Friday, 8 July 2011

FATA still attracting Western Islamists

A new edition of Paul Cruickshank's paper The Militant Pipeline Between the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region and the West has been published by the New America Foundation. It looks at 32 'serious' jihadist terrorist plots against the West between 2004 and 2011 and shows that 53 per cent of them had operational or training links to established jihadist groups in Pakistan, compared to just six per cent having connections to the Yemen.
Between January 2009 and June 2011 there were seven serious plots against the West in which those involved were trained or directed from groups in Pakistan, and just two that linked to the Yemen.
This new report looks at five new cases studies not included in the original version, including the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the 2010 Hamburg cell, the alleged Norway cell, Najibullah Zazi's New York group and the Manchester plotters. It also gives a detailed breakdown by country of known militants moving from Europe to Pakistan for training and makes the point that Germany has seen a particularly alarming rise in travel flows to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
An average of five people a month left Germany to try to receive training in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In contrast US counterterrorism officials believe fewer American extremists appear to have travelled to Pakistan in 2010 and early 2011 than in 2009.
However Cruickshank notes that the CIA drone campaign is having an impact on foreign fighters, many of whom have been killed in missile strikes, although it has not yet staunched the flow of Westerners travelling to the tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the report is the case history of Rami Makanesi, a member of the Hamburg jihadist group, who provided a 180-page account of his time in FATA to German security police following his deportation from Pakistan to Germany in September 2010.
Makanesi describes the paranoia of the al-Qaeda operatives he met about both the drone campaign and about spies. He says he came across Lebanese, Algerians, Kuwaitis, Turks, Tajiks and French militants of North African descent. In Mir Ali, in North Waziristan he was able to procure lodgings for five Euros a month and was easily able to obtain money sent from Germany. He kept in touch with his family in Germany via internet cafes. 
He said the largest contingent of foreign militants in Mir Ali were Turks, of whom there were 100-150. There were also around 100 'Tatars' in the town and less than a dozen Arabs. During the summer fighting season in Afghanistan, the town almost emptied of foreign fighters, who made their way across the border with little hindrance from local Pakistani Army patrols.  
He concludes: "Despite growing concern over Yemen, the tribal areas of Pakistan remain al Qaeda’s number one safe haven and the most threatening to the West as a whole."

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