Al-Qaeda military chief out to forestall army action in Waziristan


LAHORE: In a bid to dissuade the Pakistan Army from launching a
full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan tribal agency on the
Pak-Afghan border, the al-Qaeda high command has dispatched Saif Al
Adal, the military chief of the Osama-led terror outfit, to North
Waziristan which has already become a safe haven for the fugitive
al-Qaeda leaders as well as the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

According to well informed sources in the Pakistani security
establishment, Saif Al Adal, one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives,
has been dispatched to North Waziristan by bin Laden’s No.2, Dr Ayman
Al Zawahiri, with the prime objective of boosting al-Qaeda’s military
might against the Pakistani security forces in Waziristan and stepping
up cross border ambushes against the US-led Allied forces in
Afghanistan. Saif was set free by Iran in October 2010 after spending
nine years under house arrest, and that too in exchange for the
release of Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, a senior Iranian diplomat who was
kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2008. Saif has been dispatched
to North Waziristan amidst reports that the Pakistani authorities have
already given a commitment to the Obama administration to launch a
full-scale military action in the area to uproot the Haqqani militant
network led by veteran Afghan leader Commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and
his son Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The Haqqani militant network is working in tandem with al-Qaeda as
well as the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban to resist the Pakistani
security forces and carry out cross border ambushes against the US-led
Allied Forces stationed in Afghanistan. The North Waziristan has
become a hub of the anti-US elements given the fact that it has a
common border with Khost, the native Afghan province of Jalaluddin
Haqqanis. The Americans have targeted the Haqqani network in
Waziristan extensively since the dawn of 2010, especially since a
suicide bomber killed seven senior CIA officers in the Khost area of
Afghanistan on December 31, 2009. As the US recently announced a hefty
amount of two billion dollars in military aid to Islamabad to push it
for early operation in North Waziristan, the Pakistani Taliban
threatened [through an open letter]to wage an endless war against the
Pakistan government.

On the other hand, the al-Qaeda leadership subsequently assigned Saif
Al Adal with the task of launching a counter offensive on both sides
of the trouble stricken Pak-Afghan tribal belt and foil the military
designs of the Pakistan and American allies in the war against terror.
An Egyptian by birth, Saif is considered by US intelligence agencies
as a seasoned operational planner and an experienced field commander.
Often mentioned together with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind
of the 9/11 attacks, he is accused of involvement in the bombing of
two US embassies in Africa in August 1998. Saif, who was al-Qaeda’s
military chief before 9/11, simply disappeared after these attacks. It
later transpired that he was being kept in Iran under a protective
house arrest together with many other key al-Qaeda leaders and their
families who had fled the American invasion of Afghanistan in December
2001 and were being prevented from traveling further by Iran.

However, upon his release, Saif was straight away restored to his
previous position – chief of the military operations in the region–
and asked by his fellow Egyptian boss Ayman Zawahiri to proceed to
North Waziristan. According to sources in the Pakistani security
establishment, the return of Saif to the field has set the alarm bells
ringing in the American intelligence circles given the fact that his
role in the terror outfit had been that of a trainer, military
commander and key member of bin Laden’s security ring. They believe
his return would greatly bolster the terror group’s operational
ability which was largely affected by the non-stop US drone attacks in
Waziristan and the subsequent killings of many key commanders. Saif
has already started reviving his old connections with those Afghan and
Pakistani militant groups whose relations with al-Qaeda had turned
sour in his absence. Under instructions from his leadership, he is now
trying to unite all those groups on a single platform to put up a
joint front when against the Pakistan Army whenever the North
Waziristan operation is launched.

The sources say the Pakistani authorities were earlier reluctant to
launch the military offensive in North Waziristan due to their old
links with the Haqqani militant network which date back to the days of
the Afghan war of the 1980s. Yet the Pakistani Taliban’s joining hands
with the Haqqani network and their increasing ratio of targeting the
Pakistani security and intelligence agencies, has made the North
Waziristan-based Afghan and Taliban militants a common enemy of both
Islamabad and Washington. This has subsequently paved the way for the
much-awaited military action in North Waziristan.

At the same time, however, there are those in the Pakistani
establishment circles who believe that the military operation would be
launched only after the top brass of the Haqqani militant network is
allowed to relocate itself from North Waziristan to some other parts
of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan in the
Pak-Afghan tribal belt as the Haqqanis are still considered an asset
by the Pakistani establishment in its strategic depth policy in a
post-US Afghanistan. They even claim that the ailing Afghan commander
Jalaluddin Haqqani and his elder son Sirajuddin Haqqani who is also
the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, had already been
moved to a safe location on the Pakistani side of the Pak-Afghan
tribal belt, thus giving a clear indication that the military
offensive in North Waziristan is inevitable now.

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