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Developments in Damadola

The effects of Friday the 13th strike in Damadola, Pakistan, which is believed to have killed up to five senior al-Qaeda commanders, continues to reverberate in Pakistan and beyond. Terrorism and al-Qaeda expert Rohan Gunaratna describes the strike as “a very significant blow to Al Qaeda… These are very experienced leaders and to replace them in the short term will be very difficult,” a point also made at ThreatsWatch several days ago.

Pakistan’s involvement in the operation also becomes clearer as time passes. An unnamed villager in Damadola states Pakistani intelligence was on the scene in Damadola almost immediately, “Soon after the air strike, several Pakistani security agents based in Khar, Bajaur Agency’s regional headquarters, disguised themselves as visitors and visited the site to collect evidence about the presence of No 2 Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zahawri.”

Pakistan is also actively searching for “pro-Taliban clerics” Faqir Mohammed and Liaqat Ali, who hosted the dinner and surviced the attacks. Pakistani troops have also stepped up operations in North Waziristan, demolishing ten homes of “tribesmen suspected of harbouring Taleban and Al Qaeda operatives.” This is likely to prove hard work, as Syed Saleem Shahzad provides further fuel to the theory that al-Qaeda is ramping up operations in Afghanistan. Mr. Shahzad reports thousands of Islamists have trained and are now pushing towards the Afghani-Pakistan border regions.

“Hundreds of Pakistani youths, who previously belonged to Islamist groups like the banned Laskhar-i-Toiba, Jaish-i-Mohammed, Harkat-i-Jihadi-i-Islami and Harkatul Mujahadeen, have left these and headed to Waziristan. There they are given a few months of military and ideological drill before being despatched to Afghanistan. Well-informed sources say there are thousands of such youths.”

Perhaps recognizing the trend, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz issues the obligitory diplomatic concerns over the attack while confirming joint operations along the border will continue; “Islamabad would not back out of the joint efforts in the fight against terrorism.” The jihadis flooding Pakistan are not only interested in fighting in Afghanistan; Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and his government are also targets of al-Qaeda.

Feedback

By pointing out that "... Pakistani intelligence was on the scene in Damadola almost immediately..." you seem to imply they were part of the US attack. Given the history of the ISI I might conclude that ISI were among the invited GUESTS, and that the bodies whisked away were Pakistani intel people instead of/as well as Al Quaeda. I'm not saying that's the case, just that it could be, given what information has been made public.

The situation seems certainly very complicated. The report Mr Saleem Shahzad has given seems absolutely correct and points towards the reality on the ground. Until Taleban ruled Afghanistan Taleban and AlQaeda were two separate forces with different backgrounds and different standards of training. After the fall of Taleban AlQaeda and Taleban were both on the run and had to survive and train together which inevitably would lead to stronger bonds between the two forces and it is most likely that in several respect there was some sort of merger of two forces. Pashtun tribes reside on both sides of Afghan-Pakistan border and are the recruiting ground for the Taleban. It is therefore unsurprising that as a consequence of merger of the two forces Al Qaeda is getting Pakistani youths for indoctrination and training and no foreign or Pakistani regime can stop this because these youths belong to the same tribes residing on both sides of the border. Removing Taleban regime might have been the biggest mistake US ever committed because it opened the flood-gates for removal of any differences in the ideology, standards of living and training of both forces that were active in Afghanistan prior to 9/11, Taleban and Al Qaeda turning them into a lethal cocktail force in combination with Gulbadine Hekmatyar party. Before the fall of Taleban in late 2001 Hekmatyar had been marginalised and living in exile in Iran and Taleban were generally seen as forces of relatively illetrate Mullas with limited approval from mainstream Islamist movements. Situation changed after Taleban fell. Hekmatyar came back so did his literate and ideologically hardened fighters and with the return of Hekmatyar Taleban became more linked with the mainstream Islamist movements across the globe and acceptable to a lot of 'moderates'. The fall of Taleban and invasion of Iraq brought a PR coup for the Taleban as well as AlQaeda.In reference to what Mr Glenmore is basing his comment on one has to look at the complexity of the tribal society where all this seems to be happening. It is most likely that the Pakistani Intelligence agents who were on the scene in Damadola deep inside the tribal society shortly after the incident are local people and recognised by locals. Locals recognise them because in tribal society it would be impossible to hide what kind of business somebody is involved in. These intelligence agents were on the scene shortly after the incident because they are local people. Sometimes, even in our society some ordinary innocent and innocuous people are singled out as 'spies' by others for whatever reasons. So I wouldn't read too much into it.