Al Qaeda organizes Taliban operations in Pakistan’s northwest

Two interesting articles were published over the past week which highlight the continuing integration of the Pakistani Taliban with al Qaeda. The first article, from Central Asia Online, documents the formation of the al Qaeda-led Shura al Mujahideen (Mujahideen Council), which was set up to settle intra-Taliban rivalries and coordinate operations:

A council of five Arab al-Qaeda leaders, the Shura Al-Mujahideen, has been working to try to unite the factions of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and resolve disputes between them, TTP sources told Central Asia Online.

The differences between the TTP factions include personality conflicts between leaders and disagreements over tactics and ideology. The disputes have resulted in periodic armed battles between factions that have killed hundreds of TTP supporters.

The shura includes al-Qaeda leaders Shaikh Fateh, Shaikh Ilyas, Shaikh Anwaar and Ghazi Abdul Samad. Fateh and Ilyas are Yemenis; Anwaar is an Egyptian; Samad is a Saudi. The name of the fifth member was not available.

Ilyas is the chief of the Shura, while Fateh looks after the TTP and al-Qaeda affairs in Pakistan, reliable sources said.

“The Shura is now a supreme body and all the factions of the TTP accept its verdict and decisions,” Azam Tariq, TTP spokesman said.”Mehsud tribes in Wana, Waziristan and Makeen have formed the Shura al-Mujahideen to resolve their disputes,” Azam Tariq, TTP spokesman told Central Asia Online from an undisclosed location in Waziristan by satellite phone November 30. “The Shura is now a supreme body and all the factions of the TTP accept its verdict and decisions.”

The second article, from Asia Times, shows the Shura al Mujahideen in action. Al Qaeda is directing operations in the Swat Valley through its military commander, Ibn Amin. If the name Ibn Amin rings a bell, that’s because he’s the chief of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of the six brigades in al Qaeda’s Shadow Army (Lashkar al Zil).

“Al-Qaeda has directly taken over Swat issues. Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban’s [TTP – Pakistan Taliban] Swat wing, has been summoned to North Waziristan so that al-Qaeda can direct all decisions through him. The chief operations commander, Ibn-e-Amin [or Bin Yameen], has been placed in Mohmand [Agency – near Malakand] so that he can direct operations in the Swat Valley and fighters have been placed in the Khyber Agency’s Terah Valley for training.”

Hussain warmed to his story, “Initially, militants were asked to stop their activities in Swat at once and retreat and everybody was then instructed to go to Terah Valley in Khyber Agency. Even the activities of abduction for ransom were stopped in Swat while essential operations related to Swat and Malakand were diverted to other branches of militants…

This is similar to the strategy introduced in Afghanistan by Pakistani Ilyas Kashmiri, the battle-hardened Kashmir veteran who has sided with al-Qaeda. He stopped the traditional guerrilla fight – a game of hide and seek in the mountains that failed due to drones and hi-tech American aircraft – and militants were trained for sophisticated special operations. These included the attack on the up-market Serena Hotel in Kabul in January 2008 in which six people were killed and six wounded.

Keep all of this in mind when you read nonsensical talk from Pakistani officials who think they can negotiate the exit of al Qaeda from 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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