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In the second part of this series, Pakistan analyst Khawar Mehdi explains to Pepe Escobar how US forces crossed from Afghanistan to Pakistan in hot pursuit, in their raid on the tribal areas on September 2. Mehdi identifies the key tribal leaders the US is after, from fabled Mujahideen Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran of the jihad in the 1980s, to Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, the top Taliban group in the Pakistani tribal areas. The aims and strategies of different groups are also discussed. Included is rare, recent footage shot in North and South Waziristan.

Story Transcript

The revamped war on terror exposed

South Waziristan
September 3, 2008

CAPTION: Tribesmen around dead bodies of people they claim were killed in a commando raid.

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST (VOICEOVER): The first American Special Forces incursion into the tribal areas, ground forces, was on September 2. What were the Americans thinking they would find on the ground? Who were they attacking? And how come they had ground intelligence in the tribal areas, considering that they even have no agents inside of Waziristan, for instance?

KHAWAR MEDHI, PAKISTAN ANALYST: To put this action of American forces [inaudible] so we can, you know, safely use hot pursuit. There was a group of insurgents, militant or terrorist, whatever you call, who attacked on Afghan side in Paktika on American forces, and they were retreating and escaping inside Pakistan, the other side of the border. They were chased by Americans. And then, during the chase, they called in air support. So they were simply followed from here. And then, in a certain place, these chasers in helicopters lost the sight, and they lost these people, and they had some kind of understanding that might be these people entered into certain compartments. Those were raided. They found no one.

ESCOBAR: Were the Americans attacking the house of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the famous mujahideen from the ’80s, the Afghan jihadi in the ’80s? Is that true?

MEDHI: Yeah, they did. It is confirmed that his house was attacked in North Waziristan, close to Miram Shah, and where two of his wives, the Jalaluddin Haqqani’s wives, killed with some kids and also some guests.

ESCOBAR: And these guests were probably Arabs.

MEDHI: There is a possibility of Arabs, because the first report, which was afterward not confirmed by Taliban at least, but some Pakistani sources are confirming that so-called al-Qaeda leader, head of al-Qaeda for Pakistan, was present and was killed.

ESCOBAR: Yeah, but he was not.

MEDHI: We don’t have a confirmed report. But there are some Pakistani sources who are telling us about it, the possibility. And we still have not heard anything from Haqqani family.

ESCOBAR: This indicates that the Americans seem to have at least a measure of ground intelligence in the Waziristans.

MEDHI: Sure they do. They do, and they have cultivated some communities. And you know one thing in tribal areas; it is not all about Taliban.

ESCOBAR: Can you give us a breakdown of the main actors in the tribal areas? Americans would put it as insurgency. In fact, it’s a guerrilla war against what they see as foreign occupation and interference.

MEDHI: We have one group called Taliban, and then they formed their alliance called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is headed by Baitullah Mehsud, who is based in South Waziristan. Baitullah Mehsud is an old associate of Taliban from the times of when they were ruling Kabul. He was part of Taliban. He was a lower- or middle-level [inaudible] among them. And after the fall of Taliban in result of 9/11 attacks on United States, the whole Taliban force was disintegrated or scattered. So Beitullah Mehsud came back, started organizing Taliban support in Mahsud tribes. There are two major tribes in South Waziristan. One is called Ahmadzai Wazir, and other Mahsuds. So in Waziristan, he started organizing Mahsud people.

ESCOBAR: So Mehsud is basically the emir of South Waziristan.

MEDHI: He is not only the emir, because he expanded himself very extensively in other parts of tribal areas. Then they formed an alliance of different groups. So now he’s emir of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Then among Taliban there is another group called Local Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan, which is headed by another guy, called [“ka-ree”] Gul Bahadur, who is based in [inaudible] North Waziristan. He has his other big supporter and ally who is based in South Waziristan, in [inaudible] and his bases are in Wana. His name is Mullah Nazir. One group which is led by Baitullah Mehsud is associated with Uzbeks, especially Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They had bases on the Wazir parts, in a village called [“shoo-ga-ee”], and they were operating from there under the command of [“ka-lee”] Tahir Yuldashev.

ESCOBAR: So what do they want? They want an emirate in the tribal areas, basically?

MEDHI: They do talk about sharia rule. Wherever group stands and demand for sharia rule, they go and have. Swat is one of the very explicit examples. Swat Valley is a just normal Pakistani settled district. And there is a guy called Fazlullah, who just raised himself and started demanding for sharia rule. So Baitullah Mehsud and his other comrades from Bajaur Agency came, and they are supporting him.

ESCOBAR: So do they get together and establish, like, a long-term strategy, all these different leaders?

MEDHI: I think they already are following a long-term strategy. They are expanding themselves in other areas bit by bit with a very sort of steady policy. Now they are massing up inside Peshawar. They have sent a lot of fighters—hundreds, hundreds of guys—of Madrassa [“SOO-rent”], and they are residing there, and whenever they will need, they can activate them. They are sleeper cells.

ESCOBAR: But it’s far-fetched to say that they want to take over Peshawar, which is a 2-million city.

MEDHI: Taking over Peshawar maybe is not their target. It is about creating a safe haven in that city, to be able to use the modern facilities of communication and transportation and supplies, and recruitment, and, you know, generating more resources.

ESCOBAR: So this ultimately means that the Americans should need a permanent base in Peshawar if they want to prosecute this next stage of the war on terror.

MEDHI: This will rather complicate the situation. If Americans got a permanent base, then these fighters got a permanent target. They will continue, and this will definitely energize other communities in the city against America, those [who] already have not good views towards America. Right now we have [inaudible] informations that these Taliban groups are showing up in different mosques and contacting common people, inviting them to join their struggle. And one of their major point in this invitation is that now Americans are attacking us, putting this example of 2 September, the incursions. So this is where they are exploiting common people that Americans are now going to attack us.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Khawar Mehdi, born in Rawalpindi, is a Pakistani journalist and political analyst. Even before 9/11 he had advised numerous journalists, academics and researchers from North America and Europe working in the tribal areas of Pakistan and in Afghanistan. In 2004 he was imprisoned and tortured by President Pervez Musharraf's regime while investigating the presence of Taliban training camps inside Pakistan. He was released thanks to an international media campaign - after a personal intervention by Musharraf. Mehdi has unparalleled access to sources in Pakistan's FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). He has been living in Virginia since 2005, working as an analyst/consultant.