Al-Qaeda in Pakistan - Asad Munir

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by ejazr, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. ejazr

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    Oct 8, 2009
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    Al-Qaeda in Pakistan - Asad Munir

    In an interview in 1998 Mr Brzezinski, the then national security advisor to president Carter, stated: “It was July 3, 1979 that president Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. We did not push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to president Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”

    It took the US just six months to induce the USSR to enter Afghanistan on December 25, 1979. To give the Soviets their Vietnam, Pakistan was used as an instrument. We got involved in a war of two superpowers and in the process converted both Afghanistan and Pakistan, into battlegrounds for jihadis from all over the world. Both countries never recovered from the post-jihad chaos, which is still ongoing. Thousands have died since then in an unending war.

    Unfortunately, our ruler at time was a usurper, who had hanged a popular leader, and wanted to prolong his illegal rule. America was the real winner of this "jihad". The Berlin Wall fell in December 1989, the USSR disintegrated in 1991, ending the Cold War, and the US became the sole superpower. After the victory, the US abandoned us and what we got from jihad was religious extremism, sectarian strife, intolerance, collapse of institutions, bad governance, corruption, and an obsession with a religion, drugs, and weapons.

    Back then, the CIA and the ISI jointly used the jihadi doctrine preached by Islamic revivalists of the twentieth century like Hassan al-Banna, Maulana Maududi, and Syed Qutb. Now, the same CIA and ISI are working together to eliminate the menace of jihad, now known as terrorism.

    The leadership of Al-Qaeda has a special affiliation with the city of Peshawar. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian, came to Pakistan and started teaching in Islamic University Islamabad. In 1980, he moved to Peshawar and established Makatab Al Khidmat (MAK).

    Azzam, was influenced by the Van Guard concept of jihad, preached by Syed Qutb and he issued a fatwa in support of the Afghan jihad. He motivated Osama bin Laden to come to Peshawar. Bin Laden subsequently joined him there in 1984. Zawahiri arrived in 1987. Then there was a flow of foreigners converging in Peshawar. MAK was keeping a record of these jihadis and sending them to join various groups fighting in Afghanistan. Peshawar had become a second home to these foreign militants.

    In 1988, the Soviets decided to pull out their forces from Afghanistan, and the process was completed in February 1989. However, the militants stayed on to see the outcome of infightings between various jihadi factions in Afghanistan. Sheikh Azzam wanted to concentrate on the establishment of an Islamic state in Afghanistan while Osama had a global agenda.

    Azzam was killed in November 1989 in Peshawar and Osama became the undisputed leader of all the jihadis. Abu Ubaida Bansheri, a close confidant of Osama, gave the name Al-Qaeda to the organisation. Most of the foreign jihadis started moving back to their countries. But Osama had plans for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. In 1989, before moving to Saudi Arabia, he made efforts to remove Benazir from premiership, through a no confidence motion, which he was willing to finance. A failed attempt to assassinate Benazir was made by Ramzy Yousaf in 1993. A liberal woman leader did not fit in with the plans Osama had for Pakistan.

    In 1996 Bin Laden returned to Jalalabad to Younus Khalis, from Sudan. The Taliban had not yet captured Jalalabad or Kabul. During the next few years, he concentrated on training jihadis and on plans to attack US interests and facilities.

    He successfully attacked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998) and bombed the USS Cole (2000). He also got in touch with Pakistani and Kashmiri jihadis, getting training in different camps. All these contacts would prove to be his support system in the post 9/11 environment.

    On initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom by the Coalition forces, the Afghan Taliban vanished without fighting. Al-Qaeda and other jihadis split into three major groups, one headed for Tora Bora, second to Gardez and the third to Shahi-Kot, Paktiya Province. Some crossed over from unfrequented routes and went to different cities of Pakistan, with the help of the jihadi network.

    More than 150 Al-Qaeda members and facilitators, who crossed over from Tora Bora, were apprehended in Central Kurram. Osama and Zawahiri came up to the base of Tora Bora, and were allegedly taken to Kunar by the men of Gubadeen, where they spent more than six months before crossing over to the tribal areas.

    By the end, 2002 Waziristan was the headquarters of Al-Qaeda. Hadi Al Iraqi (caught in Kabul in 2007), an ex-Iraqi Major was the commander of the area. Khalid Habib (killed in a drone strike in 2009) was one group commander. Tahir Yuldashev (killed in a drone, strike in 2009) was the IMU commander. Abu Laith al-Libi (killed in a drone strike in 2008) was the commander of North Waziristan. There were reasonably reliable reports that Osama was in the Mahsud area in early 2003.

    However, he left before any action could have been initiated. Other prominent leaders kept on moving to different cities for communication, finances and coordination.

    In 2001, after losing bases in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda moved to Pakistan. In 2002 it started killing prominent Maliks who could possibly pose a threat. Next it attacked the ISI officials and their informants. They encouraged locals to raise Taliban forces. The tribals were terrorized and the state did not effectively intervene. The tribals had no option but to surrender to the will of the terrorists.

    For all these years, they were training new recruits, getting weapons, and preparing young boys for suicide attacks. Meanwhile, our leaders were convincing Musharraf, who had little interest Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), that negotiation is the only solution.

    By 2007, these people had become so strong that Osama declared war against the Pakistan Army. The TTP was formed with the objective of creating a Taliban state in Fata and some districts of KP. The media, civil society, and some political parties openly supported the cause of Taliban due to their hatred for America.

    Our army has made tremendous progress in these three years. About 3000 have embraced shahadat and another 9000 have been wounded. They are fighting an unconventional war in the most inhospitable terrain against savages. Al-Qaeda and its allies are here to stay and fight against Pakistan. Being our common enemy, we must continue fighting this war with the US. Ground reality should be dictating our policy, not emotions. The people should also support our forces. As with any other army and intelligence agencies, our armed forces and agencies too have committed mistakes. Inquiries are in process to investigate this negligence.

    But the soldiers who are fighting these hard battles in different parts of the country have nothing to do with the recent incidents. Do not demoralise them; let them focus on the completion of their mission. Should they fail in their mission, we should be prepared to accept the Taliban in charge of this country.

    The writer is a retired brigadier.

    Asad Munir worked for the ISI and was incharge of the tribal areas from 2002-2005

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