US expanding air war into Quetta?


Members of the pro-Taliban Jamiat ulema-i-Islam party protest in Quetta on Thursday, May 28, 2009, against the military offensive against Taliban in Swat. AP Photo.

According to the Telegraph, the US has threatened to expand the airstrike campaign to include the Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s governing council led by Mullah Omar:

State department and intelligence officials delivered the ultimatum to Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, last week as he visited the US for the United Nations’ security council sessions and the G20 economic summit.

Pakistan’s government has argued the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, does not harm Pakistan. It has said that dealing with other militants such as those in the Swat valley was a higher priority.

But last week Anne Patterson, America’s ambassador to Islamabad, told the Daily Telegraph that the offensive in Swat was not targeting the insurgents posing the greatest danger to Nato forces in Afghanistan.

An official at the Pakistani interior ministry told the Daily Telegraph: “The Americans said we have been raising this issue with you time and again. These elements are attacking Nato forces in southern Afghanistan, especially in Helmand. The Americans said ‘If you don’t take action, we will.'”

Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said the US had so far been unable to provide detailed intelligence to target the Quetta Shura. He said: “We need real-time intelligence. The Americans have never told us any location.”

Malik makes a similar argument when discussing the government’s failure to move against Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed.

According to this report at the Times Online, Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency is moving senior Taliban leaders to the port city of Karachi, effectively putting them out of reach.

Taking the air war to the Taliban in Pakistan’s major cities is a different ballgame than striking at compounds and camps in the villages in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The US would have to strike in populated centers, and the risk of civilian casualties would be far greater. And putting boots on the ground, an option listed in the Telegraph article, in a city like Quetta, would be impossible without direct Pakistani support, which will not be forthcoming.

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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  • DANNY says:

    I have a feeling the dirty wizard OBL is living nicely in Karachi.

  • Render says:

    I dunno about impossible…
    I would think it all depends on how fast you get there and how long you plan to stay.

  • Mr T says:

    They haven’t given us a location.
    Let me give it to you. They are at their homes. Look them up in the phonebook and go over there. Ah, but you already know that.
    The games Paks play.

  • says:

    C’mon guys, Pakistan’s interior minister says Mullah Omar’s in Kandahar – move along folks, nothing to see here in Quetta 😉

  • Tyler says:

    I’ll take a guess that its an attempt by the US to flush the Taliban leadership OUT of Quetta. Yeah, they’d be harder for drones to hit if they’re in Karachi, but it would also be harder for the Taliban to maintain command and control. Quetta sits on a nice crossroads which jihadists have used to facilitate movement of personnel and resources from across the region into Afghanistan. I remember a story a while back that foreign fighters trained in Iraq made their way into Helmland via Quetta. Perhaps why the Taliban have become so proficient in building roadside bombs.
    As well, flushing the Taliban out of Quetta might make it easier for security forces loyal to Zardari to nab them. The Army is loath to go into Quetta right now for fear of pushing the Taliban and the Baloch separatists together, and Mullah Omar is implicitly protected by the Balochs since they’re wary of any Pakistani Army moves.

  • T Ruth says:

    LWJ quoting the Telegraph
    “State department and intelligence officials delivered the ultimatum to Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, last week as he visited the US for the United Nations’ security council sessions and the G20 economic summit.”
    I know you’re getting this from the Telegraph, but Pakistan is not a member of the G-20 so i doubt very much if Prez-Z could’ve gatecrashed into that.
    He was there to chair a mtg of the Friends of Pakistan (as implausible as it sounds) with his begging bowl. One could call it the G minus group of 1.
    Anyway enough about g-spots!

  • Spooky says:

    If he DID meet with the G-20, it would have to be for the Friends of Pakistan fund.
    As for the threat, its a good tool to bargain with, since if America did start attacking Quetta, the Zardari government would become even more unpopular while the Baloch would (assuming American drones didn’t start taking alot of heavy collateral damage on Balochi people) welcome the move, since the Taliban are needed there to combat their secessionist movement.

  • T Ruth says:

    Spooky, its the IF that perhaps should’ve been in capitals, unless you know something that i don’t know. The G-20 has more important priorities, ie getting the global economy kicking, rather than to also add its time and effort to this FoDP thing.
    In fact the report is also inaccurate on Zardari attending the UN’s security council mtgs, as again they are not a member there. Its the UN general assembly that he attended.
    I make my points just to highlight the suspect editorial quality of these mainstream dailies. As also to emphasise that Pak is not a global player, cricket and terrorism aside. Its easy to paint them larger than life, but lets keep our focus–its because they provide sanctuary to AQAM with all its terror-training camps, on the other side of the wall of their WMD.
    Targeting AQAM in Quetta of course makes a lot of sense. Assuming the intel is there it would’ve been good to have surprised them, incl the ISI, without such warnings. Alas, yes i know, the convolutions…

  • Spooky says:

    Oh I agree with you on the suspect nature of the editorial, I was just offering what it could possibly be about if true.

  • Spooky says:

    Looks like Kayani, according to the Daily Times (, decided to put the kabosh on any attempt against Quetta. Considering its him rather than the civillians saying it, my guess is that the civillians made a deal behind the Army’s back. That won’t do Zardari any favors.
    If there are attacks that prove him wrong, I wonder what the ripple effect would be…

  • Spooky says:

    My mistake, some of the usual suspects have also spoken against it. Still, Kiyani’s word is truely law over there, so I feel there is more weight to it…


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