“More than 100 terror camps” in operation in northwestern Pakistan

Osama bin Laden escorted by the Black Guard. Click image to view.

Al Qaeda continues to grow its network and expand its capabilities in northwestern Pakistan, US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. The peace agreements have given the Taliban and al Qaeda time and space to re-establish their networks, which pose a threat not only to Pakistan, but the West as well.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terrorists groups, collectively called al Qaeda and allied movements, or AQAM, by some in US military and intelligence circles, has set up a series of camps throughout the tribal areas and in the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. “More than 100” terror camps of varying sizes and types are currently in operation in the region, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. As of the summer of 2007, 29 terror camps were known to be operating in North and South Waziristan alone.

Some camps are devoted to training the Taliban’s military arm, some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups, some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West, and one serves as a training ground the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. A US Special Forces raid against the Black Guard camp in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan, Pakistan in March 2006 resulted in the death of Imam Asad and several dozen members of the Black Guard. Asad was the camp commander, a senior Chechen al Qaeda commander, and associate of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen al Qaeda leader killed by Russian security forces in July 2006.

The growth in the number of camps US intelligence officials said Pakistan is outpacing Iraq as the destination for recruits, The New York Times reported earlier this week. Iraq is now seen as a lost cause by jihadists while Pakistan is now seen as al Qaeda’s main effort. Recruits from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East are heading to Pakistan.

Al Qaeda has also reformed Brigade 055, the infamous military arm of the terror group made up of Arab recruits. The unit is thought to be commanded by Shaikh Khalid Habib al Shami. Brigade 055 fought alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance and was decimated during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Several other Arab brigades have been formed, some consisting of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards, an intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

A strike in South Waziristan

The deteriorating situation in Pakistan’s tribal agencies is highlighted by the increased incidences of cross-border attacks over the past several months. Today, 11 Pakistanis, including nine soldiers, were wounded in an attack launched from Afghanistan into the lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan.

Conflicting reports exist on the nature of the attack, and there is no confirmation on who carried it out. An unnamed Pakistani official told Reuters that “about 60 rounds fell in Angoor Adda,” a town near Wana in South Waziristan. BBC reported more than 10 “shells” landed near a military outpost just hundreds of yards from the Afghan border. Xinhua and The News reported that the attack was conducted by US aircraft. The US military has not confirmed conducting an attack, but it rarely confirms such incidents.

The attack inside Pakistan appears to be a response to a Taliban attack on a base in Barmal in Paktika province in Afghanistan, according to several of the reports. In the past, the US military has conducted hot pursuit of Taliban forces as they flee across the border to Pakistan.

Afghan and Coalition forces have fought a series battles with the Taliban along the ill-defined border as Taliban have been attempting to overrun military bases and district centers in the region. US and Afghan forces have killed more than 200 Taliban fighters in the lopsided battles. Many of the Taliban attacks have been launched from inside North and South Waziristan in Pakistan.

The most controversial counterattack into Pakistan occurred as US forces engaged a Taliban force as it retreated from Afghanistan’s Kunar province across the border into Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal agency on June 10. The engagement sparked an international incident. The US confirmed it killed eight Taliban fighters, while the Pakistani government said 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops were killed. The Pakistani government expressed outrage over the strike. But the incident sparked suspicions that the Pakistani paramilitary Frontier Corps either aided the Taliban or were part of the attack force.

The security situation in Pakistan’s tribal agencies has spiraled downward since the government negotiated peace agreements with the Taliban in North and South Waziristan in 2006 and throughout early 2007. The agreements gave the Taliban and al Qaeda time and space to consolidate their hold in the tribal areas and in some settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban renewed their efforts to destabilize the Afghan government and boldly conducted a series of military attacks in northwestern Pakistan and a bloody suicide campaign in the major cities.

The new Pakistani government has reinitiated peace negotiations with the Taliban in the northwest. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, and Khyber. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

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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  • ST333 says:

    Great article Bill. I think most of your readers suspected that Pakistan hosted many training camps but to hear some of the brass say “More than 100” is shocking. I know it’s tough terrain, but I can’t believe Pakistan allows these camps to exist in such great numbers. I’ve been thinking the Iraq campaign is starting to wind down now for a few months and it’s starting to make sense now that Pakistan has become to destination for jihadist everywhere. Would you say Pakistan is in danger of an imminent attack on the scale of 9/11 or greater? It seems it would make sense for AQAM to want to secure their own backyard first before crossing into AF or sending out terrorist to other locations.

  • C. Jordan says:

    “The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.”
    Why do they bother? What is the reasoning of making “peace” with such savages. Is it a Pakistani cultural thing? Or Is it Religious based?
    It has been clear for a long time that these Peace agreements do nothing but allow AQAM to regroup & prepare future attacks. AQAM doesn’t want peace any more then a Great white shark wants to become a vegetarian.

  • don juice says:

    100 camps of terror? and pakistan wants to make peace? thats it i seen and heard enough, we need special forces units on the ground now with supressing bombing raids cause this dosent make sense

  • Niccolò Machiavelli says:

    A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
    It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
    It is necessary for him who lays out a state and arranges laws for it to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope.
    One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.
    Politics have no relation to morals.
    The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.
    War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans.
    Occasionally, make peace with your enemies, it keeps them off balance.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Hey Machiavelli,
    Does “occasionally” mean making “peace” non-stop for more than 2 years?
    There is a definite divide in the jihadi ranks on how to go forward. Some want to pursue the “near enemy” – in this case Pakistan, others want to pursue the “far enemy” – the US, the West, India, etc. AQ/the Taliban have not struck with a 9-11 type attack in Pakistan, I believe they know that would be counterproductive. Bleeding Paksitan has worked well for them.

  • Charlie Crowe says:

    Sadly, Pakistan probably has to go through a drawn-out process where they 1) try to make peace with the extremists, 2) the extremists gain strength and (over)confidence, 3) the extremists barbarically overplay their hands, as in Iraq, and 4) the people finally rise up against them, as in Iraq. Unfortunately, this can take several years and the killing of many innocents, as in Iraq. But this time with the kickers of nuclear weapons and inaccessable enemy redoubt.

  • Alex says:

    At least NATO might slowly but surely start taking a more serious attitude in Afghanistan…

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post – From the Front: 07/12/2008 – News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Jerjes Talpur says:

    Well, Some one should not worry about Pakistan we are working well, we have cut all the roots of Talibans, Now they are completely helpless, Because we made peace agreements with tribal people, Not with terrorists.
    That is the difference which we all have to understand, that the ground realities are so different as it looks from out side,you will find same people same dresses same body language,But half of them are Talibans and half are tribal, How you will find out who is threat for neighbours and who is not?
    That all only we know as being citizens of Pakistan, and we started our work from that point of view , that 1st find out who is Taliban and who is tribal then break relations of talibans with local tribal people by peace agreements,Because tribal are peaceful religious people, they hate extremism and they would not support any person who bringing Pakistan in danger.
    We successfully have cut all roots of taliban with local people, and we are target killing Talibans thats why most of talibans moving towards Afghanistan and most of them attacking Pakistan forces.
    War is Going On here.

  • p90x says:

    More than 100 terror camps? This is a serious, longterm problem that needs to be addressed…

  • Aussie ArmChairGeneral says:

    The Taliban are a creation of Pakistan particularly Pakistani army intelligence. The Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to rein in the Taliban and other Islamic militant groupings setting up sanctuaries within Pakistan.
    The United States must cease flip flopping and offer Pakistan a huge carrot or a huge stick: Pakistan’s choice. Either join the fight for real or abandon the pretence of confronting the militants. If the Pakistanis let things drift as they are now they will be consumed by the militants they have been shielding. The other possible outcome is that there will eventually be an another major casualty causing attack by al Qaeda against America. When it is seen that it was authorised and planned from Pakistani territory all hell will break lose.

  • ANGMSK says:

    What US needs to do is to spend some money and buy some of the tribals and Afghans and create a loyal militia to fight the Taliban. As long as the Taliban have safe havens in the Pakistani side of the border they will have have funding and manpower to mount attacks. The tribals can be bought and made to do the deed where US forces can’t go at the moment.

  • JusCruzn says:

    Ditto on the Great Story Bill. 100 Camps in Pak comes as no surprise to me after reading Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars”. After all the Pak’s have admitted that they cannot control this area. No big surprise what they can’t control is fertile breeding ground for the hirabi’s.

  • Russell says:

    1. Pakistan isn’t an ally in the war on terror. If they were, the border with Afghanistan would be sealed.
    2. China is backing Al Queda and the Taliban.


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