The arrest of Sheikh Younis Al Mauritani, a confidant of Osama bin Laden, from Pakistan s south-western province of Balochistan by Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and Frontier Constabulary Balochistan (FC) has inflicted a fatal blow on the remnants of al-Qaeda network. Younis Al Mauritani, described by a website as al-Qaeda s foreign minister , was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in international waters. The Mauritani s arrest along with two of his accomplices - Abdul Ghaffar Al-Shami (Bachar Chama) and Messara Al-Shami (Mujahid Amino), from Quetta came into effect through a joint operation of ISI and technical assistance of CIA. The joint venture is an indication that United States and Pakistan have started to overcome the rough patch in ISI-CIA anti-terror cooperation which grew tense after the May 2 US unilateral raid into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
A senior Pakistan official, while commenting on the ISI-CIA cooperation for the Quetta arrests, said: Like in the past we have to work towards eliminating the common threat posed by terrorists. The effort should be to enhance the space of cooperation rather than constricting it. Meanwhile, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest hailed the capture saying that it is an example of the longstanding partnership between the US and Pakistan in fighting terrorism, which has taken many terrorists off the battlefield over the past decade.
An upward trend in ties has been observed as reflected by the statements issued by the both sides after the recent arrest of Younis al Mauritani. The ISPR s press release has acknowledged the provision of technical assistance of United States CIA with whom Inter Services Intelligence has a strong, historic intelligence relationship. DG ISPR, Major General Athar Abbas said the authorities watched the group for months. We have been on alert we have been following the case since last October when it was surfaced that there is a group which will pose threat to the outside world. We have been connecting dots and therefore when we found out that they are there in the suburbs of Quetta then we conducted this raid.
The acknowledgement is a sign that the relationship is getting back on track, said Hassan Askari Rizvi, a well-reputed analyst on terrorism. This shows that the two agencies are now cooperating, and will be able to overcome the differences that had developed between the two authorities. US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter expects the two countries will be able to re-establish their anti-terror cooperation to where it was before the bin Laden operation. In addition to this, the meeting between COAS Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the retiring Chairman of US, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on the sidelines of a Nato conference scheduled on Sept 16-17, is expected to inject fresh momentum into efforts for normalizing military ties between the two countries after months of standoff.
The arrest of Younis al-Mauritani has broken the backbone of the militant group just two weeks after the death of al-Qaeda s No. 2 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman on August 22 in an apparent drone strike in North Waziristan. The US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta has said the strategic defeat of al-Qaeda is within reach if the United States can kill or capture up to 20 remaining leaders of the core group and its affiliates. Nonetheless, the fallouts of the high profile al-Qaeda detentions resulted in Taliban s deadly suicide attacks on the house of DIG FC, Brig Farrukh Shehzad. More worrisome is that the Taliban have threatened more suicide attacks in the settled areas of Pakistan, as Taliban targeted young children by attacking a school bus in the Peshawar suburbs.
The achievements of ISI against al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates in Pakistan, are unprecedented. It is quite satisfying that around 100 top level al-Qaeda leaders/operators were killed/arrested by ISI, with or without support of CIA. It might be stated that without the intelligence furnished by ISI and Pakistani security services, the American and Nato war on terror would be a disaster. No matter little or big, whatever success the US and Nato has achieved so far in Afghanistan or elsewhere, it is because Pakistan has furnished them the intelligence.
Some of the senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders arrested in Pakistan since the September 11 attacks are: February 2010 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban s No. 2 leader and top military commander, was captured in Karachi. Mullah Abdul Kabir, the top Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan, was arrested at an unknown location. May 2005 Abu Farraj al-Libbi, al-Qaida s No. 3 leader, was detained in northwestern Pakistan. July 2004 Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an al-Qaeda operative suspected in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in East Africa, was arrested in Gujrat in eastern Pakistan. March 2003 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was captured in Rawalpindi. Sept. 2002 Ramzi Binalshibh, a would-be Sept. 11 hijacker who could not get into the United States, was detained in Karachi. March 2002 Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda s suspected financier, was arrested in Faisalabad.
During last ten years, Pakistan has lost 35,000-40,000 civilian population in the war on terror. Additionally, Pakistan has lost almost 5,555 of its security personnel, much more than the combined effort of allied forces. According to credible estimates, Pakistan has suffered a loss of over $50 billion directly and indirectly since its joining the war on terror.
Pakistan wants a good relationship with the United States. Secretary Clinton and John Kerry recognise the sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan in war against terror. Most of the western countries believe that Islamabad s active cooperation, is crucial for the peace in the AfPak region. The State Department spokesman Philip J Crowley, documented that Pakistan has taken considerable action in recent years and no military in the world has suffered more casualties in the fight against terrorism than Pakistan. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism its northern borders devastated by US-led counter-insurgency campaign, its heartlands wracked by growing wave of Talibanisation and economy sliding down day by day. Can there be another country, globally or regionally, that can lay claim to a greater stake in the stability of the area than Pakistan?
The linking of US funding of $800 million to Pakistan to its performance in the war against terror, does not auger well with the amount of successes and sacrifices Pakistan has made in the WOT. The conditionalities imposed by the US have added unnecessarily to Pakistan s difficulties in the war against terror and need to be rationally addressed by the US policy matters.