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  #1  
Old Saturday, February 03, 2007
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Post Washington Post

Who's to Blame for The Killing

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, February 2, 2007
;


This week the internecine warfare in Iraq, already bewildering -- Sunni vs. Shiite, Kurd vs. Arab, jihadist vs. infidel, with various Iranians, Syrians and assorted freelancers thrown into the maelstrom -- went bizarre. In one of the biggest battles of the war, Iraqi troops reinforced by Americans wiped out a heavily armed, well-entrenched millenarian Shiite sect preparing to take over Najaf, kill the moderate Shiite clergy (including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani) and proclaim its leader the returned messiah.

The battle was a success -- 263 extremists killed, 502 captured. But the sight of the United States caught within a Shiite-Shiite fight within the larger Shiite-Sunni civil war can lead only to further discouragement of Americans, who are already deeply dismayed at the notion of being caught in the middle of endless civil strife.

There are, of course, many reasons for these schisms. Some, like the fundamental division between Sunni and Shiite, are ancient. Some of the wounds are more contemporary, most notably the social devastation and political ruin brought upon the country by 30 years of Saddamist totalitarianism and its particularly sadistic persecution of Shiites and Kurds.

America comes and liberates them from the tyrant who kept everyone living in fear, and the ancient animosities and more recent resentments begin to play themselves out to deadly effect. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, the overwhelming majority of them killed by Sunni insurgents, Baathist dead-enders and their al-Qaeda allies who carry on the Saddamist pogroms.

Much of their killing -- the murder of innocent Shiites in their mosques and markets -- is bereft of politics. It is meant to satisfy instead an atavistic hatred of the Shiite heresy. The late al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was even chided by headquarters in Afghanistan for his relish in killing Shiites for the sport of it.

Iraqis were given their freedom, and yet many have chosen civil war. Among all these religious prejudices, ancient wounds, social resentments and tribal antagonisms, who gets the blame for the rivers of blood? You can always count on some to find the blame in America. "We did not give them a republic," insists Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria. "We gave them a civil war."

Of all the accounts of the current situation, this is by far the most stupid. And the most pernicious. Did Britain "give" India the Hindu-Muslim war of 1947-48 that killed a million souls and ethnically cleansed 12 million more? The Jewish-Arab wars in Palestine? The tribal wars of post-colonial Uganda?

We gave them a civil war? Why? Because we failed to prevent it? Do the police in America have on their hands the blood of the 16,000 murders they failed to prevent last year?

Thousands of brave American soldiers have died trying to counter, put down and prevent civil strife. They fight Sunni insurgents in Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad, trying to keep them from sending yet one more suicide bomber into a crowded Shiite market. They hunt Shiite death squads in Baghdad to keep them from rounding up random Sunnis and torturing them to death. Just this week, we lost two helicopter pilots who were supporting the troops on the ground fighting the "Soldiers of Heaven" outside Najaf to prevent the slaughter of innocents in a Shiite-Shiite war within a war.

Our entire strategy has been to fight one side and then the other to try to prevent sectarian violence -- a policy that has been one of the leading reasons Americans are ready to quit and walk away. They can understand one-front wars, but they can't understand two-, three- and four-front wars, with Americans fighting any and all in sequence and sometimes in combination.

And at the political level, we've been doing everything we can to bring reconciliation. We got the Sunnis to participate in elections and then in parliament. Who is pushing the Shiite-Kurdish coalition for a law that would distribute oil revenue to the Sunnis? Who is pushing for a more broadly based government to exclude Moqtada al-Sadr and his sectarian Mahdi Army?

We have made a lot of mistakes in Iraq. But when Arabs kill Arabs and Shiites kill Shiites and Sunnis kill all in a spasm of violence that is blind and furious and has roots in hatreds born long before America was even a republic, to place the blame on the one player, the one country, the one military that has done more than any other to try to separate the combatants and bring conciliation is simply perverse.

It infantilizes Arabs. It demonizes Americans. It willfully overlooks the plainest of facts: Iraq is their country. We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.
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Old Saturday, May 26, 2007
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The storm over immigration

THE virulence and breadth of opposition to the American Senate’s immigration bill has kicked up a dust storm of dogma that has obscured the real stakes and potential of the legislation.

Critics on the right howl that the bill offers "amnesty" to 12 million illegal immigrants who in fact would face a long, onerous path to earned citizenship. But those critics are loath to acknowledge that deporting 12 million people, including droves of workers on whom the American economy relies, is economically suicidal, pragmatically unfeasible and morally repellent.

Critics on the left decry the bill's convoluted system for dealing with future guest workers, without recognizing that it would leave them no worse off than they would be under the admittedly dysfunctional status quo. What critics on all sides overlook, in shrilly focusing on the bill's deficiencies, is that its defeat would leave this country with an immigration dilemma that is growing rapidly and is poisoning political discourse in states and localities from coast to coast.

A clunky compromise, the Senate immigration bill weighs in at well over 300 pages and is more easily dealt with by sound bites ("Amnesty!") than by analysis. There is no denying that it is full of flaws and that it would establish some rules and procedures that may not work (measures such as kicking out guest workers for a year between three two-year stints of employment and expecting them to stay out), and others that are simply mean-spirited (such as requiring illegal immigrants already here to leave the country and re-enter in order to "reboot" and legalize their status). Many of the bill's segments and provisions could benefit from debate, scrutiny and revision.

But those who cite the offending sections and insist on the bill's defeat must explain how that would leave the country in a better posture. The practical effect of a defeat would be to leave the country without any resolution to the current non-system of immigration for at least two more years, and possibly for much longer -- an outcome the American public clearly doesn't want.

For years there has been hand-wringing over the death of bipartisanship in Washington politics and over the rise of the politics of uncompromising ideology. In the Senate immigration bill, there is a glimpse of what bipartisanship looks like in the real world -- an ungainly, imperfect hybrid that goes some distance toward tightening border security, clearing the backlog of visa applications, and providing a future for 12 million immigrants already in this country, including many who have been here since childhood. The wiser course is to work for improvements, not to sound the death knell for legislation that holds the promise of a better future.

––The Washington Post
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Old Monday, July 28, 2008
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Post Washington Post

Pakistan Hopes Premier's U.S. Visit Will Yield Funds, Forbearance


By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 27, 2008.


Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has a clear agenda for his inaugural visit to Washington this week: He wants more aid, more patience and less pressure from the United States as his four-month-old coalition government develops a strategy to combat Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in the tribal areas along his country's border with Afghanistan.

But while Gillani may leave town with more money -- targeted toward education, development and assistance to cope with skyrocketing food and fuel prices -- U.S. patience is likely to be in short supply, with the Bush administration publicly chastising the new Pakistani leadership for its reluctance to move aggressively against terrorist redoubts inside its territory.

"Pakistan is a friend; Pakistan is an ally," President Bush said this month, but the rise in cross-border infiltration "ought to be troubling" to its government.

Other officials were more blunt: "We need Pakistan to put more pressure on that border," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said last week, while on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed that Pakistan "need[s] to do more."

Congress, in rare bipartisan accord on foreign policy, has grown increasingly outspoken against Pakistan's preference for negotiating with tribal leaders. Current legislative proposals make any new U.S. counterterrorism aid -- the bulk of more than $10 billion Washington has provided Pakistan since 2001 -- conditional on demonstrated results.

"I'm not sure they're ready for what they're walking into," one U.S. official said in anticipation of a testy reception for Gillani from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Pakistani officials say they understand that the seven-year-old Afghan war is not going well for U.S. and NATO forces. But far from accepting blame for the worsening situation, the new government harbors its own suspicions about Washington's impatience. Some question whether the Bush administration was simply more comfortable dealing with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan single-handedly for more than a decade, than it is with the admittedly messy democratic government that replaced him.

"The tendency in Washington is always to think about foreign rulers as 'ours' and 'not ours,' " said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador here. "Then, when one of 'ours' is weakened, people in D.C. tend to think, 'Oh, God, there goes our policy.' "

Reports that the United States and NATO are considering the deployment of ground forces across the border from Afghanistan to raid terrorist camps in Pakistan -- an effort denied by Western military leaders -- have increased tension on both sides. "If you keep saying, 'Let's do it together -- but if you won't, then we'll do it alone,' then what you're doing is undermining the spirit of working together to begin with," Haqqani said.

Daniel Markey, a Pakistan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: "We need to be very sensitive to the fact that Pakistan doesn't see the world exactly the same way we do. They don't see the threats the same way that we do."

Pakistan's worldview includes an ongoing threat from India, against which it has armed itself with nuclear weapons and a large conventional military force. Afghanistan, with close Indian ties, is seen more as an adversary than an ally. The Taliban, whose fighters are drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group that spans the Afghan-Pakistani border, came to life in the 1990s as an ally in keeping Pakistan's neighbors at bay.

Peace with the tribal leaders along the frontier -- where terrorist groups maintain headquarters and training facilities out of reach of U.S. and NATO forces -- has been kept by Islamabad for decades with a hands-off policy under which the tribes govern themselves. And while Musharraf may have been willing to bend those realities in exchange for massive aid and pressure from the United States, the new Pakistani leaders say they must tread more carefully. A misstep could lead to a collapse of the coalition or even a military coup.

Washington needs to recognize, they say, that Pakistan has at least as much to lose from terrorism as the United States does. "This is our own fight," Gillani told reporters before his departure yesterday. He recalled that his own Pakistan People's Party lost its leader, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist attack in December.

Gillani has "high hopes" that he can make Congress understand the "many interconnected and complex issues of India-Pakistan relations, Pakistan's internal civil-military relations and Pakistan's insecurities about its environment, its neighborhood and the intentions of its neighbors," Haqqani said. "It cannot simply be resolved within a matter of a few days or a few weeks."

U.S. legislators "should be patient with the new government for a year or so and see if it is able to translate its ideas into actions," he said.

But to an administration and Congress that expected a Pakistani military offensive months ago, waiting a year is unthinkable.

"We fully agree they need a multi-pronged strategy" combining economic assistance, negotiations and development of a stronger indigenous security force in the tribal regions, a senior administration official said. And the Bush administration welcomed a full-throated government pronouncement last month that expressed unwavering opposition to any terrorist activities launched from Pakistani soil.

"But you've got to be willing to do what's necessary when it comes to people who are trying to kill you," the administration official said. "We'd all be happy if you could do this by persuasion or development alone. But I think we all know that . . . in the end, you have to use force."

The administration has vacillated between pressuring Pakistan and concern that it might push too far. Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, has made four recent trips to Pakistan to try to ease tensions and develop a Western-Afghan-Pakistani strategy for the border area.

U.S. and NATO officials have their own suspicions about the anti-Taliban zeal of Pakistan's intelligence services. But NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer went out of his way during a visit to Kabul last week to take the onus off Islamabad and deflate Afghan President Hamid Karzai's charges that the intelligence service was behind recent attempts on Karzai's life.

"Only saying Pakistan is part of the problem or Pakistan is the problem might clear your conscience but will not help in solving the problem," de Hoop Scheffer said, calling for both countries to cooperate.

Hours after Gillani's departure for Washington yesterday, the government announced that he had ordered the army's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency placed under Interior Ministry control, a move some Pakistani observers said was an attempt to assert civilian control over the powerful spy organization. But Pakistan's governing coalition remains divided over a range of domestic issues far removed from Washington's concerns over terrorism. When the coalition partners met in Islamabad on Wednesday for a final military briefing before Gillani's departure, they concurred only on the need to come up with a long-term security strategy they could all support.

The direction and pace of their efforts, however, are unlikely to please the White House -- either the current administration or its replacement -- or Congress. The "main thrust" of a nationwide campaign against extremism should be political, rather than military, the coalition partners concurred, and they will instruct the Pakistani Parliament to begin discussing the issue.

In the meantime, a government news release said, the coalition reiterated that Pakistan's territory will not be used for terrorist attacks and that "attacks from external forces on Pakistan's sovereign soil" will not be tolerated.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn..._2.html?sub=AR
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Capturing Bin Laden On Camera
At Guantanamo Trial, Former ABC Reporter Recounts 1998 Interview


By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2008;


GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, July 29 -- The blue pickup was rolling through the remote tribal regions of Afghanistan when masked men suddenly jumped up from the side of the road, guns blazing.

The ABC news crew inside the truck scrambled to avoid bullets. The men surrounded the truck, weapons drawn, yelling questions and demanding papers. Security is always increased, the crew was told, "when Mr. bin Laden is going to be present."

Correspondent John Miller was about to interview the man who would become the most wanted terrorist in the world. The former ABC reporter testified here on Tuesday about his 1998 session with Osama bin Laden at the military commission trial of bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan. His yarn proved more riveting than much of the testimony so far.

Several clips of that interview were briefly shown in court, including an unaired outtake in which Miller told bin Laden that he is "like the Middle East version of Teddy Roosevelt." The al-Qaeda leader's reaction was not clear.

Miller -- now the FBI's chief spokesman -- explained to the jury that he made the remark mainly to keep bin Laden talking so his cameraman could get a better shot. He added later that the comparison referred to bin Laden's fight against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Hamdan, accused of terrorism conspiracy in the first U.S. military commission since World War II, seemed like an afterthought on Tuesday in the small, comfortable courtroom in an old aircraft operations center overlooking the sparkling waters of Guantanamo Bay. Wearing a white headdress, the defendant sat quietly as Miller described an 11-day odyssey through the wilds of Pakistan and Afghanistan, a trip with all the elements of a covert operation, albeit a journalistic one. It ended with Miller landing one of bin Laden's first sit-downs with a Western television reporter.

"We were almost literally driven back into time," Miller told a jury of six uniformed military officers. "We went from cities that had big hotels, phones and faxes and computers to small towns in the frontier to smaller towns in the tribal areas. Our communications were steadily cut off."

It was three years before the twin towers would fall and the Pentagon would burn. Bin Laden had recently issued a religious fatwa requiring Muslims to kill Americans. But the American public was only dimly aware of the wealthy Saudi exile and his al-Qaeda network.

Hoping for a scoop, the ABC newsman called Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief and network consultant, for help in getting to bin Laden. Cannistraro put out "feelers in the community," Miller testified, which led to a man in London named Khalid.

With a four-person crew in tow, Miller flew to London about May 17, 1998. After endorsing "the PR value" of an interview, Khalid sent them on to Islamabad, Pakistan, where two men soon knocked on the door of Miller's hotel room.

"They came in, and they looked in the bathroom, behind the shower curtain, in the closet," Miller recalled in his characteristic deep monotone. "It was a bit of a surprise visit."

Miller and his cameraman and Iraqi translator (the sound man and producer were nixed) were told to be ready at 7 a.m., dressed in traditional Afghan clothing. They were sent on a plane to Peshawar, Pakistan, escorted by an al-Qaeda member, Miller testified. One of bin Laden's men insisted on paying the airfare. The source of that funding was not made clear.

The following morning, the newsmen were off by propeller plane to an obscure Pakistani northwestern town called Bannu. "The airport is not much more than a cinderblock building," Miller said. "It opens for the flight that comes in and closes shortly after."

In Bannu, the crew was left by a roadside. Eventually, a bus pulled up, and a man with a long white beard emerged. After a three-hour bus ride, he guided Miller and crew into a minivan, which barreled to a gated house with AK-47s hanging from the walls inside.

That led to a long ride in the back of a pickup, where they sat on sacks of flour. "We drove in riverbeds and across wilderness," Miller said.

He and the crew eventually were hauling their bags and 15-pound television camera across the rugged border into Afghanistan.

They were urged to keep the camera out of sight. Afghanistan's Taliban rulers had "outlawed cameras and the photographing of human beings," Miller said.

Driven through the night, the crew came to a fork in the road. They were greeted by a friendly man and another who grimly confiscated their camera.
Did the men introduce themselves, a prosecutor asked Miller. "No, not formally," he said.

The smiling man, Miller would later realize, was Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2 aide and still a fugitive today like his boss. The unfriendly man was Muhammad Atef, al-Qaeda's security chief, who was later killed by U.S. bombs two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The ABC crew was taken to a small hut atop another hill. "This is probably not what you are used to in terms of accommodations, but around here it's the Ritz," Miller quoted Zawahiri as saying.

"You will be comfortable here. You are not prisoners. You are our guests," the al-Qaeda deputy continued. They just couldn't leave the hut.

Thus began a days-long ritual in which Miller submitted 16 written questions on a yellow legal pad and asked each day when the interview would take place. The green light came on May 28.

After being thoroughly searched, their pencils and pens confiscated, the men were loaded into the blue pickup and driven through a series of checkpoints, where the masked men emerged and opened fire.

Apparently, the al-Qaeda bureaucracy hadn't gotten word of the interview.
Finally, they came to a hilltop camp in southern Afghanistan, greeted by hundreds more masked men who fired into the air when bin Laden arrived with a phalanx of bodyguards.

The al-Qaeda boss would speak, but his answers would not be translated into English, Zawahiri told Miller. "I said, 'That's going to be a problem -- how will I ask a follow-up question?' " Miller said he told Zawahiri.

"He said it won't be a problem. There will be no follow-up questions."
There would also be no footage of the camp. "Dr. Zawahiri explained that 'this is not like your Sam Donaldson walking through the Rose Garden of the White House with the president,' " Miller told the jury. "Mr. bin Laden was a very important man."

The interview itself, in which bin Laden predicted "a black future for America" (two U.S. embassies in East Africa would blow up three months later), was almost anticlimactic to Miller's testimony.

The drama aside, it was also uncertain what purpose the testimony bore to the case against Hamdan, who faces up to life in prison if convicted. Defense lawyers say he was a minor chauffeur uninvolved in terrorism.

Prosecutors, who say Hamdan ferried weapons for al-Qaeda, called Miller to the stand amid other evidence about al-Qaeda's history and ideology.
Though federal agents have testified that Hamdan told them that he drove bin Laden to other media events, Miller acknowledged out of the jury's presence that he couldn't identify Hamdan.

The defense was unimpressed. "I thought it was an interesting human story," said Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel. "But I don't recall any connection to Mr. Hamdan."

As for Miller, he left the stand and flew back to his FBI job in Washington. It was time to go back to speaking out against terrorists, not speaking to them.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...2902429_3.html
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Old Thursday, July 31, 2008
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Al-Qaeda in Iraq Leader May Be in Afghanistan


By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 31, 2008


BAGHDAD, July 30 -- The leader of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq and several of his top lieutenants have recently left Iraq for Afghanistan, according to group leaders and Iraqi intelligence officials, a possible further sign of what Iraqi and U.S. officials call growing disarray and weakness in the organization.

U.S. officials say there are indications that al-Qaeda is diverting new recruits from going to Iraq, where its fighters have suffered dramatic setbacks, to going to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they appear to be making gains.

"We do believe al-Qaida is doing some measure of re-assessment regarding the continued viability of its fight in Iraq and whether Iraq should remain the focus of its efforts," Brig. Gen. Brian Keller, senior intelligence officer for Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, wrote in an e-mail. But Keller said that the reliability of indications that recruits have been diverted has "not yet been determined" and that U.S. officials have no evidence that top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders have gone to Afghanistan.

A largely homegrown insurgent group that American officials believe is led by foreigners, al-Qaeda in Iraq has long been one of the most ruthless and dangerous organizations in the country. But even some of its leaders acknowledge that it has been seriously weakened over the past year.


The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq has dropped to 20 a month, down from about 110 a month last summer and as many as 50 a month earlier this year, according to a senior U.S. intelligence analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the nature of his work.

Some al-Qaeda in Iraq members blamed the group's troubles on failed leadership by its head since 2006, an Egyptian who has used the pseudonyms Abu Hamza al-Muhajer and Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Some of the fighters said they have become so frustrated by Masri that they recently split off to form their own Sunni insurgent group.

Abdullah al-Ansari, an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader in Fallujah, said in an interview with a Washington Post special correspondent that Masri had traveled to Afghanistan through Iran and designated Abu Khalil al-Souri, the pseudonym of another top leader of the group who came to Iraq in 2003, to run the organization in his absence.

"It's not known yet whether he would come back or not," he said, referring to Masri.

Col. Hatim Abdullah, an Iraqi intelligence official in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi, said Masri and two foreign fighters were believed to have crossed into Iran on June 12 through the border town of Zorbatia. He said the information was based in part on interrogations of al-Qaeda in Iraq members.

One of those al-Qaeda in Iraq detainees, Abu Abeer al-Muhajer, a senior leader in Ramadi whose real name is believed to be Ibrahim Salih Hassan al-Fahdawi, said after his July 9 arrest that Masri had traveled through Iran with 15 leaders, according to a police report and an interview with police officer Nihad Jassim Mohammed Saleh, who has questioned Fahdawi.

Makki Fawaz al-Milehmi, a senior leader of the group north of Fallujah, said in an interview with the Post special correspondent that Masri has left Iraq twice before and was going to meet with "some of our brothers" in Afghanistan. "The rumors now are saying that he escaped and this is not true. He just traveled," said Milehmi, who accused the U.S. government of spreading the rumors to hurt the morale of the group. "He will come back to Iraq anytime he wants, like he has done before."

Masri "did not escape or turn his back to us or abandon al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Ali al-Qaisi, 32, the commander of a recruitment unit who lost a leg during a battle with U.S. troops in Samra. "We have been informed he left Iraq to Afghanistan for several things such as reviewing the situation of al-Qaeda in Iraq with [Osama] bin Laden."

In a Tuesday briefing arranged by the U.S. military command in Baghdad, the senior intelligence analyst said he had not seen any indication of Masri's location since January, when the United States believed he was in Iraq.

Col. Steven A. Boylan, a spokesman for Petraeus, said, "Our current assessment is that he remains in Iraq." Some top Iraqi officials continue to say that Masri was killed last year, but the assertion has never been corroborated by the U.S. military.

A recent communique to al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders, however, suggests that a fighter known as Abdul Khalil al-Souri has taken on an increased leadership role in the group. The document, dated July 10, was signed by Souri instead of Masri, whose name is typically attached to such missives.

Souri, who is largely unknown outside al-Qaeda in Iraq, is part of a group of 33 fighters, known as "the first line," who came to the country in 2003 with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to Milehmi, the leader north of Fallujah. He called Souri "the second personality" in al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Abu Taha al-Lihebi, an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader in eastern Anbar province who recently split from the group, said he believed the communique was proof that Masri had left Iraq and was likely to be replaced.

Lihebi, a former Iraqi air force technician in his 40s, said one of Masri's key errors was fiercely attacking the Awakening movement, former Sunni insurgents who are now paid by the U.S. military, instead of trying to win back their support.

Indiscriminate attacks on civilians also caused the group to lose the support of local Sunni residents, Lihebi said.

"Al-Qaeda losing the Sunni population is like a human being losing the ability to drink water," he said. "Because of Masri's weak personality and leadership, al-Qaeda in Iraq was weakened and split and lost the Sunni population."

Earlier this month, Lihebi said his fighters would no longer pledge obedience to Masri and were withdrawing from al-Qaeda in Iraq because of the "escalating hate against them by Sunnis due to the useless operations that ignored the main enemy, which is the head of evil, the United States."

The splinter group, which named itself after Abu Anas al-Shami, an al-Qaeda in Iraq fighter it said had been killed by U.S. troops, also announced it would suspend suicide operations so that people would distinguish between the new group and al-Qaeda in Iraq.

In a sign of what U.S. officials describe as their success in eliminating Sunni insurgents inside Iraq, the American military has recently identified an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader outside the country as a major target, according to the senior U.S. intelligence analyst.

The leader, Abu Ghadiya, the nom de guerre of a Mosul native whose real name is said to be Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, was identified in February as a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leader based in Syria who controls the flow of the majority of the group's foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Keller, the senior intelligence officer, said uncertainties remain about the diversion of fighters.

"We continue to wrestle with the question of whether this represents a strategic shift on the part of al-Qaida," Keller said in the e-mail. "We do know that al-Qaida leaders will never give up entirely on Iraq, but they may in the future see Afghanistan or some other location yet to be determined as a place where their resources may be more effectively employed."
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CIA cites Pakistan spy agency's ties to militants


By PAMELA HESS and MATTHEW LEE
The Associated Press


WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence suspects rogue elements in Pakistan's spy agency are giving militants sensitive information that helps them launch more effective attacks from the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, a Bush administration official said Wednesday.

Top CIA and U.S. military officials recently traveled to the country to press their concerns about the apparent ties with Pakistani officials.

An administration official said the decision to send CIA Deputy Director Steve R. Kappes to the meetings in Islamabad with Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came amid mounting evidence initially collected by the U.S. but then corroborated by Indian intelligence that some members of the Pakistani intelligence community were actively aiding the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The official said the information indicated that specific midlevel officers in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency likely were leaking sensitive intelligence about operations in the tribal areas to militants that was "not only increasing their offensive capability, but also their defensive capability," resulting in a rise in the number and lethalness of attacks.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said long-standing CIA frustration with the Pakistanis had been growing for months, especially since opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last year, and hit a high after the July 7 suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which New Delhi has blamed on Islamabad.

Kappes' visit came five days later on July 12, the official noted.

Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied accusations of any official Pakistan complicity with terrorist groups, calling them "unfounded and baseless," but he confirmed to The Associated Press that Kappes and Mullen met earlier this month with Pakistani generals, including Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief.

The meeting was first reported by The New York Times.

It came five months after Pakistan elected a new civilian government to replace Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally who seized power in 1999. It also comes as a top Pakistani official publicly rejected giving the U.S. military authority to enter the tribal regions to attack terror networks itself.

The United States has grown increasingly frustrated as al-Qaida, the Taliban and other militants thrive in Pakistan's remote areas and in neighboring Afghanistan, and has asked that U.S. troops be allowed to strike at terror networks. The new regime says it prefers to negotiate a new peace agreement with militant groups in the relatively ungoverned region, which is about the size of Maryland.

U.S. officials have long suspected members of Pakistan's intelligence service support or turn a blind eye to tribal warlords who have built extensive criminal networks in the semiautonomous western border area. They traffic in narcotics, weapons and consumer goods, launch attacks on Pakistani and Afghan targets, and support terrorist groups like al-Qaida.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said some Pakistani intelligence officers' support for the Jalaluddin Haqqani network _ associated with both the Taliban and al-Qaida _ is of particular and long-standing concern. He emphasized, however, that it has not been determined that Pakistan officially supports those groups or provides direct succor to al-Qaida.

"The Pakistani government and the (intelligence service) are not monolithic," the official said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., a member of the House Intelligence Committee who travels frequently to Pakistan, said the Kappes-Mullen meeting is unlikely to have an effect on the Pakistani government.

Rogers said with every change in U.S. military, civilian and intelligence leadership these high-level meetings occur and the results are always the same: The terrorist threat from the tribal area remains unchanged.

"We just have never pushed the envelope with these people as much as we needed to and could have," he said.

The counterterrorism official said there is a concern that if Pakistan puts too much pressure on the militants or allegedly rogue officers, the result could be destabilizing to the government itself.

Getting the Pakistani government to crack down on intelligence officers with links to tribal militants is difficult for several reasons. The tribal areas have never been fully under the control of Pakistan. Moreover, elements within the Pakistani government see utility in having strong tribal militias as a security buffer against Afghanistan, with whom the country has long-standing tensions, the counterterrorism official said.

Rogers said he believes the motivations also include money and family ties: Intelligence officers are recruited from the tribal areas as well as the settled part of Pakistan. Tribal ties often trump national identity, and tribal criminal networks enrich themselves from smuggling and benefit from minimal government pressure.

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Post

U.S. Officials: Pakistani Agents Helped Plan Kabul Bombing


By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008.


U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that elements of Pakistan's military intelligence service provided logistical support to militants who staged last month's deadly car bombing at the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan's capital, U.S. officials familiar with the evidence said yesterday.

The finding, based partly on communication intercepts, has dramatically heightened U.S. concerns about long-standing ties between Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, and Taliban-allied groups that are battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to two U.S. government officials briefed on the matter.

The July 7 bombing at the Kabul embassy has been linked to fighters loyal to Jalaluddin Haqqani, an ethnic Pashtun militant who has led pro-Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and has been associated with numerous suicide bombings in the region. More than 40 people were killed in one of the deadliest attacks on Afghan civilians since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"There continues to be evidence of Taliban and Haqqani network involvement in the Indian Embassy bombing as well as the attempted assassination of [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai," said a senior U.S. official briefed on the reports. He said there was "significant" evidence suggesting that individual ISI members provided logistical support to the embassy bombers. He declined to elaborate further.

CIA officials raised the issue of possible ISI support for the embassy bombers during a meeting last month between the newly elected Pakistani government and a delegation led by Stephen Kappes, the agency's director of clandestine operations, two officials said. The conclusion by U.S. intelligence and the visit were first reported by the New York Times.

One official involved with U.S. counterterrorism efforts stressed that the ISI has generally worked closely with U.S. intelligence in battling al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the tribal region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he acknowledged that the Pakistani intelligence service is "not monolithic."

The intelligence community is divided about the extent of Taliban sympathies within the Pakistani service, a second senior official said. "You will find folks who will say there is significant penetration of the ISI by terrorist elements and that's a serious concern," the official said. "But others are saying that certainly, there's penetration, but we don't think it's top to bottom."

Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied the allegation of ISI support for the Taliban, though Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, who accompanied Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in a visit to Washington this week, acknowledged that his U.S. counterparts had aired serious concerns. Following their meetings this week, Gillani and President Bush sought to ease bilateral tensions over the conduct of the campaign against terrorism. Their talks focused on efforts to clamp down on al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Pakistan's northwest tribal areas.

Gillani secured a pledge from Bush to respect Pakistani sovereignty in exchange for promises from Islamabad to crack down on the militants. "This is our own war," Gillani said. "This is a war which is against Pakistan."

Pakistan, which has received more than $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, has resisted suggestions that troops from the United States or other countries be allowed into the region.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, when asked yesterday whether the ISI and the military were aligned with the Pakistani government, said it was a question "the government of Pakistan ought to speak to."

Mullen, who recently traveled to Pakistan, said the country's leaders made clear during talks that they recognized the tribal areas pose "a serious internal threat to Pakistan, and it's growing," and that they are "committed to taking steps to . . . address it."

U.S. concerns about Taliban support within the ISI's ranks date back nearly a decade. Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer with experience in the region, noted that the ISI was an early backer of the Taliban during the 1980s, at a time when they were allied in the fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Some ISI officers forged personal ties with Taliban commanders that persist today, he said.

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Post Al-Qaida: Explosives expert wanted by US killed

Al-Qaida: Explosives expert wanted by US killed

By ANNA JOHNSON
The Associated Press
Monday, August 4, 2008


CAIRO, Egypt -- Al-Qaida confirmed Sunday the death of a top commander accused of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole eight years ago.

Abu Khabab al-Masri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, is believed to have been killed in an airstrike apparently launched by the U.S. in Pakistan last week.

An al-Qaida statement posted on the Internet said al-Masri and three other top figures were killed and warned of vengeance for their deaths. It did not say when, where or how they died but said some of their children were killed along with them.

Pakistani authorities have said they believe al-Masri is one of six people killed in an airstrike on July 28 on a compound in South Waziristan, a lawless tribal region near the Afghan border.

The U.S. military has not confirmed it was behind the missile strike. But similar U.S. attacks are periodically launched on militant targets in the tribal border region.

Both Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in the rugged and lawless region along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused al-Masri, an Egyptian militant whose real name is Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, of training terrorists to use poisons and explosives.

He is also believed to have helped run al-Qaida's Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan until the camp was abandoned amid the 2001 U.S. invasion of the country. There he is thought to have conducted experiments in chemical and biological weapons, testing materials on dogs.

The al-Qaida statement called al-Masri and the other three slain commanders "a group of heroes" and warned of retaliation.

"We tell the enemies of God that God has saved those who will be even more painful for you," it said. "As Abu Khabab has gone, he left behind, with God's grace, a generation of faithful students who will make you suffer the worst torture and avenge him and his brothers."
The statement, whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed, was dated July 30 and signed by al-Qaida's top Afghan leader, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed. It was posted on an Islamic militant Web site where al-Qaida usually issues official statements and videos of its leaders.

Kamal Shah, a senior official in Pakistan's Interior Ministry, said the government had "no official confirmation as yet" that al-Masri was dead. The White House declined comment Sunday.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials and at least one pro-Taliban militant have said they believed al-Masri had died in the July 28 attack. An American official in Washington had expressed cautious optimism al-Masri, whose pseudonym means "father of the trotting horse, the Egyptian," was among the dead.

Terrorism experts downplayed the significance of al-Masri's death.

"A big name does not mean a big impact on the ground," said Mustafa Alani, director of national security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "The bottom line is that those people are replaceable. The organization has developed in such a way that it can survive and fill in any gap even if Osama bin Laden was to die."

Dia'a Rashwan, a Cairo-based expert on terrorism and Islamic movements, said al-Masri's death could hurt morale among al-Qaida's followers, but it wasn't a huge loss for the terror group, especially in Afghanistan.

"Al-Qaida might be facing setbacks in Iraq, but not in Afghanistan ... and any loss will appear (to its fighters) as a triumph against the enemy, not a defeat," Rashwan said.

Little is known about the other three slain commanders. They may also be Egyptian because their pseudonyms included the name "al-Masri," which means Egyptian in Arabic. The Web statement identified the three as Abu Mohammed Ibrahim bin Abi Farag al-Masri, Abdul-Wahab al-Masri and Abu Islam al-Masri.

It gave no details about them beyond calling Abu Mohammed "the holy warrior sheik and tutor." It said some of their children were killed along with them but did not give any further information about them.

CBS News reported Friday that al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's No. 2, was killed or critically injured in the July 28 airstrike. CBS said it had obtained a copy of an intercepted letter dated July 29 from unnamed sources in Pakistan in which a Taliban leader urgently requested a doctor to treat bin Laden's top lieutenant.

A Taliban spokesman, Maulvi Umar, denied the report. Pakistan army and intelligence officials said they had no information that al-Zawahri was hit.

Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef and Omar Sinan in Cairo and Stephen Graham in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...080300192.html
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Post Pakistani woman charged in NY with soldier attack

Pakistani woman charged in NY with soldier attack


By TOM HAYS
The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 5, 2008


NEW YORK -- An MIT-educated Pakistani woman once identified as a possible al-Qaida associate has been brought to New York to face charges she tried to kill U.S. agents and military officers during an interrogation in Afghanistan, federal prosecutors said.

Aafia Siddiqui, who was shot and wounded last month during the confrontation, was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan on charges of attempted murder and assault, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement. A lawyer for her family said the allegations are false.

Siddiqui, 36, was stopped by Afghan police on July 17 outside a government building, according to a criminal complaint. Police searched her handbag and discovered documents containing recipes for explosives and chemical weapons and describing "various landmarks in the United States, including New York City," according to the complaint, which did not identify the landmarks.

The next day, as a team of FBI agents and U.S. military officers prepared to question her, Siddiqui grabbed a rifle, pointed it at an Army captain and yelled that she wanted blood, prosecutors said. An interpreter pushed the rifle aside as she fired two shots, which missed, they said. One of two shots fired by a soldier in response hit her in the torso.

Even after being hit, Siddiqui struggled and shouted in English "that she wanted to kill Americans" before the officers subdued her, the complaint said.

The family attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, called the charges "a tall story."

Sharp also disputed the U.S. government's earlier claims that Siddiqui had gone underground for several years before her capture. The family suspects that after she vanished with her three children while in Pakistan in 2003, she was secretly held and possibly tortured before U.S. authorities finally brought charges to justify her detention.

"I believe she's become a terrible embarrassment to them, but she's not a terrorist," Sharp said. "When the truth comes out, people will see she did nothing wrong."

At the time of the incident, Afghan officials gave conflicting accounts of what transpired between Siddiqui and the U.S. interrogators. U.S. military officials declined comment.

At a 2004 news conference, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III identified Siddiqui as one of seven people the FBI wanted to question about their suspected ties to al-Qaida.

U.S. authorities said at the time that Siddiqui had received a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University, outside Boston, in 2001 before returning to Pakistan shortly after Sept. 11.

Though they never alleged she was a full-fledged member of al-Qaida, authorities said they believed Siddiqui could be a "fixer," someone with knowledge of the United States who supported other operatives trying to slip into the country and plot attacks.

Siddiqui is charged with one count each of attempted murder and assault. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison on each charge.

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Post Musharraf cancels China visit amid talks on ouster

Musharraf cancels China visit amid talks on ouster


By Augustine Anthony
Reuters
Wednesday, August 6, 2008


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has cancelled a scheduled visit to China, a member of his entourage said on Wednesday, as opponents in the coalition government consulted over his possible impeachment.

"We have been told that the president's visit to China has been cancelled," said the official, who had been due to fly with Musharraf on Wednesday to attend opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics and meet with the Chinese leadership.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq confirmed the visit had been called off. The president's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Pakistan treasures its close relationship with China as it provides a regional counterweight to old rival India, and for a Pakistani leader to call off a visit at such short notice is highly unusual.

Musharraf, a U.S. ally who came to power as a general in a 1999 coup, has become overwhelmingly unpopular.

His allies were defeated in an election in February that resulted in a civilian coalition government led by the party of the late Benazir Bhutto, a two-time prime minister who was assassinated while campaigning last December.

Despite the loss of parliamentary support, Musharraf has resisted pressure to quit, and has insisted that he was willing to work with the new civilian government.

Musharraf has repeatedly said he will not use presidential powers to dismiss the parliament, but Pakistani political circles are rife with speculation that he is maneuvering towards this scenario on grounds that the four-month-old civilian government has proved inept.

Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the ruling alliance, met his major coalition partner and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on Tuesday to discuss issues that have bedeviled their alliance.

Sharif, the prime minister Musharraf overthrew, wants wheels set in motion to impeach the embattled president, but Zardari has until now warded off a confrontation with Musharraf, who neither the army or the United States wants to see humiliated.

Sharif said before the talks he was looking for a decisive meeting with Zardari to resolve their differences over the thorny issues of Musharraf's impeachment and restoration of Supreme Court judges who were dismissed by the president last November during a brief period of emergency rule.

Sharif withdrew his party's ministers from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's cabinet in May, but did not go as far as pulling out of the coalition completely.

A spokesman for Zardari's Pakistan People's Party told reporters after Tuesday's meeting the two had reached a consensus on major issues and would meet again on Wednesday for further discussion.

The intense uncertainty has taken a toll on Pakistani markets, with the main Karachi Stock Exchange index hitting near 23-month lows earlier this week, while the rupee edged closer to all-time lows posted in early July.

The index dropped 3 percent at the open on Wednesday due to investors' fears of an impending clash between the coalition and the president.

Investors have harbored doubts over whether the civilian coalition government has the ability to handle widening trade and fiscal deficits and inflation at a three-decade high.

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