The elusive high-value target

Not only has Uzbek terrorist Tahir Yuldash now been raised to the status of a senior Al-Qaeda leader and consequently a ‘high-value target’, he is also wounded and importantly, on the run. Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda tape-worm was back with his chart-topping audio-tapes threatening Musharraf himself while asking the Pakistan Army to overthrow their chief. Eight Pakistani soldiers were slaughtered in cold blood in case someone misunderstood the subtle language in the audio-tape. As usual Musharraf has nothing much to show for it. As Suman Palit suggests, ‘he is a weak link in the chain he swings himself’

Farrukh Saleem comments: In South Waziristan, a brigade of Pak Army, contingents of Touchi Scouts, helicopter gunships, combat aircraft and Khasadars are all putting in overtime to persuade American voters that their President is winning the ‘war on terrorism’. On the ground are sensors capable of counting vehicles on mountain roads and measuring their loads (by tracking vibrations that the vehicles emit). Over and above, spy satellites, remotely piloted Predator drones and E-8C Joints Stars ground surveillance jets are all tracking ‘enemy’ movements. Then there are U-2 spy planes and RC-135s scooping up mobile phone conversations.

There are 70,000 Pakistani troops in the area. There are 12,000 US troops (2,000 more are on the way). Pentagon sent in Task Force 121 comprising Army Delta Force soldiers and Navy SEALs (the Force was credited for capturing Saddam Hussein). ‘Hammer and anvil’ was ordered a few weeks ago. Anvil is in place but hammer isn’t working. Homes of defiant tribesmen have been demolished but the real suspects have all evaporated in thin air.

GHQ is now stuck between a hard rock and Lieutenant General David Barno, Commanding General of the Combined Forces Command in Kabul. We conducted our very first Wana operation on 27 June 2002. Twelve army jawans and an officer died. Suspect militants escaped. On 2 October 2003, there was another unsuccessful operation in Baghar. On 8 January 2004, there was another operation in Kaloosha. Militants escaped. On January 10, four army soldiers were killed. On February 25, Azam Warsak was searched. Militants managed to escape. On February 28, fourteen civilians lost their lives. Militants escaped. On March 16, when Powell was in Islamabad, at least eight FC jawans were killed. Militants escaped.

America, as a consequence, is getting deeply suspicious of our operations (no one important ever gets caught!). America’s RC-135s keep telling them that Pakistan has the ‘sheikh’ that Bush needs. Election is a mere 200 days away. Welcome to America’s election year. Either we take care of the Wana problem or they will. Either we kill or they will. Either we bomb or they will.[The News/Jang]

Related Story: David Rohde writes about ‘the riddle of the big fish that got away’