Bajaur: An al Qaeda Command Center

An al Qaeda command center is uncovered in Bajaur, Zawahiri is believed to be in the region, and Pakistan still wants to cut the Bajaur Accord

Bajaur and neighboring Kunar province in Afghanistan. Red arrows indicate locations of U.S. operations and clashes with the Taliban over the summer of 2006. Click image to view.

As we noted earlier this week, the release of nine al Qaeda suspects in Bajaur is just the precursor to Pakistan surrending the tribal agency to the Taliban and al Qaeda. According to an American intelligence source, the released al Qaeda weren’t just ‘family members of Maulana Faqir Mohamed, they are actually staff members and functionaries of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed (Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Sharia), a radical Islamist group with close ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda that sent Pakistanis to fight the Americans during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Bajaur has long been believed to be a command and control hub for al Qaeda and the Taliban entering Afghanistan in the north east into Kunar province.

Alexis Debat reports that Bajaur hosted al Qaeda’s “headquarters” during the winter of 2005-06. The headquartes was located in the town of Shin Kot, which just south of Damadola, where a U.S.predator strike targeted, and missed Ayman al-Zawahiri but killed five senior al Qaeda commanders, including Abu Khabab, al Qaeda’s chief of WMD program.

The Shin Kot compound was under heavy observation, and according to Mr. Debat’s source, “We could see their children playing soccer in the courtyard.” An attack was bypassed because “CIA and the Department of Defense… [feared] civilian casualties and [harming] U.S.-Pakistani relations.” The failure to strike at Shit Kot highlights the difficulty the U.S. and NATO face with the al Qaeda safe havens that exist along the Afghan-Pakistani border. According to Mr. Debat, “the “winter headquarters” compound was later burned to the ground by Pakistani officials,” however an American intelligence source informs us that members of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed burned down the compound to destroy any evidence.

Mr. Debat notes one other important piece of intelligence that calls into question the motivations of the Pakistani government in considering a surrender in Bajaur. Mr. Debat states that “Pakistani intelligence officials believe Zawahiri is hiding somewhere in a 40-square-kilometer area of Bajaur, near the Afghan border.” In an interview with Brian Ross, Pakistani spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan was emphatic that high value targets would be hunted, after stating just days before they could indeed live in ‘peace’ in the region. “If someone is found there, we will see what is to be done… Pakistan is committed to the war on terror, and of course we will go after any terrorist found to be operating here,” said Sultan.

If Pakistani intelligence believes Zawahiri is in a 40 square kilometer region in Bajaur, why negotiate terms that would send troops back to the barracks and allow the Taliban and al Qaeda to openly run the local administration of the region?

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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7 Comments

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  • Irish gal says:

    Any chance this accord allows American military planes, etc., to be able to fly over that portion of Pakistan without Pakistan’s permission???

  • Oregonian says:

    What will result from this strange and mostly unpublicized situation where the terrorist masterminds are essentially in a safe haven provided by an ostensible ally?
    Doesn’t it seem inevitable that at some point, an egregious and horrific terrorist incident will occur that will be traceable back to Wazirastan, Bajaur or some other part of Pakistan and the US and the allies left who still have spines will not be stopped from entering these places?
    What will the Musharaf government, the ISI and the Pakistanis do then?

  • Raj KUmar says:

    Lisa – I don’t know. Why? Why is Pakistan behaving in such a way?
    Lisa the answer is very simple. The rulers of Pakistan no longer fear the USG and as such think themselves free to conduct policy which is very much at odds to the requirements of the current war of terror. USG needs to do something to make these people come back into line, either covertly or overtly. My view is that only overt action will bring these people back into line. USG will need to destroy Pakistan in its current form if it is too defeat the ‘Islamofascists’.
    Oregonian – What will the Musharaf government, the ISI and the Pakistanis do then?
    Oregonian what makes you think that the above is not happening at the moment. Every attack in Afganistan originates from the tribal areas of Pakistan, every American soilder who is killed in Afganistan is killed with a bullet supplied by the Pakistan government and paid by the American tax payer.
    How do you think that the Taliban soilders suddenly become expert in dropping motor bombs on Allied forces or that they become expert in providing covering fire using medium/heavy machine gun. These things cannot happen without expert coaching by members of the armed forces of Pakistan to the Taliban.
    The Musharaf or his successor government will say that the tribal areas are outside our control and the defenders of Pakistan in the US DoD/State Department/Treasury will supply the regime with more F16’s/ToW missles /Harpoon’s missles /Cobra Helicopters topped off with loads of your hard earned tax dollars.
    The same US DoD/State Department will then throw up their hands and say that we can’t risk destabilising the regime in Pakistan since litle ‘Green Men with beards’ will end up taking control of the nuclear weapons!!!

  • Darwesh Ali says:

    Bajaur and other tribal aras are under the direct supervision of the fedral govt of pakistan.This area is the Nest of terriorim since the Russian invision in Afghanitan.poor children and youth of the area are attracted by these trerriorests organizations.these terriorest dens are working under the supervision of the ISI.Political Agent (district administrator)always busy to provide all sorts of help to these terriorest groups and schools of trerriorism. after reciving proper training in the Madrassas(relegious Schools) are sending to Kashmir and afgjhanistan for terriorest attacks.These terrosts not only wegginng jihad in afghanstan and kashmir but also busy to attack those locals who are secular and support westran ideas and indiviual freedom.It is the duty of all the civilised nations to stop these forces of evils through all means. The hypocrat government officials includind Mushraf are also responsiable for this state of affairs.For the promotion of terriorism and muhamadanism these aereas are adminitered with seprate laws and system this system must be abolished.

  • Samsoor Bajauri says:

    How to stop terrioraism?
    If the govt of pakistan and other countries realy want to eradicat trerrioraism and isalmic extremism they must
    1)Abolish the special status of fedrally adminitrated tribal Area (FATA)In the past this was created to Encourage extremism and islamic treioraism to buld a strong force agaist the sovet union(comminism).
    2) Raywand(a beg Muhamdan preching center near Lahore)an other nest of teroraism must be closed.
    3) Mansora the center of islamic militants must be moiter by the anti terriorest team, and a plan is necessory to stop the activities of Mansor the head quarter of Jumaat Isalmi.
    I hope that the serious persons and policy makers will focus these three points to ensure the bright feuture of humanity.

  • Pakistan: A Bajaur ‘peace deal’ is coming

    Fourth Rail article link Pakistan: A Bajaur ‘peace deal’ is comingA peace deal in imminent in Bajaur, despite the worsening situation in the tribal agenciesThe Pakistani government is preparing to cede the Federally Administered Tribal Agency of Bajaur to

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