Thursday, 31 May 2012

KSM military tribunal postponed

The Guantanamo Bay military tribunal hearing the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others has been postponed from 12 June to 8 August, according to a brief statement posted on the Office of Military Commissions website. The postponement appears to have been at the request of two of the defendants.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A couple of good books

A couple of books worth mentioning:

Alex Strick van Linschoten & Felix Kuehn, An Enemy we created: The myth of the Taliban/al-Qaeda merger in Afghanistan 1970-2010, Hurst, London, 2012, £30.00.
A good read on the early history of the Taliban and the organisation's relationship with Osama bin Laden. The thesis is clear: even though al-Qaeda operated out of Afghanistan, planning its biggest terrorist attacks and influencing the political direction of the Taliban, there was never a formal political merger. In fact, the authors argue, the relationship between the two groups was fractious and difficult at the best of times.
Much new material here from the authors' excellent contacts in the south of the country. However, it is a measure of the massive void of knowledge on the internal politics of the Taliban that the organisation's relationship with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is barely touched. Even some mainstream figures in the Afghan Taliban, such as their former defence minister Mullah Obaidullah, who died in a Pakistani gaol in mysterious circumstances in March 2010, are only briefly mentioned. An important book for anyone interested in understanding the organisation.

Douglas A Wissing, Funding the Enemy: How US taxpayers bankroll the Taliban, Prometheus Book, New York, $25.00.
Wissing describes in detail how the billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan over the last decade might just have well been thrown out the back of an airplane for all the good it has done. The squandered money has done little good except build 'narco-tecture' - disgusting palaces for the opium-trading members of Afghanistan's elite - and fund the continuing insurgency by the Taliban. Wissing describes in detail the squalid nexus between the Afghan kleptocracy, US policymakers and careerist 'aid' organisations. It's all here - the Beltway Bandits who cream off a percentage of US aid even before it leaves the USA, the judges who dispense justice for money, the civil servants earning an official pittance who live in palaces, the trucking companies that pay off the Taliban. Possibly one of the most important and truthful books on Afghanistan to be published in the last decade.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Info Ops boss exposed as mudslinger

Website of Leonie Industries
In March, I reported on a USA Today investigation that catalogued the scandal of US propaganda operations in Afghanistan, focussing in particular on Leonie Industries, a company with little background in working with the military, but which had received US Army contracts worth $130 million.
Following the publication of the original USA Today article reporter Tom Vanden Brook found out that someone had registered the site  and had also opened Twitter and Facebook accounts in his name. A Wikipedia entry mysteriously appeared along with discussion group postings that misrepresented the reporter's coverage of a mining disaster in West Virginia. All of this was clearly an attempt to trash his reputation.
Who was responsible? Step forward Camille Chidiac, former president and 49% owner of Leonie Industries - his sister Rema Dupont owns the rest of the stock.
Chidiac claims in a statement released by his Atlanta attorney that he used his personal funds to create the fake websites, using proxy servers to hide his involvement. "I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie," Chidiac said.
In a public statement the company attempted to distance itself from the actions of its former boss and made it clear that Chidiac's decision to divest himself of his minority ownership was not entirely voluntary:
"When Leonie Industries learned in April of a “misinformation campaign” against two USA Today reporters who had recently reported on the company, Leonie immediately launched an internal investigation to determine whether any employee was involved and Leonie strongly condemned the activity described in the article. In addition, Leonie has since engaged an independent digital forensics firm to augment its internal investigation.
"To date, the investigation indicates that no Leonie employee was engaged in anonymous online activity directed against the reporters. However, on Sunday, May 20, Leonie’s management was informed by Camille Chidiac, who owns a minority interest in Leonie and who was personally referenced in the USA Today coverage, that he was involved in the online activity....This was the act of an individual, not the company. Leonie was not aware of and did not authorize Mr. Chidiac’s online activity concerning the reporters...Mr. Chidiac is being removed as an owner of the company. In addition, Leonie has contacted government officials to inform them of the situation and will continue to work with government officials on this matter."
I think we would all be better off if government officials decided in future never to work with Leonie Industries again.

Friday, 25 May 2012

KSM pics smuggled out of Gitmo? I don't think so

New photos of 9/11 Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed have appeared on the internet. According to NBC's Jim Miklaszewski, the Pentagon is investigating how the pictures reached the al-Ebdaa website, suggesting - rather amusingly - that they may have been smuggled out of Guantanamo Bay, where KSM is presently on trial in front of a military tribunal. 
Somehow I doubt very much that these pics were smuggled out. The new pics are similar to pictures given previously to KSM's family by the International Red Cross in July 2009 and this is the most likely explanation of their origin. They show the terrorist planner wearing an array of headgear. One pic shows him holding a book, presumably a copy of the Koran. As a strict moslem, presumably KSM does not cut his beard. Based on the length of his beard in the new photos I would guess they were taken at the same time as those issued previously.

Old pic of KSM:

'New' pic of KSM:

Flags of Afghanistan

Aleem Agha, a producer for ABC News in Kabul, tweeted this enjoyable compilation of Afghan flags:

Monday, 21 May 2012

Poetry of the Taliban causes a stir

To St Antony's College, Oxford this afternoon for a presentation by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn of their latest book, Poetry of the Taliban, (Hurst, 2012). Alex and Felix have lived on and off in Kandahar for some years and have immersed themselves in the culture of the city and its people.
In this fascinating book they have edited a selection of poems they collected from the Taliban's official website. The translations themselves were done by Mirwais Rahmany and Hamid Stanikzai. They divide the poems into those written before 9/11, poems of love and pastoral subjects, religious poems, poems of discontent, those that are explicitly war-related ('The Trench') and those that measure The Human Cost.
It may at first seem curious that a movement that banned television and singing should be so fond of poetry, but there is no contradiction. Poetry has been a fundamental part of Pashto and Dari-language culture for hundreds of years, as well as being an art form allowed and encouraged by radical Islamists, as long as certain rules were obeyed. Even Osama bin Laden wrote poetry.
This point appears to have been lost on some people, not least Col Richard Kemp (rtrd.), commander of British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, who told the Guardian: "What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs who suppress women and kill people without mercy if they do not agree with them, and of course are killing our soldiers. It doesn't do anything but give the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country."
His views would not be recognised by Major Henry George Raverty, a British Indian Army officer who fought in Swat in 1850 and was later garrisoned in Peshawar. Raverty, who was clearly somewhat more enlightened than Kemp, wrote Selections from the Poetry of the Afghans (1862) and The Gulshan-i-roh: being selections, prose and poetical, in the Pashto, or Afghan language (1867). Like many Army officers of the time, Raverty believed in knowing your enemy and not forgetting that they too were humans.
None of the animosity towards the book was visible at St Antony's where the audience made clear their appreciation for the book and the boldness of the editors in making it happen.

Pakistan Twitter ban 'a dry run for elections'

Strange happenings in Pakistan, where new minister for Information Technology, Raja Parvez Ashraf, decided early on Sunday morning to block access to Twitter for the whole country. The ostensible reason was because the micro-blogging platform had apparently refused to remove allegedly blasphemous content involving a contest to draw cartoons of the prophet Mohammad.
The saga started on Saturday evening when Ashraf spoke to media and expressed his concerns about the blasphemous content available on different websites and threatened to block Twitter.
According to the Express Tribune, the Pakistani government first contacted Facebook and asked the company to remove posts about the contest. To their shame, Facebook complied with the censorship request. The government then contacted Twitter and asked them to do the same. When they refused, Pakistan decided to block Twitter. The site went down late on Sunday morning.
However, after about eight hours PM Yousaf Raza Gilani ordered Twitter to be restored, for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Shahzad Ahmad, who runs the Bytes for All website in Pakistan, which monitors internet freedom, called the block "mind boggling and criminally undemocratic" and quickly set up a rapid response network to guide individuals towards tools and tips to get round the block, mainly by using proxy servers.
He told the Christian Science Monitor  that the government was using the sensitive topic of blasphemy as a cover for constricting the space for political debate ahead of national elections: "The government is trying to test the waters to see what the response on such censorship is. We foresee more control on access of information, like we have seen in the past, when elections are near". He suggested that blasphemy was not the real reason the network had been closed down, pointing out that there are several such pages on Facebook and YouTube with similar content.
This is not the first time Pakistan has restricted Internet freedom, with Facebook being blocked for similar reasons in 2010. Content criticizing the Pakistani military on YouTube and on Rolling Stone magazine's website have also drawn bans, as have websites calling for independence for Balochistan, such as Baloch Hal.
According to independent sources around 13,000 websites are current inaccessible in the country. The PTA puts the figure much lower, stating that around 2,000 sites are banned in Pakistan.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Afghanistan's fragile media distorted by donors

The growth of the media in Afghanistan has been portrayed as a success story, but much of the recent expansion is based on donor support. If this declines, much of the media will wither or fall prey to factional, religious or extreme forces. So says a new policy briefing from BBC Media Action, The media of Afghanistan: The challenges of transition.
It notes: "The role of donors in media support in Afghanistan is probably greater than in any other country at any other time. Such support is largely responsible for the development of such a substantial media sector, but it faces criticism that it is poorly coordinated, short term and not informed by aid effectiveness principles; that it focuses too heavily on advancing the agendas of the donors; and that in some sectors it is distorting the media market in ways that create dependency and inhibit the development of genuinely sustainable Afghan media ventures."
The briefing gives an overview of the media landscape in Afghanistan, examines its impact on Afghan society and looks at the pressures facing journalism in the country. It also examines the role of donors and the shortage of independent national media and provides conclusions drawn from the analysis.

Afghan Telecoms and Internet success story

The Telecoms and Internet sectors in Afghanistan have been a major success story, according to a new report from Internews, The State of Telecommunications and Internet in Afghanistan: Six Years Later, written by Javed Hamdard. By 2012 the telecoms sector had been able to attract investment of over $1.8 billion, up from $600 million in 2006. It has generated over 110,000 direct and indirect jobs and has become on the of the largest revenue generators for the central government.
Today there are six active Telecom providers and 44 licensed internet service providers. Teledensity has reached 64 per cent  and 85 per cent of the population live within range of a mobile phone mast. In total there are more than 17 million mobile phone subscribers, compared to less than two million in 2006.  The total number of internet users is estimated at more than a million - about four per cent of the population.
Coming soon is the completion of the national fibre-optic backbone - a $130 million project that will lay 4810km of cable linking 23 provincial capitals and also linking to five neighbouring countries. Almost 3,000kms has already been completed.
The massive expansion of mobile phones has also resulted in a huge drop in costs, which have fallen from 18Afs a minute in 2003 to 3Afs in 2012.
Lots of useful information in this informative report.

TTP releases videos showing Bannu jailbreak

Update: On Wednesday I posted links to the three parts of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan video showing the Bannu jailbreak. However, soon after, all three videos were taken down, apparently by the person who posted them, but this is unclear. Then on Saturday 19 May the videos were once again posted onto YouTube. You can find them below.
The 34-minute video shows the pre-attack planning, the jailbreak operation and the release of Taliban prisoners, including Adnan Rashid, a key suspect in the attack on former president Pervez Musharraf. Rashid is also interviewed following his escape. The video begins with a previously recorded message from TTP leaders Hakimullah Mahsud and Waliur Rehman Mahsud and goes on with a tirade against Pakistan's army and democratic and judicial systems. 
The two men also threaten to continue such attacks to secure the release of Taliban prisoners. The video shows militants planning the attack using hand-made maps and sketches of Bannu Central Jail's surroundings and interiors, showing security pickets and details of security cordons. At an unknown location a masked militant instructs the attack party, detailing how they should carry out attacks on the security pickets of the jail from all sides and the main gate. 
"The main motive of our attack is to set free innocent people from the custody of the tyrant rulers and provide them easy and cheap justice," Waliur Rehman says, with a white flag in the background.  
However, it should be noted that during the attack on 15 April, hardly a shot was fired and no-one was injured or killed. A total of 384 inmates (out of 944) escaped, including four senior TTP commanders on death row. An official inquiry committee of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government that reported on 16 May found police, paramilitary forces, the civil administration and intelligence agencies “collectively responsible” for the jailbreak. Twenty-seven officials have been suspended. See my blog entry for 24 April for more details.
First part:

Second part:
Third part:

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Afghanistan's northern heroin route

Afghan producers put a logo on their heroin bags
Of the estimated 380 tons of pure heroin manufactured in Afghanistan in 2010, about a quarter (90 tons - equivalent to 1,000 tons of unpurified opiates) was trafficked northwards through Central Asia to the Russian Federation, along with around 35-40 tons of opium, according to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Some of the opium was grown or came from stocks held in the north, but at least half came from the more intensive opium farms in the south of the country.  About three-quarters of opiates were destined for the Russian market, with about three or four tons trafficked onwards to Eastern and Northern Europe. The rest was for local use in the north of Afghanistan, where there are known to be over 100,000 addicts.
Little is done to halt the flow north, with only very limited seizures being reported. This the report puts down to poor law enforcement.
Unlike in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgent groups don't appear to be taxing the opium trade in northern Afghanistan, which is one of the safest regions in the country. The drug trade also appears to be immune from official interdiction, primarily due to corruption.
Most of the opiates exported from Afghanistan (85 per cent) pass through Tajikistan. Other routes include one through Turkmenistan that feeds through into the Balkans via Iran.
Once shipped into Central Asia, traffickers use the railways to transport opiates and hashish through to the Russian Federation and beyond: "The size of some loads detected in 2010 suggests that traffickers are operating with a heightened confidence level. Massive seizures of hashish in containers destined to North America are a confirmation that railroad trafficking is also linked to transcontinental trafficking", says the report.
It also notes that drug trafficking is also a source of conflict in Kyrgyzstan, where the inter-ethnic clashes of 2010 were used by ethnic Kyrgyz criminal groups to assume predominance over ethnic Uzbek criminal groups and to control the drug routes through this part of Kyrgyzstan.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Interview for Russian news agency website

Those of you who read Russian may enjoy my interview on the KSM military tribunal trial in Guantanamo, published by the independent Russian news agency

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rivetting account of KSM's military tribunal

Here's a short excerpt from the beginning of the military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay from last Saturday 5 May, that is trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others. You can find this and other transcripts here .
Judging by this excruciatingly banal extract, this is going to be a long, drawn-out affair. The next hearing is due on 12 June.
(Note: MJ stand for Military Judge, DC for Defense Counsel.)

MJ [COL POHL]: Mr. Nevin, just to make sure, are you convinced that the translation in the earphones are working for Mr. Mohammad?
DC [MR. NEVIN]: No, sir, I'm not. And I ----
MJ [COL POHL]: To me, we would have to make sure that occurs first, correct? I'm not saying necessarily "you," I'm saying there are all sorts of people that can verify whether the earphones are working or not.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Your Honor, I don't know. I appeared in the Military Commissions in 2008, and the translations were notoriously inaccurate and late and behind ----
MJ [COL POHL]: That is a different issue.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: I understand.
MJ [COL POHL]: If he doesn't understand something, that's fine. I want to make sure he is hearing me and making a choice not to respond.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: I understand, Your Honor.
MJ [COL POHL]: The only option I've got is for somebody to take the earphones off him and listen to it to make sure they are working okay, or you can propose another alternative.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: No, I don't have -- all I know is that I think Mr. Mohammad will decline to speak to the court or respond to the court.
MJ [COL POHL]: I got that. I want to make sure he is hearing the Commission. That is my question to you is that --is that I want to verify that he is hearing the translation.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: The record should reflect that Mr. Mohammad does not have earphones in his ears at this time; therefore, he is not listening to translation.
MJ [COL POHL]: The record should also reflect they were in his ears a minute ago and he chose to take them off.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Yes, I think they were in, I don't know, about a minute ago, Your Honor.
MJ [COL POHL]: Do you wish to speak to your client, see whether or not he wishes to put the earphones in?
DC [MR. NEVIN]: No, sir, I don't, thank you. If the court is asking me to, I will.
MJ [COL POHL]: No, it is your choice.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Yes, sir.
MJ [COL POHL]: But here is where we are going to go down on this, Mr. Nevin, is if he refuses to listen to the earphones, refuses to answer me -- I will ask him one more time in English; if he understands English and refuses to answer me, I will assume he is making a choice not to answer. Then we will go to the default.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Do what, Your Honor?
MJ [COL POHL]: We will go to default elections.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Could the court describe what that ----
MJ [COL POHL]: Yes. He gets detailed counsel, learned counsel, and he gets to enter a plea of not guilty with the defaults.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: The court would enter a plea and cause him to waive ----
MJ [COL POHL]: No, no, no, not today.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: That would be deferred?
MJ [COL POHL]: Not today. I'm simply saying one cannot choose not to participate and frustrate the normal course of business. That is all I'm saying. If Mr. Mohammad or any of the accused choose not to respond to my questions about elections of counsel, which is the first step, then we go to, as I said, the default counsel mode.
Eventually, if he refuses to enter a plea, when we get to that point, then the same thing happens; a plea of not guilty is entered on his behalf.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Your Honor, I take it Mr. Mohammad has the right to remain silent and not respond to the court's questions.
MJ [COL POHL]: He can choose to do that as long as he understands the ramifications. But if he refuses to respond to my question and refuses to put the earphones on so he can hear a translation of my questions, then he is making a choice to be uninformed potentially from the Commission.
But, again, he can have that choice, but he does not have a choice that would frustrate this Commission going forward. Are you with me on this?
DC [MR. NEVIN]: No ----
MJ [COL POHL]: You have a furrowed brow. That's why ----
DC [MR. NEVIN]: I understand what Your Honor is saying. Mr. Mohammad may or may not have a particular intention with respect to pursuing the default, going to the default elections and so on. And I can't, I simply -- I don't know whether that is his intention. I understand what the court is saying.
MJ [COL POHL]: He has a choice. He can participate and make his elections, or he can choose not to participate and elections will be made for him. That is his choice.
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Right. I understand that, Your Honor.
MJ [COL POHL]: Okay. Okay. Now, does he want to put the earphones back on?
DC [MR. NEVIN]: I doubt it.
MJ [COL POHL]: Would you ask him?
DC [MR. NEVIN]: Yes, sir.
[The security classification button was pushed in the
courtroom which caused the video feed to terminate at 0948, 5 May 2012.]

Poor translations mar Abbottabad documents

A close examination of the documents seized in Abbottabad by US Special Forces last May and released by the Combatting Terrorism Center last week reveals an inconsistency.
The complete translated documents made available on the CTC website are very poorly translated and contain basic grammatical and spelling errors. However, the commentary provided by CTC quotes from the same documents, but gives much more accurate translations.
Thus the letter (SOCOM-2012-0000007) written by al-Qaeda leaders Atiyatullah and Abu Yahya al-Libi to Hakimullah Mahsud, emir of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan TTP and dated 3 December 2010, refers to the "concept, approach and behaviour of the TTP" in the translation provided, but "the ideology, methods and behaviour" in the commentary.
Again, the translated letter refers to the "clear legal and religious mistakes", while the commentary refers to "clear legal errors and dangerous lapses".
Perhaps more annoying is the sentence that is the crux of the letter. The translation runs as follows: "Considering Hakimullah as the sole Emir for everyone to swear allegiance to, whoever oppose him and isn’t a member of the movement is an adulterer, the none differentiation between the Jihad Emirate and the Great Imam post, and neglecting the daily conditions of the Muslims; all of which according to the Shari’a (Muslim laws) are a misconception of the real situation, and may cause an inter-Mujahidin fighting."
This does not even make sense.
In the commentary it is translated (with useful comments) as follows: "News had reached `Atiyya and al-Libi that Mahsud had declared himself to be “the singular leader to whom everyone must pledge allegiance and declaring anyone who rebels against him (kharij `alyhi) or is not in his Tehrik to be a rebel (baghi).” In classical Islamic political parlance, dissenters (khawarij) and rebels (bughat) who renounce the authority of the legitimate imam are subject to jihad and liable to be killed."
The commentary further adds: "Thus, Mahsud’s announcement amounted to declaring himself to be the great imam with political authority over all Muslims, so `Atiyya and al-Libi found it necessary to point out to him that there is a difference “between the [minor] position of leader of jihad and that of great imam,” a distinction with which Mahsud should familiarize himself."
This makes things much clearer.
The translated document ends with a very weak statement: "We hope that you will take the necessary action to correct your actions and avoid these grave mistakes; otherwise we have to take decisive actions from our end."
In fact, as the commentary makes clear, the threat was much more explicit: "“unless we see from you serious and immediate practical and clear steps towards reforming [your ways] and dissociating yourself from these vile mistakes [that violate Islamic Law], we shall be forced to take public and firm legal steps from our side."
How did the CTC manage to produce two different translations of the same document and then publish the poorest quality one as a resource? Unbelievable!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Mullah's death sparks intense fighting in Miranshah

What is known about the cleric whose death last week sparked the intense fighting in Miranshah in North Waziristan, Pakistan, over the weekend? The death of Maulana Naseeb Khan Wazir on 3rd May seems to have been the cause of the deadly and gruesome incidents in the militant-controlled city.
The first attack took place on Sunday when militants from the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) captured and killed nine Pakistani soldiers after attacking a convoy with rockets near Miranshah. The soldiers were all beheaded. The militants then withdrew, taking another five soldiers with them as prisoners.
In response, the Pakistan Army and airforce launched a ferocious attack on those they thought responsible, shelling buildings and a mosque in Miranshah and proclaiming an indefinite curfew.
The army claimed it had killed a several militants, but others escaped with their prisoners, who were also subsequently beheaded, with two heads being left strung up on fences in the Makane Bagh and Zafar Town areas of the city. The bodies were left elsewhere in Miranshah.
The following day, Monday, army helicopters attacked a large building in the Noor Din arms market in the main bazaar, causing a huge conflagration. At least two children were killed and 20 other people were injured. The army said it had killed 30 militants and destroyed dozens of shops selling rifles, ammunition and RPGs.
In statements to the media the TTP claimed the initial cause of this mayhem - which is unusual in that the Pakistan Army seldom attacks Miranshah, as it is where its allies in the Haqqani Network are based - was the reported murder Maulana Naseeb Khan Wazir on 3rd May. He was kidnapped the day before whilst travelling from his madrassah at Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak, to Peshawar 30 miles away. As his vehicle reached the Taro Jaba area of Nowshera it was stopped and he was driven away in another car. The following day his body was found within the jurisdiction of the Pishta Khara police station, near the Bara Road.
The TTP have subsequently blamed the killing on the police or intelligence services and describe their attacks on the army as revenge. Can that be true? Or is this a case of the TTP settling its own accounts?
Maulana Naseeb has been very close to the militants for many years. In 2005, for example, he told a gathering of tribesmen in Wana, south Waziristan, that anyone who sided with the government against the militants or spied for the US was liable to be killed.
He subsequently became prayer leader at the Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of the most important Deobandi madrassahs in Pakistan and famous for being the place that educated Mullah Omar - on whom it bestowed an honorary doctorate - and many other Afghan Taliban leaders. It has been dubbed the "University of Jihad" and accommodates thousands of students from around the world on its sprawling campus.
In December this year Maulana Naseeb was involved in the negotiations between the government and the TTP over a prospective ceasefire. He took part in the negotiations in his capacity of chief of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Islam (Movement for the Enforcement of Islam, a pro-Taliban grouping) in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. At the time he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: "Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Islam is playing the role of mediator. It depends on the government [of Pakistan]. If the government accepts their conditions, the Taliban is ready [for talks].
The talks eventually broke down over the TTP's unwillingness to disarm, according to tribal custom and also because some of the TTP factions were unhappy to come to an agreement with the Army. Now, four months later, someone has decided they no longer need the services of Maulana Naseeb Khan Wazir.
Was he killed by his former jihadist colleagues, who decided he had become too close to the ISI and the military, as is now widely believed in the region? That seems to be a more likely explanation than a killing by the intelligence services, who would have been aware that the death of such a prominent religious figure would spark further violence.
Meanwhile,the army itself is clearly unsettled by the latest turn of events and the stain on its honour of once again, seeing its soldiers beheaded by TTP militants.
“Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing,” Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, the army’s senior commander in the northwest, told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday in relation to the violence in Miranshah. “North Waziristan is the only place left” that hasn’t been the target of an operation, he added. “This will not shy us off establishing the writ of the government in all the areas, including North Waziristan,” said Rabbani, who is in command of 150,000 troops along the Afghan border.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Farcical KSM trial begins in Guantanamo

So the preliminaries to the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-accused have finally begun in Guantanamo Bay. By all accounts the first day- Saturday - was a farce. The prisoners, one of whom was shackled to his chair when first brought into court, talked amongst themselves, generally ignored the court and in a departure from their previous appearances at a military tribunal - the first time they were put on trial at Guantanamo - declined to plead guilty.
Ramzi Binalshibh, who is generally regarded to be insane, spent time praying and comparing himself to the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, while KSM himself, like a true Bond villain, stroked his beard and removed the headphones that were piping an Arabic translation of the proceedings to him. Several of the accused read The Economist as they sat in the dock in white robes.
What the relatives of those killed during the 9/11 attacks made of all this is hard to know. Several of them, who had been chosen in a lottery, were present in the courtroom.
This is the third attempted trial for the men. The first military tribunal, at which the defendants said they were happy to accept responsibility, was abandoned in 2008. The second, scheduled to take place in a civilian court in Manhattan, never got started after members of the US Congress passed a special law to prevent it taking place. The present military tribunal brings no credit to the US legal authorities, who have lost the opportunity to demonstrate the power of democratic justice to the world.
The trial itself is unlikely to start until next year and will last for years. It should be remembered that the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called twentieth hijacker, took four years to complete. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006.

Friday, 4 May 2012

"I used to be a terrorist leader, y'know"

For anyone who has not yet seen the 17(selected) items of Osama bin Laden's correspondence, seized from his Abbottabad compound and released yesterday by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, you can find them here, along with a study of the items. According to CTC: "The earliest is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011.  These internal al-Qa`ida communications were authored by several  leaders, most prominently Usama bin Ladin. In contrast to his public statements that focused on the injustice of those he believed to be the “enemies” of Muslims, namely corrupt “apostate” Muslim rulers and their Western “overseers,” the focus of Bin Ladin’s private letters is Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi “brothers”. He is at pain advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and focus on the United States, “our desired goal.” Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 de-classified documents."
You almost feel sorry for the poor old sod. Didn't he realise that the only reason any of his 'brothers' were interested in him was his money? When that was gone he was worthless.