Pakistan files complaint protesting NATO air strikes

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday lodged a protest with NATO and its International Security Assistance Force  (ISAF) [regarding air strikes that crossed into Pakistani territory. The complaint stems from an incident last week in which ISAF helicopters engaged militants following an attack on an Afghan security base in the Khost province. During the encounter, ISAF personnel drew fire from the Pakistani side of the border and pursued, killing upwards of 30 insurgents. ISAF cited the “right of self defense” as justification for crossing into Pakistani airspace. Pakistan characterized the incident as an infringement on its sovereignty, arguing that the ISAF mandate “terminates/finishes” at the Afghan border and does not provide for any incursions into Pakistan. The country also noted that it will begin to consider potential response avenues unless remedial actions are immediately taken to prevent future incidents.

Woodward book discusses US-Pakistan intelligence relationship

According to the new book, President Obama dispatched his national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta to Pakistan for a series of urgent, secret meetings on May 19, 2010. Jones and Panetta had gone to Pakistan to tell Zardari that Obama wanted four things to help prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. soil: full intelligence sharing, more reliable cooperation on counterterrorism, faster approval of visas for U.S. personnel traveling to Pakistan and, despite past refusals, access to airline passenger data.

If, God forbid, the SUV had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. “No one will be able to stop the response and consequences,” the security adviser said. “This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact.”

Jones did not give specifics about what he meant. The Obama administration had a “retribution” plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies. The plan called for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.

“Mr. President,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was  also at the meeting, “This is what they are saying. . . . They’re saying that if, in fact, there is a successful attack in the United States,  they will take steps to deal with that here, and that we have a  responsibility to now cooperate with the United States.”

“If something like that happens,” Zardari said defensively, “it doesn’t mean that somehow we’re suddenly bad people or something. We’re still partners.”
No, both Jones and Panetta said. There might be no way to save the  strategic partnership. Underscoring Jones’s point, Panetta said, “If that happens, all bets are off.”

Apparently, the Pakistan president didn’t care so much about the collateral damage by drones:

Zardari believed that he had already done a great deal to accommodate his strategic partner, at some political risk. He had allowed CIA drones to strike al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps in parts of Pakistan, prompting a public outcry about violations of Pakistani sovereignty. He had told CIA officials privately in late 2008 that any innocent deaths from the strikes were the cost of doing business against senior al-Qaeda leaders. “Kill the seniors,” Zardari had said. “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”

C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan

The NY Times reports that as part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft  thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.

Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.

Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan.Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.

As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled  warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.

Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.

But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to discuss the  current European terrorism intelligence with her European counterparts  at a U.N. aviation security meeting this week in Montreal. “We are in  constant contact with our colleagues abroad,” she told a Senate panel  last week. “We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set  of groups and a more diverse set of threats. That activity, much of  which is Islamist in nature, is directed at the West generally.”

U.S. Counterterrorist Pursuit Team in Afghanistan much larger than thought

The Washington Post reports about the role of Firebase Lilley,  a nerve center in the covert war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda which is used as a CIA hub to train and deploy a well-armed 3,000-member Afghan paramilitary force collectively known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, or ‘Afghan OGA’s’ – other government agency. The Counterterrorist Pursuit Team was set up in the months following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 to penetrate territory controlled  by the Taliban and al-Qaida and target militants for interrogations by  CIA officials.

The 3,000-strong Afghan teams are used for surveillance and long-range reconnaissance missions and some have trained at CIA facilities in the United States. The force has operated in Kabul and some of Afghanistan’s most violence-wracked provinces including Kandahar, Khost, Paktia and Paktika, according to a security professional familiar with the program. Field logs from the wikileaks report reveal glimpses into the kinds of operations undertaken by the CIA and its Afghan paramilitary units along the Pakistani border. In addition to accounts of snatch-and-grab operations targeting insurgent leaders, the logs contain casualty reports from battles with the Taliban, summaries of electronic intercepts of enemy communications and hints of the heavy firepower at the CIA’s disposal.

According to an official familiar with the operations the teams’ primary mission is to improve security in Afghanistan and that they do not engage in “lethal action” when crossing into Pakistan. Their cross-border missions are “designed exclusively for intelligence collection,” the official said.

Unlike regular Afghan army commandos, the CIA-run Afghan paramilitary  units mostly work independently from CIA paramilitary or special  operations forces but will occasionally combine forces for an operation. Despite operating independently, the units coordinate their operations  with NATO, the security professional said. The Afghan force became the focus of a debate last year between CIA and  military officials over who would control its operations. The CIA  remained the lead agency, the former official said.

The Army field reports suggest that the Afghan paramilitary forces can also be ruthless. On Oct. 23, 2007, military personnel at Orgun-E reported treating a 30-year-old Afghan man for the “traumatic amputation of fingers” on his left hand. The patient had been “injured by Afghan OGA during a home breach,” according to the report. The Kandahar branch paramilitaries shot and killed Kandahar’s police  chief and nine other Afghan police officials in 2009 over a dispute  after one of its own members was arrested. During their face-off with  the police chief, the paramilitaries were wearing uniforms and guns bought by the CIA.

Jonathan Horowitz, a human rights expert working with the Open Society  Institute, said: ‘

These paramilitary groups operate in such a cloak of  secrecy that accountability for their abuses is nearly impossible for  most Afghans. These forces don’t fall under an Afghan military chain of  command, and if a civilian is killed or maimed, the U.S. can say it  wasn’t the fault of the U.S.

Academic: An Appraisal of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy to Counter Terrorism

Brigadier Malik Zafar Iqbal is an infantry officer in the Pakistan Army. He has the following article coming up in Parameters.

This article examines the history of US-Pakistan relations providing insight on previous oscillations in the relationship, assesses the current US-Pakistani cooperation in the war against terrorism within the context of the recently announced AFPAK Strategy, and recommends ways to enhance the relationship and improve cooperation between both nations.

DOJ files criminal charges against Pakistan Taliban leader

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that it has charged Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimulla Mehsud in connection with the December 30 attack on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Afghan outpost Camp Chapman that left nine people dead. Mehsud identifies himself as the head of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a Pakistan-based terrorist cell affiliated with the Afghan Taliban. The filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, charges Mehsud with conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against US citizens abroad.

Also Wednesday, the US State Department (DOS)  announced that it has declared the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The DOS also announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Mehsud.

Pakistan: Lack of terror convictions hurts fight

AP reports that Pakistani courts have yet to convict a single person in any of the country’s 20 biggest terrorist attacks of the past three years, a symptom of a dysfunctional legal system that’s hurting the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida at a critical time. Many of the Pakistani court cases connected to those attacks — which have killed nearly 1,100 people_ have dragged on for years, or have yet to make it even past the investigation stage and into the courts.

The handful of cases that have been decided have all resulted in acquittals — though many of these defendants remain in custody while they are investigated in other cases, court officials said.

Police without basic investigative skills such as the ability to lift fingerprints, and prosecutors who lack training to try terror cases, are some of the main reasons cited. Another daunting challenge: Judges and witnesses often are subject to intimidation that affects the ability to convict.

The legal system’s failure to attack terrorism is critical because it robs Pakistan of a chance to enforce a sense of law and order, which militants have set out to destroy.

It has “caused a sense of terror and insecurity amongst the members of society,” said one of the country’s top judges, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif.

The legal failures also call into question the government’s ability to fight terrorism in any way except by using the army in military offensives or — human rights groups alleged — through targeted extra-judicial.

The recent acquittals of suspects in two of the most high-profile
attacks — the 2008 truck bombing outside the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and last year’s commando-style raid on a police academy in Lahore_ have
highlighted the problems plaguing the system.

The verdict in the Lahore police academy attack seemed to defy explanation. The only person captured during the eight-hour siege in March 2009 was caught on the academy grounds — in possession of a hand grenade — allegedly trying to blow up a helicopter. Other militants attacked the main building with automatic weapons and grenades, killing 12 people and wounding dozens.But the man claimed he was an innocent garbage
collector picking up trash, and was convicted in June only of weapons possession for carrying a hand grenade and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was acquitted of involvement in the attack for lack of
sufficient evidence.

Lack of evidence was also the reason given for the acquittal in May of four men on trial in connection with the suicide truck bombing that killed 54 people at the Marriott Hotel in September 2008.

Pakistani lawyers and law enforcement officials said weak investigations conducted by poorly trained and resourced police officers made it very difficult for prosecutors and judges to convict. “I think the man who really plays the most critical role is neither the judge nor the prosecutor, but it is the investigating officer who is in charge of the case who sits in the police station in a pretty shabby environment,” said Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a Supreme Court lawyer and legal commentator.

“Everyone has ignored him consistently,” Soofi said. The U.S. has provided some training and equipment for police in Pakistan, mainly in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where security forces staged a massive offensive against Taliban militants last spring, according to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

But even when policemen receive training in skills like lifting fingerprints or gathering other forensic evidence, those skill are rarely used in practice, said Akbar Nasir Khan. He recently served as the police chief in the central Pakistani city of Mianwali and is now pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University.

“If there is no fingerprint provided to the court, no bloodstained clothing, no ballistics provided, no firearms or other things, how can the court convict?” Khan said. “The courts will always say there is no proper evidence collection by the police authorities that helps us convict, which is right.”

The police also can by stymied by Pakistan’s most powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, which often detains suspects and conducts
parallel investigations without notifying the police or presenting
evidence at court. That was the case after the assassination of former
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, according to a U.N.
report.

The lack of collected evidence forces prosecutors to rely heavily on
witnesses, a problem in a country where there is no witness protection
program. People who are asked to testify in terror trials are often
threatened or killed by militants.

“This system relies on witnesses, and in the incidents that take place
there are no witnesses normally or they don’t want to come forward,”
Khan said.

“If people are not confident that state institutions can protect them, then why should they come forward?”

These threats often extend to others involved in terror cases, including
policemen, prosecutors and judges, leaving them to decide whether to
pursue convictions against suspected militants or protect themselves and
their families.

In June, three men showed up at the house of antiterror judge Asim Imam
in the northwestern city of Peshawar and threatened him and his family
if he didn’t “behave” during the coming trial of Sufi Mohammed, a
hard-line cleric with close ties to the Taliban, said the judge’s
father-in-law, Javed Nawaz Gandapur. That trial has been delayed.

Prosecutors not only face similar threats, they lack the training needed
to take on terror cases, are poorly paid and do not have the resources
to carry out their jobs successfully, said Mohammad Jahangir, the chief
prosecutor in Punjab province. That province has been hit by a rising
number of attacks in the last two years.

“They do not have proper offices … staff or transport facilities,” Jahangir said.

Judges and prosecutors are also grappling with an antiterror court
system that has become bloated with cases that often have nothing to do
with terrorism. That is ironic because the courts were established in
1997 to expedite terrorism cases that could otherwise get stuck in the
quagmire of Pakistan’s traditional legal system.

The Lahore judge, Sharif, called the state of affairs “alarming.”

“The accused have been acquitted by trial courts due to defective
investigation, lack of sufficient evidence and, as such, failure of the
prosecution to prove the cases against the culprits,” he said.

Pakistan to Clamp Down on Islamist Militant Charities

Pakistan said on Friday it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban. “The banned organizations are not allowed to visit flood-hit areas,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters. “We will arrest members of banned organizations collecting funds and will try them under the Anti-Terrorism Act.”

Pakistan: Anti-terrorism bill increases detention without judicial review

On 28 July, the Government introduced an Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2010, which seeks to insert into the anti-terrorism legislation of 1997 the measures contained in the now elapsed Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Ordinance 2009. The Bill would empower the government to detain suspects for up to 90 days without judicial review, to seize media said to “glorify” terrorists or terrorist activities, and ban groups formed with new names linked to proscribed organisations. More news here.

Pakistan urget to echo US terror sanctions

The US wants Pakistan to implement international sanctions against three key terrorist financiers who have raised money for the Taliban and its Pakistan-based affiliate, the Haqqani Network.

The Treasury Department on Thursday froze the US-held assets of Gul Agha Ishakzai, head of the Taliban’s financial commission; Amir Abdullah, former treasurer to Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar; and Nasiruddin Haqqani, an emissary for the Haqqani Network.

The United Nations had earlier this week implemented a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo against these individuals.

“Not only have these individuals been designated under domestic legal authorities, they were also listed at the United Nations 1267 Consolidated List for being associated with al-Qaeda,  Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban,” a State Department spokesman said on Friday. “Pakistan, as a UN member, must implement this international action,” the official added.

The State Department spokesman said this order blocks any property the designees have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with them.

(H/T Georgetown SLB)