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Context of 'December 2001-Spring 2002: Pakistani Government Allows Al-Qaeda and Taliban to Regroup in Pakistan’s Tribal Region'

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Ali Jan Orakzai.Ali Jan Orakzai. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appoints a general sympathetic to the Taliban to seal off the Afghanistan border as US forces close in on al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the other side. Ali Jan Orakzai is appointed on October 8, 2001, a day Musharraf responded to US pressure and fired some Islamist extremist officers, only to replace them with other Islamist extremist officers (see October 8, 2001). Orakzai, a friend and close adviser to Musharraf, will generally be known as someone who hates the US and sympathizes with the Taliban (see Late 2002-Late 2003). His instructions are to send troops to Pakistan’s tribal region next to Afghanistan to catch fleeing terrorists. On October 11, Pakistani helicopters will begin dropping soldiers in mountainous regions where no Pakistani soldiers had been to before. By December 2001, Orakzai will position more than 30,000 soldiers in the region. [London Times, 1/22/2005] However, when he ends his command of troops in the region in 2004, he will claim that his forces never even saw one Arab there (see January 22, 2005). Musharraf will finally fire him in 2007 for his ineffectiveness and militant sympathies (see July 19, 2007).

Entity Tags: Ali Jan Orakzai, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

The mountains of Waziristan.The mountains of Waziristan. [Source: BBC] (click image to enlarge)In December 2001, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan are defeated in the battle of Tora Bora, and the survivors generally flee across the border into Pakistan’s tribal region. Many flee into the region of South Waziristan, since it is directly adjacent to Tora Bora and there are no Pakistani government forces guarding the border there (see December 10, 2001). In March 2002, several hundred more militants flee from Afghanistan into South Waziristan after Operation Anaconda (see March 2-13, 2002). They rebuild their central command there, particularly in a remote part of South Waziristan known as the Shakai valley. [New York Times, 6/30/2008] Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later describe South Waziristan: “With its high mountains, steep slopes, deep ravines littered with broken rock and shale, and its thick forests, it was an ideal hideout. Many of its valleys were virtually inaccessible, except along steep winding paths that required the agility of mountain climbers, and were easy to defend.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 148, 268] In the spring of 2002, US intelligence begins reporting that large numbers of foreigners are hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan. But Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in the area containing Waziristan, is skeptical. Born in the tribal region, Orakzai is said to be Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s close friend and main adviser on the region. Even in 2008, he will tell the New York Times that he considered the US warnings about al-Qaeda to be mere “guesswork” and that his soldiers “found nothing.” Former US intelligence officials will agree that nothing is found, because they say that Orakzai’s military forces only enter the region in large, slow-moving sweeps that are easily avoided by militants. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at the time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners as this could have caused trouble, including a tribal uprising. Grenier will say, “Orakzai and others didn’t want to believe [the foreigners were there] because it would have been an inconvenient fact.” [New York Times, 6/30/2008]

Entity Tags: Robert Grenier, Al-Qaeda, Ali Jan Orakzai, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Pakistan’s military commander in the tribal regions, Lieutenant General Ali Jan Orakzai, says: “This impression that the Pakistani tribal areas are havens for terrorists is baseless. In my two and a half years of command I never got a single indication that [Osama] bin Laden was on our side of the border. He’s a big guy, hard to hide, and with 74,000 of my troops there it would have been very difficult for him to be hiding.” Orakzai commanded troops there from October 2001 until 2004. He adds that claims that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is tipping off radical militants about Pakistani military movements are baseless. He even says that not a single Arab has been seen in the tribal region. [London Times, 1/22/2005] It is believed that Orakzai intensely hates the US and is sympathetic to the Taliban. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at this time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners, so he conducted large, slow sweeps that allowed militants to easily get away (see Late 2002-Late 2003). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will finally fire Orakzai in 2007 for his sympathies to militant groups (see July 19, 2007).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ali Jan Orakzai, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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