Al Qaeda Opens a New Front

Does Bhutto’s Death Mean the End of Iraq?

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Al Qaeda’s military commander in Afghanistan claims that the terror group coordinated the effort that led to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan yesterday. In a telephone interview with Asia Times Online (NSA boys, did you get this one on tape?), Mustafa Abu al-Yazid said that the killing was part of an al Qaeda plan to destabilize Pakistan by hitting at “precious American assets” there.

”We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat mujahideen. This is our first major victory against those who have been siding with infidels in a fight against al-Qaeda and declared a war against mujahideen.”

Al-Yazid goes on to describe a fairly elaborate effort at tracking and targeting Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf involving indigenous extremist groups acting on orders from al Qaeda. California Yankee reports that US Intelligence agencies have not yet confirmed that al Qaeda was responsible. But couple the claim with reports from earlier this month that defeated al Qaeda forces were moving out of Iraq and heading back to Afghanistan, and it begs the question: Does Bhutto’s death mean that the Iraq war is essentially over?

Read on…

The United States still has enemies in Iraq, to be sure. Chief among these is Iran, which through its intelligence services and proxies like Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army, has been fighting a low grade shooting war against the US almost since Saddam’s statue fell. The US will need to maintain troops in Iraq long into the foreseeable future to keep Iran in check. It will also need a military presence inside Iraq to prevent backsliding among Iraq’s various factions. The calm that has been established by the troop surge is a relative one, and tenuous. Having built the nation, keeping it together is the next great strategic effort.

But everybody agrees that the troop surge has been a spectacular success at defeating al Qaeda in Iraq. Both through military means and outreach to the population, AQI’s infrastructure and base of support have been nearly completely dismantled. It is still capable of smaller scale attacks, and it still operates in areas like Diyala Province. But the key observer, the local population, increasingly sees AQI for what it is: foreign troublemakers with no respect for human life or dignity that want to impose a harshly repressive interpretation of Islam on the people without regard for local customs or traditions.

In the wake of this defeat, al Qaeda may have finally woken up to the fact that Iraq was as much about creating a kind of jihadist sink, into which al Qaeda would pour its resources only to seen them lost down the drain of American military might, as it was about removing a brutal dictator who posed a national security threat to the United States. Accordingly, it is fleeing to Afghanistan, where it has suffered a lesser defeat, and enjoys the protection of the mountains, and free movement across the border with the lawless Waziristan Province of Pakistan.

All of which recalls the plan outlined by al-Yazid to Asia Times Online. By taking out what it views as American assets, al Qaeda now hopes to plunge Pakistan into chaos, much as it once hoped to foment a civil war in Iraq. And there are indications that the plan may be seeing some early success. The assassination of Bhutto has led the next largest opposition figure, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to announce that his party will boycott the elections scheduled for January 8th. “The holding of fair and free elections is not possible in the presence of Pervez Musharraf. After the killing of Benazir Bhutto, I announce that the Pakistan Muslim League-N will boycott the elections," he said. No elections mean that the political unrest, which is fast becoming a blood feud, will have no outlet for a resolution.

Simmering tensions in nuclear armed Pakistan stoked by extremist elements backed by al Qaeda is a perfect storm for United States national security. As undemocratic as Musharraf’s presence in power is, he at least is able to keep the nuclear arsenal safe. Should al Qaeda be successful in descending Pakistan into a civil war, it could take advantage of the chaos to gain access to the nuclear stockpile. Al Qaeda may have admitted defeat in Iraq with its new focus on Pakistan. But that defeat has not reduced its ambitions. Pakistan is a far bigger prize, and one on which al Qaeda seems to be setting its sights.

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Al Qaeda Opens a New Front 9 Comments (0 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

Probably right - defeated in Iraq, they need to find a new place to fight.... see Zarqawi's 2004 or 5 letter about why they should stand and fight in Iraq rather than once again withdraw to another place.

I promise to have more to say about this next month - next month for a particular reason that I'll discuss then....

for how long have the Dems been saying we need to finish the fight in Afganastan. Let's see if they'll be saying that now that we will be moving troops there, if your assessment is correct. Also, has anyone noticed how quickly the MSM has blamed Bush for Bhutto's death by saying we interfered with the election and forced reconcilation; I mean isn't that what we're supposed to being doing in Iraq and haven't they said Masharif a dicator that we've been proping up for way to long. So, Dems think right wing dictators are good now; I know left wing thugs are fine with them, but I never thought I'd live to see it when a right wing guy was ok with them. I mean I can't keep up with the twisted set of rules these people have for every single issue. The only common thread seems to be Bushitler sucks and is evil and everything is his fault. Other than that, I'm lost

Pam

Bush may not be responsible for Bhutto's death, but he must certainly shoulder some responsibility for the powerful position of this "right wing dictator". It's a "twisted set of rules" (and even that's a generous over-statement) that we're all playing with in this region...

I obviously don't have a clue who did what yesterday with the assassination, but I'm not close to accepting that it was Al Qaeda. Of course, they're one of the prime suspects, but so are the black ops contingent in Pakistan. If nothing else, this should wake people up in this country as to just how dangerous this world is, and that we can't allow ourselves to stick our heads in the sand and elect people like Huckabee, Edwards, or Clinton on any basis. This terrorism game is for real, and we're going to be much closer to the next attack, once Bush is gone. Like him or not, he deserves credit for standing up against terrorism, despite mountains of abuse and criticism.

..and there seems to be some question about whether AQ are actually claiming this one or not:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,22985267-2,00.html

While I'm wary to believe anything from any side at this stage, Mehsud's denial certainly has a ring of truth to it.

death into a major good turning point:

a) That al Qaeda/Taliban/ be seen as having carried out the assassination; and

b) That Musharraf and the Army and the silent majority are motivated by this and the creeping eastward advance of extremist controlled territory to finally wage total war.

I think Pervez will be better motivated now that it seems his fence straddling will not save him.

Mike Gamecock DeVine @ The Charlotte Observer
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Just as AQ has already, pre-Bhutto, failed in Iraq, they will fail elsewhere. Their world is getting smaller by the day, especially with a large part of the Islamic world now familiar with their indiscriminate brutality.

If one is to believe that Afghanistan will be a panacea, then you would have to also accept that border tribes are willing to withstand a significant, continuous assault. In following, tribal loyalty only is a factor if there is a tribe and concentrations of AQ will threaten their longevity and turn the region into another Iraq style AQ defeat.

The killing of Bhutto was a mistake in the sense it will provide Musharraf cover to finally take more resolute action. Along with pressure from us to drain the swamp (or lose all his "anti-terror funding) and a more diversified international presence across the border, it could be the coup de gras for AQ.

This is a retreat by AQ, plain and simple. Let them flee and die where they stand, only to become a grotesque, momentary footnote in history. The world will be a better, safer place.

"Nec Aspera Terrent"
bene ambula et redambula
Contributor to The Minority Report

absolutely right. AQ placed their bets on Afghanistan, because they had protection from the Taliban, they got destroyed. Then they bet with the turmoil in Iraq, trying to pose each Islamic faction against each other and the U.S. and lost big time. Now they see Pakistan as a viable bet, especially with PPP, Sharif and supporters being angry and violent with Musharraf's instable govt. They are banking on somehow growing their group along the border with Afghanistan, becoming a bigger influence within the country and causing more of a mess than it is now. But as history has shown, they will fail.

Before you get to heaven, you must go through hell, which in my case is the People's Republic of Massachusetts.

 
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