ISLAMABAD: Grinning for the camera, the suicide bomber fondly patted his truckload of explosives. ‘We will defeat these crusader pigs as they have invaded our land,’ he declared as he revved the engine.
The camera followed the truck to an American base in southern Afghanistan, where it exploded with a tangerine dust-framed fireball that punched a hole in the perimeter wall. Other suicide bombers leapt from a second vehicle and swarmed through the breach. The crackle and boom of violence filled the air.
The video, documenting a June 1 assault on Camp Salerno near the border with Pakistan, was released in the past week as a publicity blitz by the group behind the attack, the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate whose leaders are believed to take shelter in Pakistan, according to a report in The New York Times.
Even as the US begins a large-scale troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Salerno attack, acknowledged at the time only in terse official statements, and others like it have cemented the Haqqani network’s standing as the most ominous threat to the fragile US-Pakistani relationship, officials from both countries say.
The two countries are just getting back on track, after months of gruelling negotiations that finally reopened NATO supply routes through Pakistan. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Zahirul Islam, is scheduled to arrive in Washington this week for talks with the Central Intelligence Agency, in an early sign of a new reconciliation.
Days after the Salerno attack, the White House held a series of interagency meetings to weigh its options in the event of a major success by the Haqqanis against US troops.
The meetings yielded a list of about 30 possible responses, according to a senior official who was briefed on the deliberations — everything from withdrawing the Islamabad ambassador, to a flurry of intensified drone attacks on Haqqani targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt, to American or Afghan commando raids on Haqqani hideouts in the same area.
‘We looked at the A to Z of how to get the Pakistanis’ attention,’ the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Haqqanis’ formidable reputation comes from a series of ‘swarm’ attacks that have struck at American efforts to ensure a smooth and public transition of power to Afghan President Hamid Karzai by the end of 2014. Since 2008, Haqqani’s suicide attackers have struck the Indian Embassy, five-star hotels and restaurants and, last September, the headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US Embassy.
The headlines created by such violence are disproportionate to their military significance, Haqqani operations account for one-tenth of the attacks on ISAF troops, and perhaps 15 percent of casualties, senior US officials estimate. Other countries do not even consider the Haqqanis to be the most dangerous group sheltering in Pakistan, a mantle usually awarded to the more ideologically driven Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, which was allegedly behind the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India.
‘We think the Haqqani network has an ongoing relationship with the ISI,’ a senior Obama administration official said. ‘But I am not convinced there is a command-and-control relationship between the ISI and those attacks.’
American efforts to kill Haqqani leaders with CIA drone strikes in Waziristan and Afghanistan have met with little success, two senior officials said, partly because Sirajuddin Haqqani surrounds himself with civilians – often women and children – at his base in the town of Miran Shah. The United States has long pressured Pakistan to attack the Haqqanis in North Waziristan, but the Pakistan Army says its forces are overstretched.
About the Author
Ankur choudhary is working with rubicon publicer pvt.ltd (http://www.urdutahzeeb.net). Urdutahzeeb.net publish news from all over the world, Islamic country news, Pakistan news, Articles on current affairs, world affairs.