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  War and Terror

US vapor trail leads
to Jasmine revolt

Recent successes in the United States' strategy in the Muslim world - keeping intervention light and pushing others to take the lead - could forebode even larger plans, and an emphasis on Cold War tactics to destabilize countries. Iran could be next in the chain, and the logical step to re-establish global authority would be action to stir change in China.
- Francesco Sisci (Aug 31, '11)

New boss plans attacks on Pakistan
Shah Sahib has been appointed temporary leader of the al-Qaeda-linked 313 Brigade following the killing of Ilyas Kashmiri in a drone attack in Pakistan's tribal area in June. One of Shah Sahib's first tasks is to strengthen alliances with other militant groups in preparation for major attacks against the Pakistan security forces.
- Hamza Ameer (Aug 30, '11)

How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli
Abdelhakim Belhaj, the top rebel military commander in still war-torn Libya, is an al-Qaeda asset. It doesn't require a crystal ball to picture that his group - being among the war "winners" - will not be interested in relinquishing control just to please the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Libya may now face the specter of Muammar Gaddafi forces against a weak transitional central government and NATO boots on the ground; and the Belhaj-led nebula in a jihad also against NATO (if they are sidelined from power). - Pepe Escobar (Aug 29, '11)

Israel wages war on Iranian scientists
Startling and detailed revelations by Majid Jamali Fashi, the confessed killer of a top Iranian scientist, heighten suspicions of at least a dozen Israeli-trained lone operatives active inside Tehran. This brings into question the weaknesses in Iranian protective security measures, which in turn increases the pressure on Iran to strike back. - Mahan Abedin (Aug 26, '11)

Kurdish pawns bind Turkish rook
Turkey has trained its eyes homeward with air strikes on Kurdish insurgents inside Iraq just as Saudi Arabia was hoping for its help in Syria. The probability of a robust Turkish intervention in Syria almost certainly diminishes with the Turks tied up in the Kurdish regions, and Ankara has to put aside its aspirations to reclaim its Ottoman legacy. - M K Bhadrakumar (Aug 22, '11)

Shahzad murder probe drags on
The judicial commission formed to investigate the murder of Asia Times Online Pakistan bureau chief Syed Saleem Shahzad has questioned officers from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. As the probe drags on beyond the first deadline, few expect his killers to be brought to justice. - Malik Ayub Sumbal (Aug 18, '11)

Pakistan frets over femme fatales
The Pakistan Taliban's third attack by a female suicide bomber in less than a year is raising fears as the new tactic to conceal deadly explosives under all-enveloping burqas presents a huge challenge for Pakistan's security agencies. The Taliban, training women's cells on both sides of the AfPak border, threaten to unleash more carnage. - Amir Mir (Aug 17, '11)

Islamabad demands veto on drones
Islamabad is insisting on a veto over United States drone targets as the death of innocents raises the stakes in the war against the Pakistan Taliban. A strike against tribal elders because the Central Intelligence Agency was "angry" over the detention of its operative Raymond Davis proved the final straw. - Gareth Porter (Aug 17, '11)

Iran banks all on Assad's survival
Officially, Iran is committed to the Syrian regime's survival, but concerns are being voiced in the Islamic Republic over Tehran's failure to hedge its bets. At its extreme the fear is that the Middle East's most resilient modern alliance and the region's "resistance axis" will crumble should Syrian President Bashar al-Assad be forced out or emasculated. - Mahan Abedin (Aug 16, '11)

Blood on the Iraqi-Syrian tracks
As a bloody Monday for Iraq followed carnage on Friday in Syria, many in Baghdad are losing sleep about events across the border. Iraq may be uneasy about the exploits of Syria's vicious security apparatus, but it is not applying any pressure. Like Tehran, Baghdad fears any hint of a Sunni Salafi takeover in Damascus.
- Pepe Escobar (Aug 16, '11)

Military gives marching orders to jihadis
The Pentagon's computer specialists are posting at jihadi websites "confusing and contradictory orders, some so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away". Shouldn't someone start asking whether those Pentagon "orders" might not turn out to be the online equivalent of so many loose guns?
- Tom Engelhardt (Aug 16, '11)

A matter of intelligence

Senior United States Army officer Richard Saccone served at the business end of counter-intelligence operations in Iraq. He describes coming under mortar fire on a daily basis by forces loyal to al-Qaeda while working at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and defends coercive interrogations, including water-boarding.
- Victor Fic (Aug 15, '11)

Balochistan caught in spiral of violence
A report by Human Rights Watch on resource-rich Balochistan province says "the Pakistani security services are brazenly disappearing, torturing and often killing people because of suspected ties to the Baloch nationalist movement". In response, Balochis are targeting Shi'ites and Punjabis. The violence is escalating into all-out war, recreating the situation in 1970-1971 that culminated in the birth of Bangladesh. - Amir Mir (Aug 11, '11)

Unrest ripples across the region
Strife-torn Balochistan is a key component of the regional rivalries centered in Afghanistan. These create further friction in the already-deteriorating relations between Pakistan and the United States, while Iran and India also have reason for concern as the province slips into anarchy.
- Abubakar Siddique (Aug 11, '11)

US shocked and awed by the Taliban
It's tantalizing to indulge the conspiracy theories surrounding the downing of a Chinook that claimed the lives of 19 United States Navy SEALs from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden. More constructive is to realize that the Taliban missile that brought down the helicopter underscores the harsh truth that the "new" Afghan strategy is a failure. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 9, '11)

What the Bin Laden files could tell us
Instead of focusing only on what kind of food and personality Osama bin Laden had, fundamental issues can be addressed by sifting through his information trove - relations with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda's penetration of the West.
- Walid Phares (Aug 8, '11)

US drags its feet in Iraq
Iraqi politicians appear ready to give ground as the United States pushes for some troops to stay beyond the year-end withdrawal date to "train" Iraqi forces, even if keeping tabs on the oil-producing Kurdish heartland is the real reason to linger. With wounds inflicted by mercenary contractors still raw, the sticking point for Iraq is the issue of immunity for US trainers. - Karamatullah K Ghori (Aug 5, '11)

US accuses Tehran of deal with al-Qaeda
The United States Treasury Department has accused Iran of entering a "secret deal" with al-Qaeda to transport money and operatives. The revelations, similar to US pretexts for the Iraq War and the strongest ever official US assertion that Tehran is in bed with the terror outfit, will become a rallying call for neo-conservatives demanding military action over Iran's nuclear program. - Jim Lobe (Jul 29, '11)

Another stinging blow for Libya
The killing of rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younes brings into focus a complex and extensive web of power relationships and rivalries spanning both sides of the conflict in Libya. With the prospects of a ground intervention by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization receding, the twin scenarios of a collapse of the rebel front and a power vacuum take center-stage. - Victor Kotsev (Jul 29, '11)

Parents balk at 'suicide' schools
The Taliban's latest high-profile suicide attack killed the mayor of Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar. The bomber had explosives hidden in his turban. Even before this grisly incident, some Afghan parents had stopped sending their children to madrassas (seminaries) in Pakistan, where youngsters are taught the virtues of blowing up themselves and others.
- Arash Kabuli (Jul 28, '11)

Pakistan to get rid of Bali bombing suspect
After much debate, Pakistan has decided to return to Indonesia Umar Patek, the prime suspect in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing. Jakarta is concerned its courts will not be able to successfully prosecute Patek, who could also become a rallying cry for would-be jihadis. Australia and the United States have reason to be miffed. - Amir Mir (Jul 27, '11)

A Saudi beacon for Iraq's Sunni militias
Iraqi Shi'ite militias have stepped up attacks on United States troops while al-Qaeda and Sunni forces have exercised restraint, targeting only Shi'ites and refraining from firefights. It seems al-Qaeda has reached an understanding with a foreign power reluctant to be tied to killing US soldiers and interested in rolling back Iran's influence. But is Saudi Arabia courting disaster?
- Brian M Downing (Jul 26, '11)

Reckoning with Taliban irreconcilables
As the ill-defined concept of Taliban reconciliation moves forward in fits and star src=nbsp;69 align=FONT color=ts, those who were once part of a comparatively hopeful, if ineffective, unity government in Kabul are now disaffected with one another in a vastly unproductive fashion. All the elements of the web of interlocking and competing interests at work in Afghanistan today will be impossible to satisfy simultaneously.
- Derek Henry Flood (Jul 22, '11)

Washington's singular accomplishment
The United States military has gathered biometric data, including eye scans, on one of every 14 Iraqis and one of every 20 Afghans. It may not be the same as winning a world war, building giant steel mills, or other American accomplishments of the past, but in a moment like this, one takes what one can get. When this endeavor is complete, Washington will be able to identify any Iraqi or Afghan on the planet by eye-scan alone. - Tom Engelhardt (Jul 22, '11)

Iran steps up assault on world terror
Tehran is increasing its diplomatic response to world terrorism with some urgency as the United States withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan prompts Israel and Saudi Arabia to press Washington to return to an aggressive stance on Iran. Sympathy for the Iranians as victims of attacks is unlikely to flow, however, given claims the regime has not been entirely innocent abroad. - Brian M Downing (Jul 21, '11)

Execution videos strike terror in Pakistan
A video showing 16 Pakistani policemen, hands tied behind their backs, being executed by Taliban gunmen is a brutal reminder of how they mercilessly take revenge - in this instance to avenge the deaths of six children killed during security operations. Terrorized local people are more afraid than ever to speak out against the militants. - Ashfaq Yusufzai (Jul 20, '11)

US war debt dances on the ceiling
No one knows the true cost in blood and treasure of the United States' open wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and covert conflict in Pakistan over the past 10 years, but a recent report's estimates of 225,000 dead and US$4 trillion spent may prove too conservative. The study excluded long-term obligations to veterans and promised money, yet to be paid, for reconstruction.
- David Isenberg (Jul 19, '11)

US drones target white jihadis
The Pakistan al-Qaeda network is increasingly recruiting white Muslim converts to widen the pool of terrorists able to foil racial profiling and hit Western targets. The July 5 killing of another white jihadi amid an unprecedented surge in drone attacks in Waziristan since a European terror plot was unearthed shows that the network is being ruthlessly dismantled.
- Amir Mir (Jul 18, '11)

Taliban tell why Ahmad Wali had to die
Kandahar provincial council chief Ahmad Wali Karzai, assassinated on Tuesday, had his fingers in every conceivable pie in the southern regions of Afghanistan, and was no stranger to double-dealing and the darker side of the law. Only one thing mattered to the Taliban - Wali Karzai was in the pay of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and in this capacity he had furthered the aims of the US's troop "surge". For this he had to be killed.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Jul 15, '11)

Muqtada toys with US's Iraq intentions
Iraqi officials insist Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is playing a "double game" over a United States military presence after 2011, pointing to his reported acquiescence to a deal alongside a surge in Shi'ite militia attacks on US troops. While the US appears unwilling to play along, this doesn't weaken Muqtada's decisive sway in the fate of US bases in Iraq.
- Gareth Porter (Jul 15, '11)

Mumbai sees return of a familiar fear
In the post-Osama bin Laden world of swirling Pakistan-American tensions, militants were itching to strike and the fluid epicenter of Indian modernity was the easiest target. As Mumbai residents clear the rubble of Wednesday's triple bombing - hankering for the peace that prevailed since November 2008 - the likely suspects are drawing up plans for the follow-up to this "testing of the waters". - Dinesh Sharma (Jul 15, '11)

Mumbai rocked, Pakistan suspected
Terror returned to Mumbai on Wednesday nearly three years after the massive assault on the city that left 164 people dead. The latest attack was a relatively smaller incident, with three bomb blasts killing 21 people. The significance is no minor matter though, for while no group has claimed responsibility, suspicion points again at Pakistan. - Raja Murthy (Jul 14, '11)

Taliban deliver hammer blow to NATO
The assassination on Tuesday of Ahmad Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, smashes to bits the notion that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is winning the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban are now rid of the major pro-Washington actor not only in Kandahar province but in the whole south of Afghanistan - where NATO has been involved en masse to crush the Taliban in their spiritual home and favored grounds.
- Pepe Escobar (Jul 13, '11)

Why Ahmad Wali Karzai was controversial
Allegations against Ahmad Wali Karzai include that he paid off Taliban insurgents, that he laundered money, that he seized government land, that he reaped enormous profits by facilitating the shipment of opium through his region. He was also said to be in the pay of United States intelligence. Now Washington has lost someone who - depending on which reports one finds credible - was simultaneously both a partner and a liability for the West. (Jul 13, '11)

Pakistan bristles at failed label
On a host of measures Pakistan has been labeled as heading for failed state status, even as the country's media and politicians bristle at the suggestion. Yet many outside the country argue that a stable Pakistan is crucial to Asia's growth; not least because the world cannot afford to have two defiant orphan states weeping side-by-side.
- Dinesh Sharma (Jul 13, '11)

Islamabad takes a shot at US drones
The decision by the United States to withhold US$800 million in security aid to Pakistan is the culmination of a series of disagreements between the "war on terror" allies. Islamabad has shrugged off the loss in revenue, while stepping up its drive to curtail Washington's drone strikes inside Pakistan that have claimed 2,587 lives in the past 10 years. - Amir Mir (Jul 12, '11)

US moves toward Afghan guerrilla war
After 10 years of relying on conventional warfare in Afghanistan, the United States will complement counter-insurgency efforts with an expanded unconventional warfare campaign in many insurgent-controlled areas. Guerrilla warfare could well allow the US to increase its effectiveness against the Taliban while at the same time reducing its troop levels and expenditure. - Brian M Downing (Jul 11, '11)

US homes in on al-Qaeda's new head
The United States is turning up the heat to catch Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was formally appointed al-Qaeda's amir on June 16 following the killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden. Security circles say that while Zawahiri lacks Bin Laden's charisma, he should not be underestimated, mainly because his organizational and operational skills make him public enemy number one. - Amir Mir (Jul 8, '11)

Osama ally stuck in legal limbo
Osama bin Laden confidante and Bali bomb suspect Umar Patek is stuck in legal limbo as he enters his sixth month in custody in Pakistan, amid concerns that Indonesia cannot secure a conviction after being offered the first opportunity to put him on trial. A change in law has hobbled the chances of prosecutors in Jakarta, although Patek could be extradited elsewhere. - Jacob Zenn (Jul 7, '11)

Petraeus burnishes Afghan legacy
As he swaps hats from the United States commander in Afghanistan to spymaster, David Petraeus remains fixated on changing a desperate legacy in the Hindu Kush. By claiming as his own the strategic shift in the locus of the war to border tribal areas, he may take credit for cutting ground forces, but that offers cold comfort for Pakistan amid a likely rise in militant attacks. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jul 6, '11)

Shahzad's killing echoes in Washington
A report firmly pointing the finger of suspicion over the killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad at Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has moved the issue to the very highest levels in Washington. The case of Asia Times Online's former Pakistani bureau chief will mesh well with evidence against the ISI that the US is gathering from many sources. China, increasingly concerned with Pakistan's stability, will be wary of drawing closer to a failing state. - Brian M Downing (Jul 6, '11)

The House of Saud paranoia
For Riyadh, the great Arab revolt is all an Iranian plot, another front for the House of Saud in the psy-ops war it is fighting against Tehran's "polytheists", directed by the Medieval Wahhabi clerical establishment. The Saudi message to Washington and London is clear - we hold the petrodollars and we're top dog in the Gulf, so forget silly ideas about "democracy".
- Pepe Escobar (Jul 6, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

US, Pakistan top brass fire risky salvos
Events on the ground may show some movement to repair mangled relations, but the American and the Pakistani top brass are still testing each other's wits after the US killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. More is at stake than noses out of joint in Rawalpindi as any further damage to ties could hurt US plans to save face in Afghanistan. - Karamatullah K Ghori (Jul 5, '11)

Libya after Gaddafi
Discussions of contingency plans for Libya's future are becoming increasingly public, indicating a surprising confidence that Muammar Gaddafi's fate is already sealed. Given the realities on the ground, though, and the ever-increasing signs of the North Atlantic Treaty's desperation, this show of confidence could either be a bluff, or the final preparation stage for a ground invasion.
- Victor Kotsev (Jul 5, '11)

Have lobby, will travel
The "rebel" government - which is now named, after numerous permutations, the Interim Transitional National Council of Libya - has hired Patton Boggs, one of Washington's leading (and one of the most profitable) public relations firms, to "advise and assist" them in, well, winning the war - and getting their hands on billions of dollars in frozen funds from the Muammar Gaddafi regime held in the United States. - Pepe Escobar (Jul 5, '11)

To follow Pepe's articles on the Great Arab Revolt, please click here.

Taliban sing a false note
The United States' plan for Afghanistan includes reconciliation with the Taliban, but the latter have no plans that allow American gains, much less bilateral negotiations to end the conflict. To understand why this is the case, one needs to grasp three key concepts that underpin the Taliban movement - taqiyya (deception), jihad and sharia. - Walid Phares (Jul 5, '11)

 June 2011

ATol Specials

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports on the Afghan war from the Taliban side
(Dec '06)

How Hezbollah defeated Israel
Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
(Oct '06)

Mark Perry and
Alastair Crooke
talk to the 'terrorists'
(Mar, '06)

  The evidence for and against Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program

  Nir Rosen goes inside the Iraqi resistance

Nir Rosen rides with the 3rd armored cavalry in western Iraq

Islamism, fascism and terrorism

by Marc Erikson

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