India Claims Fake Currency Flow from Pakistan Is “Economic Terrorism”

Andrew McGregor

August 13, 2009

In an official acknowledgement of a growing problem, the Indian government told both houses of parliament that a network involving Pakistani intelligence, Kashmiri terrorist groups and Indian organized crime boss Dawood Ibrahim was flooding India with counterfeit banknotes. The purpose is alleged to be twofold: to destabilize India’s economy and provide financing for anti-Indian terrorist groups. The problem of counterfeiting has become so pervasive in India it has even developed its own jargon: Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN).

fake indian currencyPolice seizures of counterfeit currency increased after last November’s terrorist attack in Mumbai. The states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra appear to have been the most affected (Associated Press of Pakistan, August 4).

The problem with the counterfeit cash is that it is almost indistinguishable from legitimate Indian currency. There have been several cases of trained agents unable to separate real from fake banknotes after major seizures of counterfeit currency. It is not surprising, therefore, that the fake currency is being redistributed by banks via ATMs (India Daily, July 30). It appears that low-denomination fakes are actually more common than higher-denomination fakes, so that merchants and banks spend their time examining high denomination notes while the others receive far less scrutiny as they pass into circulation.

Measures to reduce the circulation of fake banknotes include increased vigilance by customs officials and the Border Security Force, increasing the security features on the most commonly forged notes, switching to polymer banknotes (as in Australia) and snap inspections of ATMs by security teams from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Security features on Indian banknotes were last improved in 2005.

A high-level committee has been formed to create a strategy to deal with the problem. In the meantime the investigation has been turned over to the newly formed National Investigation Agency (Economic Times, August 5). The government has also promised to bring up the problem with international institutions such as Interpol. Some observers have pointed out that counterfeiting U.S. dollars or Euros would be understandable, but manufacturing fake Indian rupees can only be done with a specific purpose in mind – the destabilization of the Indian economy (Daily News and Analysis India, August 11).

There are only a handful of companies worldwide involved in the tightly-controlled manufacture and distribution of currency-quality papers and inks. Indian intelligence agencies claim their investigations show Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) prevailed upon the government in Islamabad to order printing paper and inks in excess of its needs from suppliers in the UK, Sweden and Switzerland (Times of India, August 4). According to an Indian government official, “After using the country’s normal requirement for printing its own currency, Pakistan diverts the rest to its ISI with the intention of destabilizing the Indian economy by pumping in as many FICNs as possible into India and also to fund terrorist organizations. It has been involved in printing and circulation of the fake currency notes with the help of the organized crime network of Dawood Ibrahim and others” (Times of India, August 4). Police say interrogations in an earlier case revealed the existence of a clandestine printing plant run by the ISI in Quetta, Pakistan (Times of India, August 1). The intelligence agencies say the counterfeit currency is transported by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the UAE to be smuggled into India. Printing inks have also gone missing in transit within India (Daily News and Analysis India, August 11).

The distribution network inside India appears to be highly sophisticated—so far it has resisted all attempts to trace the network back from the many street-level distributors who have been apprehended. According to a police investigator in Maharashtra: “The carriers are briefed on a need-to-know basis and are not aware of the entire network” (India Daily, July 30).

This article first appeared in the August 13, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Is Pakistan Reversing Strategy of Isolating Baitullah Mahsud in Waziristan?

Andrew McGregor

August 6, 2009

As Pakistani F-16 fighters attack Taliban targets in South Waziristan, the government and military leadership appear to be reconsidering their earlier attempts to persuade other Taliban commanders in the region to remain on the sidelines during a much-delayed ground campaign against Baitullah Mahsud, leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Baitullah MahsudBaitullah Mahsud

The government’s appeals were directed principally at Siraj Haqqani, leader of the deadly Haqqani Network and son of renowned Afghan mujahideen leader Jallaludin Haqanni, Deobandi warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur of the Uthmanzai Wazir (see Terrorism Monitor, April 10), and Ahmadzai tribal leader Maulvi Nazir, whose complex loyalties are somewhat difficult to grasp, being simultaneously pro-Bin Laden, anti-Baitullah Mahsud and pro-Pakistan when suitable (see Terrorism Monitor, May 14, 2007). Pakistan’s press has reported a series of meetings between government officials and TTP leaders designed to isolate Baitullah, as well as warnings issued to Taliban factions not to interfere with military convoys on their way to Waziristan once the planned offensive begins.

Bahadur and Nazir overcame their differences with Baitulllah in February, when they joined Baitullah in the Shura Ittihad-ul-Mujahideen (Council for United Holy Warriors) at the urging of Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar (The News [Islamabad], February 23). Little has been heard of this alliance since, suggesting this was only a temporary display of unity. Maulvi Nazir is a bitter rival of Baitullah. His participation in the new alliance was likely only a sign of his loyalty to Mullah Omar and there are conflicting reports on whether he will support or oppose Baitullah once the campaign begins.

A July 28 suicide attack by Bahadur’s faction against government security forces killed two members of the Frontier Corps and wounded five others, suggesting Bahadur has rejected the government’s advances (The News, July 29; Geo News, July 28). With Siraj Haqqani likely to side with Baitullah to protect his cross-border network, Islamabad appears to have realized the isolation of Baitullah within the Pakistani Taliban is unlikely. After having served as their sponsor for several years, Baitullah is likely to be joined in any conflict against government forces by the remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which has been based in Waziristan since being expelled from Afghanistan in late 2001. Known a decade ago for their skills in mountain warfare, the present capability and strength of the Uzbeks is uncertain after years of attrition and isolation from Uzbekistan, but Baitullah’s fall will surely result in their destruction, giving the remaining Uzbeks a strong incentive to repel any government incursion.

While there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of negotiations between the government and Baitullah, a senior Pakistani military official told an Islamabad daily that it was now too late for talks: “Both the civil and military authorities have concluded that Baitullah is an enemy of Pakistan and must be dealt with accordingly” (The News, August 3).

While the major Taliban leaders appear to be lining up behind Baitullah, a number of lesser commanders appear prepared to seek retribution from Baitullah for various past offenses. A former ally of Baitullah, Turkistan Bhittani, has already started operations against Baitullah’s men in the Tank region after having declared his readiness to take on Baitullah’s men as soon as Islamabad gave the green light (ANI, July 13; AFP, July 11). Bhittani has joined with two other factions in the reformed Abdullah Mahsud group (named for the late Mahsudi Taliban leader). Local press reported the new Amir of the alliance, Waziristan Baba (a.k.a. Ikhlas Khan) had sworn revenge on Baitullah for killing people in South Waziristan and destroying schools and hospitals (The Nation [Islamabad], July 23). A later statement from existing Abdullah Mahsud commander Qari Misbahuddin Mahsud denied the appointment of Waziristan Baba, claiming he had been sent by Baitullah to create rifts amongst the Abdullah Mahsud Taliban. According to Qari Misbahuddin, Waziristan Baba had already been expelled after less than two months in the Abdullah Mahsud group. A decision had been made to kill him, but he escaped before it could be implemented (The News, July 24).

The Pakistani military is still in the process of consolidating its control of Swat, Buner and Dir. Militants driven out of these areas are reported to be regrouping in Shangla District. For the moment, Baitullah’s ability to operate beyond South Waziristan appears to be restricted, giving the government time to pursue its aerial campaign (using American supplied targeting intelligence) against him while avoiding a wide-scale conflict against a combination of Taliban factions in Waziristan. Aerial operations, however, are incapable of establishing the government’s writ across the Tribal Agencies of northwest Pakistan. Pakistan’s F-16s cannot carry out night operations, leaving the battlefield to the Taliban at night.  As American and international pressure builds for a ground assault on South Waziristan, Islamabad will use the bombing campaign to buy enough time to find alternatives, whether through the submission of Baitullah Mahsud, or the creation of a tribal alliance capable of ensuring victory in a land campaign.

A senior Pakistani security official explained the government’s decision to act against all of South Waziristan’s Taliban warlords rather than attempt to isolate Baitullah. “We have delayed the operation only to broaden its horizon. The militants in the border regions have developed joint networks, therefore it is imperative to confront them on both sides of the border so that they do not slip from one area [to] another during the course of operations… It would be difficult to confront Baitullah Mahsud and leave the other ones alone. The operation would have to be an all-out war against all of them” (Adnkronos International, July 31).

This article first appeared in the August 6, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor 

TNSM Leader Sufi Muhammad Fights Government Offensive in Swat with a Barrage of Words

Andrew McGregor

May 18, 2009

Even as 15,000 Pakistani troops prepared to flood the Swat valley stronghold of his Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) movement, Maulana Sufi Muhammad continued to unleash a series of edicts on topics as varied as democracy, the status of women and the Islamic legitimacy of photography.

Sufi MuhammadMaulana Sufi Muhammad (Dawn)

Sufi Muhammad was reported to have left his home in Lower Dir on May 4 after it was hit by mortar fire in the opening phases of Operation Rah-e-Haq 4. He is now believed to be in the TNSM stronghold at Aman Darra (Pakistan Observer, May 5). His son, Maulana Kifayatullah, was killed in the shelling of his home in Lower Dir (The News, [Islamabad], May 8).

In a recent interview by Pakistani television, Sufi Muhammad rejected democracy as the creation of “infidels.” The TNSM leader asked, “How can people who believe in democracy be expected to enforce the ideals of Shari’a?” Even the Islamic states of Saudi Arabia and Iran had failed to implement Shari’a to Sufi Muhammad’s satisfaction as he cited the Taliban regime of Afghanistan as the only example of a government that had properly administered Islamic law. According to Sufi Muhammad, communism, socialism and fascism were also “un-Islamic” political systems (Geo TV, May 4). In the same interview, he also condemned still photography and videos as “un-Islamic,” before declaring that in a Taliban-run society, women would only be allowed to leave their house to perform pilgrimage to Mecca (Daily Times [Lahore], May 4). Finally, Sufi Muhammad proclaimed that jihad was not mandatory in Kashmir as Islamic insurgents there were seeking a state rather than the implementation of Shari’a (The News, May 3).

Sufi Muhammad has not escaped criticism from other Islamic scholars in Pakistan. A recent meeting of the Ahl-e-Sunna in Karachi issued a statement asking if Taliban excesses in Swat would now be dealt with by the new Islamic courts. “If not, to whom are they accountable for the injustice they have committed? Who slaughtered innocent people, dishonored bodies, and hanged them on poles? Will they be called to any Shari’a court and [be] sentenced? Is it legal, according to Shari’a, to dishonor the body of a rival and then hang it from a tree? Do the people who have a different opinion deserve death? Are the people who have killed scholars of the Ahl-e-Sunna or forced them to migrate and taken control of their mosques, madaris, and properties exempt from the dictates of Shari’a, or are they answerable to any Shari’a court?” (Jang Online, May 4).

The Pakistani press has also been highly critical of Sufi Muhammad’s failure to fulfill his end of the peace agreement with the NWFP government, his rejection of government-appointed qazis (Islamic judges) and his unwillingness to disarm local Taliban and TNSM fighters (Aaj Kal, May 5; Nawa-e-Waqt, May 5; Jinnah, May 5). According to one major daily, “The demands of the TNSM have been accepted by the government, and they are being implemented as well. Despite this, the opposition by Sufi Muhammad and his disciples is beyond comprehension. Apparently, it appears that these people have a desire to establish a state within a state to be headed by Sufi Muhammad. Such a situation cannot be acceptable to a sovereign country. Therefore, it will be justified if the Army launches an operation for the stability and security of the country” (Khabrain, May 5).

This article was first published in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Kuwait’s Hamid Abdallah al-Ali Describes Pending Defeat of Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Andrew McGregor

May 18, 2009

Shaykh Hamid Abdallah al-Ali, a leading Kuwait-based Salafist preacher and advocate of global jihad, has declared that Islam’s battle in Afghanistan will continue to escalate in the coming days, extending to Pakistan where the “Zionist-Crusader” alliance will use strategies similar to those that have already failed in Palestine, Iraq and Somalia. His analysis was contained in a May 2 article entitled; “Afghan-Pakistani Tight Spot and Zion-American Ambitions” (, May 2). The analysis was carried by many jihadist websites.

Hamid Abdullah al-AliShaykh Hamid Abdullah al-Ali

Al-Ali says the most prominent achievement of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mahsud has been the rejuvenation of “the jihadist network in Afghanistan, all the warlords from Pashtun [tribes] and the mujahideen from the Punjab district… aligning them under one banner.”  The fusion of trained jihadis, funds and organizational skills has made it possible for Baitullah to strike anywhere in Pakistan. According to al-Ali, the success of the Taliban is based on its ability to win supporters and postpone “secondary disputes” within the alliance.

The Salafist preacher is, unsurprisingly, critical of Shiite Iran. Al-Ali notes that the “Safavids” (Iranians) do not cooperate with Sunni jihad movements, except temporarily to “burn out such movements” in a “wicked scheme.” “What is astonishing in their ambition is that they want a deal that reaches a degree that equalizes them with the international deals the West concludes with China or Russia.” The shaykh suggests Iran will continue to display their ability to cause harm continuously until they are given status alongside the great powers, even if it involves provoking the United States in Latin America (an apparent reference to Iranian relations with Venezuela).

The shaykh suggests that the destruction of NATO supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan would be one of the greatest achievements of the ongoing jihad. This would help make the Afghanistan-Pakistan region “a vast and safe camp” for Islamic jihadis. “The Afghan-Pakistani jihad is gearing up to a higher degree, taking advantage of the U.S. exhaustion caused by the Iraqi quagmire, the economic crisis, [and] the widespread American fatigue from external wars…”

Shaykh Hamid Abdallah al-Ali is best known for his 1999 fatwa declaring the government of Kuwait to be composed of disbelievers – legitimate targets for the mujahideen – and for his early 2001 fatwa sanctioning suicide bombings, including those involving the flying of aircraft into public buildings (see Terrorism Monitor, April 26, 2007).

This article was first published in the May 18, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

Former ISI Chief Hamid Gul Claims U.S. Supplies Arms and Money to Pakistani Taliban

Andrew McGregor

May 8, 2009

Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, claimed the United States was supplying arms and cash to Pakistan’s Taliban movement in a recent interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat (April 25).

Hamid GulFormer ISI Chief Hamid Gul

Gul also claimed ISI support for the Taliban ended in 1989, but says he maintains social relations with Afghan al-Qaeda elements: “They are old friends… But it is not true at all to say that Pakistani intelligence officials are now supporting the Taliban movement and that this is their policy. This is incorrect.” One of Hamid Gul’s “old friends” is the leader of the Haqqani Network, best known for its suicide attacks on U.S., Coalition and diplomatic targets. “Jalalludin Haqqani is a personal friend of mine. When I sent my two sons to Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviet forces they fought alongside Jalalludin Haqqani’s men. He is a very, very good man.”

Gul described four types of fighters active in the tribal regions of Pakistan:

• Fighters who are dedicated to avenging Pakistani military operations, especially the 2007 assault on Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)

• “Criminal elements” that fled Pakistan’s cities and have taken refuge in the tribal regions. These are not provided any support by the other mujahideen.

• U.S. Intelligence has established 50 mujahideen units in the tribal areas. These are formed from local and foreign elements and supported by Indian intelligence agencies.

• Mujahideen who want to fight in Afghanistan but are forced instead to defend themselves from attacks by Pakistan’s military. “This is what the Americans want. They want to see these mujahideen fighting against the Pakistani army and not crossing the borders to fight the Americans and the international forces.” The former ISI chief maintains the United States is supplying the Pakistani Taliban with arms, equipment and money to fight the Pakistani army. The Americans “want the national Pakistani youths to fight against the Pakistani army and they have succeeded in this.” Gul adds that volunteers from the Punjab region are now joining the tribal mujahideen in Afghanistan.

According to Gul, the Pakistani Taliban movement remains loosely organized. “Each tribe is fighting in its region and no tribe crosses to the region of the other tribe. Each tribe has its command structure.” The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed to improve cooperation, but does not yet control all the various Taliban groups in the region.

Regarding the possibility of al-Qaeda procuring weapons of mass destruction, Gul describes this as “sheer U.S. propaganda” designed to destroy Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power, saying, “The Pakistani nuclear program is the main goal of the Americans.”

Gul predicts that the American presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will not be long-lived: “If the Americans are wise, they will leave Afghanistan within one year. If they are not wise, Pakistan will witness a revolution as a result of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They will be defeated in Afghanistan and they will have to leave Afghanistan in 2010 or 2011.”

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Al-Qaeda’s Abu Yahya al-Libi Attacks Pakistan’s “Criminal Army” in New Book

Andrew McGregor

May 8, 2009

A 29-page Arabic-language book entitled Sharpening the Blades in the Battle Against the Government and Army of Pakistan was released by al-Fajr Media Center on April 30. The author is Abu Yahya al-Libi, a leading al-Qaeda ideologue and Pakistan-based member of al-Qaeda’s core leadership.

Abu Yayha al-Libi 2Abu Yahya al-Libi

Most of Abu Yahya’s work is dedicated to vilification of Pakistan’s security services, and condemning the army, intelligence agencies and police as collaborators in “the non-believer alliance that is waging war on the religion of Islam”, saying “They have established military bases and private air spaces for the various types of aircrafts of the disbelievers. They have facilitated and protected their supply lines and set up prisons to detain the monotheist believers…There is no doubt after this that this criminal army is an accomplice to the Christian armies in the crimes they carry out. They are their accomplices, and the punishment will be jihad against them.”

Abu Yahya calls on scholars of religion to promote jihad in preparation for a decisive battle against the disbelievers. “This is an invitation for the virtuous scholars of Pakistan and their righteous proselytizers to recognize the responsibility they have in inciting the believers to fight, and that the day of epic and dire meeting is coming, regardless of how hard we try to postpone or avoid it.”

The al-Qaeda leader outlines three reasons to fight the Pakistani military and “the rest of the institutions that are considered the pillars of their tyranny”:

1. Islamic scholars are agreed that non-believing rulers must be removed from power. “The non-believer (whether he is a non-believer to begin with or an apostate) is an object of humiliation and contempt, inferiority and lowliness.” Abu Yahya insists that Salafists have always taken the lead in preventing non-believers from assuming power in Muslim communities. Abu Yahya takes care to present the arguments made by famous religious scholars in support of overthrowing non-believers, relying heavily on the works of Hanafi scholars (the dominant school of Islamic jurisprudence in Pakistan) such as Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Hanafi (d.961), Imam Ja’afar Al-Tahawi (d.935) and Ali ibn Sultan al-Qari (d.1605).

According to Abu Yahya, the president of Pakistan is just another in the line of non-believers, arguing, “If Muslims in Pakistan are ordered by the Shari’a to remove those non-believing and corrupt rulers, it will be achieved only through fighting their army and intelligence services that defend and protect them, strengthen their power, stand in the path of Muslims, and prevent them from fulfilling their duty.” Abu Yahya dismisses the idea that the army provides collective security to the Muslim community and should not be fought as contradictory. “How would [Shari’a] order us to disavow a non-believer’s rule over us and at the same time forbid us from that because the non-believing ruler’s group that defends him pretends to be Muslim, or is Muslim?” Abu Yahya notes the Pakistani armed forces are a volunteer force and thus their members are legitimate targets for the mujahideen.

2. The Pakistan Army rejects Islamic law. Abu Yahya says the army and intelligence services do not abide by most Islamic teachings and use all their power to prevent the implementation of Shari’a.

Abu Yahya makes numerous appeals for believers to attack NATO supply lines running through Pakistan. “[The government] opened the doors of supplies to the occupying enemy so that now more than 80 percent of its military, logistics and other supplies come through Pakistan, under the protection of the Pakistani army… These forces guarded their convoys, military bases, and secret prisons, and were used to pursue the mujahideen wherever they are- directly handing them over to Christian America to violate their honor and desecrate the book of God before their eyes to spite them.”

3. The Pakistan Army is an enemy that assaults Islam and must be fought. Abu Yahya accuses the military and the security services of Pakistan of invading homes, demolishing houses and torturing men and women. “It is needless to wait for them to launch a new assault. I want to emphasize that it is imperative for people to be compelled to fight these sects [i.e. the security services]. The fight is not limited to Waziristan, Peshawar, Suhat or other places, but extends to every speck of Pakistani territory.” Abu Yahya sees no difference between the current situation and that encountered at the time of the “apostate communist Russian occupation of Afghanistan.” With Pakistani forces clearly allying themselves with the “Christian Crusaders and their helpers,” the al-Qaeda ideologue concludes there is no law that would prevent Muslims from fighting them.

Condemning the government’s decision to allow Shari’a rule in Swat, Abu Yahya insists this is nothing less than an admission that the rest of Pakistan is not ruled by Shari’a and that the armed forces were fighting Muslims in Swat with the intention of preventing the implementation of Islamic law. Pakistan’s army “was established and founded not to implement Shari’a, as they claim, but to prevent it; not to help those seeking to implement it, but to fight them and not remove non-Islamic rulers, but to strengthen them and fight with them.”

This article first appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Former Militant Describes Decline of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan

Andrew McGregor

April 10, 2009

A former member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Abubakr Xoldorovich Kenjaboyev, appeared on state-owned Uzbek TV on March 30 to describe the decline of the once powerful IMU.  Kenjaboyev identifies himself as an ideological leader who joined the IMU in 2000 and later left the Waziristan-based group to form a new group opposed to the leadership of IMU co-founder Qari Tahir Yuldash.

IMUMilitants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (BBC)

As might be expected, Kenjaboyev devoted much of his interview to attacks on Yuldash (or Yuldashev), a radical preacher and sole leader of the IMU since the death of co-founder Juma Namangani in a November, 2001 U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan. Kenjaboyev alleged that Yuldash and his family enjoyed a life of wealth and comfort, unlike the harsh conditions endured by other members of the movement. The refusal of the IMU leader to adopt the three children of Juma Namangani after his death “tells everything about him.”

The former militant said his dispute with Yuldash began when he objected to the Yuldash-approved curriculum of religious instruction and weapons training used in the children’s schools of the IMU camps: “If the children are taught worldly subjects, there is the risk that they may begin realizing what is right and what is wrong. The result could be that the orders of the leaders of the Islamic movement will be defied, especially as the IMU members are decreasing in number now. The idea is that [lost members] will be easily replaced if the children are trained to be militants at madrassas.”

Since its move to Pakistan’s northwest frontier in late 2001, the IMU has steadily lost its political significance and is further away than ever from its goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia. Stranded in a strange and foreign land with little more than Islam in common with the local peoples, the IMU has been unable to conduct operations in Central Asia and has likewise failed to integrate itself into the local Taliban movement and join the jihad in Afghanistan or Pakistan in any meaningful way. Lacking purpose, some of the exiled fighters have turned to crime, including those who hire themselves out as assassins. Although they continue to find hospitality from some tribal elements in North Waziristan, the Uzbek militants have suffered steady attrition in numbers from attacks by tribal lashkar-s and government security forces.

After leaving the IMU, Kenjaboyev says he passed through Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, where he claims he was twice offered the opportunity of leading a U.S.-funded Islamic movement consisting of other former IMU fighters: “They said the U.S.A. was willing to provide every help we would need… The result they wanted was to create conflicts in certain regions… In this way, they tried to use the flag of Islam as a cover to achieve their personal interests.”

Kenjaboyev estimates that only 100 to 150 fighters are left from an original contingent of over 1,000 men. Despite Yuldash’s efforts to create a second generation of jihadis, many of the remaining fighters “are coming to realize that they were wrong.” If the decline in numbers continues, the IMU “will cease to exist by itself.”

Any interview with an IMU militant on state-controlled Uzbek TV is bound to have occurred under strict political supervision. In this sense the content may be less revealing than the decision to bring it to air. The interview may be seen as an acknowledgement by Tashkent that the IMU is no longer an immediate threat to Uzbekistan, a position that was previously maintained by authorities for political reasons.

This article first appeared in the April 10, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Targeting the Khyber Pass: The Taliban’s Spring Offensive

Andrew McGregor

April 3, 2009

Taliban Deputy Leader Mullah Bradar Muhammad Akhand announced “a new series of operations” under the code name “Operation Ebrat” (Lesson) on March 27. The Taliban’s spring offensive is “aimed at giving the enemy a lesson through directing powerful strikes at it, which it can never expect, until it is forced to end the occupation of Afghanistan and withdraw all the occupier soldiers… We will add to the tactics and experiences of the past years new types of operations. The operations will also be expanded to cover all locations of the country, in order for the enemy to be weighed down everywhere” (Sawt al-Jihad, March 28). There are indications that a main target of the offensive will be the Afghanistan/Pakistan frontier, in particular the strategically vital Khyber Pass.

Khyber PassKhyber Pass

Citing an improvement in the skills and capacity of the Afghanistan National Army (ANA), Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry immediately dismissed the announcement as “a psychological campaign and not a reality which could be implemented on the ground” (AFP, March 25). In reality the situation along the border is extremely precarious and threatens the ability of Coalition forces to operate within Afghanistan.

Joint Intelligence Centers on the Border

The first in a planned series of six joint intelligence centers along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border was opened at the Afghanistan border town of Torkham on March 29. When the plan is fully implemented there will be three such centers on each side of the border at a cost of $3 million each. There are high hopes for the centers, which have been described by the U.S. commander in Afghanistan as “the cornerstone upon which future cooperative efforts will grow” (Daily Times [Lahore], March 30). According to U.S. Brigadier General Joe Votel, “The macro view is to disrupt insurgents from going back and forth, going into Afghanistan and back into Pakistan, too. This is not going to instantly stop the infiltration problem, but it’s a good step forward” (Daily Times, March 30).

The centers are designed to coordinate intelligence gathering and sharing between the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The project is an outgrowth of the earlier Joint Intelligence Operations Center (JIOC) established in Kabul in January 2007. This center, comprising 12 ISAF, six Afghan and six Pakistani intelligence officers, was initiated by the Military Intelligence Sharing Working Group, a subcommittee of the Tripartite Plenary Commission of military commanders that meets on a bimonthly basis (American Forces Press Service, January 30, 2007). The JIOC is designed to facilitate intelligence sharing, joint operations planning and an exchange of information on improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The working languages are English, Dari and Pashto, aided by a number of translators.

The new border centers will each be manned by 15 to 20 intelligence agents. One of the main innovations is the ability to view real-time video feeds from U.S. surveillance aircraft. The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Major General David Rodriguez, described the centers as “a giant step forward in cooperation, communication and coordination” (The News [Karachi], March 29). Despite such glowing descriptions, there remains one hitch—Pakistan’s military has yet to make a full commitment to the project. According to Major General Athar Abbas, the director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations, a military information organization, “At this time this proposal is being analyzed and evaluated by the concerned officials. But Pakistan has not yet come to a decision on this matter” (The News, March 30). General Abbas and other officials have declined to discuss Pakistan’s reservations or even to commit to a deadline for a decision. It is possible that the failure to sign on as full partners in the project may have something to do with the stated intention of Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to pursue a greater focus on negotiation than military action in dealing with the Taliban and other frontier militants. There may also be reservations on the part of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to share intelligence on their clients within the Taliban.

Actual intelligence cooperation along the border is hampered by a number of factors, not least of which is a basic inability to agree on exactly where the border lies. In the past, Pakistan has responded to complaints from Afghanistan of Taliban fighters infiltrating across the border by threatening to fence or even mine the frontier, a shocking proposal to the Pashtun clans that straddle the artificial divide. Afghanistan’s long-standing policy is simply to refuse recognition of the colonial-era Durand Line, which it claims was forced on it by British imperialists in 1893. Pakistan accepts the Durand Line, but the two nations are frequently unable to agree on exactly where the 1,500-mile line is drawn.

U.S. Intervention in the Frontier Region?

The United States is pursuing a number of initiatives to increase security and diminish the influence of the Taliban in the frontier regions of Pakistan, including a massive economic aid program, counter-insurgency training for the Frontier Corps and enhancement of the CIA’s monitoring and surveillance abilities in the area (Dawn [Karachi], February 26). The CIA already gathers information on the region from over-flights of its unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft, which can also deliver precisely targeted missiles on suspected Taliban safe-houses. Complicating efforts to increase security in the border region is a belief within Pakistan that the United States is preparing to intervene militarily in Pakistan’s frontier region (The Nation [Islamabad], March 24).

In a March 30 interview, CIA Director Michael Hayden declared that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region would be the most probable source for new terrorist attacks on the United States: “If there is another terrorist attack, it will originate there.” The CIA chief warned that the situation along the border “presents a clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan, and to the West in general and to the United States in particular.” Hayden also suggested that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were present in the Pakistan tribal frontier, where they were training “operatives who look Western” (NBC, March 30; Dawn, March 31).

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry responded angrily to the CIA director’s comments, stating that if the United States has information about the whereabouts of the al-Qaeda leadership, it should share it with Pakistan so it can take action. “Such a statement does not help trace alleged hideouts… Terrorists have threatened Pakistan and targeted our people. We are, therefore, combating terrorism in our own interest” (Daily Times, April 3). Syed Munawar Hasan, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest Islamic political party, suggested that Hayden’s statements were “white lies,” similar to Washington’s allegations of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Munawar urged the new government to stand fast in the face of what he described as U.S. threats to invade Pakistan despite the establishment of a democratic government (The News, April 2). The provincial assembly of the North-West Frontier Province issued a unanimous condemnation of Hayden’s remarks (The Post [Lahore], April 2; Geo TV News, April 1).

The Torkham Gate

The location of the first joint intelligence center at Torkham reflects the strategic importance of this border town at the Afghanistan end of the fabled Khyber Pass. It is the main gateway for supplies to U.S. and ISAF forces within Afghanistan and is believed to be one of the main targets for the forthcoming Taliban spring offensive (The Nation, April 2). Linking Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province and Pakistan’s Khyber Agency, Torkham is traditionally the busiest commercial border post between the two countries. A new round of attacks on Torkham may have already begun—as many as 40 oil tankers destined for Coalition forces in Afghanistan were destroyed in a series of explosions in a Torkham parking lot on March 20 (Dawn, March 24). There were 70 to 100 tankers awaiting clearance to cross into Afghanistan at the time.

Torkham GateThe Torkham Gate

Only a day before the attack on the tankers, an effort by a U.S. Army colonel to expedite border clearances for military transports at Torkham failed when the chief Pakistani customs official refused to meet with her (Daily Times, March 19). Vehicles typically wait in parking lots at Torkham for up to 20 days awaiting clearance to proceed. Part of the problem is due to delays in permits faxed to Torkham from the U.S. base in Bagram—until these are received the vehicles are forbidden to cross into Afghanistan (Daily Times, March 27). There are also accusations that some tanker operators may be selling their fuel along the road in Pakistan before deliberately torching their vehicles at Torkham to claim the insurance on the missing load.

Torkham has also become a nearly unregulated transit point for legal and illegal migrants since the demolition of the border gate by the National Highway Authority of Pakistan two years ago. A series of meetings between Afghan and Pakistani officials—attended as well by NATO officials—have been unable to agree on the design and other details of a replacement gate. Smuggling and illegal crossings have spun out of control while tensions between the respective border authorities nearly erupted into open fighting in September 2006 (Daily Times, April 2).


Pakistan’s reluctance to make a full commitment to intelligence sharing raises a number of difficult questions: Is the ISI still cooperating or even aiding the Afghan Taliban? Do the military and the intelligence services operate outside of political control? Is it possible to collaborate with the Taliban and not the Taliban’s allies, al-Qaeda? Why do the better-armed and -trained regular forces frequently relinquish their security role in the frontier regions to the poorly-equipped Pashtun Frontier Corps?

After a meeting on security and terrorism issues with Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani on April 3, a spokesman for Prime Minister Gillani stated that the prime minister was formulating a comprehensive terrorism strategy “based on political engagement, economic development and backed by a credible military element” (Daily Times, April 3). Many within the new government believe that Musharraf’s aggressive military approach to the frontier crisis is responsible for the recent rash of suicide bombings and other attacks that have taken scores of lives across the country.

In the meantime there is a dangerous lack of coordination on border issues in which all parties bear responsibility. There is every indication that the Taliban have identified Torkham as a crucial weak point in the supply and logistics system that maintains the international military presence in Afghanistan. The failure to share intelligence combined with bureaucratic delays and infighting along the Afghanistan/Pakistan frontier threatens the entire Coalition mission in Afghanistan

This article first appeared in the April 3, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Salafist War on Sufi Islam Spreads to Peshawar

Andrew McGregor

March 19, 2009

The bombing of a famous Peshawar shrine dedicated to a local Sufi saint is the latest episode of what appears to be an effort to define a new ethnic and religious identity in the northwest frontier region of Pakistan. The March 5 attack on the mausoleum of Rahman Baba, the most famous poet of the Pashto language and a major figure in the Pashtun cultural heritage, caused severe damage after explosives were lodged against the shrine’s pillars (The Nation [Islamabad], March 10). The bombing occurred the same day as a rocket attack on the shrine of Bahadur Baba in the Nowshera District of the NWFP, 40 km north of Peshawar (Daily Times [Lahore], March 10). Militants had warned the custodians of both shrines against the Sufi tradition of praying to the dead saints, a practice viewed as heresy by the Salafists, whose Saudi-influenced concept of monotheism excludes any intercession with God by revered Islamic figures, including the Prophet Muhammad.

Rahman BabaBombing Damage to the Mausoleum of Rahman Baba

The attack on the Rahman Baba mausoleum is believed to be the work of the Lashkar-i-Islam, a Salafist militant group responsible for previous attacks on Sufi shrines, including the March 4, 2008, rocket attack on the 400-year-old Abu Saeed Baba shrine in the Khyber Agency that killed ten people. Rahman Baba was an 18th century poet whose work espoused the virtues of love and tolerance. His shrine has been a center for devotional Sufi music and singing by the Pashtun communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan since his death. Ten years ago, the Arab and Pashtun students of a new Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrassa down the road from the shrine began taking it upon themselves to prohibit traditional Sufi activities at the shrine as “un-Islamic.” Frequent assaults on visitors to the shrine have caused a significant drop in visits.

The leader of the nearby Haqqania madrassa outlined his objections to Sufi attendance at the Rahman Baba shrine: “We don’t like tomb worship. We do not pray to dead men, even the saints. We believe there is no power but God. I invite people who come here to return to the true path of the Qur’an. Do not pray to a corpse: Rahman Baba is dead. Go to the mosque, not to a grave” (Pakistan Observer, March 8). The local Salafists appear to have been particularly enraged by the tradition of female Sufis singing at the shrine and attempted to impose a ban on all visits by women (The Hindu, March 9).

There have been other attacks on Muslim shrines in the Peshawar area in the last two years, including the December 2007 bombing of the shrine of Abdul Shakur Malang Baba and the attempted destruction of the shrine of Ashaab Baba just outside Peshawar in 2008 (Daily Times, March 10). Sufi shrines attended by both Sunnis and Shiites have in the past been special targets of those seeking to promote sectarian strife in Pakistan. A bombing at the shrine of Pir Rakhel Shah in March 2005 killed at least 50 people on pilgrimage; two months later a suicide bombing at the Bari Imam shrine outside Islamabad killed 25 and wounded over 200 (Himalayan Times, March 20, 2005; AFP, May 29, 2005). The Salafist campaign of tomb destruction has brought the Taliban and other Salafi Islamist groups into conflict with the descendants of Sufi saints who wield considerable political power in Pakistan (The Nation, March 10).

Large protests followed the most recent attacks, which had cross-border repercussions in Afghanistan and India. President Asif Ali Zardari has announced the federal government will assume responsibility for rebuilding the shrine of Rahman Baba, while the Kakakhel tribe has said it will undertake the reconstruction of the Bahadur Baba shrine (The News [Islamabad], March 7; March 10). The practice of destroying the tombs of Sufi saints has also been adopted by the radical Islamist al-Shabaab movement in Somalia, costing them considerable support in that traditionally Sufi nation.


This article first appeared in the March 19, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Al-Qaeda’s Leader in Afghanistan Returns from the Dead to Threaten India

Andrew McGregor

February 19, 2009

Despite Pakistani claims to have killed al-Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan last summer, the veteran Egyptian militant Mustafa Ahmad “Abu al-Yazid” (a.k.a. Shaykh Said al-Misri) appeared in a 20-minute video last week threatening India with a repetition of last November’s terrorist outrage in Mumbai. Al-Yazid spoke of the shame India endured through its inability to contain the Mumbai attack and warned India that it could expect more of the same if it dared to attack Pakistan: “India should know that it will have to pay a heavy price if it attacks Pakistan… The mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan. They will target your economic centers and raze them to the ground” (Press Trust of India, February 10; BBC, February 10).

Abu al-Yazid 2Mustafa Ahmad “Abu al-Yazid”

Lest anyone think the al-Qaeda commander was in league with Pakistan’s government, al-Yazid urged the masses of Pakistan to overthrow the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and declared that former president Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on the order of al-Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Abu al-Yazid is a former member of al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad group and served several years in prison before leaving Egypt for Afghanistan in 1988. Already under an Egyptian death sentence issued in absentia for terrorist activities in that country, Abu al-Yazid spent two years in Iraq before being appointed leader of al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan in May 2007. The 54-year-old appears to be primarily a financial and logistical manager for jihad activities (in the original intention of al-Qaeda) rather than a military leader.

Reports of Abu al-Yazid’s death in an August 12, 2008, Pakistani airstrike were carried widely in the international press at the time, though Pakistani authorities offered no evidence for their claim. A spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) denied the reports of Abu al-Yazid’s death (AFP, August 11).

One of Pakistan’s largest newspapers carried a report saying intelligence experts had determined Abu al-Yazid’s statement was actually the work of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) (Jang [Rawalpindi], February 11). The intent was to “defame Pakistan and show that it has links with Al-Qaeda.”

This article first appeared in the February 19 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus