The politics of war and peace

By Editor Aug1,2023 #Al Qaeda #Pakistan #Taliban

Afghanistan is central to Al-Qaeda’s policy. Terror operations in
Pakistan were not. In fact, after 9/11 there was a tacit agreement
between the then director general of Pakistan’s premier intelligence
agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt.-General Mehmood,
and Al-Qaeda members (made when Mehmood visited Kandahar
to convince Mullah Omar to hand over Osama bin Laden) that
Pakistan would not be hostile to Al-Qaeda if Al-Qaeda did not
harm Pakistan’s interests. Under US pressure Pakistan mounted a
few military operations against Al-Qaeda in 2002 and 2003, but
Al-Qaeda abided by its commitment to avoid enmity with Pakistan
until late 2003, when militants carried out an attack on General
Pervez Musharraf. This led to a long and continuing period of
hostilities between Pakistan and Al-Qaeda.
The two attacks on Musharraf’s motorcade, one following
shortly after the other in late 2003, were masterminded by Amjad
Farooqui, a former LJ leader killed in an encounter in September

  1. He was working in close collaboration with Al-Qaeda at the
    time, but the plan he devised was of his own making. The attack on
    Musharraf prompted a massive crackdown on Jihadi structures. In a
    matter of few months several thousand Jihadis were rounded up by
    the intelligence agencies and detained without trial. Soon after this
    Al-Qaeda planned a Pakistan terror operations strategy, although it
    did so half-heartedly.
    Up to that time, Al-Qaeda had viewed Pakistan as an essential
    component of its strategic base and a recruiting ground for personnel,
    not as a theater in which terror was to be spread. However, when
    the tide of US pressure forced Pakistan to wage war against
    Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militant groups, it was inevitable
    that Al-Qaeda would resort to counter-strategies such as its terror
    campaign in Pakistan. This strategy conveyed the message that if
    the United States was capable of pressurizing Pakistan through military means, the militants were equally capable of changing the
    course of Pakistan’s future direction with attacks of this nature. The
    strategy certainly succeeded in slowing down Pakistan’s support for
    the US-led “War on Terror.” As the war progressed, the militants
    flexed more muscle, forcing Pakistan to recognize them as serious
    players. Pakistan was then forced to sit down with them to negotiate
    the terms for a truce.

Later on, this initially half-hearted strategy morphed into a well-
planned dialectic under which Al-Qaeda planed the course of its war, based on three prominent features:

  • Regrouping of its cadre and a battle strategy in the Pakistani
    tribal areas against the Pakistan Army.
  • Buffering this arrangement through ceasefire agreements before
    venturing back to its main battlefield, Afghanistan, to launch the
    spring offensive of 2006 (Al-Qaeda’s watershed to enable it to
    strengthen its strategic base in Pakistan’s tribal areas).
  • Expanding the war into Pakistan (which by 2007 had become a
    vital ally of the United States against Al-Qaeda), and from there
    strategizing the expansion of the theater of war from the Central
    Asian Republics to India, for the express purpose of defeating
    NATO forces in Afghanistan.
    In order to pursue this strategy, Al-Qaeda regrouped its forces
    and erected new militant structures in Pakistan’s tribal belt
    In March 2004, under intense US pressure, thousands of Pakistan

Army troops launched the Kalusha Operation in the Wana subdivi-
sion of South Waziristan. They were under the misguided belief that

a short, sharp, surgical operation would eliminate the militants. But
unlike in the 2002 and 2003 operations, this time the Al-Qaeda
structures were active. The Pakistan Army had not anticipated
such a fierce reaction, and the operation failed, with the militants
ambushing the troops and inflicting heavy losses. Pakistan’s officers
and soldiers were lured into traps and captured, while the pride and
honor of the armed forces suffered public humiliation when young
tribal boys slapped around both the officers and the men they held
in captivity. Finally the Pakistan Army surrendered, and a ceasefire
(the Shakai Agreement) was signed on April 24, 2004.
This was the first success for Al-Qaeda’s strategy in South Waziristan. The militants used this breathing space to shore up
their struggle against the United States and its Pakistani allies. In
the coming months more such ceasefires fitted in perfectly with
Al-Qaeda’s broader war strategy, allowing the militants to maneuver
battles from one region to another, and eventually enhance their
capabilities to draw the boundaries of battlefields to their own
liking. (Later chapters discuss this further.)
Nek Muhammad, the Yargulkhel Wazir, emerged as the hero of
Wana. He successfully rescued Al-Qaeda operatives from Pakistan’s
military onslaught and saved the life of the chief of Uzbekistan’s
Islamic Movement, Qari Tahir Yaldochiv, during the Kalusha
Operation. This was the first operation in which foreign militants
were publicly acknowledged as real players.

By Editor

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