Thursday, 30 June 2011

UN's first quarterly report on Afghanistan

The first of a series of quarterly reports on the situation in Afghanistan has been issued by the UN Security Council. It covers the period from 9 March this year up to the end of June - a period that saw a 51 per cent increase in security incidents compared to the same period last year. There were 17 suicide attacks in April - a higher number than in any month in 2010.
A quarter of all attacks and more than half of all assassinations took place in the city of Kandahar. The report also provides an account of the attack on a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif on 1 April during which three international UN staff and four international guards were killed.
It notes the attack in Kandahar on 7 May during which 488 political prisoners - most of them Taliban supporters - escaped. The report takes special note of large demonstrations protesting against ISAF activities: "This kind of civil unrest, which is indicative of wider public discontent, marks a departure from the previous sporadic demonstrations against the international civil and military presence and raises serious concern, given the possibility of orchestrated violent rioting against the international community."
The report's review of political developments attempts to make the most of the very meagre political advances, including the tiny number of former Taliban members signing up for reintegration programmes.
UNAMA documented 1,090 deaths and 1,860 injuries of Afghan civilians during these three months, an increase of 20 per cent on last year, with "anti-government elements" linked to 80 per cent of these casualties. Most people were hit by IED explosions. Pro-government forces also caused damage and deaths to civilians through the use of air strikes and night raids.
The UN's extensive interest in women's rights has not stopped Afghan women from being punished for running away from home to flee persecution or forced marriage. Most women who run away are charged with adultery and the Supreme Court has recently upheld convictions of women victims of rape for the crime of adultery. Women can be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted. There are 650 women in prison in Afghanistan, along with 280 minors.
Many journalists in Afghanistan feel threatened, both from the Taliban and from pro-government factions and religious figures. The 16-page report also includes useful information on the transition towards Afghan security responsibility, governance, humanitarian assistance and counter-narcotics. It closes with a statement from the Secretary-General.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Jamil Ahmad's triumphant debut

Jamil Ahmad's The Wandering Falcon (Hamish Hamilton, London, 2011) is a remarkable book on traditional Pashtun society that should be compulsory reading for anyone studying this area. Written as a series of interlinked stories about an orphaned boy - Tor Baz, the black falcon - it brings the reader as close to the forbidden lands of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border as is possible. Its alternating tenderness and tragedy pulls at the heart strings to paint a picture of this brutal society. Nothing in literature comes near to his description, for example, of a meeting between a young political officer (possibly the author himself?) and members of the Bhittani tribe, who live on the borders of the much more powerful Mahsuds in South Waziristan.
The publishers, I hope, will forgive me if I quote a paragraph in full from this achingly beautiful book:
"The Mahsuds, because they always hunt in groups, are known as the wolves of Waziristan. A Wazir hunts alone. He is known as the 'leopard' to other men. Despite their differences, the two tribes share more than merely their common heritage of poverty and misery. Nature has bred in both an unusual abundance of anger, enormous resilience and a total refusal to accept their fate. If nature provides them food for only ten days in a year, they believe in their right to demand the rest of their sustenance from their fellow men who live oily, fat and comfortable lives in the plains. To both tribes, survival is the ultimate virtue. In neither community is any stigma attached to a hired assassin, a thief, a kidnapper or an informer. And then, both are totally absorbed in themselves. They have no doubt in their minds that they occupy centre stage, while the rest of the world acts out minor roles or watches them as spectators - as befits inferior species."
Jamil Ahmad, now 80, is very well qualified to write this book. He spent his life in the Pakistan Civil Service, serving in the old Frontier Province and in Baluchistan. He served in Quetta, Chaghi, Khyber and Malakand and was later commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan and in Swat, as well as becoming chairman of the Tribal Development Corporation. He was Pakistan's ambassador in Kabul before, during and after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and finished his career as Chief Secretary in Baluchistan.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Syed Shahzad's informative but flawed final work

Abducted and murdered in Pakistan in May by persons as yet unknown, Syed Saleem Shahzad was a remarkable journalist. Over many years while reporting for Asian Times Online he had won the trust of elements of the Pakistan Taliban and even of al-Qaeda. Ilyas Kashmiri, the former Pakistan Army captain who had formed al-Qaeda's 313 Brigade and Shadow Army (Lashkar-e-Zil) and who was behind many of that organisation's most devastating attacks in Pakistan, gave Shahzad his one and only published interview, along with other important figures from the jihadist movement who refused to speak to anyone else.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the most significant Afghan guerrilla faction, and Qari Ziaur Rehman - another important guerrilla commander and al-Qaeda recruit - both spoke to Shahzad. His access was legendary and he broke many important stories.
His posthumously published book, Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11 (Pluto Press, London, 2011), contains much new material and is chiefly important for the insight it provides into the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. Shahzad explains this as a Pakistani intelligence operation that was hijacked by al-Qaeda, or at least a number of former Pakistani Army officers who had allied themselves with al-Qaeda.
Principal amongst these was Major Haroon Ashik, also a former Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, whose intention was to provoke war between India and Pakistan and hence force Pakistan to move troops from anti-guerrilla actions along the Afghan border. Major Haroon was recently named in the US trial of David Headley and Tahawwur Rana. He is now believed to be in prison in Adiala, Pakistan where he is facing abduction charges.
It was Haroon who also came up with the strategy of attacking NATO convoys in Pakistan in an attempt to strangle the Coalition forces in Afghanistan by cutting off their supplies.
Shahzad's book also outlines in detail the way al-Qaeda has burrowed into the Pashtun tribes along the Afgthan-Pakistan border and attempted to break down the old tribal structures and subvert them to its own goals. This is undoubtedly true and one day will be seen by the Pashtuns as their greatest mistake and greatest tragedy.
However, the book is marred in two major respects. 
First, it has not been edited and is very repetitive and contains a mountain of irrelevant material. In addition, the book is incomplete - for example, it only contains footnotes for the first three chapters. Considering Shahzad's untimely death this can perhaps be forgiven.
The second weakness is more substantial. Shahzad seems to have fallen for much of al-Qaeda's propaganda. He offers few criticisms and sees the last five years as an unbroken chain of success after success. He refers to the devastating drone attacks that have wiped out most of the al-Qaeda leadership in FATA, but still believes they are on the verge of driving the Coalition forces out of Afghanistan. He suggests that al-Qaeda has subsumed both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban beneath its black banner and dominates them politically, militarily and ideologically.
Shahzad thinks 2012 will be the year of victory for al-Qaeda, but couches it in the language of mystical Islam. In some ways we should thank him for exposing the wackiness that is at the heart of al-Qaeda's misbegotten form of Islam, even if he appears to have succumbed to it himself. You need look no further than the last couple of paragraphs of the book to see this:
"Al-Qaeda's next aim is to occupy the promised land of ancient Khurasan, with its boundaries stretching from all the way from Central Asia to Khyber Paktoonkhwa, through Afghanistan and then expand the theatre of war to India.
"The promised Messiah, the Mahdi, will then rise in the Middle East and al-Qaeda will mobilise its forces from Ancient Khurasan for the liberation of Palestine, where a final victory will guarantee the revival of a Global Muslim Caliphate."
That is literally Shahzad's conclusion. No word here of the Arab Spring and the rejection by the Arab Street of Islam as a vehicle for revolution. He sees al-Qaeda's predicted success as the fulfilment of an ancient religious prophesy. But while this messianism at the heart of al-Qaeda's religious philosophy is something that has not received the attention it deserves, it also firmly puts that organisation into the camp of failed revolutions and crackpot religious fantasies. It is only a pity that an astute and well informed writer like Shahzad should fail to see the essential idiocy of such thinking. Roll on 2012.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Critique of targeted killings in Afghanistan

Zabet Amanullah, killed in error by US forces
Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has written an excellent analysis of the alleged killing by Coalition forces of the Taliban deputy shadow governor of Takhar in September 2010. She claims, with plenty of evidence, that the person killed - along with nine other people - was in fact Zabet Amanullah, a former Taliban fighter who had laid down his weapons in 2001.
Clark's report, The Takhar Attack, which was published in May, says "The findings of this investigation raise systemic concerns over the intelligence that drives this and other targeted killings in Afghanistan." She adds that her investigation demonstrates the danger of relying on signals intelligence and social network analysis, "particularly when it is used as a basis for targeted killings, without cross‐checking and in the virtual absence of human intelligence and, indeed in this case, without even the ordinary common knowledge to be had from watching election coverage on television."

Questions of faith in Pakistan

The Jinnah Institute, a Pakistan-based think tank that promotes peace and fundamental rights, has published a report on the status of religious minorities in the country. A Question of Faith asks whether Pakistan will continue to discriminate against its citizens on the basis of religion and whether or not the majority of Pakistanis will continue to condone and collude in the discrimination and persecution of minorities. You can find a full copy of the report here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Prospects for Bonn Conference 2

Abbas Daiyar, who writes the excellent Kabul Perspective blog, has written an excellent piece on the prospects for Bonn Conference 2, due to be held in December. His posting, The Dark Clouds, notes that Germany, as host, is trying to ensure a Taliban presence at the conference and that the US and the Taliban are now reportedly in direct contact. He says Pakistan is also saying it can guarantee the presence of the Haqqani network and that things look like they are shaping up for an announcement of a political settlement to hostilities in Afghanistan.
Daiyar says talk of a Karzai-mediated settlement is anathema to many of the warlords, such as General Dostum, Ismail Khan, Ata Mohammad Noor, Ahmad Zia Masoud and others, who appear to be in the process of creating a grand alliance to ensure they have a voice at the conference and negotiations. None of them trust Karzai or believe that he represents them. As Daiyar says: "Before the Taliban come to an agreement with the international community, it's important that they should come to an understanding with Afghans who resisted them for years; otherwise it's no solution to the conflict. The international troops have already announced withdrawal by 2014. They are not the problem for Taliban; rather the bigger challenges are internal in Afghanistan. The ineffective Peace Council should also bear in mind that it's not only the international community having problems with Taliban, but more serious problems with Taliban are from inside Afghanistan."
Daiyar wants conference organisers to make sure all factions of Afghan society, including women, are represented and that Afghans should be able to discuss the "fault lines" of the current system.
Thomas Ruttig of the Afghan Analysts Network has also been writing on similar themes. As he notes:
"They do not need a Karzai-Taleban deal that opens the exit door for foreign troops, they need an end of the bloodshed that will also physically reopen spaces for economic and political(!) activities, a debate about where their country is going. A deal which does not address main causes of the conflict (namely the monopoly over power of resources concentrated in the hands of a small elite, then possibly with some additional Taleban players) will not bring peace. Therefore, the ‘political process’ (the euphemism for talking to the Taleban in the programme of the Bonn conference) needs to involve a representative cross-section of Afghan society, including former anti-Taleban mujahedin, the ethnic minorities that have suffered most under the Taleban yoke and what usually is called civil society, including the women constituency, another main victim of past Taleban rule." Wise words.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Senate analysis of US aid spending in Afghanistan

In the last ten years the United States has spent around $18.8 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan, excluding military costs and counter-narcotics programmes. Today it is spending - mostly through USAID - around $320 million a month. Eighty per cent of this money is being spent in the south and east of the country on short-term stabilisations programmes instead of longer term development projects, even though the evidence that such programmes promote stability is very limited. In fact, some research suggests the opposite.
These are some of the findings of a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, Evaluating US Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan, chaired by Sen. John Kerry.
Based on two years' research, the report contains some useful information. It points out, for example, that annual staff turnover at USAID in Kabul is more than 85 per cent and that an estimated 97 per cent of Afghanistan's GDP comes from  the international military and donor community. Lots more stuff in here (and in the minority report) for policy wonks.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

$60 million class action against Blackwater

No-one can say for sure how many civilian contractors have been killed or injured in Afghanistan. A rough guide can be obtained from the US Department of Labor, which publishes figures on the number of compensation claims for contractor deaths abroad. According to this measure, 763 contractors employed by US companies were killed in Afghanistan between 1 September 2001 and 31 March 2011. Another 4,729 were seriously injured.
Even if they are not killed or injured, many of these contractors are not well looked after by their employers, as indicated by a lawsuit filed yesterday in Washington DC. Washington-based lawyer Scott J Bloch filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of four former security specialists who were injured while working for the notorious Blackwater Industries company, in order to recover their payment of social security, unemployment insurance, and unpaid benefits and state and local withholding and unemployment insurance, and other unspecified damages.
The action, which seeks $60 million in damages and punitive damages, has been brought on their own behalf and thousands of others who have worked for Blackwater, now known as Xe Services.
“These brave individuals who worked in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghani Enduring Freedom, deserve better than to be turned away without health insurance, pension benefits, unemployment benefits, and other withholding afforded to Blackwater’s other employees,” said Scott Bloch yesterday.
Since 2007, Blackwater has employed over 10,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan under lucrative US government contracts, including many former armed services veterans. The lawsuit says Blackwater sought to avoid millions of dollars in taxes, withholding, and payments of benefits to these employees by classifying them improperly as independent contractors.
The suit also states that one of the representative plaintiffs already had a determination from the IRS that Blackwater misclassified him as an independent contractor.  "The IRS already  determined in the case of one of my clients that he should have been classified as an employee," said Bloch.  “Now thousands of people will have to file amended returns.   Thousands of people will likely be entitled to benefits they were denied due to the misclassification, including payment of their employer share of pension, health and disability insurance premiums, and other plans that Blackwater filed with the government for its employees, promising it would not discriminate against those employees as they did here.”
The suit also claims that the US Congress had previously held hearings which determined that Blackwater and its related companies misclassified employees in order to avoid millions of dollars in taxes.
The case was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and covers individuals from all over the United States and some Americans living abroad, including all former and current Blackwater and Xe employees and so-called independent contractors.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ilyas Kashmiri's big mistake

How was it that Ilyas Kashmiri, the much-feared commander of al-Qaeda's 313 Brigade - so-named after the 313 companions that stood at the Prophet's side at the Battle of Badr - came to be killed, along with seven others in an orchard south of Wana in South Waziristan last week (see below)?
According to some reports, Kashmiri was discussing what al-Qaeda and its allies should do in the event of a Pakistani incursion into neighbouring North Waziristan. Pakistan's military has been under American pressure for months to launch attacks against the notorious Haqqani network and its supporters in North Waziristan, from where they launch attacks on Coalition forces in Afghanistan. Significant elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan from the Mahsud tribe who were formerly based in South Waziristan are also sheltering there, ever since they were chased out of their traditional tribal lands in a 2009 army offensive.
Kashmiri had only been in the district a few hours when he was killed in a targeted drone strike. Hardly surprising really; his very presence in South Waziristan was a threat to a 2007 peace agreement between the Ahmadzai Wazirs and the government under which the tribe agreed not to attack Pakistani forces or to allow foreign militants into their district. The Waziris had previously risen up against the Arabs and many Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who had settled amongst them and who had become notorious for their cruelty. More than 200 Uzbeks were killed by the Waziris and the survivors were forced north, where they were given shelter by other Pashtun tribes.
As recently as March this year the nine clans of the Ahmadzai Waziris agreed to stick to the terms of the 2007 treaty, although the local district officers were pushing for it to be made tougher on the tribes.
So when Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistani army officer who was reknowned for his brutality and who was certainly involved in serious attacks on the Pakistani armed forces - including the recent attack on the PNS Mehran naval base - arrived in the district, trouble was likely to follow.
Kashmiri was staying at the home of a tribesman known to be a supporter of Maulvi Nazir, an Ahmadzai Wazir and leader of the local chapter of the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Nazir had also signed the 2007 peace deal, but is known to be sympathetic to both al-Qaeda and the TTP.
However, other tribesmen in the area are unlikely to have taken such a sympathetic attitude towards Kashmiri, correctly realising that his presence would only bring further trouble to the area, particularly if he was the part of an advance guard of Punjabis and foreign fighters fleeing an army offensive further north. It would not have been long before someone reported his location to the military authorities. And they in turn, anxious to provide proof to the Americans that they are serious about fighting terrorism, and also determined to settle scores with a perceived turncoat, tipped off the CIA.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Graft and corruption in Pakistan military - audit report

The accounts of Pakistan's armed forces show "massive financial irregularities" totalling Rs56.5 billion ($660 million), according to the 2011 annual report of the Auditor General of Pakistan.
The report says irregularities occurred due to negligence, ineffective internal controls, embezzlement and misuse of authority by officers of the armed forces.
Around 330 contract agreements were concluded from 2008 to 2010 without following the procedure laid down in the Public Procurement Rules 2004, the auditors observed.
When they pointed out irregularities, the executive stated that the ministry's instructions were only received in June 2010. The auditors said that the reply is not tenable.
Auditors found that the Pakistan Army blocked Rs3 billion in funds due to unnecessary procurement and inappropriate storage of 1,385 new vehicles at the Central Ordnance Depot in Karachi. The vehicles have not been used for the last three years.
The report discovered excess transfer of funds to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) for procurement of bullet-proof jackets. Out of the Rs424.2 million allocated for them, the FWO has to refund some Rs385 million in addition to the loss it incurred on account of risk and expense contracts after the supplier, Musterhaft Pvt Ltd, failed to provide more than 1,000 jackets.
Money spent on building material for renovation is unaccounted for and amounts to Rs52.7 million in Kharian, Sialkot and Lahore cantonments. The auditors say there was no proof that repair work was carried out. Irregularities in purchase of pre-fabricated accommodation for UN missions amounted to Rs92 million while another Rs14.6 million was erroneously paid over as General Sales Tax, which needs to be recovered from the supplier.
Irregularities totalling Rs6 billion surfaced in the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra  while the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) lost Rs102 million due to non-recovery of five per cent rent on flying allowance from General Duty Pilots over the past 20 years. Auditors asked for the paperwork but it was refused and they observed that this amounts to blatant disobedience and ineffectual administration. Failure to deposit rent in the government treasury caused a loss of Rs14.6 million by the PAF Academy, Risalpur.
The navy failed to transfer 50 per cent accommodation charges paid by foreign trainees to the government treasury, resulting in the loss of $65,516. Auditors also observed that Rs6 million incurred on excess issue of food items in PNS Bahadur and PNS Mehran for the year 2009-10 needs to be reimbursed. An amount of Rs76 million has still not been recovered after unauthorised payments to re-employed officers of the Pakistan Navy in 2009-10 were unearthed.
Military Lands and Cantonment inflicted a loss of Rs181 million to the cantonment fund due to irregularities in awarding leases. The Cantonment Board in Lahore lost Rs30 million due to its failure to revise the tax rate on immovable property. Fraud and embezzlement caused a loss of Rs68 million to the Cantonment Board in Rawalpindi in 2008. Failure to recover Rs97 million in dues added to the losses incurred by various boards.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Another blow for al-Qaeda as Kashmiri is killed

Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri pictured in July 2001
"On behalf of Harkat Jihad al-Islami 313 Brigade we confirm the fact that our leader and commander-in-chief Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, along with other companions, have been martyred in an American drone attack at 11:15 pm on June 3, 2011 and Insha Allah (God willing) the present pharoah America will see our full revenge very soon. Our only target is America.
(Harkat Jihad alIslami) 313 Brigade
Abu Hunzala
June 4, 2011
With those few words, sent by fax to Pakistani news outlets, the death of one the region's most notorious militants appears to be confirmed. Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri and eight of his comrades were killed when three drone missiles struck two rooms in a compound in Ghwa Khwa, about 20 miles south of Wana in South Waziristan late on Friday night. It was the first such strike for nine days and the eighth since Osama bin Laden was killed on 2 May in Abbottabad.
The compound belonged to Mir Ajam Khan Tozikhel, an associate of the Mullah Nazir group of Waziris. Mullah Nazir, who signed a peace agreement with the Pakistan military in July 2009 in which he agreed not to shelter members of al-Qaeda or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, continues to support both organisations.
Most of those killed appeared to be Punjabis, named locally as Mohammad Usman, Ibrahim, Farooq, Amir Hamza and Imran. Two of them, Amir Hamza and Mohammad Usman, are known to be close associates of Kashmiri and usually travelled with him.
The group was meeting late at night to discuss what to do in the event of a Pakistani army offensive in North Waziristan when the missiles struck.
If the reports are accurate - Kashmiri was falsely reported dead in September 2009 - this is a major blow to the remnants of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. A Pakistani by birth, he was a former special forces soldier who had been decorated by General Musharraf for beheading an Indian soldier in 2000 along the Line of Control in Kashmir.
However, he had thrown in his lot with al-Qaeda and was thought to be behind the March 2006 suicide bombing of the US consulate in Karachi and was also connected to the November 2009 attacks on Mumbai - according to recent testimony from David Coleman Headley.
He was also thought to be behind the attack on the PNS Mehran naval base in Karachi at the beginning of May and three deadly bus bombings targeting naval personnel in the preceding weeks.
He was important because he had extensive military experience dating back to the time of the Afghan war against the Soviets, during which he lost an eye and the end of his index finger.
Some reports say it was a tip-off from the Pakistan military that led to the missile strike that killed Kashmiri. If so, it is clear that the ISI had finally got fed up with a man who was once considered an asset, but who had since gone 'off message'. The Americans regarded him as so important that he had a $5 million bounty on his head.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Murder of one of Pakistan's finest journalists

Syed Saleem Shahzad
The murder of Asia Times Pakistan bureau chief Syed Saleem Shahzad, who was abducted on Sunday evening, is a tragedy for reporting in that country. Shahzad was on his way to take part in a TV talk show in Islamabad when he disappeared. His body, which showed signs of torture, was found by a canal in Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab, 80 miles south of the capital. He leaves a wife, two sons and a daughter.
Shahzad had been warned in the past by Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency about critical articles he had written and had told friends and colleagues he feared for his life. A recent article he wrote on al-Qaeda infiltration in the Pakistan Navy is thought by some to have been the reason for his kidnap and murder.
This article suggested that al-Qaeda carried out the 18-hour siege on the PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on 22 May after talks between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval ratings who had been arrested on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda had broken down.
The attack, in which two US-supplied Orion surveillance aircraft were destroyed and ten soldiers killed, was a huge embarrassment to the Pakistan military and followed three attacks on navy buses in the last month in which nine service personnel were killed. Clearly the attackers were trying to make a point. Shahzad said in his article that they came from Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, the military section of al-Qaeda.
Shahzad went on to say that Pakistani naval intelligence had recently traced an al-Qaeda cell operating within several navy bases in Karachi. When messages were intercepted hinting at an attack on visiting American officials it was decided to arrest at least ten ratings, mostly of lower rank. Almost immediately the officer in charge received death threats from al-Qaeda which made it clear that they knew where the ratings were being held. The prisoners were quickly moved to a safer location, but the threats continued.
Shahzad says that such was the threat that a senior-level naval conference was held at which it was decided to open up negotiations with al-Qaeda. An approach was made to Abdul Samad Mansoori, a member of 313 brigade who lives in North Waziristan. He demanded the immediate release of the ratings, but the navy wanted to interrogate them and then discharge them from the armed services. Al-Qaeda's response was the attacks on the naval buses.
This in turn was followed by more arrests, including a naval commando from the Mahsud tribe of South Waziristan with close links to Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud. Following the death of bin Laden on 2 May, the militants decided to launch an attack on PNS Mehran. Shahzad says that insiders at the base provided maps, pictures of exit and entry routes, the location of hangars and details of the likely reaction from external security forces. Three groups entered the base: one targeted the aircraft, one engaged the response force and a third section escaped as the others provided covering fire. Up to six escaped, while four were killed on the base.
Shahzad was a superb journalist and despatches like this one will be sorely missed. Pakistan remains a deadly place for serious journalists.