Counter-Terrorism: Eyes On Al Qaeda Central

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August 15, 2008:  The Taliban and al Qaeda have built an impressive infrastructure in the Pakistan, along the Afghan border. Western, mainly U.S., intelligence has identified several hundred locations where there has been regular terrorist activity. The terrorists themselves, terrorized by the presence of Hellfire armed UAVs, do not like to gather in large groups. Only a few dozen of these bases are permanent, with buildings and what appears to be a small staff to maintain things. Most of the few thousand key Taliban and al Qaeda regulars keep moving. Most of these locations are in the Pushtun tribal territories, while less than a quarter are in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan, the homeland of the Baluchi tribes.)

One of the bases has been identified as a training area for new recruiting joining the bodyguard force for Osama Bin Laden and other senior al Qaeda leaders. Other training areas are for Islamic terrorists operating in Kashmir (northwest India), while some camps are for training foreign terrorists being sent back to Europe, or North America.

Most of these terrorist locations, which may number over 300, are just for storage of weapons, equipment and supplies. Western countries have invested years of effort, and billions of dollars, to locate all this, and keep track of it. Pakistan has refused to make a major effort to wipe out this network. The few times the Pakistanis have taken these camps and storage locations was when they were used for attacks inside Pakistan.

NATO and American commanders want to put this knowledge to work and take out these locations, and use the Western intelligence superiority to keep after the terrorists. But Pakistan has domestic political problems (fear of war with the tribes, and many Islamic conservatives among the general population) that, so far, have prevented large scale military action. A strong sense of nationalism (and shame for not doing about something that is obviously a public menace) has prevented the Pakistani government from giving permission for NATO and the U.S. to clear out the terrorist hideouts along the border.

But the Pakistanis have tolerated Hellfire attacks on terrorist leaders, and each month several more of these guys get killed or badly injured by the Hellfires (or GPS guided missiles from inside Afghanistan). The Pakistanis make feeble protests. The unwritten rules for all this seem to be that, as long as you kill a terrorist big shot, and keep the civilians casualties down, this unofficial operation can continue. So the U.S. is moving dozens more armed UAVs to Afghanistan, in order to keep eyes on the bad guys.

 


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