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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 50, June 27, 2005

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal





New 'Great Game'
Kanchan Lakshman
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management; Assistant Editor, Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution

That all is not well between Pakistan and Afghanistan was apparent when the U.S. President George W. Bush indulged in some telephonic diplomacy on June 21, 2005, to resolve friction between two key allies in the 'war on terror', urging both to exercise restraint. Shortly after President Bush's call to General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President called his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and both of them reportedly promised to 'continue co-operation' in combating terrorism. But the seriousness of the situation was evident in the fact that the General called Karzai a second time on June 23 to reiterate Pakistan's claim that it was not involved in terrorist incidents in Afghanistan.

President Bush was forced to step in after Pakistan reacted strongly to Afghanistan disclosing that it had arrested three Pakistanis for allegedly planning to assassinate the former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The three were arrested on June 19 from the eastern Laghman province, where the Afghan-born Khalilzad, nominated as the next US envoy to Iraq, was inaugurating reconstruction projects. The trio was reportedly waiting for suicide vests packed with explosives to come from Pakistan, but these never arrived, and they were instructed, instead, to carry out the assassination with the weapons they had in hand. While the group affiliation has not been disclosed thus far, a senior intelligence official was quoted as saying on Afghan National Television that they had trained in a "terrorist camp in Pakistan". While Abdul Alim and Murad Khan hail from the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Zahid is from North West Frontier Province on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Jawed Ludin, President Karzai's spokesperson, has said that there have been a series of attacks in recent weeks, committed by terrorists who had allegedly entered from Pakistan, including a suicide bombing on June 1, 2005, at a mosque in Kandahar, which killed 20 people. Ludin was more assertive at a press conference in Kabul on June 22 when he said "some senior members of the Taliban, including some who are involved in killings and are considered terrorists, are in Pakistan.'' President Karzai, addressing a gathering of the Ulema (clerics), alleged that Islamabad was blackmailing the Taliban and threatening to hand their families over to the US unless they did as told.

That the Afghan-Pakistan theatre is critical for the US-led war on terror needs no reiteration. And the U.S. will do the utmost to prevent the rather hasty conclusion by some that Afghanistan is fast becoming the 'forgotten eastern front'. But the vital issue, in terms of an end game, is the presence and operation of surviving elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. US and Afghan officials have, in recent times, stated that Osama bin Laden is hiding in the tribal region along the Pakistan-Afghan border and, crucially, President Pervez Musharraf confirmed in Auckland recently that he believes bin Laden is probably somewhere in the area of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. CIA Director Porter Goss, while disclosing that he had "an excellent idea of where he [Laden] is," in his interview to Time had alluded at Pakistan when he talked about the "very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states…" And Khalilzad had, on June 19, stated that there was a good chance that the fugitive Taliban chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was hiding in Pakistan. In an interview to Aina Television, Khalilzad disclosed that a Pakistani TV channel had interviewed a senior Taliban 'commander', Mullah Akhtar Usmani, at a time when Pakistani officials claimed they did not know the whereabouts of Taliban leaders. "If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs and a lot of security and military forces, not find them?" Khalilzad queried.

The Taliban, as has been documented extensively, exists on both sides of the border. While they have obviously been weakened to a certain extent, they retain substantial capacities to execute attacks. While Islamabad has managed to quieten the chaotic Waziristan region along the Afghan border, the mountainous terrain along the Durand Line provides a secure pathway and safe hideout for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Pakistani insecurities on the Afghan front also relate to the contested nature of the Durand Line. In the opinion of most Afghans, the Durand Line should rightly have been drawn at Attock, and this is what the Afghans will press for when their country is strong enough. Within this context, it is useful to note that, south of the Durand Line, in what is currently Pakistani territory, land records, police and legal records, etc, still refer to the people as 'Afghan'.

Afghan officials have alleged for weeks now that the Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives were coming in from Pakistan, where they are reportedly based in areas of the North West Frontier Province and also from Balochistan. Since the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) launched 30 Arab and Pakistani militants into the Kunar and Nangarhar provinces almost a year ago under the leadership of Colonel Haq Nawaz, sources indicate that Taliban leaders have held frequent meetings with their handlers in Pakistan at Quetta, Peshawar (where the 'moderate Taliban' Jaishul Muslim is based), Kohat, Waziristan and other locations. For instance, on August 11, 2004, senior Taliban leaders, including Mullah Obaidullah, Akhtar Usmani (the 'commander' mentioned by Khalilzad), Akhtar Mansoor and Maulvi Razzak, had met in Quetta to discuss ways to disrupt the October 2004-presidential elections in Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, Nimroz and Helmand provinces.

The more recent escalation in attacks along the border is partly due to the fact that the snow has melted from mountain passes, allowing terrorists to launch strikes from Pakistan and possibly due to the less-reported regrouping of the Taliban/Al Qaeda. U.S. military spokesperson, Colonel James Yonts, revealed on June 20 that foreign terrorists, backed by networks channeling them money and arms, had come into Afghanistan to try and subvert parliamentary elections slated for September 16, 2005. The October 2004 Afghan presidential elections had been relatively peaceful, since Pakistan had sealed the border and executed operations against the terrorists. Afghan officials say that such levels of cooperation are not forthcoming from Islamabad now.

Since March 2005, some 195 persons, including at least 29 U.S. troops and 70 Afghan security force personnel, have died in various incidents of terrorist violence across Afghanistan. At the other end, approximately 300 terrorists have been killed in various security operations.

Violence, according to Ludin, is worst near the Pakistan border. The subversion that targets Afghan provinces close to Pakistan, like Paktika, is a reality despite the fact that Islamabad has deployed approximately 70,000 troops on their side of the border. This suggests that the Taliban/Al Qaeda have been provided space by the military to operate in the Pakistani areas along the border. Significantly, Balochistan and the NWFP are governed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a fundamentalist alliance with close links to the Taliban.

The security establishment in Afghanistan, including coalition intelligence sources, has reportedly indicated a disturbing shift in terrorist tactics, with the Jehadis increasingly adopting 'Iraq-style' suicide attacks. And such attacks are bound to increase ahead of the September parliamentary elections. Defence Minister Rahim Wardak said on June 17 in an interview to the Associated Press that he had received intelligence that Al Qaeda had brought at least six Arab operatives into Afghanistan in the past three weeks. According to him, while one suicide bomber attacked a funeral service for a pro-government cleric at a Kandahar mosque on June 1, killing 20 persons, another rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a U.S. convoy in Kandahar on June 13, injuring four U.S. soldiers. Suicide bombings are a relatively rare phenomenon in Afghanistan, with most of them suspected to have been carried out by non-Afghans, primarily Arabs. While the minister did not disclose how the suicide bombers entered Afghanistan, officials said men and material are usually moved through Pakistan, implying that Pakistan is again becoming a staging post for the Arab Jehadi. Incidentally, Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told Daily Times on June 23 that the Al Qaeda had established a strong nexus with outlawed extremist groups in Pakistan. Although he did not provide names, the minister said banned groups were facilitating Al Qaeda operatives inside Pakistan. Among the proscribed groups in Pakistan are: Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jamiat-ul-Ansar (JuA), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Khuddam-ul-Furqan and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

Pakistan is noticeably seeking to regain the foothold it lost after the Taliban rout in Afghanistan, and is reframing its quest for 'strategic depth'. Pending a U.S. 'solution' or 'exit', the Pakistani leadership will continue to seek means to recover leverage in Afghanistan. More importantly and possibly critical to Pakistan's desire for strategic space, there are concerns that an Afghan regime that is friendlier to India could leave Pakistan sandwiched between two 'adversaries', something which no regime in Islamabad would find acceptable.


Sliding into Chaos
P.G. Rajamohan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In the 32 months after he suspended Parliament, King Gyanendra appointed and dismissed three Prime Ministers, averaging out to a little over ten months per regime. The primary charge for this extreme action was their 'incompetence' in 'resolving' the Maoist insurgency and their failure to bring the Maoist leadership to the negotiating table. But as his own direct rule - commencing with the 'Royal coup' of February 1 - approaches five months, there is little evidence of any success with the Maoists, either militarily or in pushing forward a coherent agenda for talks. And to compound the problem further, he has failed to convince the international community on the issue of the restoration of democracy. His regime is presently and widely perceived as trying its utmost to secure its own position, but entirely lacking in vision to secure a constructive future for Nepal.

On the military front, there has been little by way of restoring control - Gyanendra's most significant assurance when he seized power. 1,168 persons have been killed since the 'royal takeover', including 872 claimed as Maoists, 140 security force (SF) personnel and 156 civilians (data compiled from open sources by the Institute for Conflict Management till June 25, 2005). 47 of the country's 75 districts have seen significant violence, and these are spread across all the five regions. The worst hit districts include Kailali in the Far-western region; Dailekh, Bardiya, Rukum, Rolpa and Dang in the Mid-western region; Chitwan, Kavrepalanchowk and Sindhuli in Central region; Siraha, Udaypur, Bhojpur, Morang and Ilam in the Eastern region. In each of at least 15 incidents, security forces inflicted more than 10 Maoist fatalities; the insurgents, on the other hand, have killed more than two SF personnel in each of at least 29 incidents, with eight of these recording over five SF fatalities.

Significantly, in most of the major incidents, it is the Maoists who launched attacks against either SF bases or patrols and it is increasingly evident that the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) has launched few offensive counter insurgency initiatives. The ongoing 'strategic offensive phase' of the Maoist 'protracted war' has evidently cornered the security forces in a defensive position, and the Maoists have increased their attacks on security installations, establishments and personnel. In April, the insurgents launched three major attacks in their stronghold areas in the Mid-western districts of Rolpa and Rukum. Again, in May, they executed four operations, mainly concentrating on the eastern districts of Siraha, Sindhuli and Udaypur. In Siraha, they simultaneously launched major attacks on three security force bases including Army barracks in Choharwa and Bandipur area and a police post at Mirchaiya on May 9-10, in which four security personnel were killed and arms were looted from the posts. Later, the Maoists handed over eight 'prisoners of war', who had been captured during above attacks, to representatives of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the presence of human rights activists and local journalists in Panchthar on June 7.

In June, the Maoists have already executed five major attacks, including two each in Kailali and Kavrepalanchowk Districts, and one in the Khotang District. In a demonstration of prowess, they attacked Dhangadhi, the district headquarters of Kailali, and Diktel, headquarters of the Khotang District, on June 10 and 20 respectively. These incidents recall the patterns of attack in Bhojpur and Myagdhi in March 2004. A gradual increase in the number of casualties, including SFs and civilians, suggests that Maoist operations are escalating, even as their influence deepens in the Eastern, Central and Western Regions.

The intensified conflict situation in Nepal has greatly undermined civilian security. The Maoists have repeatedly targeted civilians, claiming their victims had acted against the 'liberation struggle' or served as informers to the SFs. In one such incident, for instance, on June 14, Maoists 'executed' seven civilians, including three women and a one year-old child, as part of their action against 'civilian enemies' at Attariya in the Kailali District. The Maoists have killed move than five civilians in each of at least six incidents since February 11. On the other hand, in the name of breaking the backbone of the rebellion, extrajudicial killings and disappearances are becoming the RNA's predominant method of fighting the insurgency.

The RNA has also sought to encourage civilian vigilante groups to attack the Maoists, and this has resulted in further grief for villagers in Nawalparasi, Dailekh, Kapilavastu and Rupandehi districts. In some incidents, the village vigilantes killed their neighbours on charges of associating with the insurgents, targeting family members of Maoist cadres. According to one report, violence between vigilantes and Maoists since February 1, 2005, has resulted in 36 killings, destroyed over 600 houses and displaced more than 20,000 people along the Indian border.

The tactic is not unique to the RNA, and Maoists have targeted Army families across the country as well. RNA authorities disclosed on May 15, 2005, that some 1,270 members of 292 Army personnel families had been forced to flee their homes under threat of violence by the Maoist. The number is expected to have increased since, and a large proportion of such displaced families are yet to be reflected in the Government's account. Such direct pressures, among other factors, are believed to have resulted in a grave problem of desertion from the armed forces, estimated 'between 200 and 300' each month.

Even after the 'royal appointment' of five regional, 14 zonal and 75 district chairmen, the state mechanism remains largely defunct. Many of these appointees failed to take charge or resigned from their offices under Maoist death threats. Over three fourth of the Village Development Committee (VDC) offices damaged in the conflict have not been renovated and developmental works remain suspended in rural areas.

The crisis is only expected to deepen in the proximate future. The RNA is facing a serious crisis as it has received no replenishment of arms and ammunition from international suppliers. Indian estimates based on the pattern of supplies and utilization over the past two years suggest that the RNA had ammunition stocks to last them about six months when the King took over, and even if there has been a diminution in offensive operations, these stores will be running out now. Though India had given an assurance of resumption of arms supplies after King Gyanendra's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the Asian-African Summit Conference at Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 23, the decision was held in abeyance as a result of several of the King's moves shortly thereafter - including the disclosure of the secret deal with India and the arrest of former Prime Minister Deuba, despite the King's assurances that political prisoners would be released as a first step to the progressive restoration of democracy. The RNA spokesperson has, in fact, confirmed that Kathmandu has not received any arms consignments from India since February 1. Britain and the United States, similarly, have only provided 'non-lethal' material as military assistance to Nepal, and are 'constantly reviewing' the situation in the country. Sources indicate that China's supply of three Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to the RNA on June 16, were deliveries on the basis of agreements contracted earlier, prior to the 'royal takeover'.

Indeed, with no military supplies forthcoming from any of Nepal's major suppliers, the RNA's Master General of Ordinance (Provisions) published an advertisement on June 18, inviting foreign-based manufacturers and authorized distributors of arms and ammunition to enlist their company in the annual procurement list 2005/06 for the supply of "various Military and Civil pattern goods to the RNA." The advertisement indicated that the RNA was looking for various types of arms, ammunition and explosives, Armed Personnel Carrier (APC), tanks, aircraft, armed/gunship helicopter/aircraft, communication equipment, optical instruments and security equipment, including mine detectors, bomb disposal units, bullet proof vests, frag-jackets, parachutes and accessories, among others. It is not clear when these purchases will eventually be made, but the cost to the exchequer will certainly be very substantial. India, Kathmandu's biggest supplier in the past, offered concessional rates, and much of the supplies from the US and UK were also backed by a substantial aid component. The attempt to acquire arms from the international market may also confront severe obstacles, as the international community - including India, the US and UK, who had been liberally supporting Kathmandu in its war against the Maoists before February 1 - remains strongly in favour of an embargo, and can be expected to create significant obstacles for any agencies bidding for the arms supply tender.

There is unfortunately little succor on the political front. A seven-party alliance formed after the release of senior political leaders from house arrest on May 8, announced a 'road-map' for agitation to restore democracy. They have, however, failed to exert any significant pressure on the regime. Their proposed collaboration with the Maoists in the democratic protest movement also failed to materialize, since it was premised on the Maoists relinquishing violence - a conditionality the rebels brusquely rejected. Nevertheless, Maoist 'chairman', Prachanda welcomed the alliance's commitment to the establishment of a constituent assembly - a long standing Maoist demand - absolute democracy and an end to the despotic monarchy. Prachanda further spoke of "wide cooperation with (the) seven political parties… to make the movement forceful and united in order to bring the absolute monarchy to an end." However, the prospects for any effective collaboration between seven-party alliance and the Maoists appears remote at this juncture, since the constitutional parties would not dare to risk the support of the people and the international community, and would also hesitate to put their full faith in the heavily armed and historically ruthless Maoists.

With not a single effective initiative on the King's part to restore democracy in the country, and a measurable diminution in the RNA's capacity to engage in an aggressive and widespread counter-insurgency campaign, it is clear that the country continues its slide into greater turbulence, with nothing in the present constellation of powers to impede this descent.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 20-26, 2005

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &






Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Nine soldiers killed in car bomb blast in Srinagar: Nine soldiers were killed and 21 others sustained injuries when their bus was blown up in an explosion caused by the terrorists on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar, capital of Jammu and Kashmir, on June 24, 2005. Eyewitness accounts mentioned that the terrorists detonated a parked car laden with a huge quantity of RDX. H.K. Lohia, Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Central Kashmir), said the car was probably parked at the site earlier and the bomb detonated with remote control. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Daily Excelsior, June 25, 2005.

20 Naxalites and three police personnel killed in Bihar: At least 20 Naxalites (left-wing extremists), including one of its prominent leaders, and three police personnel were killed in the June 23-Naxalite attack and subsequent police action in the East Champaran district of Bihar where police launched a massive combing operation the next day to flush out the extremists. At least 200 Naxalites had attacked the Madhuban police station and branches of the State Bank of India and Central Bank of India. Bihar Police chief, A. R. Sinha, said a large number of pistols, landmines, bombs and ammunition were recovered during mopping up operations after night-long encounters with groups of Naxalites at several places in the district. He also said Moiuddin Mian, who founded the movement in North Bihar, was among those who died. Sinha further revealed that a large number of Maoist insurgents from Nepal too participated in the June 23-attack following which the India-Nepal border along East Champaran has been sealed. Hindustan Times, June 24, 2005.

Violation of accord by Pakistan on Hurriyat visit, says Prime Minister: Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has reportedly rejected the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's assertion that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had "mishandled" the visit of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Dr. Singh was responding to Vajpayee's charge (in a letter dated June 15) that "the peace process with Pakistan has taken [a disturbing turn]." In his reply, the Prime Minister said "it is our endeavour to take the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan forward while ensuring that India's vital interests are fully safeguarded." Dr. Singh's letter, dated June 20, was released by the Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi. Dr. Singh stated that by inviting the Hurriyat leaders to visit Islamabad "Pakistan violated an understanding on these procedures that had been reached between India and Pakistan." He informed the former Prime Minister that "passports were issued to those Hurriyat leaders who did not possess Indian passports and [who] made a request for the issue of such documents." The Hindu, June 22, 2005.


India is not 'principal enemy', claims Maoist chief Prachanda: In an interview to the pro-Maoist newsmagazine Janadesh on June 21, 2005, 'Chairman' of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-Maoist), Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, quoting a decision taken at the 'central committee' meeting of his party, said that India was not their 'principal enemy' in the context of the threat of foreign intervention. Further, he said their main contradiction lies with the domestic reactionaries comprising feudals, bureaucrats and capitalists protected by 'Indian expansionism'. On collaboration between the Maoists and the alliance of seven opposition parties, Prachanda said, "In the context of recent political developments, coordination and collaboration between the two forces had become possible and was also necessary." He, however, added that the demand for a re-instatement of the dissolved Parliament does not correctly address the problems facing Nepal. Nepal News, June 22, 2005.


Three Pakistanis arrested for plot to kill former US Ambassador to Afghanistan: Afghan intelligence officials foiled a plot to assassinate the former US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and arrested three Pakistanis armed with rocket propelled grenades and assault rifles. An Afghan presidential spokesperson said on June 20, 2005, that the men were arrested from Laghman province a day earlier. Afghan television is reported to have subsequently broadcast a video of the suspects identifying them as Murad Khan, Abdul Alim, and Zahid. While two of them claimed they came from Peshawar, the other said he was from Mansehra. Daily Times, June 21, 2005.


Government and the LTTE sign P-TOMS agreement: The Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for establishing a Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) on June 24, 2005. With this, an administrative mechanism for reconstructing the country's Tsunami-affected coastline has come into effect. The P-TOMS, also known as the Tsunami Relief Council, aims at ensuring equitable distribution of international assistance for the reconstruction of the coastline. The MoU will be in force for a year, with an option to extend it for "an additional period or periods" by consensus between the two signatories. Representatives of the Government and the LTTE serially signed the MoU in Colombo and Kilinochchi, after the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party disrupted Parliament on June 24-morning protesting against the move. The Hindu, June 25, 2005.


Nepal: Fatalities between June 2004 and June 25, 2005

Source: Institute for Conflict Management, computed from English language media.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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