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Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
Pakistanis hold up a piece of the missile that allegedly killed Abu Hamza Rabia. [Source: Marib Press / Associated Press]The US kills al-Qaeda leader Abu Hamza Rabia with a missile fired from a Predator drone. Rabia is killed with four others in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal region. Apparently, a Predator missile strike in the same region missed Radia on November 5, 2005, but killed eight others. Anonymous US officials say Rabia, an Egyptian, was head of al-Qaeda’s foreign operations. It is speculated that he recently replaced Abu Faraj al-Libbi as al-Qaeda’s number three leader after Faraj was captured in May 2005 (see May 2, 2005). [Washington Post, 12/4/2005; Fox News, 12/5/2005] However, very little had been reported on Rabia’s supposed importance prior to his death, although an FBI official said in 2004, “If there is an attack on the US… Hamza Rabia will be responsible. He’s head of external operations for al-Qaeda—an arrogant, nasty guy.” [New Yorker, 7/26/2004] But there was no reward for him, there are no known public photos of him, and he had not been on any most wanted lists. Some experts dispute Rabia’s importance. For instance, counterterrorism expert Christopher Brown says Rabia was probably a local senior member of al-Qaeda, but was far from being its number three leader. He points out that Saif al-Adel is clearly more important, and probably just behind Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The global intelligence firm Stratfor contends that neither Rabia nor his supposed number three predecessor Faraj were very high ranking. Counterterrorism expert Evan Kohlmann says that the whole practice of assigning numeric rankings “doesn’t make any sense.” He adds, “This isn’t a Fortune 500 company with clearly defined roles,” and says assigning numbers is just “a way to sell a story to media.” [CNS News, 12/16/2005]
Over the course of 2006, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are able to increase their control over the Pakistani tribal regions where both groups are based. More than 120 tribal elders who oppose them are executed during the year. Al-Qaeda feels so secure that its media production arm, As-Sahab, greatly increases its output, releasing 58 audio and videotapes, which is three times as many as in 2005. Militant groups are particularly secure in the region of Waziristan. The Pakistani government made a deal with militants in South Waziristan in 2005 (see February 7, 2005), which still holds, and makes a similar deal with militants in North Waziristan in September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). [Rashid, 2008, pp. 278]
The CIA misses a chance to kill al-Qaeda leader Khalid Habib. In 2006, the CIA hears from the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, that Habib is staying at a compound in Miram Shah, North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region. An involved CIA officer will later tell the Los Angeles Times that he spends weeks at a nearby military outpost, monitoring live images from a Predator drone. He says, “We had a Predator up there for hours at a stretch, just watching, watching.” The CIA closely studies the layout of the compound in preparation for a drone strike. “They took a shot at the compound a week after I left. We got some bodyguards, but he was not there.” Under US policy at this time, the CIA needs permission from the Pakistani government before any drone strike, and getting the approval can take a day or more. Apparently, such delays contribute to the failure to successfully kill Habib. Habib will finally be killed in a Predator strike in 2008. [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2009] There are no contemporary media accounts of any Predator strike at Miram Shah in 2006, so the date of the strike remains unknown.
At some point in 2006, an unnamed senior ISI (Pakistani intelligence) official admits that militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani is a Pakistani asset. The official makes the comment after being asked by a New York Times reporter why the Pakistani military has not moved against Haqqani. Haqqani is head of the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous branch of the Taliban, based in Pakistan, that is launching attacks against US forces in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 6/17/2008] In 2008, US intelligence will similarly overhear the head of Pakistan’s military call Haqqani a “strategic asset” (see May 2008).
US intelligence is able to learn the last name of Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier. The courier’s real name is Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, but so far, US analysts have only known him by his alias “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” In late 2005, intelligence analysts concluded Ahmed was very likely working for bin Laden or some other high ranking al-Qaeda leader (see Late 2005). [MSNBC, 5/4/2011; Associated Press, 6/1/2011] Also in late 2005, dozens of new CIA operatives were sent to Pakistan as part of a new push to get bin Laden, called Operation Cannonball (see Late 2005). Although most of the new operatives are inexperienced, the effort does appear to have an impact. The New York Times will later report, “With more agents in the field, the CIA finally got the courier’s family name”—Ahmed. [New York Times, 5/2/2011] Exactly how it gets the family name is unclear. But in 2007, US analysts will learn Ahmed’s first name as well (see 2007).
For “much of 2006,” US intelligence has been tracking high-ranking al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (a.k.a. Sheik Saiid al-Masri) in the mountains of Pakistan. US commanders have been pressing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for an operation to capture al-Yazid. However, Rumsfeld is reluctant to approve the mission. He is reportedly worried about US military casualties and a popular backlash in Pakistan. Finally, in early November 2006, Rumsfeld approves a plan for Navy Seals and Delta Force commandos to capture al-Yazid in Pakistan. But several days later, on November 8, Rumsfeld resigns one day after Republican losses in the US congressional mid-term elections (see November 6-December 18, 2006). The operation is put on hold again. The New York Times will reveal this in 2008 but will not explain why the operation was not tried later, or why the US did not at least attempt to fire a missile from a Predator drone at al-Yazid. It is also not explained if, when, and/or how US intelligence ever loses track of him. [New York Times, 6/30/2008] Al-Yazid has been a member of al-Qaeda’s shura (ruling council) since the group was formed in 1988. In May 2007, al-Qaeda will release a video naming him as the group’s commander of operations in Afghanistan. He allegedly has played a major role in managing al-Qaeda’s finances since at least the early 1990s, and continues to do so. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007]
The US fires a missile from a Predator drone at a Pakistani village named Damadola, in the tribal region near the Afghanistan border. Apparently, al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is targeted but not killed. Thirteen civilians, including women and children, are killed. Pakistani officials say four al-Qaeda operatives may have been killed as well, including bomb maker Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri), who has a $5 million bountry on his head. After the attack, villagers insist no members of al-Qaeda were anywhere near the village when it was hit. [ABC News, 1/18/2006; Associated Press, 1/22/2006] US and Pakistani officials later say that no al-Qaeda leaders were killed in the strike, only local villagers. It appears that the intelligence tip that led to the strike was bad, and al-Zawahiri and the others were never there in the first place. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] The attack leads to a surge in support for al-Qaeda in Pakistan, including many marches of support near the targeted area. [ABC News, 1/18/2006; Associated Press, 1/22/2006] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf condemns the attack as a violation of sovereignty and says it “was definitely not coordinated with [Pakistan].” [Washington Post, 1/31/2006] Al-Zawahiri appears in a video later in the month, taunting the US for failing to kill him in the raid. [BBC, 1/30/2006]
A new audio tape reported to be from Osama bin Laden surfaces. In the tape, the US is offered a truce by al-Qaeda. The voice on the tape criticizes President Bush, and discusses the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are said to be going badly for the US. The tape is also critical of the Pentagon’s efforts to manage the war news, and references an alleged US plan to attack the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Qatar. After comparing the US to Saddam Hussein and saying that US soldiers are raping women and taking them hostage, the voice says the US is torturing detainees, and that “Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified resources.” The voice also threatens further attacks in the US, “Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished, God willing.” The US is offered a truce: “We do not object to a long-term truce with you on the basis of fair conditions that we respect… In this truce, both parties will enjoy security and stability and we will build Iraq and Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the war.” He also recommends the book Rogue State by William Blum. [BBC, 1/19/2006] The US rejects the proposed truce, and Vice President Dick Cheney calls it a “ploy”. [BBC, 1/20/2006] However, a bin Laden expert is skeptical about the tape (see January 19, 2006).
A New York Times investigation along the Afghan-Pakistan border finds not-so-hidden evidence of continued Pakistani support for the growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies are said to be using a network of religious political parties to attract and then pressure young men into joining the jihad in Afghanistan or in Kashmir. The agencies are believed to be preparing for the day when NATO troops leave the country and hope to re-install a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul. [New York Times, 1/21/2006]
Excerpts from a new video from a man thought to be al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri are aired on Al Jazeera television. The release follows a failed US attempt to kill al-Zawahiri with a missile two weeks ago (see January 13, 2006). The man said to be al-Zawahiri says that the airstrike killed innocent people and comments: “Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses.” Analyst Jere Van Dyk says that releasing the video is al-Zawahiri’s way of letting the Muslim world know: “I’m alive, you missed me! And I am still very strong.” The man in the video also comments: “Butcher of Washington, you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure. You are a curse on your own nation and you have brought and will bring them only catastrophes and tragedies.” The speaker, who wears white robes and a white turban against a black background in the video, calls Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf a “traitor,” and criticizes the US for rejecting an offer of a truce made by Osama bin Laden. [CBS News, 1/31/2006]
In 2003, Afghan President Hamid Karzai presented Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with a list of Taliban leaders living openly in Pakistan, but Musharraf took no action in response (see April 22, 2003). In February 2006, Karzai and Musharraf meet again, in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Karzai again gives Musharraf a list of Taliban leaders living in Pakistan. Amrullah Saleh, head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, is also at the meeting, and will later say, “It was a target list—locations, training camps, telephone numbers, and everything.” Musharraf responds by giving Karzai a report of the Indian government funding rebels in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan through Afghanistan. Western intelligence officials say India is funding these rebels, but not through Afghanistan. Musharraf again takes no action against the Taliban leaders living in his country. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2006; Rashid, 2008, pp. 286]
Counterterrorism expert Micah Zenko will later claim that in February 2006, an unnamed senior civilian official serving at US Central Command tells him that he has been disappointed to learn the search for Osama bin Laden is being worked at a lower level than he would have suspected. Central Command, which covers the US military’s operations in the Middle East and South Asia, has other issues that are deemed more important. [New York Times, 5/3/2011]
Mushin Musa Matwalli Atwah. [Source: FBI]Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, an Egyptian al-Qaeda operative, is killed in a remote village in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. There was a $5 million bountry for Atwah, who was wanted for involvement in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Witnesses describe a missile strike followed by a Pakistani helicopter gunship attack. The attack is said to have killed nine people, including two young children. [Associated Press, 4/13/2006; CNN, 10/24/2006]
Christiane Amanpour narrated The Journalist and the Jihadi. [Source: CNN]HBO produces a documentary film entitled The Journalist and the Jihadi about Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and one of the extremists involved in his kidnap and murder, Saeed Sheikh. The film, directed and produced by Ahmed Jamal and Ramesh Sharma, and narrated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, portrays the two men as “a passionate journalist and a shrewd terrorist” representing the best and worst of their respective cultures. The film climaxes with Pearl’s kidnap and murder, while he was investigating the 9/11 money trail in Pakistan. It suggests that, had it not been for complicity between al-Qaeda and certain factions inside Pakistan’s ISI, Pearl may have survived. [Salon, 4/28/2006; New York Times, 10/10/2006]
The Christian Science Monitor reports: “Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan.” A Monitor reporter who lives in Kandahar, Afghanistan, notes that the result is that people there “have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban… In other words, in a stunning irony, much of this city, the Taliban’s former stronghold, is disgusted with the Americans not because of their Western culture, but because of their apparent complicity with Islamist extremists.” [Christian Science Monitor, 5/2/2006] CNN will similarly report in September 2006 that Taliban head Mullah Omar and most other top Taliban leaders are living in Quetta (see September 12, 2006).
Around the summer of 2006, the CIA sends up to 50 additional case officers to Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of a renewed effort to find al-Qaeda’s top leaders. This is said to be a dramatic increase in the number of CIA case officers permanently stationed in those countries. All of the newly arrived personnel are given the primary task of finding Osama bin Laden and his second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Some former CIA officials will say this new push comes after the White House pushed the CIA to step up the effort to find bin Laden. Mid-term US Congressional elections are being held in November 2006. However, the CIA will deny any pressure from the White House and say it was “driven solely by operational considerations.” But the renewed effort results in no significant leads on the whereabouts of bin Laden or al-Zawahiri. US intelligence officials will largely blame this on the peace treaty signed between the Pakistani government and Islamist militants in North Waziristan in early September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). As part of the treaty, the Pakistani army withdraws ten of thousands of troops from Waziristan and other tribal border regions where the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders has been focused. A senior US intelligence official will later comment: “Everything was undermined by the so-called peace agreement in North Waziristan. Of all the things that work against us in the global war on terror, that’s the most damaging development. The one thing al-Qaeda needs to plan an attack is a relatively safe place to operate.” The Los Angeles Times will comment, “The pullback took significant pressure off al-Qaeda leaders and the tribal groups protecting them.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/20/2007]
Al-Qaeda leader Hassan Ghul is secretly transferred from US custody to Pakistani custody. The Pakistani government will later release him and he will apparently rejoin al-Qaeda. In early 2004, Ghul was captured in Iraq and put in the CIA’s secret prison system (see January 23, 2004). He became a “ghost detainee” because the US refused to admit they even held him. In 2006, the Bush administration decides to close most of the CIA’s secret prisons and transfer most of the important al-Qaeda prisoners to the Guantanamo prison. But Ghul is given to the Pakistani government instead, apparently as a goodwill gesture. According to a 2011 article by the Associated Press, “[T]he move frustrated and angered former CIA officers, who at the time believed Ghul should have been moved to Guantanamo along with 14 other high-value detainees” (See September 2-3, 2006). The ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, promises that it will make sure Ghul is never released. But after only about a year, Pakistan will secretly let Ghul go and he apparently will return to working with al-Qaeda (see (Mid-2007)). [Associated Press, 6/15/2011] Ghul is given to Pakistan even though he is linked to a Pakistani militant group supported by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, and the ISI had a history of protecting him from arrest (see (2002-January 23, 2004)). Also, Ghul is released even though he told US interrogators key information about Osama bin Laden’s courier that will eventually prove key to the discovery of bin Laden’s location (see Shortly After January 23, 2004 and Late 2005).
The Daily Telegraph reports that an investigation in Pakistan has learned that an al-Qaeda recruiter known only by the alias Abdul Rehman introduced the 7/7 London bombers to al-Qaeda. Rehman is said to be of Afghan origin but holds a British passport and lived in Britain. He allegedly met head suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan in a British mosque and then later introduced him and Khan’s friend and fellow suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer to al-Qaeda. Rehman is said to be in his fifties and wealthy. He fought against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s and recruited Muslims from Western countries to join that fight. He continued to recruit in the 1990s for the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. A Pakistani official says, “He is very rich and quite often arranged funds for the militant organizations, before and after 9/11.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/8/2006]
In June 2006, the US, NATO, and Afghanistan’s intelligence agency compile a secret report on the Taliban. The report is discussed on July 9 at a private meeting of officials from Western countries and Afghanistan, chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The report goes further than any previous report in describing the Pakistani government’s involvement in supporting the Taliban. It states, “ISI operatives reportedly pay a significant number of Taliban living/ operating in both Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight.… A large number of those fighting are doing so under duress as a result of pressure from the ISI. The insurgency cannot survive without its sanctuary in Pakistan, which provides freedom of movement, communications for command and control, and a secure environment for collaboration with foreign extremist groups. The sanctuary of Pakistan provides a seemingly endless supply of potential new recruits for the insurgency.” The report also states that at least four of the Taliban’s top leaders are living in Pakistan. But despite the US involvement in creating the report, US diplomacy generally remains in denial about Pakistan’s double dealing. President Bush not only fails to successfully pressure Pakistan on the issue, but even continues to praise Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The report is not leaked to the press at the time. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 367-368] In September 2006, when Pakistan announces a deal with militants in the tribal region of Waziristan, the heart of al-Qaeda’s safe haven, Bush publicly supports the deal (see September 5, 2006 and September 7, 2006).
Jose Rodriguez, head of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA, travels to Pakistan to order local authorities there to arrest a militant named Rashid Rauf. Rauf is currently in Pakistan, but is a key figure in a British-based conspiracy to blow up several airliners with liquid bombs (see August 10, 2006). The British had briefed US officials on the surveillance of the plotters, but the US had pushed for immediate arrests, whereas Britain wanted to monitor the men for longer to gather evidence for a later prosecution (see Before August 10, 2006). After the Pakistani authorities follow Rodriguez’s instruction to arrest Rauf—without the British being notified in advance—the British have no choice but to prematurely arrest the other plotters, as they fear they will learn of Rauf’s arrest and begin to destroy evidence and disperse. According to the London Times, Rodriguez is ordered to Pakistan by US Vice President Dick Cheney. Michael Clarke, director of the British Royal United Services Institute, will say that after British Prime Minister Tony Blair briefed President Bush on July 28: “Vice President Cheney despatched a man called Jose Rodriguez to Pakistan in secret.… And after Mr Rodriguez’s arrival in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf was picked up. The British were hopping mad about that, because it meant that on August 10 they had no choice but to move in on this plot before all the evidence was as mature as possible. There is a general belief in British security circles that the despatch of Mr Rodriguez to [Pakistan] came straight from the White House.” Based on Clarke’s assessment and other sources, including Andy Hayman, former assistant commissioner for specialist operations in the Metropolitan Police, the Times will conclude that Cheney “nearly destroyed Britain’s efforts to bring the airline bomb plotters to justice.” [Times (London), 9/8/2009]
Rashid Rauf. [Source: Warrick Page/ Getty Images]British police arrest 24 people in connection with a plot to blow up aircraft flying from Britain to the United States. Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson says the plot was “intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” [CNN, 8/10/2006] Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff describes the plot as “well-advanced and well-thought-out and… really resourced to succeed.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2006] He also likens it to the foiled 1995 Bojinka plot, one portion of which involved blowing up up to a dozen airplanes over the ocean using liquid explosives smuggled onto the planes. [CNN, 8/11/2006] The British threat warning level is raised to critical and London’s Heathrow Airport is closed to most European flights. US officials say the plot involved hiding liquid explosives in carry-on luggage, and up to 12 flights would have been targeted. A senior US congressional source says the plotters planned to carry sports drinks onto the flights, which would then be mixed with a gel-like substance. The explosives would be triggered by the electrical charge from an iPod or mobile phone. Administration officials say the plot involved British Airways, Continental, United, and American Airlines. The plotters intended to detonate the devices over New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles. Officials say the plot demonstrates “very strong links to al-Qaeda” and was nearly operational. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security raises the terror threat to the highest level, red, meaning “severe,” for commercial flights originating in Britain and bound for the US. In addition, the threat level is raised to orange, or “high,” for all commercial flights operating in or coming to the US. [CNN, 8/10/2006] British officials say the death toll could have exceeded the 2,700 of the September 11 attacks, with one source calling the plot “our 9/11.” The arrests were spurred by the detention in Pakistan of one of the plotters, Rashid Rauf. The Pakistanis arrested him at the behest of US Vice President Dick Cheney (see Before August 10, 2006 and Between July 28 and August 9, 2006). [Guardian, 8/11/2006] Officials say some plotters already had tickets for flights and planned to stage test runs over the weekend. Despite the 24 arrests, five suspects in Britain are still being urgently hunted. One official says, “They didn’t get them all.” But British officials claim the arrests in London and Birmingham snare all the alleged “main players.” [MSNBC, 8/10/2006] British Home Secretary John Reid says the operation is ongoing and more arrests may be made. US officials say the suspects are all British citizens between the ages of 17 and 35, with some being of Pakistani ethnicity. They add that some of the suspects had been monitored by British intelligence for several months. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police Service Anti-Terrorist Branch, says the arrests follow an “unprecedented level of surveillance” over several months involving meetings, movements, travel, spending, and the aspirations of a large group of people. [CNN, 8/10/2006]
Liquids, Gels, Electronics Banned from Flights - Homeland Security bans all liquids and gels except baby formula and prescription medications in the name of the ticket holder in carry-on luggage on all flights. Passengers traveling from and through British airports are temporarily permitted to only carry-on items on a restricted list. These items have to be carried in transparent plastic bags. No liquids can be carried on board, including liquid medications “unless verified as authentic.” All electronic items are also banned. [Detroit Free Press, 8/10/2006]
Arrests, Alert Questioned - In the days following the security operation, the arrests will meet with some skepticism. Stephen Glover of the Daily Mail points to previous baseless terror scares in the US and Britain, as well as questioning the political motivations of the home secretary. [Daily Mail, 8/16/2006] Douglas Fraser of the Herald in Edinburgh suggests the “political component” of the operation has caused skepticism. He says the intelligence services are taking credit for foiling a major plot by “ramping up the level of public concern about the threat.” He notes that the timing coincides with an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to return to an issue it was defeated on before: increasing to 90 days the amount of time that people can be detained without charge in the case of alleged terrorist offenses. [VOA News, 8/18/2006] Sean O’Neill and Stewart Tendler of the London Times urge the public and the media to wait for solid evidence before accepting the version of events presented by the government. They say previous bungled anti-terror operations have put pressure on the authorities to build a solid case in public. [London Times, 8/12/2006] In response to these criticisms, intelligence services will be hesitant to release much information publicly, but confirm to The Guardian that surveillance and tips from informants pointed to a plot in the making. Police identify the explosives to be used in the plot as TATP (triacetone triperoxide) and HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine), both peroxide-based liquid explosives. [Guardian, 8/19/2006] Police will also reveal that the raids uncovered jihadist materials, receipts of Western Union money transfers, seven martyrdom videos, and the last will and testament of one plotter. [New York Times, 8/28/2006]
Some Suspects to Be Released; Security Measures Probably Unnecessary - However, The Guardian does indicate that some of the arrested suspects are likely to be released and that the security measures instituted following the arrests are almost certainly unnecessary. [Guardian, 8/19/2006] Contradicting earlier reports, a senior British official will suggest an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some do not even have passports. [MSNBC, 8/14/2006] Over two and a half weeks after the arrests, a target date for the attacks and number of planes involved will still be undetermined by investigators. The estimate of 10 to 12 planes is characterized by officials as speculative and exaggerated. Clarke acknowledges the police are still investigating “the number, destination, and timing of the flights.” [New York Times, 8/28/2006]
12 Suspects to Be Tried - Twelve suspects will be charged with terrorism offences near the end of August 2006. Trials are expected to start in January 2008 at the earliest. Prosecutor Colin Gibbs says he expects “a very long trial of [between] five and eight months.” [IOL, 9/4/2006]
Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Paul Stephenson, US Department of Homeland Security, Peter Clarke, Metropolitan Police Service Anti-Terrorist Branch, Sean O’Neill, Rashid Rauf, John Reid, Al-Qaeda, Douglas Fraser, United Airlines, Frances Townsend, Stephen Glover, British Airways, American Airlines, Stewart Tendler, Continental Airlines
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Harun Shirzad al-Afghani. [Source: Defense Department]Harun Shirzad al-Afghani is an alleged veteran Islamist militant held in Guanatanamo prison starting in 2007. His Guantanamo file will later be leaked to the public, and it states that he is believed to have attended an important meeting of militant groups on August 11, 2006. A letter found with al-Afghani explains that the meeting is meant to bring together senior figures in the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba (a Pakistani militant group), and Hezb-i-Islami (another militant group, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). But most interestingly, the file claims that senior Pakistani military and ISI (intelligence) officials also attend the meeting. The meeting discusses coordination of attacks against US-led forces in Afghanistan. Plans are made to “increase terrorist operations” in certain Afghanistan provinces, including suicide bombings, assassinations, and mines. Al-Afghani also allegedly tells his Guantanamo interrogators that in 2006 an unnamed ISI officer pays an Islamist militant a large sum of money to transport ammunition into Afghanistan to help al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezb-e-Islami. Al-Afghani’s file describes him as a leader both in al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami, with links to important leaders in both groups predating the 9/11 attacks. He is captured in Afghanistan in February 2007 and transferred to Guantanamo several months later. [Joint Task Force Guantanamo, 8/2/2007 ; Guardian, 4/25/2011]
Former 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton. [Source: CBC]Lee Hamilton, the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, gives a wide-ranging interview to the CBC about Without Precedent, a book he recently co-authored about his time on the 9/11 Commission (see August 15, 2006). In the interview he discusses the various “conspiracy theories” surrounding the events of 9/11. The interviewer, Evan Solomon, mentions to him a recent Zogby poll (see May 17, 2006) that found that 42% of Americans agreed that “the US government, and its 9/11 Commission, concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts the official explanation of September 11th.” Hamilton calls this lack of trust in the Commission’s report “dispiriting,” but attacks the “conspiracy theory people,” saying, “when they make an assertion they do it often on very flimsy evidence.” He addresses some of the various “conspiracy theories” that have been put forward about 9/11:
In order to contradict the allegation that the Twin Towers were brought down deliberately with pre-planted explosives, Hamilton says the WTC collapsed (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001) because “the super-heated jet fuel melted the steel super-structure of these buildings and caused their collapse.” He adds, “There’s a powerful lot of evidence to sustain that point of view, including the pictures of the airplanes flying into the building.”
With regard to the collapse of WTC Building 7 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001), which some people claim was also caused by explosives, he argues, “[W]e believe that it was the aftershocks of these two huge buildings in the very near vicinity collapsing. And in the Building 7 case, we think that it was a case of flames setting off a fuel container, which started the fire in Building 7, and that was our theory on Building 7.” However, the interviewer points out that the 9/11 Commission’s final report does not actually mention the collapse of Building 7, and Hamilton says he does not recall whether the Commission made a specific decision to leave it out.
In reply to a question about why the debris of Building 7 were moved quickly from the scene without a thorough investigation, even though nobody died in Building 7 and there was no need for rescue operations there, Hamilton responds, “You can’t answer every question when you conduct an investigation.”
When asked whether Saeed Sheikh sent Mohamed Atta $100,000 for the 9/11 plot (see Early August 2001 and Summer 2001 and before), Hamilton replies, “I don’t know anything about it.” When the interviewer presses him about whether the Commission investigated a possible Pakistani Secret Service (ISI) connection to the attacks, Hamilton replies, “They may have; I do not recall us writing anything about it in the report. We may have but I don’t recall it.”
Asked about Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta’s claim that Vice President Dick Cheney was in the presidential bunker beneath the White House at 9:20 a.m. on 9/11 (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001), almost 40 minutes earlier than the Commission claimed he had arrived there, Hamilton replies, “I do not recall.” When pressed, he expands, “Well, we think that Vice President Cheney entered the bunker shortly before 10 o’clock. And there is a gap of several minutes there, where we do not really know what the Vice President really did. There is the famous phone call between the President and the Vice President. We could find no documentary evidence of that phone call.”
When the interviewer points out that Richard Clarke’s account conflicts with the Commission’s over what time authorization was received from Dick Cheney to shoot down Flight 93 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Hamilton retorts, “Look, you’ve obviously gone through the report with a fine-toothed comb, you’re raising a lot of questions—I can do the same thing.”
The interviewer also asks Hamilton whether he has any unanswered questions of his own about 9/11. Hamilton’s response is: “I could never figure out why these 19 fellas did what they did. We looked into their backgrounds. In one or two cases, they were apparently happy, well-adjusted, not particularly religious - in one case quite well-to-do, had a girlfriend. We just couldn’t figure out why he did it. I still don’t know.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/21/2006]
On September 15, 2006, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Pakistani government has recently released thousands of Islamist militants. Pakistani lawyers involved in court cases say that 2,500 foreigners who were originally held on suspicion of having links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban have been freed. Many are released in the wake of a peace accord was signed between the Pakistani government and militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions in early September (see September 5, 2006), but some are released in the months before that accord. A US diplomat based in Pakistan complains, “We have repeatedly warned Pakistan over arresting and then releasing suspects. We are monitoring their response with great concern.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/15/2006]
Karl Eikenberry. [Source: NATO]In autumn 2006, President Bush declares in a White House news conference that al-Qaeda is “on the run,” but in fact intelligence reports are indicating that al-Qaeda is gaining strength in its safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region. The New York Times will later comment, “with senior Bush administration officials consumed for much of that year with the spiraling violence in Iraq, the al-Qaeda threat in Pakistan was not at the top of the White House agenda.” Frustrated, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top US commander in Afghanistan, orders military officers, CIA, and US special forces to assemble a dossier documenting the Pakistani government’s role in allowing militants to establish their safe haven in the tribal region. According to the Times, “Behind the general’s order was a broader feeling of outrage within the military—at a terrorist war that had been outsourced to an unreliable ally, and at the grim fact that America’s most deadly enemy had become stronger.” When Eikenberry finally presents his dossier to several members of Bush’s cabinet, some inside the State Department and the CIA dismiss his warning as exaggerated and simplistic. [New York Times, 6/30/2008] On February 13, 2007, Eikenberry states publicly before a Congressional committee that NATO cannot win in Afghanistan without addressing the safe haven across the border in Pakistan. He does not publicly discuss Pakistan’s support for the militants, but he does say, “A steady, direct attack against the command and control in Pakistan in sanctuary areas is essential for us to achieve success.” He also warns that the US is facing a “reconstituted enemy” and “growing narcotics trafficking” in Afghanistan, which could lead to “the loss of legitimacy” of the government there. Eikenberry is already due to be replaced as commander of US forces in Afghanistan by the time he makes these blunt comments. [Washington Post, 2/14/2007; Rashid, 2008, pp. 383] The White House responds by sending Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Deputy Director Stephen Kappes to Islamabad, Pakistan, later in February (see February 26, 2007). But there is little apparent change in Pakistan’s behavior. [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
By autumn 2006, al-Qaeda’s central leadership based in Pakistan’s tribal region near the border of Afghanistan appears to be short on funds. But a peace treaty signed between the Pakistani government and Islamist militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan in early September 2006 (see September 5, 2006) gives al-Qaeda’s leaders breathing room and allows them to receive money from new sources abroad. US intelligence determines that al-Qaeda in Pakistan is increasingly funded by the Iraq war. Operatives in Iraq are raising considerable sums from donations to the anti-US insurgency there, as well as criminal activity such as kidnappings for ransom common in the chaos of the Iraq war zone. Al-Qaeda’s central command had previously sent money outward to Iraq and elsewhere. A senior US counterterrorism official will say in 2007, “Iraq is a big moneymaker for them.” The Pakistani peace deal with militants results in tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers withdrawing from the tribal regions. This in turn allows militants to move between Pakistan and Iraq much easier than before. This official will say there are “lots of indications they can move people in and out easier,” and that operatives from Iraq often bring money. “A year ago we were saying they were having serious money problems. That seems to have eased up.” It is also believed that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are now being taught by al-Qaeda operatives experienced with fighting US forces in Iraq. [Los Angeles Times, 5/20/2007]
The government of Pakistan signs an agreement known as the Waziristan Accord with rebels in the tribal area of Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan known as Waziristan. This is the area where the Taliban and al-Qaeda have a strong influence and many believe al-Qaeda’s top leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding there. The accord effectively puts an end to fighting between the Pakistani army and the rebels. Details of the accord are published in a Pakistani newspaper the next day. The main points include:
The Pakistani government agrees to stop attacks in Waziristan.
Militants are to cease cross-border movement into and out of Afghanistan.
Foreign jihadists will have to leave Pakistan, but “those who cannot leave will be allowed to live peacefully, respecting the law of the land and the agreement.”
Area check-points and border patrols will be manned by a tribal force and the Pakistan army will withdraw from control points.
No parallel administration will be established in the area, but Pakistan law will remain in force.
Tribal leaders will ensure that no one attacks government personnel or damages state property.
The Pakistani government will release captured militants and will pay compensation for property damage and the deaths of innocent civilians. [Dawn (Karachi), 9/6/2006] The deal is negotiated and signed by Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai, who had become the governor of the nearby North-West Frontier Province some months earlier. Orakzai, a close friend of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, is known to hate the US and NATO and admire militant groups such as the Taliban (see Late 2002-Late 2003). [New York Times, 6/30/2008] Two days later, President Bush publicly supports the deal (see September 7, 2006). The Wall Street Journal comments that Musharraf decided to approve the deal in order to take care of “an even bigger security problem: a growing rebellion in the resource-rich province of Baluchistan.” He does not have the forces to deal with widespread violence in both regions. [Wall Street Journal, 9/8/2006]
A similar deal was made with South Waziristan in February 2005 (see February 7, 2005). The agreement will soon be seen as a big success for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In July 2007, the Washington Post will report that senior US intelligence officials attribute “the resurgence of bin Laden’s organization almost entirely to its protected safe haven among tribal groups in North Waziristan…” (see July 18, 2007). The same month, the Bush administration will publicly call the accord a failure as it collapses amidst an all out fight between the government and militants in Pakistan (see July 11-Late July, 2007). [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
Ali Jan Orakzai. [Source: Farooq Naeem/ Agence France-Presse]On September 5, 2006, the government of Pakistan signs an agreement known as the Waziristan Accord with militants in the tribal area of Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan known as Waziristan (see September 5, 2006). Two days later, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Lt. Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai come to the White House to meet with President Bush about the deal. Orakzai is the military commander of the region encompassing the region. He reportedly hates the US and sympathizes with the Taliban, calling them a “national liberation movement” (see Late 2002-Late 2003). In a presentation to Bush, Orakzai advocates a strategy that would rely even more heavily on cease-fires, and says striking deals with the Taliban inside Afghanistan could allow US forces to withdraw from Afghanistan within seven years. Bush supports the deal, saying in public that same day that it would not create safe havens for the Taliban and could even offer “alternatives to violence and terror.” He does add the cautionary note, “You know we are watching this very carefully, obviously.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 277; New York Times, 6/30/2008] But three months later, the US State Department will publicly deem the deal a failure for US policy (see November-December 2006). Some US officials will begin to refer to Orakzai as a “snake oil salesman.” [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. [Source: Defense Department / Helene C. Stikkel]The Washington Post reports in a front page story, “The clandestine US commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast US intelligence world—no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image—has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to US and Pakistani officials.” It is widely believed by US intelligence that bin Laden is hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. Since May 2005, al-Qaeda has killed at least 23 tribal leaders in the region who are opposed to them, making intelligence collection increasingly difficult. There is no single person in charge of the US search for bin Laden with authority to direct covert operations. One counterterrorism official complains, “There’s nobody in the United States government whose job it is to find Osama bin Laden! Nobody!” However, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has become the de facto leader of the search. In recent months, President Bush has requested that the CIA “flood the zone” to gain better intelligence and efforts have stepped up. But at the same time, “Pakistan has grown increasingly reluctant to help the US search.… Pakistani and US counterterrorism and military officials admit that Pakistan has now all but stopped looking for bin Laden. ‘The dirty little secret is, [the US has] nothing, no operations, without the Paks,’ one former counterterrorism officer said.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2006]
Pakistani journalist Amir Mir tells CNN: “Pakistan is essentially for the Taliban. Almost their entire leadership of Taliban is hiding in Quetta.” Quetta is a Pakistani town close to the Afghan border. CNN further reports that “American intelligence officials say, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar is also living in Quetta.” Senior British government officials say they are angry Pakistan has not rounded up the Taliban leadership “who they say are planning and plotting and getting stronger from the safety of Pakistan.” [CNN, 9/12/2006] The Christian Science Monitor came to a similar conclusion in May 2006 (see May 2, 2006). Several months later, a captured Taliban spokesman will say that Omar is living in Quetta under the protection of the Pakistani ISI (see January 17, 2007).
President Bush tells a journalist that getting Osama bin Laden is a low priority compared to getting intelligence to stop new attacks. Fred Barnes, executive director of the Weekly Standard, and some other journalists met with Bush on September 12, 2006. Asked the next day on Fox News if Bush thinks catching bin Laden is “priority number one,” Barnes replies, “Well, he said, look, you can send 100,000 special forces, that’s the figure he used, to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that’s not a top priority use of American resources. His vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people, to get tips, to follow them up and break up plots to kill Americans before they occur. That’s what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think coming from England, and that’s the top priority. He says, you know, getting Osama bin Laden is a low priority compared to that.” [Fox News, 9/13/2006]
Abu Bakker Qassim. [Source: McClatchy News]Abu Bakker Qassim, a Chinese Muslim and a member of that country’s Uighur minority, writes a column for the New York Times concerning what he says is his wrongful imprisonment at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Qassim is writing to protest Congress’s consideration of passing legislation that would deny Guantanamo detainees their habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in federal court. Qassim says he and 17 of his fellow Uighurs fled Chinese government oppression and went to Afghanistan, where they were captured by Pakistani bounty hunters and “sold… to the United States military like animals for $5,000 a head. The Americans made a terrible mistake.” After he and four other Uighurs were granted court hearings, US authorities deported them to Albania. “Without my American lawyers and habeas corpus, my situation and that of the other Uighurs would still be a secret,” he writes. “I would be sitting in a metal cage today. Habeas corpus helped me to tell the world that Uighurs are not a threat to the United States or the West, but an ally. Habeas corpus cleared my name—and most important, it let my family know that I was still alive.” Qassim says that like his fellow Uighurs, he is “a great admirer of the American legal and political systems.” He continues: “I have the utmost respect for the United States Congress. So I respectfully ask American lawmakers to protect habeas corpus and let justice prevail. Continuing to permit habeas rights to the detainees in Guantanamo will not set the guilty free. It will prove to the world that American democracy is safe and well.” [New York Times, 9/17/2006] Because of this editorial, Qassim and four other Uighurs will be dubbed “returning to terrorist activities” by the Pentagon (see January 13-14, 2009).
Omar Khyam somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan, date unknown. [Source: Public domain]A man on trial in Britain for participation in a fertilizer bomb plot halts his testimony, claiming that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency has threatened his family in Pakistan if he continues to talk. Omar Khyam, a Pakistani-Briton, is accused of leading an al-Qaeda linked plot to blow up an unknown target in Britain (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Six others are on trial. In testimony on previous days, Khyam confessed to attending a militant training camp in 2000 in the mountains above Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He says that the camp was run by the ISI, and he trained with AK-47 rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. But on the third day of testimony, when asked if he had bought the fertilizer to make a bomb in Britain, he responds: “Before we go on to that topic, I just want to say the ISI in Pakistan has had words with my family relating to what I have been saying about them. I think they are worried I might reveal more about them, so right now, as much as I want to clarify matters, the priority for me has to be the safety of my family so I am going to stop.” He adds, “I am not going to discuss anything related to the ISI any more or my evidence.” [Guardian, 9/19/2006; BBC, 4/30/2007] The ISI has a reputation of arresting family members and threatening them to accomplish their goals. For instance, when Saeed Sheikh was wanted for the murder of reporter Daniel Pearl, the ISI reportedly rounded up 10 members of his family and threatened to harm them, forcing him to turn himself in to the ISI. He later refused to discuss his connection to the ISI, only saying: “I will not discuss this subject. I do not want my family to be killed” (see February 5, 2002). [Vanity Fair, 8/2002] Khyam will be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004).
NATO Commander Gen. James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, says that the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue to profit from the sale of opium in Afghanistan. He says: “We’re losing ground. It affects the insurgency because there’s increasing evidence that a lot of funding goes from the narcotics traffickers to the criminal elements, to what’s left of al-Qaeda, to the Taliban and anyone else that wants to create mischief.” [ABC News, 9/21/2006]
In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, NATO supreme commander General James L. Jones testifies that the Taliban headquarters is in Quetta, Pakistan. The Taliban presence there has been widely known in intelligence circles since at least 2003 (see April 22, 2003), but this marks the first time a major US figure publicly acknowledges the fact. However, the US still is not pressuring Pakistan very much over the issue. For instance, President Bush did not even bring up the issue when he hosted a dinner recently for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. [International Herald Tribune, 10/12/2006]
President Musharraf appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote his new book. [Source: Adam Rountree / AP]President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan publishes his autobiography, In the Line of Fire, generating a number of controversies:
He speculates that Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002) and is said to have wired money to the 9/11 hijackers (see Early August 2001), may have been recruited by MI6 in the 1990s (see Before April 1993). The Independent will also comment, “he does not mention that British-born Omar Saeed Sheikh, who planned the Pearl abduction, had surrendered a week before his arrest was announced to a general with intelligence links who was Musharraf’s friend. What happened during that week?” [Independent, 11/21/2006]
Musharraf writes, “Those who habitually accuse us of not doing enough in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the Government of Pakistan.” [Press Trust of India, 9/28/2006] However, US law forbids rewards being paid to a government. The US Justice Department says: “We didn’t know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI’s most-wanted list, not foreign governments.” [London Times, 9/26/2006] Musharraf then backtracks and claims the Government of Pakistan has not received any money from the US for capturing people. [Press Trust of India, 9/28/2006]
He also claims that State Department Official Richard Armitage threatened that if Pakistan did not co-operate with the “war on terror,” the US would bomb it “back into the stone age” (see September 13-15, 2001).
The book does not receive good reviews. For example, the Independent calls it “self-serving and self-indulgent” and concludes that “Readers who want to understand contemporary Pakistan deserve a more honest book.” [Independent, 11/21/2006] In a review with the sub-heading “Most of Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s new book cannot be believed,” the Wall Street Journal writes, “The book is not so much an autobiography as a highly selective auto-hagiography, by turns self-congratulatory, narcissistic, and mendacious.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/19/2006]
The BBC reports on a leaked report about Pakistan from a senior officer at the Defence Academy, a think tank run by the British Ministry of Defence. The author remains anonymous, but he is said to be a man with a military background linked to the MI6, Britain’s external intelligence service. The Ministry of Defence and British government in general say it does not represent their official views. The paper has the following conclusions about Pakistan and the war on terrorism:
Pakistan is not stable, and in fact is on the edge of chaos.
The Pakistani government, through its ISI intelligence agency, has been indirectly supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and attacks overseas, such as the 7/7 London bombings.
Western governments have been turning a blind eye towards Pakistan’s instability and indirect protection of al-Qaeda.
The US and Britain cannot hope to win against Islamist militant group until they identify the real enemies and seek to implement a more just vision. This will require Pakistan to move away from military rule and for the ISI to be dismantled and replaced.
Time is running out for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The US is likely to withdraw his funding and possibly even his protection. Without US support, he is unlikely to stay in power for long.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not gone well. The war in Iraq in particular has been a great recruitment tool for extremists across the Muslim world.
A secret deal to extricate British troops from Iraq so they could focus on Afghanistan failed when British military leaders were overruled by their civilian leaders.
The enemy the West has identified—terrorism—is the wrong target. As an idea, it cannot be defeated. [BBC Newsnight, 9/28/2006; BBC, 9/28/2006]
The West’s fight against extremism is going nowhere with no end in sight.
Britain should use its military links with Pakistan’s army at a senior level to persuade Musharraf to step down, accept free elections, and dismantle the ISI.
The report’s author traveled to Pakistan in June 2006 as part of a delegation on a fact-finding visit. He held interviews with the Pakistani officials and academics to prepare a report about the country and the global war on terror. [London Times, 9/28/2006] Musharraf rejects the report’s conclusions. He tells the BBC, “There is perfect co-ordination going on” between Pakistan and Western countries on terrorism, and there is “intelligence and operational co-ordination at the strategic level, at the tactical level.” He rejects the idea that the ISI should be dismantled. “I totally, 200% reject it. I reject it from anybody - [Ministry of Defence] or anyone who tells me to dismantle ISI.” [BBC, 9/28/2006]
Lieutenant General David Richards, the British general commanding NATO troops in Afghanistan, meets with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on October 9, 2006, in an effort to persuade him to stop the Pakistani ISI from training Taliban fighters to attack US and British soldiers in Afghanistan. The day before, he tells the Sunday Times there is “a Taliban problem on the Pakistan side of the border.… Undoubtedly something has got to happen.” Richards has evidence compiled by NATO, US, and Afghan intelligence of satellite pictures and videos showing training camps for Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers inside Pakistan. The evidence includes the exact address of where top Taliban leader Mullah Omar lives in Pakistan. Richards wants Pakistan to arrest Omar and other Taliban leaders. One senior US commander tells the Times: “We just can’t ignore it any more. Musharraf’s got to prove which side he is on.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/8/2006] What happens between Richards and Musharraf is unknown, but there are no subsequent signs of the ISI reducing its support for the Taliban or of Pakistan arresting Taliban leaders.
The Chenagai madrassa after the Predator strike. [Source: BBC]The US launches a Predator drone missile strike on a madrassa (religious school) in the Bajour district of Pakistan’s tribal region, then Pakistan sends in helicopters to attack the survivors. The aim is to kill al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, but he is not there. Pakistani officials initially claim that a number of al-Qaeda operatives are killed, including Abu Ubaida al-Masri, an operational leader. But the next day they only say that some Taliban members are killed. [ABC News, 10/30/2006; ABC News, 10/31/2006] The attack is said to have killed 82, many of them students at the madrassa located in Chenagai, a hamlet of Damadola village, which had been hit by a Predator strike earlier in the year (see January 13, 2006). [London Times, 11/26/2006]
On September 5, 2006, the government of Pakistan signs an agreement known as the Waziristan Accord with Taliban-linked militants in the tribal area of Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan known as North Waziristan (see September 5, 2006), and President Bush quickly gave his public approval to the deal (see September 7, 2006). By November 2006, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, head of US forces in Afghanistan, says that the number of Taliban attacks out of North Waziristan has tripled since the deal was signed. On December 26, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says, “The Taliban have been able to use [the tribal regions] for sanctuary, and for command and control, and for regrouping and supply.” The State Department decides that the deal has been a failure for US policy, just as two previous deals with militants in the border region had been. But the Pakistani government continues to stick to the terms of the deal well into 2007. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 277]
After learning that a new book published by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see September 25, 2006) says that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) either killed American reporter Daniel Pearl or played a leading role in the murder (see January 31, 2002), the lawyer for Saeed Sheikh, one of the kidnappers, says he plans to use the book in an appeal. Sheikh was found guilty of the kidnapping (see April 5, 2002), but the lawyer, Rai Bashir, says, “I’m going to submit an application that [Musharraf’s] book be used as a piece of evidence. The head of state has exonerated [Sheikh and his accomplices].” [Christian Science Monitor, 11/8/2006] Bashir will also make similar comments after KSM says that he carried out the murder in early 2007 (see March 10, 2007): “In the next court hearing, I am going to submit the recent statement by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in which he said he himself beheaded the US journalist… From day one, my contention was that the evidence presented in court was not strong enough to lead to the conviction of my client.” [Guardian, 3/19/2007] Sheikh was convicted in July 2002 (see July 15, 2002). As of late July 2005, the appeal proceedings had been adjourned thirty-two times. [International Herald Tribune, 7/29/2005] As of 2007, his appeal process is still in limbo.
The US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program launches an advertising campaign in dozens of airports in the US. The program distributes hundreds of wanted posters featuring al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden. But strangely, the campaign is limited to the US and includes such airports as Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which are not locations frequented by al-Qaeda leaders. Walter Deering, head of the Rewards for Justice program until 2003, will later point out that advertising in the wrong places can bog down investigators with false leads. “We’d get a lot of tips that were totally off the wall.” [Washington Post, 5/17/2008] Most al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding in the tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. But since at least the start of 2004, the Rewards for Justice program has been conducting little to no advertising in Pakistan (see January 2004).
Rashid Rauf in Pakistani custody. [Source: Farooq Naeem / Agence France-Presse]Terrorism charges are dropped in Pakistan against British-Pakistani militant Rashid Rauf, but he remains imprisoned there. Held since early August, Rauf was part of a British-based plot to blow up transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006). British officials have been seeking his extradition for five months, and the decision not to prosecute him in Pakistan on the charges apparently clears the way for him to be returned to Britain; although there is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain, Pakistani officials indicate they are ready to send Rauf home. However, Rauf, who has denied any links with terrorism, still has to face trial next week on charges of carrying fake identity documents. His lawyer Hashmat Habib says the court’s decision to drop the terror charges clears Rauf of involvement in any bomb plots, and characterises the fake ID charges as “minor.” On the contrary, Rawalpindi police chief Saud Aziz says he will contest the court’s decision and insists Rauf had been involved in planning terrorist activities. “We did recover hydrogen peroxide from his possession and concentrated hydrogen peroxide mixed with gas can cause explosions,” he says. [Times (London), 4/12/2009] Rauf will escape prison in late 2007 in mysterious circumstances (see December 14, 2007).
CIA officer Arthur Keller allegedly hears rumors in 2007 that Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, a Pakistani militant group, is assisting Osama bin Laden with logistics in helping him hide somewhere inside Pakistan. Harkat will later be linked to the courier who lives with bin Laden in his Abbottabad, Pakistan, hideout until the US raid that kills bin Laden in 2011 (see May 2, 2011). The group also has long-standing ties to the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Keller had worked for the CIA in Pakistan in 2006. By 2011, he will have retired from the CIA and will tell his account about these rumors to the New York Times. Another US intelligence official will note that members of Harkat may have helped bin Laden without being aware who exactly they were helping or where he was hiding. It is unclear if the CIA investigates possible links between Harkat and bin Laden at this time, or later. [New York Times, 6/23/2011]
Afghan intelligence allegedly suggests that Osama bin Laden is hiding in a town very close to Abbottabad, Pakistan, but the Pakistani government will not listen. Shortly after bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad in 2011 (see May 2, 2011), Amrullah Saleh, who from 2004 to 2010 was head of the NDS (National Directorate of Security), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, will claim that in 2007, the NDS identified two al-Qaeda safe houses in the town of Manshera. Manshera is only about 13 miles from Abbottabad. Saleh brought this information up in a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, also in 2007. But Saleh says that Musharraf was outraged at the suggestion that bin Laden would be able to hide so far inside Pakistan. Musharraf allegedly smashed his fist on a table. “He said, ‘Am I the president of the Republic of Banana?’ Then he turned to President Karzai and said, ‘Why have you have brought this Panjshiri guy to teach me intelligence?’” Saleh says Karzai had to physically intervene after Musharraf started to physically threaten Saleh. [Guardian, 5/5/2011] In March 2011, a US strike force will assault a compound in Abbottabad and kill bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).
US intelligence learns al-Qaeda courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real full name. According to later media reports, his real name is Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. In late 2005, intelligence analysts concluded Ahmed was very likely working for Osama bin Laden or some other high ranking al-Qaeda leader (see Late 2005). [MSNBC, 5/4/2011; Associated Press, 6/1/2011] An unnamed US official will cryptically say that the crucial intelligence on his real name comes not from Pakistan, but “from a different part of the world.” [CNN, 5/2/2011]
Intel from Ahmed's Family? - Apparently, around 2006, US intelligence somehow learned his real last name (see (2006)). But since “Ahmed” is a common name in many countries, more work was needed to learn the rest of his name. It appears that intelligence comes from learning about his family. The New York Times will later report that after his last name was discovered, analysts “turned to one of their greatest investigative tools—the National Security Agency (NSA) began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got [Ahmed’s] full name.” [New York Times, 5/2/2011]
How Did US Intelligence Know about His Family? - The exact sequence of events of how analysts learn who his family is will not be revealed. But the “al-Kuwaiti” in Ahmed’s “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti” alias obviously refers to Kuwait, and US intelligence learn at some point from other prisoners that Ahmed’s parents had moved to Kuwait (even though he originally was from Pakistan). [Associated Press, 6/1/2011]
Could Ahmed's Father Be Important Al-Qaeda Figure? - It will later be reported that Ahmed’s father was close to bin Laden. This still unnamed father, who lived and worked in Kuwait, allegedly had a trusting relationship with bin Laden going back 30 to 40 years. [Dawn (Karachi), 5/7/2011] Perhaps this is not relevant, but if US intelligence already had some intelligence on Ahmed’s father, this could have narrowed down the search of Pakistani-linked families living in Kuwait.
Real Name Will Lead to Location - It is unclear when, but the NSA eventually starts tracking the phone calls of Ahmed’s relatives in the Persian Gulf to anyone they call in Pakistan. Later, the NSA will be able to figure out Ahmed’s location in Pakistan from one such phone call (see Summer 2009). [Associated Press, 6/1/2011]
In 2007, when General Nadeem Taj becomes head of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, he allows “a number of radical ideologues associated with jihadist groups to use Abbottabad as a transit hub.” One such person is Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, head of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani militant group sometimes linked to both the ISI and al-Qaeda. This is according to a London Times article published shortly after bin Laden is killed in Abbottabad in 2011 (see May 2, 2011). [London Times, 5/8/2011] Prior to heading the ISI, Taj was the commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, which is only 800 yards from the Abbottabad compound Osama bin Laden hid in starting around late 2005 (see Late 2005-Early 2006). Taj started that job in April 2006. [News (Islamabad), 4/24/2006] On September 29, 2008, it will be reported that the US is intensely pressuring Taj and two of his assistants to resign from the ISI because of alleged “double-dealing” with militants. [Australian, 9/29/2008] Taj will be replaced by Ahmed Shuja Pasha one day later (see September 30, 2008). [Daily Times (Lahore), 9/30/2008] Some will later say that the ISI had to have known that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad (see May 2, 2011 and After).
Some time this year, Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany along with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, speaks to his mother on the telephone, the New York Times will report in 2009. Anneliese Bahaji, Bahaji’s mother living in Germany, will tell the Times that in 2007, Bahaji “said he just wanted to call and say he’s still alive.” She will mention that he does not say where he is, and she does not hear from him afterwards. In October 2009, there will be renewed interest in Bahaji after his German passport is found in the tribal region of Pakistan (see Late October 2009). Bahaji’s mother will also mention that Said has a Moroccan passport, and he may travel using that. [New York Times, 10/30/2009] Bahaji is wanted in Spain and Germany on terrorism charges (see September 21, 2001). However, the US has never put a bounty on him, or even put him on their most wanted lists, despite reports that he had a key role in supporting the 9/11 attacks. [CNN, 10/30/2009]
In a review of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s autobiography In the Line of Fire, Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, writes in the New York Times, “It is essential for Musharraf that Pakistan be a ‘dangerous place’: he and his country… feed off the menace.” Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid agrees. He will later write: “As long as Pakistan remained the center for Talibanization, terrorism, or nuclear proliferation, the world could not ignore the military regime or dispense with Musharraf.… The West continued to view Musharraf as the only person capable of holding Pakistan together, even though some diplomats acknowledged that ‘Pakistan now negotiates with its allies and friends by pointing a gun to its own head.’” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 291, 444]
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte says that al-Qaeda’s central leadership is based in Pakistan and is regrouping there. Speaking before a Senate committee, he says that al-Qaeda operatives “are cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships that radiate outward from their leaders’ secure hide-out in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.” This is the first time a high-ranking US official has described Pakistan as a “secure hide-out” for al-Qaeda or used similar language. He adds, “Pakistan is our partner in the war on terror and has captured several al-Qaeda leaders. However, it is also a major source of Islamic extremism. Eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists have found in Pakistan’s tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan but it is necessary.” [Reuters, 1/12/2007]
Muhammad Hanif confessing on video. [Source: BBC]A captured Taliban spokesman claims that Taliban leader Mullah Omar is living in Pakistan under the protection of the ISI. Muhammad Hanif, a.k.a. Abdul Haq Haji Gulroz, one of two Taliban spokesmen, was recently captured by the Afghan government. He is seen on video saying to his captors, “[Omar] lives in Quetta [a Pakistan border town]. He is protected by the ISI.” He further claims that the ISI funds and equips Taliban suicide bombings and former ISI Director Hamid Gul supports and funds the insurgency. The Pakistani government denies the allegations and claims Omar has not been seen in Pakistan. [BBC, 1/17/2007; Daily Telegraph, 1/19/2007]
The Bush administration is opposed to a bill in Congress that would link military aid for Pakistan to tackling the Taliban. The bill, which has passed the House of Representatives, calls for an end to military assistance to Pakistan unless it stops the Taliban from operating out of Pakistan. Administration officials say the bill would undermine the fostering of a closer relationship with Pakistan. [Reuters, 2/1/2007]
Vice President Dick Cheney flies to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. The White House is tight-lipped about the trip and refuses to provide details about what the two leaders discuss. But media accounts, citing administration officials, suggest that Cheney warns Musharraf that US aid to Pakistan could be in jeopardy if his government does not improve in its efforts to combat al-Qaeda and the Taliban. [New York Times, 2/26/2007] Cheney’s trip comes after the head of US military operations in Afghanistan compiled a dossier of evidence indicating the Pakistani government is secretly supporting the militants attacking US troops in Afghanistan (see Autumn 2006- February 2007). But Cheney is known to be a strong supporter of Musharraf and generally has blocked pressure against him (see June 27, 2007). Pakistani intelligence sources will later tell ABC news that the two leaders discussed a secret operation (see 2005 and After) to support attacks against Iran by the Sunni militant group Jundullah. [ABC News, 4/3/2007]
In early March 2007, the Pakistani government announces that a top Taliban official has been captured. Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the Taliban’s former defense minister, was supposedly captured on February 26, 2007, the same day that Vice President Cheney visited Pakistan, which the Associated Press says “has been under growing international pressure to crack down on Taliban militants believed to seek sanctuary on its soil.” If so, he would be the most senior Taliban leader ever captured since 9/11. However, the Swiss weekly SonntagsBlick claims that one of its reporters interviewed him in Quetta, Pakistan on February 28, just two days after his supposed capture. SonntagsBlick writes, “The world press reported: top-Taliban imprisoned. At the same time he was sitting with a SonntagsBlick reporter having coffee.” [Associated Press, 3/2/2007; Associated Press, 3/11/2007] He was also reportedly captured by the Northern Alliance in early 2002 and then released with US approval (see Early January 2002).
A report by the Center on Law and Security (CLS) finds that the “Iraq effect” is costing lives around the world. The report finds that the Iraq occupation is directly to blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence worldwide. It finds that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003, comparing the period between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count—excluding the Arab-Israel conflict—shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,420. Iraq has served as the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist backlash, according to the study, which says that the number of those killed by Islamists within Iraq rose from 7 to 3,122. A similar rise in attacks has occurred in Afghanistan, Chechnya, in the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, and throughout Europe. Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair insist that the opposite is true. Bush has said, “If we were not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people.” Blair insists that the Iraq war was not been responsible for Muslim fundamentalist attacks such as the 7/7 London bombings which killed 52 people (see July 7, 2005). “Iraq, the region and the wider world is a safer place without Saddam,” Blair said in July 2004. [Independent, 3/1/2007]
Iftikhar Chaudhry being arrested by secret agents. An agent is holding Chaudhry’s hair as he is being pushed into a car. [Source: Public domain]In June 2005, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appointed Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Pakistan’s judiciary had traditionally been complaint to military rule, and Chaudhry was not expected to act any differently. But in 2007, as the date for Musharraf’s relection neared, Chaudhry leads the judiciary in becoming more proactive defending civil rights and the rule of law. The Supreme Court begins issuing rulings against police abuse, forced marriages, unjust rape laws, and more. Most controversially, the judiciary begins demanding the appearance in court of hundreds of prisoners who had been secretly arrested by the ISI in recent years and never brought to trial. The ISI responds by mysteriously releasing about 200 people in late 2006 and early 2007.
Fearing an Independent Judiciary, Musharraf Acts - Musharraf claims that Chaudhry has become dangerous because he is releasing al-Qaeda linked militants, but in fact most of those released are political opponents from the regions of Sindh and Balochistan, where there are separatist movements. There is speculation that the Supreme Court will rule against allowing Musharraf to run again as president, since Pakistani law states that a serving military officer can not be elected president, and Musharraf has not resigned from the military. On March 9, 2007, Musharraf suspends Chaudhry on charges of corruption and misuse of authority and places him under house arrest.
Mass Protests Culminate in Chaudhry's Reinstatement - Musharraf and most political observers are surprised when mass protests ensue, mostly made up of Pakistan’s middle class, which is tired of military rule. Over the next months, the protests grow in size and number. The Pakistan government responds by frequently beating and/or arresting protesters. Press censorship is imposed and live television broadcasts are forbidden. But this does not stop the movement. On July 20, 2007, the Supreme Court reinstates Chaudhry as chief justice, dealing Musharraf’s reputation a heavy blow. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 380-381]
The US-government operated Voice of America (VoA) radio broadcasting service conducts a phone interview with Abdul Malek Rigi, the leader of the Sunni militant group, Jondollah. Rigi, designated by Iran as a terrorist, is introduced by VoA as the “leader of the Iranian people’s resistance movement.” [Press TV (Tehran), 4/2/2007; Reuters, 4/5/2007] According to US and Pakistani intelligence sources, Rigi’s group has been advised by the US and supported by Pakistan since 2005 (see 2005 and After).
Iran television reports that the country’s border patrol detained 10 people who illegally entered the country from Pakistan carrying $500,000 in cash, maps of “sensitive areas,” and “modern spying cameras.” [Reuters, 5/13/2007] A senior Pakistani official will tell ABC News the 10 men were members of Jundullah. [ABC News, 5/23/2007] (Jundallah is reportedly being supported by the Pakistanis and advised by US government officials (see 2005 and After).)
Aftab Khan Sherpao. [Source: Associated Press / Army Times]A document by Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao warns that the Taliban and other Islamist militant groups are growing in strength in Pakistan. They are spreading beyond their strongholds in Pakistan’s tribal regions near the Afghanistan border and without “swift and decisive” action, they could destabilize the entire country. Sherpao narrowly escaped a suicide bombing in April, near the city of Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province. The attack on his life caused him to reconsider the government’s policy of appeasing militant groups. The Interior Ministry report is presented to the US National Security Council on June 4 with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in attendance. The report says: “The ongoing spell of active Taliban resistance has brought about serious repercussions for Pakistan. There is a general policy of appeasement towards the Taliban, which has further emboldened them.” A Western diplomat familiar with the report says it is the first acknowledgment from Pakistan as to the danger of the militant threat. The diplomat calls it “an accurate description of the dagger pointed at the country’s heart. It’s tragic it’s taken so long [for Pakistan] to recognize it.” [New York Times, 6/30/2007] The report’s gloomy predictions will quickly be proven correct as the raid on the Red Mosque one month later greatly increases militant violence throughout Pakistan (see July 3-11, 2007 and July 11-Late July, 2007).
A high-ranking Taliban leader says that Osama bin Laden is alive and well. Mullah Bakht Mohammed (a.k.a. Mansoor Dadullah) says in an interview with Al Jazeera: “Sheikh Osama bin Laden is alive and active. He’s carrying out his duties. The latest proof that he is alive is that he sent me a letter of condolences after the martyrdom of my brother.” Bakht’s brother, Mullah Dadullah Akhund, was the Taliban’s top military commander, but was killed in May 2007 (see May 13, 2007), and Bakht immediately took his place. [Al Jazeera, 6/5/2007] In December 2007, the Taliban will announce that Bakht has been replaced as military commander due to insubordination. He will continue fighting for the Taliban however, and will be injured and captured by Pakistani forces near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in February 2008. [Associated Press, 2/11/2008]
According to reports in the Indian press, a recently arrested militant leader says he believes Saeed Sheikh wired money to lead hijacker Mohamed Atta before 9/11 (see Early August 2001 and Summer 2001 and before). The militant, who is known as Babu Bhai and is a leader of the militant organization Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami, says that the money came from a ransom paid for the release of a kidnapped shoe company executive and that he was involved in the kidnap operation as a deputy to the local commander, Asif Raza Khan. Other people involved in the money transfer are arrested based on the information disclosed by Babu Bhai. This confession supports previous reports about the transfer (see September 30-October 7, 2001, January 22-25, 2002 and July 31, 2003). [Times of India, 6/25/2007; News Post India, 6/25/2007; Ahmedabad Newsline, 6/29/2007]
Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid writes an editorial in the Washington Post entitled, “America’s Bad Deal With Musharraf, Going Down in Flames.”
Cheney in Control - Rashid reveals, “Current and past US officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from [Dick] Cheney’s office. The vice president, they say, is close to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and refuses to brook any US criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I’m told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney’s aides, rather than taken to the State Department.” The State Department seems acquiescent to this policy, and is refusing to even consider alternative policies if Musharraf were threatened with being ousted. But the CIA and Defense Department are more resistant, and worry about the lack of an alternative to fully supporting Musharraf. Officials in these agencies, “many of whom have served in Islamabad or Kabul, understand the double game that Musharraf has played—helping the United States go after al-Qaeda while letting his intelligence services help the Taliban claw their way back in Afghanistan.”
Lack of Expertise - Due to recent turnover, there has been a “dramatic drop-off in US expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in US history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State’s policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney’s office.” One former senior US diplomat says, “They know nothing of Pakistan.”
US Policy Making Matters Worse - Rashid concludes that instead of confronting the Islamist militant threat, the Pakistani army “has focused on keeping Musharraf in power—negotiating with extremists, letting radical Islamic students set up a base in Islamabad, and so forth. Meanwhile, to spook the West into continuing to support him, Musharraf continues to grossly exaggerate the strength of the Islamic parties that he warns might take over his nuclear-armed country. In fact, the United States would be far safer if it pushed for a truly representative Pakistani government that could marginalize the jihadists, rather than placing all its eggs in Musharraf’s basket.” He speculates that the US’s blind support of Musharraf allows Musharraf to continue to resist democratization and sharing power, exacerbating the crisis. “The message to the Pakistani public is clear: To the Bush White House, the war on terrorism tops everything, and that includes democracy.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2007]
Indian intelligence allegedly warns US intelligence that Osama bin Laden is likely living in Pakistan away from the tribal region, probably in northwest Pakistan. This is according to an article published in the Times of India shortly after bin Laden’s death in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011). Reportedly, the warning comes shortly after a Taliban meeting in Peshawar, Pakistan, also attended by al-Qaeda number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, top leaders of the Haqqani network (a semi-autonomous Taliban faction based in Pakistan), and at least two officials of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Immediately afterwards, al-Zawahiri visits Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city in the country’s northwest. An unnamed top Indian official will later say: “The urgency with which al-Zawahiri visited Islamabad or the area in its vicinity suggested that he was there for some purpose. We told [the US] about al-Zawahiri visiting Islamabad and we also told them that we believed Osama may not be hiding in caves but in a highly urbanized area somewhere near Islamabad. Of course, nobody had spotted him and it was a conclusion we drew on the basis of the information we got.” Islamabad is only 31 miles from Abbottabad, where bin Laden will eventually be found. Indian officials do not get the impression that US officials are particularly interested in their lead. [Times of India, 5/4/2011]
The Pakistani government secretly releases al-Qaeda leader Hassan Ghul from its custody. Ghul was arrested in Iraq in 2004 and spent two and a half years in the CIA’s secret prison system (see January 23, 2004). The CIA handed Ghul to Pakistan in mid-2006 after Pakistani pressure (see (Mid-2006)). Pakistan apparently wanted Ghul because he was linked to Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani militant group supported by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency (see (2002-January 23, 2004)). The ISI had secretly promised to make sure that Ghul would never be freed, but he is released after about a year without ever being tried or even charged. It is not known exactly when Ghul is released. However, a British prisoner named Rangzieb Ahmed will later testify in Britain that he was held in an adjacent cell to Ghul’s in Pakistan, and the last time he sees Ghul is in January 2007. In 2011, the Associated Press will report that unnamed former and current US intelligence officials say that Ghul has since rejoined al-Qaeda. Under US interrogation, Ghul provided key intelligence about Osama bin Laden’s main courier, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. So when Ghul returns to al-Qaeda, he could warn bin Laden that US intelligence is learning about Ahmed. But either Ghul does not reveal what he confessed, or his warning is not heeded, because bin Laden continues to live with Ahmed in his Abbottabad, Pakistan, hideout. [Associated Press, 6/15/2011] Despite Ghul’s return to al-Qaeda, the US has yet to put Ghul on any of its most wanted lists. No picture of Ghul has ever been made public either, even though the US goverment must know what he looks like since he was held by the US for several years.
Alleged al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani is captured in Lahore, Pakistan, by local forces. His arrest will be reported in Pakistani newspapers in early August 2007, but the arrest receives little international attention because al-Afghani is a previously unheard of figure. However, the US government considers him valuable. He is soon transferred to the CIA’s secret prison system and is held there until March 2008 when he will be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison and officially declared a “high value” prisoner (see Late July 2007-March 14, 2008 and March 14, 2008). Rahim is an Afghan who is said to have been a long-time al-Qaeda planner and facilitator. He is probably highly valued because it is said he served as a translator for Osama bin Laden in recent years, and not many people in recent contact with bin Laden have been caught. [Asian News International, 8/2/2007; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2008; New York Times, 3/15/2008]
An aerial view of the Red Mosque compound. [Source: Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)The Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) has long been a prominent center of Islamist militancy in Pakistan.
ISI Ties Slowly Weaken - Located in Islamabad, just two miles from the president’s residence and half a mile from ISI headquarters, the mosque has long-standing ties to the ISI. For instance, the mosque housed the orphans and relatives of suicide bombers who had died in the disputed region of Kashmir; the ISI worked closely with militant groups in Kashmir for many years. The mosque is run by two brothers, Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi and Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, who also have long-standing ties to the ISI and Pakistani military. But feeling safe due to their government links, the Ghazi brothers had been acting increasingly assertive, seizing land around the mosque and slowly turning it into a large complex of madrassas (Islamic boarding schools) housing thousands of students.
Armed Standoff Slowly Develops - Militants from the mosque began threatening and sometimes even kidnapping nearby citizens for being insufficiently religious. An increasing number of militants come to the mosque with weapons, turning it into a heavily armed compound. In April 2007, the Ghazi brothers threaten civil war if the government refuses to implement Sharia law, a strict Islamic legal code. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “It was clear that the movement was out of control, the Ghazi brothers had overstepped their limits and gotten carried away, and the militants were no longer listening to their ISI handlers.” A Pakistani army brigade surrounds the estimated 10,000 students and militants barricaded inside the mosque compound. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 381-383] The crisis comes to a head in late June 2007, when activists from the mosque kidnap a six Chinese women and three Chinese men from a nearby acupuncture clinic. The activists claim the clinic is really a brothel and they will hold them until they are reeducated. [Agence France-Presse, 7/24/2007]
Army Attacks and Takes Over - On July 3, 2007, there is an initial clash between the army and the militants, and several thousand inside escape or surrender. On July 8, the army begins a full scale assault against those remaining. It takes three days of heavy fighting to clear out the mosque and surrounding complex. Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi is killed while Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi is arrested while trying to flee as a woman. The government claims that 102 militants and/or students and 10 soldiers were killed, but the militants claim that hundreds in the complex were killed.
Effects of Raid - Up until this time, there has been a loose alliance between the Pakistani government and Islamist militants in Pakistan, despite a continuing friction. But with the Red Mosque siege, the militants essentially launch a civil war against the government (see July 11-Late July, 2007). Twenty-one attacks are launched in the next three weeks alone. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 381-383] Musharraf’s popularity is initially boosted after the raid, but this support dims after evidence comes out that a number of children were killed during the raid. [Sunday Times (London), 7/15/2007] Some evidence suggests that al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri were secretly supporting the militants in the mosque (see July 15, 2007), and al-Zawahiri apparently quickly releases an audio tape condemning the raid (see July 11, 2007).
The New York Times reports that the US still rarely conducts missions inside Pakistan, where most of the top al-Qaeda leadership is assumed to be, out of consideration for the government of Pakistan. Such attacks could politically hurt Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. A former Bush administration official says, “The Special Operations guys are tearing their hair out at the highest levels.” While there has not been good intelligence on the locations of the highest al-Qaeda leaders recently, there sometimes has been useful information on other figures. “There is a degree of frustration that is off the charts, because they are looking at targets on a daily basis and can’t move against them.” [New York Times, 7/8/2007]
John Kringen. [Source: CIA]A new threat assessment compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center entitled “Al-Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West” is presented to a House committee and then leaked to some reporters. It concludes that al-Qaeda has significantly rebuilt itself. CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence John Kringen says that al-Qaeda appears “to be fairly well settled into the safe haven in the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan,” adding: “We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications.” [Washington Post, 7/12/2007] While the assessment remains classified, another official tells a reporter that it concludes al-Qaeda is “considerably operationally stronger than a year ago,” “has regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001,” and has managed to create “the most robust training program since 2001, with an interest in using European operatives.” A different official concludes that the group is “showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States.” [Salon, 3/27/2008]
A man claiming to be al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri condemns the Pakistani Army’s raid of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid), a center of Islamist militancy in Islamabad, Pakistan (see July 3-11, 2007). In an audio tape released on the Internet, the man says: “Muslims of Pakistan: your salvation is only through jihad [holy war]… Rigged elections will not save you, politics will not save you, and bargaining, bootlicking, negotiations with the criminals, and political maneuvers will not save you.… This crime can only be washed away by repentance or blood. If you do not revolt, [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf will annihilate you. Musharraf will not stop until he uproots Islam from Pakistan.” [BBC, 7/11/2007; Associated Press, 7/11/2007] The audio tape appears just days after the raid on the Red Mosque began. The Sunday Times notes, “Diplomats were surprised by the speed with which the fugitive al-Zawahiri condemned the raid and called on Pakistanis to rise up against Musharraf.” [Sunday Times (London), 7/15/2007] The Sunday Times will claim that al-Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda leaders were secretly directing the militants in the mosque (see July 15, 2007). Osama bin Laden also apparently condemns the Red Mosque raid, but it will take until September for his message to appear (see September 20, 2007).
An explosion at the Red Mosque during the government raid. [Source: Inter Services Public Relations]Prior to the Pakistani Army’s raid on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) from July 3-11, 2007, the Pakistani government had generally maintained an uneasy alliance with Pakistani Islamist militants, although these militants sometimes launched violent attacks on the government. But in the immediate aftermath of the Red Mosque raid (see July 3-11, 2007), Pakistani militants and government forces openly war with each other. In 2005 and 2006, the government made peace deals with militants in the tribal regions of South Waziristan and North Waziristan (see February 7, 2005 and September 5, 2006). But these deals immediately collapse. On July 11, the last day of the mosque raid, al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently condemns the raid and calls for Pakistanis to overthrow their government (see July 11, 2007). On July 12, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vows in a nationally televised address that he will crush extremists throughout Pakistan. He says, “Terrorism and extremism has not ended in Pakistan. But it is our resolve that we will eliminate extremism and terrorism wherever it exists. Extremism and terrorism will be defeated in every corner of the country.” He also says that over the next few months, security forces will retake the tribal regions near the Afghanistan border now controlled by a mix of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other militants. On the same day, Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi, who ran the Red Mosque along with his brother but was arrested during the raid, is allowed to speak at the funeral of his brother. He says, “God willing, Pakistan will have an Islamic revolution soon. The blood of martyrs will bear fruit.” Also on July 12, the first retaliatory suicide bombings take place. [Associated Press, 7/12/2007; London Times, 7/16/2007] Over the next three weeks, 167 people, including 120 soldiers and police, are killed in 21 militant attacks, many of them suicide bombings. Most of these take place in the North-West Frontier Province and the tribal regions, both of which have a strong militant presence. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The government’s inept handling of the [Red Mosque] crisis was a turning point for al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, and other extremist groups, who now joined together and vowed to topple the government and create an Islamic state.” Hundreds of potential new suicide bombers vowed revenge and began training in the tribal regions. Al-Qaeda’s focus “shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where it saw a demoralized army, a terrified citizenry, and an opportunity to destabilize the state. For the first time, senior Pakistani officials told me, the army’s corps commanders accepted that the situation had radically changed and the state was under threat from Islamic extremism. In fact, the Pakistan army was now fighting a civil war.” [Rashid, 2008]
Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The Sunday Times reports that “al-Qaeda’s leadership secretly directed the Islamic militants” in the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid), a center of Islamist militancy is Islamabad, Pakistan, that was raided by the Pakistani army several days earlier (see July 3-11, 2007). The Times claims that “senior intelligence officials” say that the soldiers who took over the mosque discovered letters from al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri written to Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi and Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, two brothers who ran the mosque and surrounding compound. The article alleges that up to 18 foreign fighters arrived weeks before the government raid and set up firing ranges to teach students how to handle weapons. Pakistani government ministers blame the presence of foreign fighters for the breakdown of negotiations between government and those inside the mosque. [Sunday Times (London), 7/15/2007] Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the Ghazi brothers admitted to having good contacts with many al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden. After 9/11, they denied links with al-Qaeda and other officially banned militant groups, but they strongly supported “jihad against America.” Numerous speakers at the mosque openly condemned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and even called for his assassination. [BBC, 7/27/2007] Al-Zawahiri apparently quickly releases an audiotape condemning the raid and callis for open revolt in Pakistan (see July 11, 2007).
Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. [Source: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an al-Qaeda computer expert, is released in Pakistan. He had been arrested in July 2004 (see July 13, 2004) and was quickly turned, sending out e-mails to help out dozens of al-Qaeda operatives around the world before his name was leaked to the press (see July 24-25, 2004 and August 2, 2004). He was held for three years by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. He was never charged with any crime and apparently there are no plans to charge him in the future. He is said to be living with his parents in Karachi, Pakistan. He is being closely monitored and the media is not allowed to speak with him. US and British officials and analysts express dismay at Noor Khan’s quick release. Seth Jones of the Rand Corporation says, “I find it strange and baffling.… He presents a major threat to the West.” [Guardian, 8/23/2007] Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says, “Khan may have bargained for an early release because he cooperated.” [ABC News, 8/21/2007] But his release also comes at a time when Pakistan’s judiciary is releasing dozens of suspected Islamic militants and government critics who have been held without trial. This is seen as a sign of President Pervez Musharraf’s eroding influence after public protests forced him to reinstate Pakistan’s chief justice. [London Times, 8/23/2007] One former intelligence official says that Khan’s case is a “murky tale” in which there are “no clear answers.” [Guardian, 8/23/2007]
A 2007 map showing Pakistan’s tribal areas. Regions dominated by Islamist militants are highlighted in pink. [Source: New York Times]A summary of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) entitled “The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland” is declassified. The NIE, a unified assessment from all 16 US intelligence agencies, says that al-Qaeda has, in the words of the Post, “reestablished its central organization, training infrastructure, and lines of global communication over the past two years, putting the United States in a ‘heightened threat environment‘…” The last NIE on terrorism worldwide was completed in April 2006 and indicated that al-Qaeda’s fortunes were declining (see April 2006). The main reason the new NIE gives for al-Qaeda’s resurgence is the establishment of a safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region near the Afghanistan border. Its link with the affiliate group Al-Qaeda in Iraq has also helped “energize” militants and aided recruitment and funding. The NIE’s release comes just days after a similar report by the National Counterterrorism Center entitled “Al-Qaeda Better Positioned to Strike the West” (see July 11, 2007), and also just days after the Pakistani government broke peace deals with Islamist militants in the tribal region (see July 11-Late July, 2007). Edward Gistaro, national intelligence officer for transnational threats and the primary author of the NIE, says in a press briefing, “Over the past 18 to 24 months, safe haven in Pakistan has become more secure.” He says it has allowed al-Qaeda to develop of a new tier of leadership in the form of “lieutenants… coming off the bench,” to replace the leaders who have been captured or killed. On the same day the NIE is released, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell says of al-Qaeda, “They’re working as hard as they can in positioning trained operatives here in the United States.… They have recruitment programs to bring recruits into… Pakistan, particularly those that speak the right language, that have the right skills, that have the right base that they could come to the United States, fit into the population… and carry out acts.” [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
In the wake of the Pakistani government’s attack on the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in early July 2007 (see July 3-11, 2007), peace deals between the government and militant groups in Pakistan completely break down (see July 11-Late July, 2007). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf fires Ali Jan Orakzai, a regional military commander sympathetic to the Taliban who had been promoted to governor of the North-West Frontier Province. Then, on July 19, 2007, the Pakistani army formally launches an offensive in Pakistan’s tribal region. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are believed to have their central leaderships there. There is no quick resolution, and fighting rages for months. Militants divert the army’s attention by launching suicide bombings and other attacks in other parts of the country. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 385]
The CIA captures al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Rahim in the summer of 2007. Rahim, an Afghan, is little known to the public, but he is said to have helped Osama bin Laden escape from Tora Bora in late 2001. He is also known as a translator for bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. CIA Director Michael Hayden calls Rahim “a tough, seasoned jihadist.” But Rahim is not on any US most wanted list and there are no known pictures of him. Only one Pakistani newspaper mentions his arrest around the time it happens, and reports that he is captured near Lahore, Pakistan, in late July 2007. He is kept in a secret CIA prison and is presumably interrogated. On March 14, 2008 the US finally announces his arrest and says he has recently been transferred to the Guantanamo prison. Only after that will he be treated in accordance with US and international law. He is the first person transferred from a secret CIA prison for over a year (see Autumn 2006-Late April 2007). [Associated Press, 3/14/2008; New York Times, 3/15/2008]
After alleged al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani is captured in Lahore, Pakistan, by local forces in July 2007 (see July 2007), he is soon transferred to a secret CIA prison. He is held in the CIA’s secret prison system until March 14, 2008, when he is transferred to the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. [Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2008] It is not known when he is captured or handed to the CIA exactly, but a newspaper report on August 2, 2007, indicates he is already in US custody. [Asian News International, 8/2/2007]
Secret CIA Prison System Still Operational - It is also not known where he is held exactly. In September 2006, President Bush announced that the CIA’s secret prisons had been emptied, at least temporarily, and the remaining prisoners had been transferred to Guantanamo (see September 6, 2006 and September 2-3, 2006). Since then, there has only been one instance of anyone held in secret CIA custody, and that was Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, held by the CIA from autumn 2006 until April 2007 (see Autumn 2006-Late April 2007). Rahim’s custody indicates that the CIA prison system is still being used, although Rahim may be the only prisoner held in it at this time. [Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2008]
Is Rahim Interrogated Using Legally Questionable Methods? - In August and November 2007, an unnamed prisoner in a secret CIA prison is forced to stay awake for up to six days straight. This is almost certainly Rahim. The US State Department considers this treatment torture when other countries do it (see August and November 2007).
In October 2007, Fox News military commentator Col. David Hunt claims that in August 2007, the US military had a chance to kill Osama bin Laden, but did not. “We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty—which is huge in the world of intelligence” that bin Laden was in a convoy heading south from Tora Bora. He claims that bin Laden was seen on satellite imagery and heard through communications intercepts. “We had the world’s best hunters/killers—SEAL Team 6—nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist.” But, “[u]nbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Osama bin Laden.” He blames risk-aversion and incompetence for the failure to act. His account has not been corroborated by other sources. [Fox News, 10/23/2007]
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he would send US troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists, even without permission from that country’s government. He says: “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again.… If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” A spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry responds: “These are serious matters and should not be used for point-scoring. Political candidates and commentators should show responsibility.” [London Times, 8/2/2007]
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), while running for US president, says in a speech, “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again… If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won’t act, we will.” This is in response to a recent comment made by his main opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). She said, “If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan, I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured.” The difference between the comments is Obama’s willingness to attack inside Pakistan without approval from the Pakistani government. [Reuters, 7/1/2007; ABC News, 6/9/2011]
Baitullah Mahsud. [Source: Associated Press]On August 30, 2007, Pakistani militants led by Baitullah Mahsud surround a convoy of more than 270 soldiers belonging to Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. The militants are vastly outnumbered, but get the soldiers to surrender without firing a shot. In the following days, dozens more soldiers surrender or even desert to Mahsud. This is a humiliating debacle for the Pakistani army and a reflection of low morale. The Washington Post comments: “The troops’ surrender has called into question the army’s commitment to fighting an unpopular war that requires Pakistanis to kill their countrymen. It has also exposed the army to ridicule.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2007] Mahsud demands the release of 30 jailed militants and the end of Pakistani military operations in South Waziristan, the tribal region where Mahsud is the de facto ruler. After weeks of slow negotiations, he orders the beheading of three of his hostages. On November 3, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declares a state of emergency throughout Pakistan (see November 3-December 15, 2007). Musharraf claims that his emergency powers will give him a stronger hand to fight militants like Mahsud, but the next day he releases 28 jailed militants in return for the release of the nearly 300 soldiers still held. Eight of the released militants are would-be suicide bombers. For instance, one of them had just been sentenced to 24 years in prison after being caught carrying two suicide belts. The incident propels Mahsud into becoming the figurehead of Pakistan’s militant movement, and from this time on many violent incidents are blamed on him, although his forces are probably not linked to them all. Mahsud had strong ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He fought with the Taliban in the 1990s and helped al-Qaeda leaders escape the battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. [Washington Post, 10/3/2007; Rashid, 2008, pp. 385-388; Newsweek, 1/7/2008]
A secret US government document from this month called the “Joint Task Force Guantanamo Matrix of Threat Indicators for Enemy Combatants” calls the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, a terrorist organization. The ISI is listed with al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah as threats. The document is meant for interrogators at the Guantanamo prison who are trying to determine which detainees to release. It suggests that any link to any of these groups is an indication of terrorist activity, and evidence the detainee poses a future threat. The US has never officially declared the ISI a terrorist group, suggesting its public posture differs from its private one for political reasons. After this and other Guantanamo documents are leaked to The Guardian in 2011, The Guardian will report: “The revelation that the ISI is considered as much of a threat as al-Qaeda and the Taliban will cause fury in Pakistan. It will further damage the already poor relationship between US intelligence services and their Pakistani counterparts, supposedly key allies in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants in south Asia.” The newspaper will further note that although the document is from 2007, it is unlikely the ISI’s status at Guantanamo has changed by 2011. Other Guantanamo documents leaked to The Guardian describe instances where the ISI helped US efforts, but also instances where the ISI was seen helping Islamist militants. [Guardian, 4/25/2011]
Bin Laden video in 2004, left, and bin Laden video in 2007, right. [Source: Al Jazeera (left) and Intelcenter (right)]A man thought to be Osama bin Laden releases a new video message, his first for three years (see October 29, 2004). In the message, which is addressed to the US, the speaker says that actions by radical Islamists have influenced US policy and that American prestige in the world has fallen, even though the interests of radical Islamists “overlap with the interests of the major corporations and also with those of the neoconservatives.” He also criticizes the US media and, due to its treatment of Sunni Muslims, the Iraqi government. The speaker says, “The holocaust of the Jews was carried out by your brethren in the middle of Europe, but had it been closer to our countries, most of the Jews would have been saved by taking refugee with us,” and also references common discrimination against Jews and Muslims in Medieval Spain, pointing out that Jews in Morocco “are alive with us and we have not incinerated them.” In addition, he criticizes the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that the Democratic party was elected to stop the war, but continues “to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war there,” because “the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates,” who are then, it is implied, controlled by these corporations. The voice mentions the assassination of former US President John Kennedy and says that “the major corporations who were benefiting” from the Vietnam War “were the primary beneficiary from his killing.” He also references left-leaning writer Noam Chomsky, former CIA bin Laden unit chief Michael Scheuer, global warming, and the Kyoto accord, saying that the democratic system has caused a “massive failure to protect humans and their interests from the greed and avarice of the major corporations and their representatives,” and is “harsher and fiercer than your systems in the Middle Ages.” Finally, the speaker compares US President Bush to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, who failed to acknowledge the Soviet Union was losing the Afghan War, and calls on the US to get out of Iraq and embrace Islam, which recognizes Mary and Jesus, a “prophet of Allah,” but does not recognize taxation. [MSNBC, 9/7/2007 ; Osama bin Laden, 9/7/2007; Osama bin Laden, 9/7/2007; Osama bin Laden, 9/7/2007] Bin Laden’s beard is different to his beard in previous videos and this leads to some discussion. According to the Washington Post, “The tape’s most striking feature [is] bin Laden’s physical appearance: The straggly, gray-streaked whiskers of his previous images [have] been replaced with a neatly trimmed beard of black or dark brown. While some analysts speculated that the beard [is] fake, others said it [is] likely that bin Laden had dyed his beard, as is customary for older men in some Muslim cultures.” [Washington Post, 9/8/2007] There are some problems with the video; for example, the picture is frozen for most of the time and the video is spliced (see September 12, 2007).
The Washington Post reports, “Today, al-Qaeda operates much the way it did before 2001. The network is governed by a shura, or leadership council, that meets regularly and reports to bin Laden, who continues to approve some major decisions, according to a senior US intelligence official. About 200 people belong to the core group and many receive regular salaries, another senior US intelligence official said.” This second official adds, “They do appear to meet with a frequency that enables them to act as an organization and not just as a loose bunch of guys.” Most of this core group is believed to be in the Pakistani tribal region near the Afghanistan border. [Washington Post, 9/9/2007] It has been estimated that there were roughly 1,000 al-Qaeda operatives around 9/11, but only a core of about 200 had pledged loyalty to bin Laden (see Just Before September 11, 2001).
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attempts to return to Pakistan, but his return is thwarted by the Pakistani authorities and he is deported to Saudi Arabia. Sharif, ousted by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 (see October 12, 1999), had been in exile for seven years due to corruption charges. After landing in Pakistan, Sharif, the leader of the political party Pakistan Muslim League-N, is briefly taken into custody and then put on a flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The deportation is a major political event in Pakistan and is marked by clashes between police and Sharif’s supporters. [CNN, 9/10/2007] However, Pakistan’s ISI agency will later broker a deal with Saudi authorities regarding Sharif (see November 20-23, 2007), enabling him to return (see November 25, 2007).
A man thought to be Osama bin Laden releases a new audio tape calling on the people of Pakistan to overthrow President Pervez Musharraf. The immediate reason is a Pakistani government attack on a mosque, which is compared to the destruction of a mosque in India by Hindu nationalists, “Pervez’s invasion of Lal Masjid [the Red Mosque] in the City of Islam, Islamabad (see July 3-11, 2007), is a sad event, like the crime of the Hindus in their invasion and destruction of the Babari Masjid.” The voice on the tape accuses Musharraf of providing “loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America,” and says, “armed rebellion against him and removing him [are] obligatory.” Musharraf is also criticized for showing images of a cleric attempting to escape the mosque in women’s clothing, for Pakistani military intelligence allegedly pressurizing clerics to issue fatwas favorable to the government, for his inaction over Kashmir, and for using the Pakistani army in tribal areas. [Counterterrorismblog(.org), 9/2007; BBC, 9/20/2007] Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri also apparently released an audio tape condemning the Red Mosque raid, but his tape took only days to appear (see July 11, 2007).
The Washington Post reports, “Pakistan’s government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials.” Since the government’s raid on the Red Mosque in July 2007 (see July 3-11, 2007 and July 11-Late July, 2007), militants have gone all out in trying to overthrow the government, but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been consumed by a struggle to stay in power (see October 6, 2007 and November 3-December 15, 2007) and has done little in return to fight them. Brig. Gen. Mehmood Shah, a top security official in the tribal regions until he retirement in 2005, says: “The federal government is busy with its problem of legitimacy. Getting Musharraf elected for another five years—that is keeping everything on hold.” Militants not only control much of the country’s mountainous tribal regions, but they are increasingly moving down the hills to threaten larger towns and cities. A Western military official based in Pakistan says the militants have “had a chance to regroup and reorganize. They’re well equipped. They’re clearly getting training from somewhere. And they’re using more and more advanced tactics.” But this official says that Pakistan’s military are “not trained for a counterinsurgency. It’s not their number one priority. It’s not even their number two priority.” This person adds, “The sad thing about it is that a lot of these militants are better off than the Frontier Corps,” referring to the Pakistani paramilitary force guarding the tribal region. The militants “have rockets. They have advanced weapons. And the Frontier Corps has sandals and a bolt-action rifle.” The Post notes that although the US has given about $10 billion to Pakistan since 9/11, “the aid does not seem to have won the United States many friends here. Nor has it successfully prepared the Pakistani army to battle insurgents.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2007]
On October 4, 2007, after secret talks with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in London and Dubai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf issues an amnesty from prosecution for Bhutto and other exiled politicians. Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have been living in exile as both had been facing corruption charges in Pakistan. Both are now free to return. As part of a deal, Bhutto agreed that the members of the main opposition political party she leads, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will abstain from voting when Musharraf runs for a second term as president two days later (in Pakistan, the president is chosen in a parliamentary vote). This ensures Musharraf’s victory (see October 6, 2007). Bhutto will return to Pakistan on October 18. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 386-387]
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wins reelection to a second five-year term as president. In Pakistan, the president is selected by a simple majority from the parliament. Musharraf made a deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto two days earlier in which her party abstains from the vote and in return she is granted amnesty and is allowed to return to Pakistan (see October 4, 2007). Other parties also abstain, and as a result Musharraf wins almost unopposed, with 57 percent of total number of MPs voting for him. However, Pakistan’s Supreme Court rules that the official results can only be declared after it rules if Musharraf is eligible to win. Musharraf is both president and head of the military, and Pakistani law prohibits an active military official from being president. However, analysts doubt the court will overturn the result. [Associated Press, 10/7/2007]
Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former United Nations high representative and European Union special representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that international forces are unlikely to win the war in Afghanistan, risking to set off a regional conflict that could match the scale and magnitude of World Wars I and II. “I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely,” Ashdown says in an interview with Reuters. “Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this (failure) to match this magnitude,” he says. Ashdown warns that failure of international forces in Afghanistan would have wider repercussions than any loss in Iraq. “I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite, Sunni regional war on a grand scale.” Ashdown then ties impending catastrophe in Afghanistan with the lack of a powerful, high-level coordinator to lead the foreign mission there. “Unless somebody has the power genuinely to coordinate and unify the international approach, we will lose and I think that is happening,” he says. Ashdown, who currently heads the EU-Russia Centre think tank in Brussels, has been tipped and promoted for such a role by some US and UK officials, but says he has ruled himself out of the job. [Reuters, 10/17/2007] Ashdown will later interview for the position of United Nations “super envoy” to Afghanistan. However, Afghan president Hamid Karzai will oppose Ashdown’s candidacy, forcing him to withdraw his name from consideration, something he will say he did “reluctantly.” [UN Elections.org, 1/30/2008]
Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade bombed in Karachi. [Source: BBC]Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan after eight years in exile. Earlier in the month she had made a deal with President Pervez Musharraf that gave her amnesty in return for not opposing Musharraf’s reelection vote (see October 4, 2007). Bhutto, Pakistan’s most popular opposition politician, is greeted by large, enthusiastic crowds as she arrives in the city of Karachi. But as her motorcade is moving through the crowd at night, a suicide bomber approaches on foot and throws a grenade to attract attention. Then the bomber sets off a larger blast that kills at least 139 and injures around 400. Bhutto is not hurt, as she had just moved inside her vehicle from the roof moments before. CNN reporter Dan Rivers, filming the motorcade just before the attack, later comments on the lack of security. He says it was possible to walk right up to the side of her vehicle without being stopped. [CNN, 10/19/2007]
Bhutto Assigns Blame - The next day, Bhutto says, “I am not accusing the government [as a whole], but I am accusing certain individuals who abuse their positions, who abuse their powers.… I know exactly who wants to kill me. It is dignitaries of the former regime of General [Muhammad Zia ul-Haq] who are today behind the extremism and the fanaticism.” She has long accused the ISI of opposing her. Aides close to her say that she specifically names Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official linked to Saeed Sheikh (see February 5, 2002) and the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another Pakistani intelligence agency. She also says that an unnamed “brotherly country” had warned her that several suicide squads were plotting attacks against her, including squads from the Taliban and al-Qaeda. She says this government gave the Pakistani government the phone numbers the plotters were using, but implies investigators did not take advantage of the lead. She further says the street lamps had been turned off along the motorcade route, making it difficult for her security detail to scan the crowd for possible bombers, and demands an investigation into this. [New York Times, 10/20/2007]
Others Assign Blame - Her husband Asif Ali Zardari is more direct, saying, “I blame the government for these blasts. It is the work of the intelligence agencies.” The government by contrast complains that the security situation was extremely difficult. She was taking a big risk, moving though crowds of hundreds of thousands in a notoriously violent city of 16 million people. [Australian, 10/20/2007] The US by contrast, quickly blames al-Qaeda. Only one day after the bombing, US State Department officials say they believe there is a “strong al-Qaeda connection” and that it “bears the hallmarks” of an al-Qaeda attack. [CNN, 10/20/2007]
A new audio tape is released by a man thought to be Osama bin Laden. The voice on the tape tells the various groups in Iraq fighting the US to unify, but contains no dated references, so it is unclear when it was made. The voice says, “Beware of your enemies, especially those who infiltrate your ranks,” and, “You have done well to perform your duty, but some of you have been late to another duty, which is to unify your ranks and make them into one line.” [CNN, 10/22/2007]
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gives an interview to David Frost of Al Jazeera in which she makes a number of noteworthy statements:
She says that Saeed Sheikh is “the man who murdered Osama bin Laden.” Saeed helped kidnap Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was later murdered (see January 23, 2002), is said to have provided money for the 9/11 hijackings (see Early August 2001), and is thought to have been in prison in Pakistan since 2002 (see February 12, 2002). Although bin Laden is thought to be alive at this time (see October 22, 2007), Frost does not ask a follow-up question about bin Laden’s alleged demise. [Al Jazeera, 11/2/2007] When a video of the interview is posted at the BBC’s website, this section is initially edited out, as the editor thinks Bhutto must simply have misspoken. However, the BBC accepts this was an error and later posts a full version of the interview. [BBC, 4/1/2008] This is the only known occasion that Bhutto makes this claim.
Based on information from a “friendly country,” she names four people and/or organizations that might attack her: al-Qaeda linked warlord Baitullah Mahsud; Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama; the “Pakistan Taliban in Islamabad”; and an unnamed group in Karachi.
While she thinks that such groups may be used for an attack on her, they are not pulling the strings, she says. She suggests three people may be behind an attack by one of the groups. The reason these three are said to want her dead is because she could stop the rise of terrorism in Pakistan. One of the three is former ISI officer Ijaz Shah, a “very key figure in security,” who she thinks has turned a blind eye or even colluded with militants, and who is an associate of Saeed Sheikh (see February 5, 2002). [Al Jazeera, 11/2/2007] Shah, a government official, will actually be in charge of protecting Bhutto from assassination when she is assassinated. The names of the other two said to be “pulling the strings” are not certain, but they are a prominent Pakistani figure, one of whose family members was allegedly murdered by a militant group run by Bhutto’s brother, and a well-known chief minister in Pakistan who is a longstanding opponent of Bhutto. [Daily Mail, 12/30/2007]
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. [Source: Anjum Naveed Associated Press]On October 6, 2007, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf won a parliamentary vote that gave him a second term as president (see October 6, 2007). However, Pakistani law prohibits an active military officer from running as president, and Musharraf is both president and the head of the military. Pakistan’s Supreme Court is to decide soon if Musharraf’s reelection vote is valid. The outcome is uncertain, especially since the Supreme Court is headed by Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was fired by Musharraf earlier in the year and then reinstated against Musharraf’s will (see March 9, 2007). But on November 3, before the court renders a verdict, Musharraf declares a state of emergency. He suspends the constitution and basic rights. He fires Chaudhry and all the other Supreme Court judges, and places them under house arrest. He also forces all other high court judges to sign a loyalty oath validating his actions. A majority refuse to sign and are placed under house arrest as well. All private television stations are taken off the air, leaving only one state-controlled network to give the news. Up to ten thousand activists and politicians are arrested. The main opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto, is placed under house arrest for several days. Musharraf then passes six constitutional amendments legalizing his rule. In a further effort to legitimize his rule, he also resigns from the army on November 28 and gives command of the army to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former ISI director. But still facing widespread condemnation at home and abroad, he lifts the state of emergency on December 15, rescinds the draconian measures he imposed, and releases the thousands who have been arrested (however, Chaudhry and the other fired judges remain under house arrest). He announces that elections to pick a new prime minister will be held in January 2008. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “The forty-two-day-long emergency had blighted Pakistan, undermined its economy, destroyed what little trust the political parties and public had in Musharraf, and turned the increasingly influential middle-class and civil society against both the army and the president.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 387-388]
While the Bush administration claims that Iran is risking “World War III” by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons (see October 20, 2007), an array of experts inside and outside the government quoted in a McClatchy News article say that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran is actively pursuing such weapons. The story, and the alleged facts, change depending on which administration official is doing the speaking. President Bush and Vice President Cheney use harsh, bellicose rhetoric reminiscent of the rhetoric used in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, but others, such as Bush’s “point man” on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, is attempting to tone down the rhetoric. Burns recently told reporters, “Iran is seeking a nuclear capability… that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability.” Another US official says more directly, “I don’t think that anyone right today thinks [Iran is] working on a bomb.” Iran has the capability to continue working on producing a nuclear weapon, experts note, and could transform its current uranium-enrichment program into a weapons program if it so desired. But as of now, US experts have an amalgamation of circumstantial evidence and supposition, and no real proof; reporter Jonathan Landay observes, “Bush’s rhetoric seems hyperbolic compared with the measured statements by his senior aides and outside experts.” The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency agrees. With four years of inspections of Iran’s nuclear energy program behind it, the IAEA says it has no information that would show Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. The circumstantial evidence that leads some to assert the reality of Iran’s active nuclear weapons program is extensive, but not always solid. In 2006, the CIA gave the IAEA thousands of pages of computer simulations and documents that it claimed it took from a defector’s laptop; those documents showed that Iranian experts were working on mounting a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, and working on developing nuclear “triggers,” or detonators. The CIA calls all of this Project 111. The Iranians denounced the materials as “politically motivated and baseless,” and have promised to cooperate with an IAEA investigation into the matter. Many Western intelligence officials and outside experts believe the materials are genuine—“I wouldn’t go to war over this, but it’s reason for suspicion,” says one—but Dr. Muhammad Sahimi, an Iranian defector who has closely monitored Iran’s nuclear program for decades, dismisses the materials as “totally not believable,” observing, “If the laptop did exist, I find it hard to believe that its absence wasn’t noticed for so long that somebody could take it out of Iran.” The IAEA has other questions as well, including a document from the nuclear black-market program of Dr. A. Q. Khan that shows how to form uranium into explosive cores, Iran’s experiments with radioactive materials used primarily in nuclear warheads, Iranian involvement with a uranium mine, and Iran’s claim that it needs large amounts of nuclear energy to feed its energy needs when it sits on such large reserves of oil and gas. Sahimi answers this last point by noting Iran would, in his opinion, do better to sell its petroleum on the global market and rely on nuclear energy for its own needs. [McClatchy News, 11/4/2007] A month after this article is published, the administration will release an intelligence report that concludes Iran stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003 (see December 3, 2007).
Following the failed return of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan (see September 10, 2007), officials from Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency meet secretly with Saudi representatives in Riyadh to plan another attempt at bringing him back to the country ahead of forthcoming elections. (It is possible that ISI Director General Nadeem Taj and retired brigadier Niaz Ahmed also meet Sharif in Jeddah). The effort is apparently successful, as Sharif re-enters Pakistan a short time later (see November 25, 2007). Washington Post commentator Bob Novak will say these meetings indicate that if the turmoil in Pakistan causes current President Pervez Musharraf to lose his position, Sharif is “the ISI’s chosen successor.” [Daily Times (Lahore), 11/25/2007; Washington Post, 12/3/2007]
The bus that had been carrying ISI officials to work. [Source: Daily Times]Pakistani militants attack the ISI intelligence agency and army in two simultaneous suicide bombings in the city of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. A suicide bomber crashes a car into a bus carrying ISI officials to work, killing 28 ISI officials, plus a bystander and the bomber. Ten minutes later, a second suicide bomber blows up while attempting to enter the army’s General Headquarters, killing one security official and bystander, as well as the bomber. [Daily Times (Lahore), 11/25/2007] Prior to the government’s raid on the Red Mosque earlier in the year (see July 11-Late July, 2007 and July 3-11, 2007), the ISI had been working closely with militant groups (see July 9, 2006).
Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N political party and a former prime minister who had spent seven years abroad due to corruption charges, returns to Pakistan and is welcomed by supporters ahead of planned elections. He had made a failed attempt to return two months earlier (see September 10, 2007), but subsequently obtained the support of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, smoothing his path (see November 20-23, 2007). [International Herald Tribune, 11/25/2007] He returns in the middle of a state of emergency declared by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see November 3-December 15, 2007).
A man thought to be Osama bin Laden releases a new audio message aimed at European listeners. [Reuters, 11/29/2007] As-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media arm, gave advance notice of the tape’s release on the Internet. [Associated Press, 11/26/2007] The voice on the tape urges Europeans to end troop commitments to Afghanistan, as American power is on the wane, “With the grace of God… the American tide is receding and they would eventually return to their home across the Atlantic… It is in your interest to force the hand of your politicians [away from] the White House.” The man also says that the Taliban had no knowledge of 9/11: “I am the one responsible… The Afghan people and government knew nothing whatsoever about these events.” In saying this, he claims that the US-led invasion of Afghanistan was wrong. Bin Laden names Nicolas Sazkozy and Gordon Brown as leaders of France and Britain, indicating that the tape was made at some time after June 2007. [Reuters, 11/29/2007]
In late 2007, top Bush administration officials draft a secret plan making it easier for US special forces to conduct missions to capture or kill al-Qaeda leaders inside Pakistan’s mountainous tribal region. A highly classified Defense Department order outlines the plan, which is designed to eliminate the sharp policy disagreements and turf battles that have bogged down US policy regarding al-Qaeda’s safe haven in Pakistan. But in late June 2008, the New York Times will report that “more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was ‘mounting frustration’ in the Pentagon at the continued delay.” [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
The Taliban’s former chief spokesman, Mullah Mohammad Is’haq Nizami, reveals that talks are being held between Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government and key lieutenants of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Mullah Nizami says that he has been relaying messages for months from Kabul to Mullah Omar’s aides in the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s ruling council based in Pakistan. The Quetta Shura is thought to be responsible for orchestrating attacks across the border in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, Afghanistan. The disclosure contradicts British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s carefully worded statement to Parliament a day earlier insisting that no negotiations would be held with Taliban leaders. “We are not negotiating with the leadership, but we want to support President Karzai in his efforts at reconciliation. If he is successful in bringing across those members of the insurgency who then declare that they will give up fighting and support democracy and be part of the system, then these are efforts at reconciliation that are important to the future of the whole country,” Brown states during a session of prime minister’s questions. Mullah Nizami, who also ran the regime’s radio station Voice of Sharia until 2001, says that the negotiations aim to isolate Mullah Omar by wooing his lieutenants in the Quetta Shura. “Karzai is trying to get the 18 people in the Quetta Shura. If he succeeds it will be a defeat for Mullah Omar. The Taliban and the government are tired of fighting and they want to negotiate,” he says. Nizami fled to Pakistan in 2001 when the Taliban regime collapsed, but returned to Kabul under an ongoing reconciliation programme in an effort to open talks. Mullah Nazimi further explains that the Taliban want to take part in the Afghan government, want sharia law instituted, and want the withdrawal of international forces. The Belfast Telegraph reports that talks will continue “under the table” until the two sides can agree on something warranting a public announcement. The Independent reports that the British government was prepared to admit that the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban had taken place and that dialogue should be opened with Taliban leaders, but Gordon Brown changed his mind just before prime minister’s questions on December 12, denying any negotiations with Taliban leadership. Brown’s denial is further contradicted by a report that British MI6 agents had engaged in secret talks with the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent leaders in Helmand Province earlier this summer (see Summer 2007). [Independent, 12/12/2007; Belfast Telegraph, 12/13/2007]
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