Pakistan is rather like the latter frog, swimming in its own cauldron, refusing to jump out and showing little signs of even wishing to do so.

If this is part of a grander Anglo-American (add Indo-, if you like) design to undo the Pakistani State, then its a brilliant, if expensive, strategy.

Two major historical mistakes need to be reversed, and will be:

1.) The formation of a Pakistani State, and

2.) Its going nuclear.

The real 'King' of Pakistan is its nukes. That, my peace loving friends, is The End-Game. Not a list or gang of 5 or 10 or even 20 top-terrorists.

Now is not the time to extricate those nukes. That time will come as will the time for the frog to die, finally.

Be patient, its a Long Game.

Posted by Tim at June 17, 2011 11:31 PM ET:

This interesting piece is a must-read for all affected by Pakistan's double game:

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-us-policies-to-be-blamed-for-paks-double-game/20110618.htm

Pakistan is a wasted nation not worth our men, material and effort. Let it die a painful unnatural death. We must learn from our mistakes! But will we?

Posted by etudiant at June 19, 2011 9:09 AM ET:

The US is indeed in a bind.
As has been repeatedly observed, our supply lines run through Pakistan, a long 1000km plus road trip, past millions of Muslims who do not have any reason to love us.
We are tolerated as long as it seems that we are winning.
If we look like we are retreating, that road will become very hazardous.
It used to be axiomatic in the US military that 'you don't fight a land war in Asia'. Now we are doing so, leaving 200,000 personnel at the end of a dreadfully vulnerable supply line. We are courting a great disaster, imho, yet we seem oblivious to it.

Posted by Charu at June 20, 2011 5:59 PM ET:

@etudiant, it recalls the Macedonian retreat from India (or Napoleon's retreat from Russia) and the great loss from attrition. Incidentally, I have never bought into the notion that the Greeks won a huge battlefield victory in the plains of Punjab and then decided to retreat. It might be how the Greek historians spun it, and since the Indians never bothered to note down their perspective, that is all we were left with.

There are quicker ways today to pull out large numbers of troops, but it can still be messy for the locals left on the ground. Col Ralph Peters advocated keeping a small hunters & killers force that didn't require as deep a supply chain, and to forget about bringing about democracy or a functioning government to Afghanistan until after the backbone of Pakistan's proxy is broken; which means taken the war into the NWFP.

Posted by windwheel at June 24, 2011 5:36 AM ET:

Hopefully, lessons have been learned and there will be a re-orientation with the emphasis on Intelligence led local proxies taking the operational heat.
India's own tactic, when faced with insurgencies, has been to quietly encourage the proliferation of splinter groups who target each other as well as extort money from the very people they claim to fight for. Pakistan is ideally suited for this sort of tactic as the Holy Warriors would prefer to capture this rich and nuclear armed nation rather than starve on some Mountain top while being pounded by Predators and precision bombing.
The CIA was surprisingly effective in putting together a winning combination in the first phase of the anti=Taliban operation. With US air-support the Northern Alliance were able to score a huge propaganda coup against the Taliban.
Gen Hamid Gul, former head of the ISI. had previously appeared on BBC TV to very kindly explain that 9/11 was a plot to drag US ground troops into the Afghan killing field so that the Taliban could get access to state of the art weaponry from the slain bodies of the infidel. Instead of this happening, the CIA showed how easy it is to put together a local coalition on (from the Pentagon point of view) a shoe-string budget. Further, the US could make its air power felt in a manner which impressed the whole world.
Boots on the ground is really death by a thousand cuts. The better solution is to encourage the proliferation of extremist groups who target each other and give their cause a bad name by extorting money from the community they champion.
Ultimately, the West has huge leverage over military and civilian elites by reason of the threat of sanctions and denial of visas, confiscation of ill-gotten gains in secret bank accounts etc.
One positive aspect of this War has been that it showed the new NATO members where gung ho- however it has also shown some old NATO members are not pulling their weight.
Rollback of 'boots on the ground' will actually increase American negotiating power w.r.t to old NATO. However, Intelligence led engagement via local proxies is an inexpensive way of spreading popular disenchantment with "Jihadi' ideology- this by itself would be a great service to the incipient pro-democracy and Civil Society centered movements in the region.
This is not to say that a rapid response Expeditionary force option should be taken off the table- just disengagement from problematic supply routes which become choke points and endanger American might.

Posted by villiger at June 25, 2011 10:28 AM ET:

Windwheel, you make some interesting and positive points.

I would encourage you to join the conversation in the troop withdrawal thread.