Monday, April 30, 2007

US: More than 130 Taliban killed

The US-led coalition has said its troops have killed more than 130 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan over the past several days. The fighters were killed in two separate battles in the western province of Herat, the US military said in a statement on Monday, suffering their heaviest losses this year.

Herat, bordering Iran, had been relatively safe until recently compared with the south and east, where the Taliban are most active. [More]


Soon, I hope, I'll be able to report incidents like this on the now semi-mythological map. I've made something of a breakthrough with it, and hope to have it up and running soon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Saudis arrest 172 in 'terror raid'

Saudi officials say they have foiled an al Qaeda-linked plot to attack oil facilities and military bases in the kingdom and arrested up to 172 suspects, including trainee pilots preparing for suicide operations.X The interior ministry said in a statement on on Friday that police seized weapons and over $5.33m in cash from seven armed cells.

The statement, broadcast on Al-Ekhbaria state television, said: "Some had begun training on the use of weapons, and some were sent to other countries to study aviation in preparation to use them to carry out terrorist operations inside the kingdom."

The ministry said that the suspects were plotting to carry out suicide attacks on public figures and oil installations in addition to targeting military bases.

I find it peculiar that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is willing to attack oil facilities. I believe that they have actually made such an attack on at least one occasion. While on the one hand attacking the Saudis' source of wealth certainly makes strategic sense, on the other hand it could cause problems further down the road, as Osama bin Laden stated in his 1996 fatwa:

The presence of the USA Crusader military forces on land, sea and air of the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening the largest oil reserve in the world. The existence of these forces in the area will provoke the people of the country and induces aggression on their religion, feelings and prides and push them to take up armed struggle against the invaders occupying the land; therefore spread of the fighting in the region will expose the oil wealth to the danger of being burned up. The economic interests of the States of the Gulf and the land of the two Holy Places will be damaged and even a greater damage will be caused to the economy of the world. I would like here to alert my brothers, the Mujahideen, the sons of the nation, to protect this (oil) wealth and not to include it in the battle as it is a great Islamic wealth and a large economical power essential for the soon to be established Islamic state, by Allah's Permission and Grace. We also warn the aggressors, the USA, against burning this Islamic wealth (a crime which they may commit in order to prevent it, at the end of the war, from falling in the hands of its legitimate owners and to cause economic damages to the competitors of the USA in Europe or the Far East, particularly Japan which is the major consumer of the oil of the region).


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Format Change

I'm again tweaking the site's format. The main page (here) is going to become much more blog-like and commentary/analysis oriented, and the essentially unused Editorials page will be removed. Of the three things I have posted there, one is available from the Jamestown Foundation, one was previously posted at News Hounds, and the third will be reposted here:

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Operation Achilles

From Wikipedia:

Operation Achilles is an ongoing NATO operation, part of the War in Afghanistan (2001–present). Its objective is to clear the Helmand province of the Taliban. The operation began on March 6th of 2007 and the offensive will be the largest NATO based operation ever held in Afghanistan to date. NATO officials reported that, contrary to what happened in previous operations, Taliban fighters were avoiding direct confrontation in favor of guerilla tactics.

It is led by British ISAF forces and focuses on the Kajakai Dam, which is a major power source for Afghanistan that has not been functioning for a number of years. One part of the mission was Operation Volcano, where British Royal Marines successfully cleared a large Taliban complex near the Kajakai Dam. [1]

According to the Al Jazeera article posted on the main page, Operation Achilles is specifically trying to clear the "northern tip" to safeguard the construction of the dam.

This is exactly the sort of thing we need to be doing in 'Iraq. Rather than the purely military "clear and hold" strategy that has made Baghdad the pleasant place it is today, it uses military action as a tool with which to make rebuilding the country possible. Its objective is peace, not war, which makes a huge difference in public opinion. By opposing the "clear and hold" tactics of the Coalition in 'Iraq, the insurgency opposes invaders, and is well received by the people. By opposing Operation Achilles, however, the Taliban opposes the construction of a hydroelectric dam, which has a tendency to piss off the people who would be benefiting from the dam. Last month, for example, the Taliban attacked some engineers (who were Indian nationals, if my memory serves me). Even though the engineers were unarmed, not a single one was killed, because several hundred civilians (who tend to be armed in Afghanistan) immediately swarmed the attackers, killing several and forcing the rest to flee. This is the sort of victory we should be seeking.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

More on Haditha

US marines granted Haditha immunity

The US Marine Corps has dropped all charges against a sergeant accused in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha in 2005, and granted at least seven more marines immunity.

The decision to drop charges against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz, 24, was made on Tuesday by Lieutenant-General James Mattis who is overseeing the case.

Military prosecutors have since given immunity to at least seven marines and they may be called to testify at the trial of troops accused in the Haditha killings, according to leaked documents obtained by the Associated Press.

Charges dismissed

Dela Cruz had been charged with unpremeditated murder and could have received up to life in prison for the deaths of five Iraqi civilians in the November 19, 2005, killings.

He has been granted immunity from prosecution and must testify at upcoming hearings for other marines charged in the Haditha case.

Dan Marino, Dela Cruz's lawyer, declined to comment.

On the day of the killings, a marine squad was in Haditha, a town in Anbar province, when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb killing one marine. In response, the marines raided several homes and killed 24 Iraqis, including women and children.

Dela Cruz and three other marines were charged in December with unpremeditated murder in the deaths.

The marines say they believed they were under attack in the wake of the roadside bomb blast and followed procedures to defend themselves.

Other marines granted immunity include an officer who told troops to raid a house and a sergeant who took photographs of the dead but later deleted them from his camera, according to the Associated Press.

The immunity orders ensure that any testimony the marines volunteer cannot be used against them.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Gibson declined on Friday to comment on individual cases due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Iraqis 'devalued'

In a separate investigation, a US army general concluded the Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored signs of "serious misconduct" in the Haditha killings, The Washington Post reported.

A report by Major-General Eldon Bargewell found officers may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protect themselves and their units from blame.

Bargewell concluded that commanders fostered a tendency that devalued Iraqis to the extent that US soldiers considered the deaths of innocents insignificant.

The report, now unclassified, focuses on the reporting of the Haditha incident and the training and command climate within the Marine Corps leadership.

It does not address the November 19, 2005, incident in detail.

Good, it looks like only one Marine received immunity, which means the trial will go on. Full immunity seems awfully generous, though I suppose there's not really any way to know until after the trial (a verdict of not guilty would make the issue moot).

I'm going to see if I can rustle up a copy of that report.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

US marine cleared in Iraq killings

The US marines corps has dropped charges against a soldier accused of killing five civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005.

Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz of Chicago had faced charges of unpremeditated murder.

The commanding general in the case has granted Dela Cruz immunity in exchange for his testimony, the marines said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement, released from their base in Camp Pendleton, California did not explain why the charges were dropped.

A Marines spokesman refused to elaborate when contacted by AFP news agency.

"We've said all we are going to say about it," he said.

Dela Cruz was one of four marines charged last year with killing civilians in Haditha, 260km west of Baghdad, in November 2005.

Prosecutors alleged that the marines went on a killing spree in the town, shooting unarmed men, women and children after a comrade, Miguel Terrazaz, was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol.

Defence lawyers said the marines followed established wartime rules of engagement and the deaths occurred after the soldiers became embroiled in a furious firefight with insurgents.

Four other marines - including 3rd Battalion Commander Jeffrey Chessani and Captain Lucas McConnell, neither of whom was in Haditha during the bloodshed - face charges of failing to properly investigate or report the killings.

Via Al Jazeera.


don't know what they're trying to do here, but it sure doesn't have anything to do with justice. Haditha had nothing to do with "established wartime rules of engagement." If I recall correctly, they shot and killed an infant and a frail old man. Not even letting the case go to trial is a repulsive miscarriage of justice. If the city of Haditha were to declare allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq tomorrow, I can't say I'd blame them.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Leader of 1920 Revolution Brigades Killed by al-Qaeda

By Lydia Khalil

The 1920 Revolution Brigades recently announced the death of its leader, Harith Dhahir Khamis al-Dari, nephew and namesake of Harith al-Dari, the exiled head of the Muslim Scholars Association. The 1920 Revolution Brigades is one of the largest indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups, but after al-Dari's death, the Brigades announced its split into two factions (the 1920 Revolution Brigades and Hamas-Iraq). The break was the result of differing viewpoints on working with the al-Anbar Salvation Council, negotiating with coalition forces and the relationship vis-à-vis al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) (Terrorism Focus, March 27). Al-Dari was reportedly long targeted by al-Qaeda for his refusal to pledge allegiance to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, amir of the ISI, and was finally killed by an al-Qaeda ambush on March 27.

According to the internet release of the "al-Jihad al-Islami Corps" of the 1920 Revolution Brigades on March 27, its "valiant leader, Harith Dhahir Khamis al-Dari, fell today immersed in his chaste blood during his battlefield jihad in Abu Ghraib sector. He was in charge of jihad and of fighting the enemy in that sector. He was targeted this morning in a treacherous ambush while returning to his house after inspecting one of the operations grounds." There have been recent reports that the 1920 Revolution Brigades, and al-Dari in particular, were about to link up with the al-Anbar Salvation Council, although spokesmen for the 1920 Revolution Brigades strongly deny that a final deal had been struck. Leaders within the group, however, confirmed to Arab newspapers that this was the cause of the rift within the organization and the cause of al-Dari's death.

Al-Dari is not the only insurgent leader who has been targeted by al-Qaeda. In addition to stepping up their propaganda campaign promoting the ISI, al-Qaeda has been actively engaged in assassinations and targeted bombings against Iraqi Sunni tribes who do not comply. According to al-Hayat, militants from various factions stated that al-Qaeda has killed 30 members of the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Islamic Army (al-Hayat, March 31).

Aggressive al-Qaeda tactics to take control of the Iraqi insurgency are placing indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups in an increasingly difficult position. Members of indigenous militant groups have complained that al-Qaeda has distorted the resistance and fomented sectarian conflict. Abu Hudhayfah, a commander within the 1920 Revolution Brigades, complained, "al-Qaeda's assassination of Harith Zahir al-Dari…has left resistance groups with two options: either to fight al-Qaeda and negotiate with the Americans, or fight the Americans and join the Islamic State of Iraq, which divides Iraq. Both options are bitter" (al-Hayat, March 31).

Since Iraqi insurgent leaders are aware that their conflict with al-Qaeda detracts from their fight against the occupation, they have taken pains to point out that al-Dari's assassination had nothing to do with his purported cooperation with the government and that it was solely due to his stance against al-Qaeda. Tribal members are keen on maintaining his jihadi credentials. When his cousin, the spokesman of the Muslim Scholars Association Muthana Harith al-Dari, was interviewed by al-Jazeera regarding his death, he noted that "the government's news media [is trying to] give another reason for the assassination by claiming that Harith al-Dari was killed because of the Zubaei tribe…cooperating with the Iraqi government…the truth is completely different…The Zubaei tribe is a jihadist tribe which fought against the occupation and its agents. It will never deviate from this course…[al-Dari] was targeted because he was one of the leaders of the armed resistance in the Abu Ghraib area" (al-Jazeera, March 27).

His uncle, Harith al-Dari, head of the Muslim Scholars Association, has thus far not commented on the death of his nephew. He previously had come out against members of his own tribe for working against al-Qaeda and negotiating with the Iraqi government and coalition forces (al-Safir, March 24). The senior al-Dari is still outside of Iraq, shuttling between various Middle Eastern countries (Terrorism Monitor, December 14, 2006).

Via Terrorism Focus.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lots of news

This has been a very busy day for the War on Terror. There are so many articles on Al Jazeera alone that rather than post any in their entirety, I'm going to link to them.

Explosion hits Iraq's parliament

A suicide bomber has struck Iraq's parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad, Iraqi security said, killing at least two people and wounding at least 13 others.

Thursday's blast took place in a cafeteria while several ministers were eating lunch, said Mohammed Abu Bakr, who heads the media department at the parliament. More...

Iraqi group 'splits' from al-Qaeda

One of Iraq's main armed groups has confirmed a split with al-Qaeda, according to a spokesman for the dissenting organisation.

Ibrahim al-Shammari told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the Islamic Army in Iraq had decided to disunite from al-Qaeda in Iraq after its members were threatened. More...

US 'al-Qaeda member' charged

A US citizen has been charged with joining al-Qaeda and conspiring to bomb tourist resorts in Europe and US government and military facilities based there, according to a federal indictment.
The indictment, issued Wednesday by a federal grand jury, said Christopher Paul, 43, of Columbus, Ohio, trained with al-Qaeda in the early 1990s. More...

Pakistan tribesmen 'rout al-Qaeda'

Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, has said that Pakistani tribesmen have killed 300 al-Qaeda-linked fighters in recent weeks in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

"The people in South Waziristan have risen against the foreigners ... [and] they will get support from the Pakistan army if they ask for support," he said. More...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Explosions rock Algiers

Two large explosions in the Algerian capital have killed at least 23 people and left dozens more wounded.
One bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the Algerian prime minister in central Algiers on Tuesday morning, causing a blast that could be heard 10km away.

Another explosion targeted a police station in Bab Ezzouar, an eastern suburb of the city near the international airport, damaging a nearby electricity sub-station.
The government has not said what caused the two blasts - although some witnesses reported that the attacks were suicide bombings.

APS, Algeria's official news agency, put the combined toll from the two explosion at 23 with 160 others wounded.
Reuters news agency, however, reported that a total of 30 people had been killed in the bombings.
Al Jazeera television's bureau in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, received a phone call from a man who said he was a member of al-Qaeda and wanted to take responsibility for the explosions.
The caller said that the explosions were the result of three al-Qaeda members who had carried out suicide car-bombings. His claims could not be independently confirmed.
PM denounces attack
Abdelaziz Belkhadem, the Algerian prime minister, was unhurt and referred to the attacks "criminal and cowardly". He said an investigation would be carried out to determine their cause.

Abdel Karim Dahmen, a member of the ruling party, referred to the blasts as "bombs of terror" and said they could be an attempt to destabilise the country before elections due next month.

Omar Dalal, the editor of the Al Shaab newspaper, was near the scene when one blast happened at 11:30am local time and said it took place in the street parallel to the 17-storey building that houses the prime minister's office and several ministries, including the interior ministry.

The main anti-government rebel group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (the GSPC) has claimed responsibility for several attacks in recent months and has also declared itself to be a part of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.

More than 100,000 Algerians died in a civil war between the government and Islamist fighters in the 1990s.

Via Al Jazeera.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Nato retake Taliban-held town

Nato-led forces have retaken the town of Sangin in southern Afghanistan from the Taliban after two days of fighting.
More than 1,000 troops took part in the operation, supported by air strikes on suspected Taliban positions in the town in Helmand province.

"Military troops have successfully engaged several Taliban extremist strongholds and discovered a number of large weapon caches," Nato's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement late on Friday.

The operation to retake Sangin started late on Wednesday and was part of Nato's largest ever offensive in Afghanistan, Operation Achilles.

Nato commanders are trying to push the Taliban out of the northern tip of Helmand to allow multimillion-dollar repair work to go ahead on a dam in the Kajaki district which would supply the country's south with electricity.

'Information war'

"Six weeks ago Al Jazeera filmed in this same area. It was clear then it was entirely under Taliban control," James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, said.

"There is an information war as well as a military battle going on. Nato now say they have retaken Sangin but before they never admitted it had been held by the Taliban."

A local Taliban commander has told Al Jazeera that the group plans to recapture the town from Nato and Afghan forces within days.

Haji Akhtar Mohammad, a Sangin resident, told The Associated Press news agency that Nato and Afghan troops were in control of the centre of Sangin on Saturday and the Taliban appeared to be moving towards the neighbouring district of Musa Qala.

About 4,500 Nato and 1,000 Afghan troops are in and around Helmand province as part of Operation Achilles.

There have been over 220 "tactical engagements" since the start of the operation and dozens of fighters have been killed or captured, according to Nato officials in Kabul.

Taliban meetings

On Friday, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, admitted meeting members of the Taliban movement in an attempt to to bring reconciliation to the country.

Speaking in Kabul, he said Taliban representatives had been regularly meeting government bodies, adding: "I've had some Taliban coming to speak to me as well, so this process has been there for a long time."

On the same day, elsewhere in the Afghan capital, a suicide bomber struck a few hundred metres from the parliament building, killing at least five people including a policeman.

"It was a suicide bombing ... The bomber was driving a yellow and white taxi," General Alishah Paktiawal, the city's criminal investigation police chief, said.

He said it was unclear if the attacker was targeting parliament but added that the device may have exploded prematurely.

Via Al Jazeera.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Uzbek fighters killed in Pakistan

More than 50 people have been killed in clashes between local tribesmen and foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

About 1,000 tribesmen launched an offensive in an attempt drive the Uzbek, Chechen and Arab fighters out of their lands in South Waziristan, security officials said.

"Both sides have been using heavy weapons since this morning and tribal fighters captured important Uzbek bunkers. In the clashes, 44 foreigners were killed and seven tribesmen," one security official told AFP news agency.

An intelligence official told Reuters that the tribesmen had captured the fighters' base in a village near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

Thousands of foreign fighters fled to the semi-autonomous tribal lands on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

They were given refuge by a number of Pashtun tribes that straddle the border, but relations between the foreigners and some of the tribesmen broke down last month when fighting erupted after a pro-government tribal leader was killed.

Tribesmen beating war drums for the first time in three years summoned 1,500 volunteers to form an army, known as a lashkar, in Wana on Tuesday.

In tribal tradition the beating of the drum announces a danger or emergency.

The army vowed to force the foreign fighters from the tribal lands and punish any Pakistanis sheltering them.

Government officials say that more than 200 people have been killed, most of them Uzbek fighters, since early last month.

Residents say up to 1,200 Uzbek fighters are in the region, most from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commanded by Tahir Yuldashev.

Pakistani authorities have reached pacts with tribesmen in several areas near the border in the hope of driving a wedge between them and the foreign fighters.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Map update

I've decided that I'm going to use two different smoke columns to differentiate between "victory" and "defeat". The white column (which I have yet to make) will indicate incidents that are generally favorable to the government/ISAF, such as successful military operations, the Pashtun's campaign against the Uzbek militants, etc. The existing black column will show incidents favorable to the Taliban/al-Qaeda, such as successful ambushes, assassinations, civilians killed by US fire, etc. I'll also probably make a grey column for ambiguous cases.

The tricky thing here is providing enough information to be useful, but not so much that people are overwhelmed. My goal is not to simply amass as much information on the War on Terror as possible, but to enable regular people to keep abreast of it without having to slog through endless repetitive articles first.

The Forgotten War. We slog. You decide.

Edit: I'm also going to try to flesh out the other areas of this site. I'm planing on doing an editorial on the Zawahri plan and/or al-Qaeda's nuanced and ephemeral hierarchy. I'm also going to add a page containing various important documents, such as the intercepted Zawahri-Zarqawi letter.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Al-Qaeda cheif captured in Arizona

PHOENIX — Osama bin Laden has been captured after spending nearly a week lost in the desert, Air Force officials said in a press conference today. Mr. bin Laden, who is the head of the al-Qaeda international terrorist network, was attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico when he became disoriented, apparently due to the lack of any cities, roads, or other easily identifiable landmarks. He is currently being held at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona.

According to Brig. Gen. Noel T. "Tom" Jones, Mr. bin Laden's journey seems to have begun when he and an accomplice, Sheikh José al-Mazatlani, arrived in the seaside town of Golfo de Santa Clara from points unknown. They then set out north, but quickly became lost in the featureless sands. After they ran out of food on Saturday, they realized that they had no choice but to summon help, so Mr. bin Laden detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that he had brought along "just to be on the safe side". A fighter pilot training over the Barry M. Goldwater range saw the plume of smoke, and a rescue team was dispatched. Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Mazatlani were taken into custody without incident. They were approximately 10 miles north of the border at the time.

"It's really lucky that I noticed the plume way off on the horizon," said the fighter pilot, Airman Theodore Blat. "If I hadn't, they probably would have starved. It's a pretty unforgiving area. There's no way anyone would have ever found the bodies, and we'd have ended up searching through Afghanistan and Pakistan for him forever."

Al-Qaeda officials were unavailable for comment.

Via SNN.