The Haqqani Network

It is of grave concern that President Obama is choosing to continue the aerial war in Afghanistan which the Bush Administration in August 2008 extended into Pakistan's tribal areas. From the Washington Post:

At least 20 people were killed in northwest Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan on Friday in two suspected U.S. missile strikes, marking the first such attack in Pakistan's tribal areas since President Obama's inauguration.

A U.S. Predator drone fired three missiles at a compound about two miles from the town of Mirali in the tribal area of North Waziristan about 5:15 p.m., according to a Pakistani security official and local residents. The precision strike leveled a compound, which was owned by local tribal elder Khalil Malik, killing at least 10 suspected militants, including five foreign nationals, according to the Pakistani security official. The site of the attack is about 30 miles east of the Afghan border.

At least 132 people have been killed in 38 suspected US predator drone missile strikes inside Pakistan since August 2008 as the Bush Administration decided to pursue more aggressively Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents inside Pakistan's tribal areas. The use of the specially equipped drones represented a fundamental shift in US strategy. After years of deferring to Pakistani authorities and waiting for them to act, the Bush Administration turned toward unilateral American military operations in the hopes that the increased pressure on Islamic militants would yield quick results but the strategy risks alienating both the populace and government of a country that has been a key if sometimes reluctant counter-terrorism ally. The government of Pakistan, beyond its own incompetence, finds itself caught between Washington's demands for action and the unpopularity of the US aerial campaign. With this attack, it is clear that when it comes to Pakistan nothing has really changed despite a new Administration. An aerial drone war on Pakistan, no matter how well targeted and pinpointed, is bound to fail because the number of civilians killed is disproportionately high. In these attacks, it appears three children were killed. And that will lead to protests on streets of Pakistan and a further hardening of resentment against the US and the West.

Back in September 2008, Julian Barnes and Greg Miller writing in the Los Angeles Times noted that:

The new Predator capabilities are a key ingredient in an emerging U.S. military offensive against Taliban strongholds and Al Qaeda havens in Pakistan.

Previously, the United States' main focus in Pakistan's tribal territory was gathering intelligence that could be used to direct raids by the Pakistani military, or occasional missile strikes from CIA-operated Predator planes.

Intelligence activities will increasingly be geared now toward enabling U.S. Special Forces units - backed by AC-130 gunships and other aircraft - to carry out operations against Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, officials said.

The change in strategy reflects frustration within the Bush administration over Pakistan's failure to root out insurgent groups or disrupt the flow of militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan and then retreat to Pakistan.

After years of building alliances with local tribes, Al Qaeda and Taliban groups now have a "mature" haven in Pakistan from which to operate, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The target of today's attack was on the Haqqani Network in its Pakistani safe-haven. If you haven't heard of this Islamist tribal Afghani group, you will. The most complete description of the group is from Matt Dupee of The Long War Journal:

Over the last six months, three out of the four most spectacular terrorist attacks occurring in Afghanistan have been carried out by the Haqqani Network, a mysterious yet highly dangerous terrorist gang bound together by tribal and clan relationships. Despite nearly a year worth of rumors purporting the death of its grand master and ailing leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the elder Haqqani recently appeared in a Taliban produced propaganda video proving he is very much alive and in control of planning and executing massive terrorist operations.

Once a key recipient of US funding and arms during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980's, Haqqani has maintained his status as a prominent mujahideen commander who holds sway over several eastern provinces. His rise in power and prestige may have surpassed that of the Taliban's elusive supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar but it is Jalauddin's oldest son, Siraj, a lurid 30-year old terror mastermind, who may have gained the most prominence.

Siraj, also known as Khalifa, has been described by US military officials as "one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan" who has "eclipsed his father in power and influence and is said to rival Mullah Omar for the Taliban leadership."

The network is based out of a Taliban bastion in neighboring Pakistan; using the village of Dande Darpa Khel near Miramshah (North Waziristan) as its main headquarters, while Zambar village in the northern Sabari district in Khost province, serves as the group's major operations hub. The Haqqani family owned and operated an extremist maddrassah in the Dande Darpa Khel village before the Pakistani military launched a raid and shut it down in September 2005. A massive weapons and ammunition cache was discovered and confiscated following the assault on the compound.

The Haqqanis belong to the eastern Zadran tribe, as does the commander of the Taliban's "eastern zone," Maulvi Abdul Kabir, a veteran Taliban official and military commander closely associated with Mullah Omar. The Haqqanis hold major clout on both sides of the border; and through Siraj's leadership, the group provides a "critical bridge" to Pakistani Taliban groups and al Qaeda linked foreign fighters.

The elder Haqqani's past relationship with the Pakistani intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Service Intelligence or ISI, has virtually guaranteed Jalaluddin's freedom of movement on the Pakistan side of the border as several "failed" operations against him have proven. Recent telephonic intercepts by US and Indian intelligence agencies reportedly confirm a link between ISI officers and Haqqani operatives who are said to have jointly planned and executed the deadly suicide car bomb attack against India's embassy in Kabul on July 7.

This complex dynamic is largely why the Haqqani Network is the most dangerous, capable and difficult to rout insurgent group operating in Afghanistan.

We face hard choices in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am not sure of the right answer but an aerial war from afar that leads to indiscriminate killing of civilian non-combatants seems a likely recipe for disaster.

Tags: al-Qaeda, pakistan, Taliban, The Haqqani Network, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

34 Comments

Grave Concern?

From the article:

"Zardari and other Pakistani officials were critical of the United States in the wake of several missile strikes last year. But there was notable silence in Islamabad about
Friday's missile strikes with few public officials commenting on the attacks.

Yet, Charles YOU say:

And that will lead to protests on streets of Pakistan and a further hardening of resentment against the US and the West.

You're living in future disaster, Charles.

The Obama admin has been in charge for, what, 3 days?

We have NO IDEA where his long term mid-east policy is going, but a couple things have to be understood.

A lot of these extremist movements are NOT popular with existing regimes (many of whom are also corrupt, but leave that aside for now...)

Many are simply warloads using the islamic struggle to cover the same old thuggery.

The Bush admin simply made EVERY Muslim the enemy, therefore you have regimes which perhaps would side with us against these extremists are almost forced to be
against us, at least, in the press and to their population.

Perhaps THAT is the reason you will not hear protests in the street this time, as the article said. Because ALREADY the Obama admin is playing a different hand,
trying to isolate the extremists from the population.

I certainly hope the back side of this policy is, creating a better life for the populace, which is the real way to stop extermists getting a foothold.

Obama MAY be playing a different hand, you don't know and I don't know.

He also certainly didn't come in and say to the CIA or the Military "Stop all on-going operations immediately, until we review..."

So, we are JUST starting to see the Obama admin in action, any change in long term strategy is down the road a bit.

by WashStateBlue 2009-01-23 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Grave Concern?

I do not believe that this is suddenly a brand new policy just because a new President is in charge, not when it looks just like the old one.

Taking out the bad guys is a great idea, it's just very hard to do from a distance without the sort of collateral damage that upsets the populace at large.  And I don't agree that the Bush administration made every Muslim the enemy, that's just something that's fun to say.

by Steve M 2009-01-23 07:59PM | 0 recs
If I'm not mistaken

Bush started going into Pakistan after Obama said that's what should be done. Remember Bush dissing Obama for saying he'd go in?:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/10 /bush-obama-would-attack_n_85885.html

And then sometime in July/August Bush started striking across the border? There was a big kerfluffle about it, but I can't seem to locate a link.

The upshot is, I don't think this is Obama continuing Bush's policy. I see it as him continuing his own.

by Neef 2009-01-24 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: If I'm not mistaken

Well, I was responding to someone who said "the Obama administration is already playing a different hand," so maybe you need to take it up with him.

I personally don't remember a lot of posts in the blogosphere lauding Bush for this policy, although I do remember quite a bit of "gotcha" over it.  Seems to me it's either a good policy or it isn't.

by Steve M 2009-01-24 09:40AM | 0 recs
We have had lots of posters RAIL about what Obama

didn't say in the inuguration speech.

But, ONE WORD he said that has never been uttered in that speech before was this word:

"Muslim".

He also NEVER said the word "Terror" or War on Terror...

When was the last time you saw an American politician make a big speech without doing that?

That was absolutely a made choice, to start moving away from the Bush/Cheney paridgm.

FIRST you shift the tone, you undo the memes, THEN you follow with the policy.

I stick by my assertion, the last admin made ISLAM the root enemy, and sold that hard to the American people.

Obama is, even in these early signs, trying to define the Extremists as not a part of mainstream Islamic governance, etc...

Steve, my point is, Charles is ALREADY calling the Obama FP in the mid east a disaster, I am saying, I believe he is ALREADY playing a different hand, and I think I have
as much credibility as Charles does to make the argument, because NEITHER of us has been proven right or wrong.

Yet.

by WashStateBlue 2009-01-24 11:47AM | 0 recs
Not exactly

I was very specific in my criticism. I am criticizing the aerial war because it is indiscriminate. The aerial war in Afghanistan has turned Karzai from being the President of Afghanistan into being the Mayor of Kabul. The number of civilian deaths, the so called collateral damage, in Afghanistan runs into the hundreds in the last year alone.

We face a hard choice. There are no easy answers when it comes to Pakistan and Afghanistan but it does seem clear to me that a missile war from afar is immoral and likely counterproductive.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-24 03:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Grave Concern?

One only has to look at Charle's past association with the Puma site NoQuarter, where he proclaimed he "would never under any circumstances, vot for Obama", to know what his motives are here.

by venician 2009-01-24 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Grave Concern?

Your meme is tiresome and not wholly accurate. I allowed my writings to be posted on NQ-USA for about three months. Furthermore, I have been clear that I find NQ-USA to be "vile and hateful".

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-24 03:31PM | 0 recs
Grave Concern?

Silence no more.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan urged President Barack Obama to halt U.S. missile strikes on al-Qaida strongholds near the Afghan border, saying Saturday that civilians were killed the previous day in the first attacks since Obama's inauguration.

But the Foreign Ministry said that the attacks by unmanned aircraft also killed an unspecified number of civilians and that it had informed U.S. officials of its "great concern."

"With the advent of the new U.S. administration, it is Pakistan's sincere hope that the United States will review its policy and adopt a more holistic and integrated approach toward dealing with the issue of terrorism and extremism," a ministry statement said.

"We maintain that these attacks are counterproductive and should be discontinued," it said.

Pakistani leaders complain that stepped-up missile strikes _ there have been more than 30 since August _ fan anti-American sentiment and undermine the government's own efforts to counter Islamist militants.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-24 06:39PM | 0 recs
Didn't Obama campaign on using Drones

to try to kill Al Qaeda in Pakistan whether or not Pakistan agreed to it?

This is consistent with Obama's campaign promise actually.

by puma 2009-01-23 06:37PM | 0 recs
To be fair

I'm not sure you can call precision missile strikes "indiscriminate".

What's interesting is that this is exactly what he said he would do if Bin Laden were in our sights. So it makes you wonder.

by Neef 2009-01-23 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: To be fair

Because they aren't precise. You can't account for others who may in the house being targeted. You're taking out whole families.

The other component is that these amount to extra-judicial executions. There is no attempt to capture these people rather the focus is on their extermination.

by Charles Lemos 2009-01-24 03:37PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

Any suggestions on what should be done (instead of this)?

by spacemanspiff 2009-01-23 07:19PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

You don't root out individuals, or even networks of individuals, through bombing campaigns, no matter how "precision". You have to have people on the ground, and that means you have to make friends who can find them. Bombing people and killing their children makes enemies who will do everything they can to get in your way.

by souvarine 2009-01-23 07:38PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

Yes. Bomb away!

That is exactly what I said!

huh?

Seriously are you responding to me or did you just want to get that off your chest?

by spacemanspiff 2009-01-23 07:55PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

I was responding to you and the posts above yours, sorry if I mistakenly conflated your tone with the other posts.

My response to your question was that we have to have people on the ground in Pakistan talking with the locals to catch Al Qaeda. Pakistan's ISI is too wired in to the Taliban to help, and their military would be no more effective than ours is being, Pakistanis bombing targets wouldn't be any more effective.

The better solution would be to strengthen the Pakistani government and figure out how to make rooting out Al Qaeda more of a priority for them. But that will take longer than using our operatives.

by souvarine 2009-01-23 08:30PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

Are you advocating an invasion of Pakistan, or yet another multi-generational soft power strategy that amounts to "hypnotize them and steal their guns"?

If I had to guess, I'd imagine the attractive thing about Predator attacks is that they are unmanned. No American serviceman breaches Pakistani borders (or so the case can be made). A Predator is essentially a missile that got launched in US-allowed space, and lands in US-proscribed space.

If we're going to abandon drone attacks, we either need to a) send troops across a sovereign border, or b) just sort of shake our fist at Haqqani/AQ and let it go.

I am sooooooo not ready to invade Pakistan. So very not.

by Neef 2009-01-23 08:34PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

No, I'm saying use the CIA for what it is for. Guys who have built up a network of relationships don't call in "precision" airstrikes on villages they are working. And they don't bring in the guns and bust their cover until they've lined everything up.

We've been sending U.S. troops across the border into Pakistan, but they were not accomplishing their goal, they just pissed off Pakistan.

by souvarine 2009-01-23 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

But isn't the fact that we are calling in precision strikes notable? This isn't B-52s carpet-bombing an area. We know where these high-value targets are. Someone, clearly, is already telling us.

Assassinating the leaders of a terrorist network seems to be very efficient, proportionate warfare. The soft alternatives bandied about all seem to involve fairly ambitious, and fairly long-term social engineering.

by Neef 2009-01-23 09:04PM | 0 recs
Re: The Haqqani Network

As you pointed out above, we've been using drones to avoid putting people in. Some of the intelligence has come in through video monitoring from the drones. More has come in through monitoring electronic communications.

I would be surprised if we don't have some sources on the ground informing us, but given that we have failed to capture Bin Laden but have managed to bomb a number of wedding parties I suspect that information is more private vendettas than the information we need.

It is probably worth pointing out that this attack yesterday has less to do with Al Qaeda than with the ongoing war against the Taliban and rebel Afghanistani warlords. Karzai once asked Jalaluddin Haqqani to be Prime Minister of Afghanistan. So pointing to Obama's primary statements that he would pursue Al Qaeda into Pakistan is a red herring I've inadvertently fed into.

by souvarine 2009-01-24 08:09AM | 0 recs
We've all

fed into that particular red herring, because these attacks do resonate with certain Primary promises. It's really hard to tell what's going on.

I haven't been following the attacks during the Bush regime, so I won't dispute your point about wedding parties. But this specific attack strongly resembles an anti-AQ strike. From the article:

Missiles fired from suspected US drones killed at least 15 people inside Pakistan today, the first such strikes since Barack Obama became president and a clear sign that the controversial military policy begun by George W Bush has not changed.

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven "foreigners" - a term that usually means al-Qaeda - but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Out of 15 people killed, 7 of them were al-Qaeda. That's not remotely random chance, or a simple vendetta. Unless 50% of the population in that region is AQ, this strike was a targeted assassination.

I'm not advocating indiscriminate bombing. But there is the possibility that we have moved past the rounding-up stage, into the elimination stage.

by Neef 2009-01-24 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: We've all

I discount the statements "according to a Pakistani security official" regarding "foreign nationals" and "a high-value target" because Pakistani spokespeople have an interest in implicating Al Qaeda to explain their cooperation with the U.S.

The locals have a different take, according to the Post article. Their article covers the local situation for both strikes, the northern Haqqani Network strike and the southern Taliban strike, each looks like attacks on Afghan insurgent command and control rather than attacks on Al Qaeda per se. See also today's NYTimes article by Oppel:

American officials in Washington said there were no immediate signs that the strikes on Friday had killed any senior Qaeda leaders. They said the attacks had dispelled for the moment any notion that Mr. Obama would rein in the Predator attacks.

by souvarine 2009-01-24 12:06PM | 0 recs
That "American official" verbiage is odd

They said the attacks had dispelled for the moment any notion that Mr. Obama would rein in the Predator attacks

That is speculative phrasing. Those officials are making an educated guess, which means they're not close enough to Obama to know whether he will continue the attacks. Are they close enough to have access to accurate intelligence?

Again, I won't dispute your characterization of the Pakistani response, lets assume they routinely inflate AQ casualties. Certainly the locals have no motivation to admit we killed AQ members, and absolutely every motivation to portray our strikes as random and indiscriminate. If we discount Pakistani accounts solely based on motivation, we have to similarly dismiss local accounts.

Given all that, we have no idea who was hit, or why. We just know how many. There isn't enough information to either condemn OR praise this action.

by Neef 2009-01-24 12:56PM | 0 recs
Yes

Force fundamental reform on the Pakistani army.  Right now, the Pakistani army is very sectarian (3/4 Punjabi, and 1/4 Pashtun).  The Punjabis have anointed India as the enemy in chief.. so the Pakistani army is good at fighting India.

The Pashtuns, on the other hand, will not fight fellow Pashtuns... hence the lack of control in the NWFP.  

Further, because both the Pashtuns and the Punjabis hate the SIndhi's and the Baloch (these are the biggest provinces in Pakistan...area wise), the Pakistani army is also very good at repressing the Sindhi's and Baloch people.

All this makes for a very messy society, and any time you side with the central government in such a society, you are oppressing someone.  None of that will change unless the Pakistani army is reformed fundamentally.

Of course, all that will take a fair amount of time...maybe even longer than 4 (or 8 years), and no President has that kind of patience!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-01-23 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes

Thanks for the response!

by spacemanspiff 2009-01-23 07:58PM | 0 recs
How does America

Force fundamental reform on the army of a sovereign nation? I'm assuming it's been impossible for their own government, yet that's the bar we've set for ourselves?

by Neef 2009-01-23 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: How does America

It has been impossible for their own government only because the US has been propping up their army for most of the last 60 years.

Pakistan is a semi-sovereign nation; it has been a "client state" of the US for quite some time.

The goal should be to make it sovereign, with an armed force that represents it's people!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-01-23 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: How does America

That's an excellent point. I think you're absolutely right.

I don't quite agree with your earlier characterisation of X ethnic group hates Y ethic group, but it certainly is true that Punjabis, Pakhtuns and Urdu speaking 'Mohajirs' dominate the army's leadership, and as things stand, that particular fact has deeper repercussions than it should.

It is, as you say above, going to take a lot more than 4 years. It will take at least a few election cycles of a stable electoral process for any government to be able to force reform on the army, which exists almost as a parallel state. For that, the United States needs to stop getting impatient and supporting Ayubs and Zias and Musharrafs.

It the meantime, like most here, I'm not entirely sure what the best course of action is. Bombing villages near the border is clearly counter productive when it comes to discouraging the recruitment of new terrorists. On the other hand, I can easily believe that the Pakistani army often drags its feet on these things. The police is not remotely equipped to deal with the problem. There doesn't seem to be any easy answer.

by dtox 2009-01-24 10:16AM | 0 recs
2 points

(a) I agree with you; these drone attacks are counterproductive in the long run, and also in the short run.

(b) Obama did campaign on a more beefed up (hot pursuits etc., directly into Pakistan) policy with respect to Pakistan; so it is no surprise that he is continuing the Bush policy

by Ravi Verma 2009-01-23 07:50PM | 0 recs
And, FWIW
Obama pledged to withdraw most troops from Iraq within sixteen months, in order to free up billions of dollars to pay for urgent domestic needs.
"The top Marine commander said Friday that his forces already had begun pulling equipment out of Iraq and that nearly all of his troops could be out in as little as six months. . . . There are 22,000 Marines in Iraq . . . Conway said that he didn't want to maintain a large Marine presence in Iraq when the military was expected to send as many as 20,000 more Marines to Afghanistan this spring."
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/606 23.html
How does transferring troops from Iraq to Afghanistan result in any savings? Yes, we will spend billions less is Iraq. But, we will spend billions more in Afghanistan. Net savings?  Not much.
FarRightDemocrat.blogspot.com
by kosnomore 2009-01-24 05:48AM | 0 recs
Yeah, but you're a far righty, and you like war...

Oh, but I forgot...

Bashing Obama is the highest good.

Ever notice how, NO MATTER what the subject, you can find something negative to say about Obama?

It's kind if like a tic....Maybe you can get some kind of drug therapy for it?

by WashStateBlue 2009-01-24 06:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Yeah, but

It's what happens when Pumas are allowed to become front page posters.

by venician 2009-01-24 08:59AM | 0 recs
The NoQuarter Netwrok

Charles Lemos, regular contributer to Larry Johnson's No Quarter, a site whose sole purpose following Hillary Clinton's primary defeat was to throw the Democratic Nominee under the bus and help John McCain get elected.

Charles Lemos, front page diarist for MyDD.

WTF is wrong with this picture?

Why would I take seriously a man who wrote for a blog whose only reason for being from June 2008 - November 2008 was to try to lose the Presidential Election for the Democratic Party?

by Obamaphile 2009-01-24 09:59AM | 0 recs
Strategically, it's probably Jerome's positioning

For this place.

Clearly, to increase traffic, he is providing a spot somewhere between the Pro-democratic Sites that have moved beyond the primary bitter (FD Lake, Kos, Huff) and the smarmness of the world of PUMA ugly (Confluence, Allegre's hellhole,etc)

Why else would is there SO little editing of cut and post crap-fests like Caro, or even BS like Bitter Ethics.

This place is designated a free-fire zone, and also, it is STILL a very safe place where because of the balance of of posters, you can say some pretty ugly stuff about Obama, and not be banned or warned or run out of town on a rail.

People can get STILL upset at the Obama admin at Kos, but anyone that claims his election was "A triumph of marketing a Black Politician to White People" is going to get their ass stomped right off the site...That stuff, straight from the confluence ugly, is standard fare around here.

Clearly, anyone that made their bones on No Quarter is not getting a job as a front page poster at Kos, or one of the bigger sites...

This is place has been the hinterlands for some time now.....

by WashStateBlue 2009-01-24 11:33AM | 0 recs

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