Posts Tagged ‘North Waziristan’

Has Pakistan tamed its tribal frontier?

April 27, 2018

One known only as “The tribal areas,” the wilder part of Pakistan has become a safe area for terrorists hiding often from Afghanistan and the Pakistani government… But recently, government cooperation has brought the tribal areas a more respectable reputation. “But it is still very dangerous.”

A file photo of two elders at a jirga against army deployment in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Darra Adam Khel, 15 kilometers south of Peshawar

April 27: The Cipher Brief report by Bennett Seftel states that maligned as a bastion of extremism and a top terrorist safe haven, Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan, have endured a significant transformation in the last few years. Between June 2014 and May 2016, the Pakistani army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, literally translated as “swift and conclusive strike,” which focused on clearing terrorist organizations such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Punjabi Taliban, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Haqqani network from the seven administrative units that comprise FATA. According to Pakistani military officials, at the start of the operation, approximately one-third of the FATA had been under “miscreant control” with the North Waziristan district earmarked as the key terrorist stronghold.

Maligned as a bastion of extremism and a top terrorist safe haven, Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan, have endured a significant transformation in the last few years. Between June 2014 and May 2016, the Pakistani army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, literally translated as “swift and conclusive strike,” which focused on clearing terrorist organizations such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Punjabi Taliban, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Haqqani network from the seven administrative units that comprise FATA. According to Pakistani military officials, at the start of the operation, approximately one-third of the FATA had been under “miscreant control” with the North Waziristan district earmarked as the key terrorist stronghold.

The operation commenced on June 15, 2014, one week after 10 TTP militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, leaving more than 30 people dead. Overall, an estimated 3,500 terrorists were killed during the nearly two-year-long operation while 840 Pakistani soldiers died in combat. Additionally, approximately one million people were internally displaced, although Pakistani military officials maintain that they will return to their homes as soon as possible.

Image result for tribal areas, pakistan, map

Today, Pakistani government and military officials contend that the entire FATA has been secured under army control and that the priority has shifted to rebuilding and developing the FATA region. Projects spearheaded by the army include building military schools, sports complexes, hospitals, community centers, and power plants. In addition, several energy projects relating to oil, gas and mining have been initiated, as have the construction of new roads to connect the FATA to key cities across the country. While spearheaded by the military, officials explain that each of these projects offers new employment opportunities for FATA residents.

Despite claims by Washington that Pakistan continues to harbor terrorist groups, Pakistani officials contend that Zarb-e-Azb is a clear sign of Islamabad’s willingness to fight terrorism and improve the lives of their citizens.

Below are two takes offered to The Cipher Brief – from top Pakistani officials, and a former CIA officer, with comments adapted for print.

Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States:

“Our biggest challenge in the last two decades has been terrorism. Sometimes, at the national levels and sometimes transnational terrorism. We were in the eye of the storm. It all started, of course, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan when this whole concept of Afghan jihad was born. But when the Soviets left and the Americans left, the militants stayed back. And after 9/11 when Torah Borah was bombed heavily, they all sought refuge into the Tribal areas of Pakistan. They came there, settled, and honed in. When Pakistan became a member of the U.S.-led coalition, we became their target. And all hell broke loose. There was hardly a day when we were not targeted at one installation or the other.

“There was a time when we used to have on average 150 terrorist incidents per month through 2014. When the politicians got together and reached a consensus that terrorism and violence under any pretext is not acceptable, that enabled the Pakistan army to enter into North Waziristan, which had become the bastion for these militants who had created their safe havens, hideouts, training grounds, IED (improvised explosive device) factories, and whatever else they needed to perpetuate their evil designs. Two-and-a-half years down the line, the entire tribal areas was secured. The law and order improved, and it was visible. That average of 150 incidents came down to the fingers of a single hand. And we, Pakistani citizens, all benefitted from that improved law and order situation so we were very happy about it.

“Is our job done? No. There is a still a mindset that we need to tackle, which in the first place gives rise to extremist conduct and behavior. We need to do that. Many of the militants who fled have hidden themselves…in the urban centers or across the border into Afghanistan. Intelligence operations – more than 25,000 have already been conducted – will sniff them out of their hideouts and tackle them. And we will continue to do that because that is the course our country and our people have taken.”

Lt. Gen. (ret.) Nasser Khan Janjua, National Security Advisor, Government of Pakistan:

“Pakistani people who were friends of the Afghan Taliban were deeply hurt that we had sided with non-Muslims, that we sided with the U.S., and as a result of siding with non-believers and non-Muslims, they said that jihad against Pakistan is legitimate. So what was happening in Afghanistan, our siding with the U.S., angered our own people. They named themselves as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and they started waging jihad against their own country and against their own people.

“For Pakistan, it turned out to be a double jeopardy. One to fight TTP, the sympathizers of Afghan Taliban who had declared jihad against Pakistan. The second jeopardy was to prevent the use of Pakistani soil by Afghan Taliban. While the U.S. was doing one thing in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, we were fighting two things – the Afghan Taliban and the TTP. The U.S. is blaming Pakistan for siding with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis, but TTP is fighting “Pakistan for siding with infidels. So Pakistan is in the middle of the blame. Is our enemy TTP mad if we are siding with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqnis? Why should they fights us? If Pakistan is supporting Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis, that means Pakistan is not siding with infidels and non-Muslims, but supporting Muslims. This also means that Pakistan, Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis are on one side, then why is TTP fighting with Pakistan?

“In the FATA there were areas that were under the full control of terrorists, there were areas where control was contested, and there were areas that were under government control. Gradually, with all of the efforts these were reduced. And then we had to conduct the world’s largest operation, known as Zarb-e Azb. As of today, we have cleared all areas. TTP has run away to Afghanistan where they find safe havens and sanctuaries, where they are hosted and they are used against Pakistan.”

Kevin Hulbert, former CIA Chief of Station:

“I guess we have to be thankful for every step in the right direction with Pakistan and operations against militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas are almost always something worthy of praise. We have been coaxing the Pakistan government to get tough in the FATA for over 15 years now, so when they actually go in there with a military operation – that’s a good thing.

“The great challenge for Pakistan is to see if they can be a sustained presence in the FATA and a force for good so that the locals come to think that they have a lot more to gain by supporting the government than by supporting militants like the Taliban, or the Haqqani Network, or al- Qaida. Right now, villagers face an immediate threat from assorted militants and the reality is that the central government is usually nowhere in sight. There is very little reach by the central government into the FATA to make the lives of the locals better with federal government largesse in the way of health care, schooling for their children, services, paved roads, community centers, etc. So a useful federal government that might help them is an abstract concept for many people in the tribal areas whereas militants threatening them is far from an abstract concept. The other big challenge for the Pakistanis is to slow down and stop the pervasive sectarian violence and extremism that is destroying the country.

“The Pakistan military has been undertaking operations in the FATA for about 15 years, since they first went into the Shkai Valley in 2004 and attacked militants and held territory. his foray into Shkai was the first real sustained operation in the Tribal Areas. Subsequently, there have been several other forays into the FATA, including operations in Swat, and including the response in the wake of the horrific attack on the military school in 2014.

“What the U.S. has always pushed for is more of a sustained effort that removed the FATA from being a place where militants find safe harbor where they can rest, recuperate, organize, train, and launch cross border attacks against U.S. and coalition fighters in Afghanistan. To date, the Pakistan government has proven unwilling, or incapable of bringing the FATA more under the control of the central government in Islamabad and the reality is that it might be more of the latter as a problem then the former. That is, they are more incapable than they are unwilling. The FATA is a famously lawless place that has defeated everyone from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Army and a lot of folks in between. It’s not easy in the FATA.”

Bennett Seftel is director of analysis at The Cipher Brief. Research intern Frederick Ludtke contributed to this report.

Arab News


Pakistani army: Militants attack patrol, killing 2 soldiers

December 12, 2017

Pakistan troops on patrol in Waziristan. (AFP)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army says militants opened fire on an army vehicle on patrol in the country’s mountainous northwestern region near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers.

Tuesday’s statement says the military vehicle came under attack in the North Waziristan tribal region. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamic militants have long been operating in the area.
The military has carried out massive operation against them but militants are able to cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border and shelter on the other side. They have also been able to carry out cross-border attacks.
The Pakistani army has been constructing a series of fences along the border, which zigzags across a remote and difficult mountain terrain, to check the movement of militants.
Afghanistan objects to the construction of the fences.

The Fence Driving a Wedge Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

November 2, 2017


By Ismail Dilawar  and Kamran Haider

  • Border smuggling dwarves official trading between neighbors
  • Pakistan has only fenced 43 kilometers of large pourous border

On the upper deck of the Hamza Fort border check-point in Pakistan’s South Waziristan, Major General Nauman Zakaria points to a 12-foot high fence just yards away — the latest initiative the military says will stem insurgent attacks across a more than 1,000 mile disputed border with Afghanistan.

“There won’t be an inch of international border that shall not remain under our observation,” said Zakaria, who has served in counter-insurgency operations in restive border regions of south and north Waziristan.

At an estimated cost of more than $532 million, Pakistan has started fencing the 2,344-kilometer (1,456 miles) border with war-torn Afghanistan, the latest measure that’s driving a wedge between the fractious neighbors who have accused each other of harboring insurgents launching cross-border attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned Pakistan for instigating an “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation. While only 43 kilometers has so far been fenced since May, Ghani’s administration has repeatedly denounced and threatened armed confrontation over its construction across the disputed Durand Line, which divided the largely ethnic Pashtun communities in the region during British colonial rule.

Despite the objections, Pakistan is proceeding with its plan as Islamabad faces increased U.S. pressure to act against terrorists. President Donald Trump in August strongly denounced the nation’s alleged duplicity. He said the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic continues to harbor militant groups, such as the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which have attacked American-backed forces in Afghanistan.

After visiting Islamabad during a tour of South Asia last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was concerned terror groups are undermining political stability in Pakistan and called on leaders there to join in eradicating fighters that seek safe haven within its borders.

Feasibility Questioned

Pakistan’s military expects to complete construction of the chain-linked and barbed-wire topped fence across the South Waziristan portion by December 2018. No timeline has been given for completion of the entire length of the border and there are questions over whether the plan is logistically feasible along the porous and often mountainous terrain.

There are 235 crossing points, some frequently used by militants and drug traffickers, of which 18 can be accessed by vehicles, according to a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group last month.

A soldier stands by a new border fence in Pakistan’s South Waziristan.

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban are used to moving with ease between the two countries in the often lawless border lands and are usually waved through by Pakistan security forces, according to the AAN, citing conversations with multiple current and former Taliban fighters, doctors and Afghans living in the region. Pakistan’s military has long denied supporting militant groups, including the Taliban.

While there has been some tightening of security since, the AAN said more than 2,000 Taliban commanders traveled to the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in July 2015 to witness Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s ascension to the group’s leadership, before his death last year when he was killed in Pakistan by a U.S. drone strike.

“It was like a free highway,” Asad Munir, a retired brigadier who served in Waziristan and other border regions, said about one of the crossing points in Birmal. Militants won’t sit idle and will find alternative routes to sneak across the fenced border, he said.

Officials from Afghanistan’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to calls seeking comment, though in April the ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, said “any type of unilateral actions” along the Durand Line will be “ineffective, impractical and impossible” without Afghanistan’s agreement. The country will use its security forces to stop the fencing if diplomacy fails, he said.

Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said in a text message that the border fortification was being misconstrued by Afghanistan and is “instrumental in curtailing cross-border movement of terrorists and other undesired elements, smuggling of drugs, weapons and other goods.”

Opiate Trade

The fencing may reduce rampant smuggling which is valued at $3 billion by the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry — more than double the size of official trade between the two nations. Pakistan’s central bank recorded the bilateral trade at $1.2 billion in the financial year ended June.

The barrier is also aimed at reducing the drug trade across the border, which fund the Taliban’s operations in Afghanistan. About 40 percent of the opiates produced in the war-torn country are used in and transit through Pakistan, according to the United Nation’s. The UN estimates that Afghanistan’s opium poppy production grew by 700 tons to 4,800 tons in the decade ended 2016.

“Pakistan is one of the biggest transit routes for the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan,” said Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, a retired colonel who is a member of Pakistan’s Senate committee on narcotics control. Pakistan’s anti-narcotics force “is trying its best to control it, but lacks power to keep the whole border sealed.”

— With assistance by Eltaf Najafizada


Getting an Edge in the Long Afghan Struggle

June 23, 2017

Trump’s early approach holds promise if backed with a sustained, and sustainable, commitment.

An Afghan man reacts at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani


June 22, 2017 6:32 p.m. ET

Can the U.S. succeed in Afghanistan? Not without a sustained, and sustainable, commitment. President Trump’s decision to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to add several thousand more U.S. troops to the 8,400 currently deployed is encouraging—but only if it is a first step in a comprehensive approach.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, should also receive greater leeway in the use of U.S. and NATO air power. And officials should remain open to the possibility of reconciliation with some insurgents, probably just those that break off from the central Taliban.

An intensified military effort could arrest the gradual loss of territory held by the government in recent years—now estimated by U.S. Central Command at only 60% of the country—and to regain battlefield momentum. Congress should enable all this by appropriating the $5 billion or so a year above current levels that such a strategy will require.

America’s leaders should not lose sight of why the U.S. went to, and has stayed in, Afghanistan: It is in our national interest to ensure that country is not once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists, as it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there. We have been accomplishing that mission since the intervention began in October 2001. Although al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is diminished, it could rebound if given the opportunity. Islamic State could expand its newfound Afghan foothold as well.

The augmented troop levels Mr. Trump has authorized would be only 12% to 15% of the peak U.S. force levels, in 2010-11. The country can sustain that level of commitment. While all casualties are tragic, our losses in Afghanistan would likely remain far fewer than the losses from another major terrorist attack in the U.S.

Today the U.S. and its coalition partners lack the capacity to train and assist Afghan forces adequately in the field. As recently as 2015, the allied forces did not even have a full-time advisory presence for the main Afghan army corps in Helmand province. Largely as a result, the Taliban gained control of much of the province. Nor did the coalition have adequate advisers to help the smaller Afghan formations near Kunduz before that city fell to the Taliban in 2015. It was later liberated only at high cost, especially to Afghan forces and civilians. Restrictions on coalition air power reduced America’s ability to help Afghan partners.

Adding some 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. and allied troops could provide the capacity for several dozen deployable mentoring teams. That is far from enough to assist each Afghan brigade or battalion. But it could support the units that are engaged in the toughest fights and are most intensively involved in rebuilding their capabilities. Supporting those teams logistically and with air power, and providing quick-reaction forces in several parts of the country to help them if they get in trouble, would drive additional requirements for coalition troops into the low thousands.

On the civilian side, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah need to continue their efforts against corruption, which have shown gradual, modest results to date. With U.S. help, they need to reform the electoral commissions that will oversee parliamentary and presidential elections over the next two years.

Then there is Pakistan, where the U.S. needs a tougher approach. Washington reduced aid to Islamabad by more than half over the past five years. More can be cut. President Trump and Congress could also designate Pakistani individuals and organizations supporting the Taliban and impose sanctions on them. The U.S. could show less restraint in striking Taliban targets within Pakistan.

There are carrots available too: trade concessions, increased aid, more assistance to the Pakistani army’s fight against internal extremists, dialogue with New Delhi to mitigate Pakistan’s worries about India’s role in Afghanistan. But these must come on the condition that Islamabad put greater pressure on the Taliban (whose headquarters is in the Quetta area) and on the Haqqani insurgent network (in North Waziristan). None of this will work unless Pakistani leaders recognize that allowing these groups’ leaders sanctuary on their soil is foolish and dangerous. Given the way extremist groups collaborate in Central and South Asia, that approach will inevitably continue to backfire. After all, the greatest existential threat Pakistan faces is internal extremism, not India.

President Trump’s early approach holds promise. In Afghanistan today, the military needs to revisit the phase of the mission it largely skipped in the years after the surge of 2010-12 or so, when it downsized too quickly and too far. This approach will not achieve “victory” in Afghanistan, after which all troops can be withdrawn. That is an impossible goal in the near-term. But it will be sustainable and it can improve the prospects of shoring up our eastern flank in the broader battle against Islamist extremism—a fight that likely is to be a generational struggle.

Mr. Petraeus, a retired Army general, commanded coalition forces in Iraq (2007-08) and in Afghanistan (2010-11) and later served as director of the CIA (2011-12). Mr. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.




Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in a helicopter over Kabul, April 24. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Petraeus: Afghan war a ‘generational struggle’ that will not end soon


BY LARISA EPATKO  June 16, 2017 at 6:17 PM EDT

The 16-year war in Afghanistan is not going to end any time soon, former CIA Director David Petraeus said Friday in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff.

“This is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We’re not going to take a hill, plant a flag and go home to a victory parade,” said Petraeus, who also oversaw U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq during his military career. He is now a partner at KKR global investment firm.

“You know, we’ve been in Korea for 65-plus years, because there’s an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time,” he said. “We’re still there, of course, and actually with a renewed interest now given Russia’s aggressive actions.”

When Woodruff asked if he thought if the U.S. would need to stay in Afghanistan for 60 more years, he said he doesn’t think the U.S. involvement will last that long. But “I think we should not approach this as a year-on-year mission,” he said, noting that kind of instability gives Afghan leaders “the jitters.”

The current U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has recommended sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to the 8,400 already there. Petraeus called the possible increase in forces “heartening” and “sustainable.”

Watch Woodruff’s full interview with David Petraeus on Friday’s broadcast of PBS NewsHour.

Includes video:

Russian military delegation praises Pakistan’s achievements in fighting terrorism during visit to Pakistani tribal region

March 31, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan officials say a Russian military delegation has made a rare visit to the North Waziristan tribal region near Afghanistan, which until recently served as a militant headquarters.

In a statement, Pakistan’s military said the Russian delegation praised Pakistan’s achievements in fighting terrorism.

Thursday’s visit comes months after Russian servicemen held a joint military exercise in Pakistan.

Russia has been a long-time ally of Pakistan’s rival India, while Pakistan has traditionally been in the U.S. sphere of influence. However, Islamabad has taken steps to move closer to Russia and Moscow recently invited Pakistan and China to discuss Afghanistan.

Another round of talks is scheduled for April 14 in Moscow, which will be attended by Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, China and the Central Asian states. The U.S. has declined the invitation.


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Pakistan plans to end separate status for ‘tribal areas’

March 2, 2017


© AFP/File | Pakistan’s seven tribal districts are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan on Thursday announced plans to bring its militancy-wracked tribal areas into the mainstream political fold by ending a de facto system of direct rule that critics said suppressed development and fuelled extremism.

Situated on the country’s northwest border with Afghanistan, the region became a central arena in the global war on terror in the aftermath of 9/11, where Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters operated with impunity.

Its inhabitants have long complained its development has been neglected by Islamabad, which also appoints administrators with sweeping powers including the prerogative to collectively punish entire clans for the crime of an individual.

The cabinet has in principle approved the recommendations of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) Reforms Committee,” Sartaj Aziz, head of a government reforms committee and a senior aide to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Islamabad.

He added the region would be fully merged into the neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkwa province within a period of five years, but some key reforms such as an ending collective punishment and extending the rule of Pakistani courts would be completed within months.

The proposals will now be forwarded to parliament which will be asked to pass a constitutional amendment to implement them.

The seven tribal districts Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, North Waziristan, Orakzai and South Waziristan, are home to some eight million residents, mainly ethnic Pashtuns.

So-called tribals were historically romanticised and caricatured by British colonisers as “noble savages” — a way of thinking that Pakistan’s governing elite went on to adopt.

Residents from the tribal areas are often stigmatised and viewed as potential terrorists when they travel from their mineral-rich but chronically under-developed region.

Shah Jee Gul Afridi, a lawmaker from the region hailed the decision, which residents have spent decades lobbying for.

“Today it feels like we’ve been freed, we are hopeful that all this process will complete smoothly,” he said.

Pakistan, India Tough Talk of War on The Border: Pakistan army “as ready as they are”

November 20, 2016

On Monday, Raheel had attended the funeral of seven Pakistani soldiers who were killed during border skirmishes with the Indian army.

By: PTI | Islamabad | Published:November 20, 2016 6:45 pm

Pakistan, Pakistan Army, Raheel Sharif, Pakistan India ties, Indo pak relations, pakistan news, world news

Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif. (File Photo)Battle-hardened Pakistan army is “equally ready” to fight conventional wars after registering an “unprecedented level of successes” in its war against terror, army chief General Raheel Sharif has said. Visiting troops and war veterans at Sulemanki Sector on Sunday, Raheel, who is expected to retire from service later this month, said that the military has always measured up to any challenge. While interacting with the troops, Raheel said that Pakistan Army proudly carries its heritage and tradition of soldiering and chivalry.


“Taking inspiration from our war heroes and their spirit of sacrifice, Pakistan Army has always measured up to any challenge. With an unprecedented level of successes in war against terror, we have become the most battle-hardened Army and are equally ready for conventional war,” he was quoted as saying by a press release issued by the Inter Services Public Relations.

On Monday, Raheel had attended the funeral of seven Pakistani soldiers who were killed during border skirmishes with the Indian army. The Pakistan army chief had warned India that Pakistan army “will continue to respond effectively, leave no stone unturned to defend motherland.”

He appreciated the troops for keeping vigil along the Line of Control, working boundary and international border. Raheel is due to retire on November 29 after a three-year stint.

Earlier on Friday, General Raheel visited Government College University (GCU) Lahore, his alma mater and interacted with the students and faculty members. To revive his old memories, he visited various sections of the premier institute specially those parts where he had spent his days as a student.

He emphasised on the youth to always focus on 3Cs (Character, Courage and Competence) and strive for honour and dignity through hard work and faith in Allah. Raheel, while expressing his optimism of a brighter future of the country, said that Pakistanis are a great nation and its human resource was its real asset.

He also referred to the ‘Zarbe Azb’ military operations against militants in 2014. Pakistan’s military launched the operations in North Waziristan to clear the area of militants and the successful campaign has laid a strong foundation for peace and progress in Pakistan, Raheel said.

Emails in Clinton Probe Dealt With Planned Drone Strikes — For Many Americans The Question Is: “Do You Trust Your Government?”

June 10, 2016

Some vaguely worded messages from U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and Washington used a less-secure communications system

Do Americans trust their government? The Justice Department, State Department and IRS. Do you trust the Department of Veterans Affairs?  The FBI and CIA are trusted but they are being stonewalled by the Left.

The wall Street Journal
Updated June 9, 2016 10:19 p.m. ET

At the center of a criminal probe involving Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information is a series of emails between American diplomats in Islamabad and their superiors in Washington about whether to oppose specific drone strikes in Pakistan.

The 2011 and 2012 emails were sent via the “low side’’—government slang for a computer system for unclassified matters—as part of a secret arrangement that gave the State Department more of a voice in whether a Central Intelligence Agency drone strike went ahead, according to congressional and law-enforcement officials briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

Some of the emails were then forwarded by Mrs. Clinton’s aides to her personal email account, which routed them to a server she kept at her home in suburban New York when she was secretary of state, the officials said. Investigators have raised concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s personal server was less secure than State Department systems.
The vaguely worded messages didn’t mention the “CIA,” “drones” or details about the militant targets, officials said.

The still-secret emails are a key part of the FBI investigation that has long dogged Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, these officials said.

They were written within the often-narrow time frame in which State Department officials had to decide whether or not to object to drone strikes before the CIA pulled the trigger, the officials said.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton preparing to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2012.  (Photo: House Committee on Foreign Affairs/flickr/cc)

Law-enforcement and intelligence officials said State Department deliberations about the covert CIA drone program should have been conducted over a more secure government computer system designed to handle classified information.

State Department officials told FBI investigators they communicated via the less-secure system on a few instances, according to congressional and law-enforcement officials. It happened when decisions about imminent strikes had to be relayed fast and the U.S. diplomats in Pakistan or Washington didn’t have ready access to a more-secure system, either because it was night or they were traveling.

Emails sent over the low side sometimes were informal discussions that occurred in addition to more-formal notifications through secure communications, the officials said.

One such exchange came just before Christmas in 2011, when the U.S. ambassador sent a short, cryptic note to his boss indicating a drone strike was planned. That sparked a back-and-forth among Mrs. Clinton’s senior advisers over the next few days, in which it was clear they were having the discussions in part because people were away from their offices for the holiday and didn’t have access to a classified computer, officials said.

The CIA drone campaign, though widely reported in Pakistan, is treated as secret by the U.S. government. Under strict U.S. classification rules, U.S. officials have been barred from discussing strikes publicly and even privately outside of secure communications systems.

The State Department said in January that 22 emails on Mrs. Clinton’s personal server at her home have been judged to contain top-secret information and aren’t being publicly released. Many of them dealt with whether diplomats concurred or not with the CIA drone strikes, congressional and law-enforcement officials said.

Several law-enforcement officials said they don’t expect any criminal charges to be filed as a result of the investigation, although a final review of the evidence will be made only after an expected FBI interview with Mrs. Clinton this summer.

One reason is that government workers at several agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice and State, have occasionally resorted to the low-side system to give each other notice about sensitive but fast-moving events, according to one law-enforcement official.

When Mrs. Clinton has been asked about the possibility of being criminally charged over the email issue, she has repeatedly said “that is not going to happen.’’ She has said it was a mistake to use a personal server for email but it was a decision she made as a matter of convenience.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said: “If these officials’ descriptions are true, these emails were originated by career diplomats, and the sending of these types of emails was widespread within the government.”

U.S. officials said there is no evidence Pakistani intelligence officials intercepted any of the low-side State Department emails or used them to protect militants.

Search Hillary Clinton’s Emails


State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the agency “is not going to speak to the content of documents, nor would we speak to any ongoing review.’’

The email issue has dogged Mrs. Clinton for more than a year. Despite her success in nailing down the Democratic presidential nomination, polls show many voters continue to doubt her truthfulness and integrity. Her campaign manager has acknowledged the email matter has hurt her.

Republican rival Donald Trump has attacked Mrs. Clinton repeatedly on the issue, calling her “Crooked Hillary,’’ saying what she did was a crime and suggesting the Justice Department would let her off because it is run by Democrats.

Beyond the campaign implications, the investigation exposes the latest chapter in a power struggle that pits the enforcers of strict secrecy, including the FBI and CIA, against some officials at the State Department and other agencies who want a greater voice in the use of covert lethal force around the globe, because of the impact it has on broader U.S. policy goals.


Pakistani villagers offered prayers for people reportedly killed by a U.S. drone attack in Miranshah in the tribal region of North Waziristan on June 16, 2011.
Pakistani villagers offered prayers for people reportedly killed by a U.S. drone attack in Miranshah in the tribal region of North Waziristan on June 16, 2011. PHOTO: AP

In the case of Pakistan, U.S. diplomats found themselves in a difficult position.

Despite being treated as top secret by the CIA, the drone program has long been in the public domain in Pakistan. Television stations there go live with reports of each strike, undermining U.S. efforts to foster goodwill and cooperation against militants through billions of dollars in American aid.

Pakistani officials, while publicly opposing the drone program, secretly consented to the CIA campaign by clearing airspace in the militant-dense tribal areas along the Afghan border, according to former U.S. and Pakistani officials.

CIA and White House officials credit a sharp ramp-up in drone strikes early in Mr. Obama’s presidency with battering al Qaeda’s leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas and helping protect U.S. forces next door in Afghanistan. Targets have also included some of the Pakistan government’s militant enemies.

In 2011, Pakistani officials began to push back in private against the drone program, raising questions for the U.S. over the extent to which the program still had their consent.

U.S. diplomats warned the CIA and White House they risked losing access to Pakistan’s airspace unless more discretion was shown, said current and former officials. Within the administration, State Department and military officials argued that the CIA needed to be more “judicious” about when strikes were launched. They weren’t challenging the spy agency’s specific choice of targets, but mainly the timing of strikes.

The CIA initially chafed at the idea of giving the State Department more of a voice in the process. Under a compromise reached around the year 2011, CIA officers would notify their embassy counterparts in Islamabad when a strike in Pakistan was planned, so then-U.S. ambassador Cameron Munter or another senior diplomat could decide whether to “concur” or “non-concur.” Mr. Munter declined to comment.

Diplomats in Islamabad would communicate the decision to their superiors in Washington. A main purpose was to give then-Secretary of State Clinton and her top aides a chance to consider whether she wanted to weigh in with the CIA director about a planned strike.

With the compromise, State Department-CIA tensions began to subside. Only once or twice during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure at State did U.S. diplomats object to a planned CIA strike, according to congressional and law-enforcement officials familiar with the emails.

U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and Washington usually relayed and discussed their concur or non-concur decisions via the State Department’s more-secure messaging system. But about a half-dozen times, when they were away from more-secure equipment, they improvised by sending emails on their smartphones about whether they backed an impending strike or not, the officials said.

The time available to the State Department to weigh in on a planned strike varied widely, from several days to as little as 20 or 30 minutes. “If a strike was imminent, it was futile to use the high side, which no one would see for seven hours,” said one official.

Adding to those communications hurdles, U.S. intelligence officials privately objected to the State Department even using its high-side system. They wanted diplomats to use a still-more-secure system called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Community Systems, or JWICs. State Department officials don’t have ready access to that system, even in Washington. If drone-strike decisions were needed quickly, it wouldn’t be an option, officials said.

Some officials chafed at pressure to send internal deliberations through intelligence channels, since they were discussing whether to push back against the CIA, congressional officials said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the State Department-CIA tug-of-war over the drone program in 2011.

Under pressure to address critics abroad, Mr. Obama pledged to increase the transparency of drone operations by shifting, as much as possible, control of drone programs around the world to the U.S. military instead of the CIA. An exception was made for Pakistan.

But even in Pakistan, Mr. Obama recently signaled a shift. The drone strike that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour last month was conducted by the military, not the CIA, and the outcome was disclosed.

While the CIA still controls drones over the tribal areas of Pakistan near Afghanistan, the pace of strikes has declined dramatically in recent years. U.S. officials say there are fewer al Qaeda targets there now that the CIA can find.

Write to Adam Entous at and Devlin Barrett at


21 militants killed in NW Pakistan offensive: military

March 8, 2016


© AFP/File | Pakistan began its operation to clear Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan in 2014, and claims to have killed more than 3,750 militants since then with no civilian casualties

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan said Tuesday it has so far killed 21 militants in air strikes and ground operations in a northwest border region where it is carrying out an offensive to clear Taliban strongholds.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwa said the strikes, which took place in the Shawal Valley of North Waziristan tribal district, began Monday night and continued into Tuesday.

“Ops continue. Imp heights & passes along Pak-Afgn Bdr secured. Valley’s sanitisation in progress,” he said on Twitter.

He later posted photographs of armed soldiers in a forested area and a ruined building engulfed in smoke.

It was not possible to confirm how many people were killed in the offensive, as journalists are denied access to the conflict zone.

Pakistan began its operation to clear Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan in 2014, and claims to have killed more than 3,750 militants since then with no civilian casualties.

But critics and rights activists say there is no transparency around the offensive and no clear end in sight.

In late February the army said it was entering the final phase of the operation, but offered no further details.

Meanwhile, the toll from a deadly Taliban suicide bombing on a court complex in northwest Pakistan rose Tuesday after a victim died overnight, officials said.

“The death toll from yesterday’s blast has risen to 18 as one civilian succumbed to his injuries while two injured are in critical condition,” Tariq Hassan, a senior local administration official told AFP.

The attack occurred Monday in Shabqadar town and was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban’s Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction, which said it was to avenge the hanging of Islamist assassin Mumtaz Qadri.

Qadri was feted as a hero by Islamists after he gunned down the liberal governor of Punjab in 2011 over a call to reform the country’s blasphemy law.

He was hanged on February 29 in what analysts described as a key moment in Pakistan’s long fight against militancy, saying it demonstrated the government’s resolve to uphold the rule of law rather than allowing extremism to flourish.

Pakistan Starts Air Strikes on Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Tribal Areas

December 18, 2015


The Pakistani military began the offensive in Khyber in October 2014, carrying out air strikes and using artillery, mortars and ground troops. AFP

PESHAWAR (PAKISTAN) (AFP) – Pakistani fighter jets killed 23 militants Friday in airstrikes carried out in the country’s remote tribal belt near the Afghan border, the military said in a statement.The strikes were in the Shawal area of North Waziristan and Khyber tribal district, it said.

“As a result of precise air strikes, 6 terrorists’ hideouts were destroyed in which 23 terrorists were killed and more than 10 injured,” the statement said.

The strikes were part of a major offensive aimed at clearing Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds that began last year in North Waziristan, one of seven Pakistani tribal districts bordering Afghanistan.

The conflict zone is remote and off-limits to journalists, making it difficult to verify the army’s claims, including the number and identity of those killed.

The military began the offensive in Khyber in October 2014, carrying out air strikes and using artillery, mortars and ground troops.

The army then intensified and expanded its offensive after the Taliban massacred more than 150 people, the majority of them children, at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar last December.