Category Archives: Constitutional

FBI Agent: Saudi at Guantanamo Admitted Helping 9/11 Plot

A Saudi Arabian being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has admitted to helping with flights and finances for seven of the 19 men who hijacked planes in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., one of his interrogators testified at his trial.

Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, now facing a war crimes tribunal, spoke to interrogators over four days in January 2004 as they showed him evidence of his involvement in the terrorist attack.

“He indicated he was very happy to have been able to support the brothers who carried out the attack,” retired FBI Agent Abigail Perkins testified Wednesday, providing the most detailed account so far of evidence prosecutors intend to use in a case that has unfolded incrementally over nearly six years.

The agent described the conversation as cordial, professional and nonthreatening. But defense attorneys say the confessions were not voluntary, but rather the result of brutal treatment at the hands of the CIA between his capture in Pakistan in March 2003 and when he was taken to Guantanamo in September 2006.

Perkins testified that al-Hawsawi told her he considered the attack a legitimate retaliation for U.S. troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia. “He indicated that he was very happy to have been able to support the brothers who carried out the attack,” she recalled.

In all, 2,976 people were killed on 9/11 in the attacks using planes that crashed in New York, at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field. Five men are charged at Guantanamo as co-conspirators in the attack, and they could be executed if they are convicted.

Source: Voice of America

Joint US-Afghan Operation Kills Top al-Qaida, Taliban Leaders

ISLAMABAD Afghanistan’s security forces, in joint counterterrorism raids with U.S. partners, this week have killed several high-profile leaders of al-Qaida, along with 80 other members of the terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency,

The Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), announced details of the operations Tuesday, saying Omar bin Khetab, also known as Omar Mansoor, was among the dead.

Khetab was the second-in-command of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent.He also was the most senior member of al-Qaida to have been killed in the country since 2001 when a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul for sheltering the leadership of the international terrorist group.

The joint security operations focused on the provinces of Ghazni, Zabul and Paktia, bordering Pakistan.They also destroyed five al-Qaida bases and arrested 27 militants, the NDS said.The agency did not give further details about the nationalities of Khetab and other high-profile slain commanders.

In a separate statement, the U.S. military confirmed the death of Khetab in operations it said were conducted on Monday.

The Taliban has rejected the claims as baseless, saying the Islamist insurgency has no links with any foreign organization.In a statement sent to media, the group’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, also denied any Afghan-U.S. operations this week in the three provinces.

The U.S. military in its statement also confirmed the killing of a top Taliban commander in a separate kinetic strike conducted in southern Helmand province. The Afghan spy agency announced earlier this week the death in a security operation of Mullah Shah Wali, also known as Haji Nasir, who commanded the so-called “Red Unit” elite force of the Taliban in the largest Afghan province.

Nasir and his “Red Unit” are responsible for planning numerous suicide bombings, IED attacks and coordinated assaults against civilians, Afghan and coalition forces,” stated the U.S. military.

The commander of U.S. troops and NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, praised the operations as a “testament to the real growth” Afghan forces have achieved over the past year.

“It is also another example of the lethality of the undefeated Afghan Special Forces and the success of working side by side with our Afghan partners.”

Borhan Osman, a senior analyst at International Crisis Group for Afghanistan, described Nasir’s death as a major loss for the Taliban insurgency. Osman wrote on his official Twitter account that the slain insurgent commander led decisive Taliban battles in northern Helmand and fought militants of the Afghan branch of rival Islamic State.

Tactical collaboration

Last week, General Nicholson spoke in detail about the presence ofal-Qaida remnants and its affiliates and their ongoing collaboration with the Taliban.

Even though the Taliban would not publicly acknowledge ties with al-Qaida, there is still a close relationship at the “tactical level” between the two, the general noted.

“They [al-Qaida] tend to provide some of the expertise, the training on specialized weapons or IEDs or bomb making. It is al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent fighters who are the ones who are training a lot of local Taliban, and in return for this, the Taliban affords them sanctuary,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson also said U.S. forces continue to hunt al-Qaida fighters and strike them wherever they find them, primarily in the eastern part of Afghanistan.

“And when you find them, they are existing within a friendly environment created by the Taliban,” Nicholson said.

U.S. forces two years ago located and destroyed a major al-Qaida camp in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, killing a large number of militants.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 16 years ago to bring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates to justice, accusing them of masterminding the terrorist attacks on U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.

The U.S. military has since killed a large number of commanders and fighters of the group in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was located and killed by U.S. special forces in 2011 in a covert raid against his hideout in neighboring Pakistan.

Source: Voice of America

Mattis’ Softer Approach Is Latest Effort to Foster Change in Pakistan

President Donald Trump’s policy of pressuring Islamabad to rout terrorists seems to have had little effect, adding to the need for U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’ to mend badly frayed ties, analysts say.

Mattis met Monday with Pakistan’s prime minister, defense minister and army chief of staff during his brief stop. The repeated theme was to find common ground to foster peace in neighboring Afghanistan to benefit the entire South Asian region.

But the response from Pakistan was little changed: it would benefit most from stability in Afghanistan, it doesn’t harbor terror organizations, and it has sacrificed heavily supporting the U.S. war on terrorism. That leaves the question of whether Pakistan is willing to risk a break in its relationship with Washington and an end to the flow of the billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

I think the time-delaying tactics are still in play, Dr. Ijaz Khattak, a professor at the University of Peshawar’s Department of International Relations, told VOA Deewa. I believe this time these talks will be a bit unusual as some progress will come out, whether for good or bad. I don’t think things can move in ambiguity anymore.

‘Miscreants’ blamed

Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan army’s chief of staff, claimed success in Pakistan’s fight against terror and said only miscreants are left.

We have eliminated safe havens from Pakistan’s soil but are prepared to look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan’s hospitality to the Afghan refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers, an army statement quoted Bajwa as saying after meeting with Mattis.

Bharat Gopalaswamy, director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Program, said that while Afghanistan feels a sense of urgency in fighting the resurgent Taliban and Islamic State’s new presence, Pakistan may not feel as serious about the situation because it has its own priorities.

Focus on India

The country has been leaning increasingly toward conservatism and religious intolerance, and the powerful military’s focus has always been on rival India.

Trump’s approach provides India with a stronger role to play in the region, and New Delhi has eased the pressure that Pakistan has exerted on landlocked Afghanistan’s international trade by providing alternative delivery routes.

Gopalaswamy told the VOA Urdu show View 360 that Pakistan’s claims it is fighting extremism have been undercut by the release from house arrest of Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who has been accused of masterminding terrorist attacks in India.

Saeed said Sunday that his Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, which has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S., plans to run in next year’s elections.

This is the right time to enter the country’s politics and highlight the Kashmir cause, Saeed told reporters in Lahore.

Mattis’ softer approach in Islamabad contrasts with recent comments by other U.S. officials.

‘Clear demands’

Last week, Gen. John Nicholson, head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Islamabad had not carried out the clear demands made by Washington. CIA director Mike Pompeo added Saturday: We are going to do everything we can to ensure that safe havens no longer exist, if Pakistan does not heed the U.S. message on militants.

Since 2004, the CIA has conducted drone strikes � mostly against al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban targets � in northwest Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.

The United States is considering expanding those strikes, along with several other measures, according to media reports.

Source: Voice of America

Days After Release, Alleged Terror Mastermind Announces His Party’s Election Bid in Pakistan

WASHINGTON A Pakistani Islamist leader who has been accused of masterminding terrorist attacks in India says his group will take part in national and provincial elections in 2018.

Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) group, spoke to reporters in Lahore on Sunday. JUD has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. He was recently released from a year-long house arrest and denounced electoral politics for many years.

But now Saeed says This is the right time to enter the country’s politics” and “highlight the Kashmir cause.

Saeed was released in November from months of house arrest for a lack of evidence. He has been accused of supporting militant groups that fight New Delhi’s rule in the Indian-administered Kashmir and masterminding Mumbai’s 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans. The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest for plotting the Mumbai bloodshed.

Saeed’s JUD bills itself as a humanitarian organization without links to terrorists, but it is widely considered a “front group” for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was founded by Saeed and has been banned for terrorist activity since 2001.

The JUD organization recently launched a political party, Milli Muslim League, saying it wanted to make Pakistan “a real Islamic and welfare state.”

In its first foray into electoral politics, JUD-supported contender came in third in a by-election August in Punjab, securing more votes than former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party did.

‘A clever move’

By entering electoral politics and becoming part of the mainstream politics, Saeed may be attempting to counter the 2008 Mumbai attacks allegations and charges against him, Kamran Bukhari, a Washington-based Pakistan analyst, told VOA. He wants to secure himself by using political and legal means as a camouflage. It is a clever move.

Bukhari added that Saeed’s countrywide network of civil society and charity organizations that have provided humanitarian relief and education has helped him broaden his influence over the years.

They even run schools and colleges and recently launched Milli Muslim League, their political wing, and that’s their influence inside Pakistan. As you have seen, he has been repeatedly detained and then released, Bukhari said.

Arif Nizami, a Pakistan-based analyst, doubts that Saeed’s group would change its ideology after entering electoral politics.

Intolerance and extremist ideology are growing in this country. It is unclear what rhetoric they [Saeed and his party] will use in the election and whether their participation will increase extremism, but it is certainly not the agenda or the basis on which Pakistan was founded, Nizami said.

Saeed’s release and recent political developments in Pakistan have triggered suspicions that the country and its powerful military are making concessions to religious extremists.

The U.S. government expressed serious concerns over Saeed’s release, saying it sends a deeply troubling message about Pakistan’s international counterterrorism commitment.

The U.S. has for a decade accused Pakistan of sheltering or having ties to terrorists, such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban, which attack NATO coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied the allegations.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to pressure Islamabad to end its alleged ties to militant groups when he visits the country as part of a four-nation tour that began Friday.

Source: Voice of America

Analysts: Pro-Iran Remarks May Trigger Regional Rivalry in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON Recent pro-Iranian and Syrian regime remarks by an Afghan Shiite leader may attract regional sectarian rivalries to Afghanistan, and incite more violence and terror by the Islamic State terrorist group in the war-torn country, analysts warned.

Deputy Afghan Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, a leader of the country’s Shiite minority, said last week, “I thank all the warriors who cooperated in these wars from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the world.” He was speaking about fighters in Syria while addressing an international summit of scholars from Iran and other Muslim nations in Tehran.

Mohaqeq called it Islam’s war against infidelity and world arrogance. He was praising foreign fighters, including Afghans, who fought in Syria alongside the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in support of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Mohaqeq, who led one of the warring parties that engaged in a brutal civil war that killed tens of thousands of Afghans in the early 1990s, also praised the role of Major General Qasem Soleimani, who commands IRGC’s foreign operations, and Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, whose forces are engaged in various conflicts in the region.

Two days after Mohaqeq’s speech in Tehran, Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense, General Tariq Shah Bahrami, stood next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at the inaugural meeting of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals.

Afghanistan’s government and many of the country’s lawmakers reacted strongly to Mohaqeq’s remarks, insisting they are not representative of the country’s foreign policy.

“Recent comments by Mohammad Mohaqeq in Tehran are in contradiction of the principles of foreign policy, national interests, stability and security of the country and the laws of Afghanistan, and in no way represent the views of the Afghan government,” Kabul said in a statement this week.

Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, chairman of the Afghan Senate, demanded the Mohaqeq apologize and be prosecuted.

Regional rivalry

Analysts charge that the controversial remarks are an open invitation for the regional rivalry to engulf Afghanistan, which is already suffering from decades of alleged interference by its neighboring countries.

“Mohaqeq’s remarks can certainly incite rivalry [between Iran and Saudi Arabia] in Afghanistan,” Wadir Safi, a professor of law and political science at Kabul University, told VOA.

“The Iranians had asked him to make those remarks to counter Saudi Arabia politically and militarily, and to start a proxy war against Iran’s opponents in Afghanistan,” Safi added.

The Saudi-led Muslim counterterrorism coalition is largely believed to have been created to counter the growing influence of Iran and its proxy militants groups, such as Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Riyadh is leading a military alliance against the Iran-backed militant group that overthrew the Yemeni government in 2014.

“Escalation in the Iran-Saudi rivalry will have a negative impact on the situation in Afghanistan and the wider region,” Dawood Azami, a researcher at the University of Westminster, told VOA. “The growing competition for regional dominance between Riyadh and Tehran will put more pressure on the government and powerful figures in Afghanistan to take sides.”

Abdullah Sharif, a scholar at the University of Cincinnati, said Mohaqeq’s remarks can create serious foreign policy challenges for Kabul.

“Afghanistan is trying to stay out of regional conflicts by not officially siding with one group or another. Mohaqeq’s statement, if not officially denounced by the government, will undermine that stance,” Sharif said.

In addition to making Afghanistan an arena for regional rivalries, analysts warn the remarks may provide an excuse for the Islamic State terror group to become even more violent in Afghanistan. The group has already claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks across the country.

“Mohaqeq’s statement could lead to an increase in IS violence against the Shiites in the country,” a Kabul based activist who belongs to the Shiite minority told VOA on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

Kabul university’s Wadir, however, believes Mohaqeq’s stance could incite IS violence not only against the Shiite but also against Sunnis in the country.

Fatemiyoun brigade

Over the years, Iran has reportedly sent thousands of Shiite Afghan refugees to Syria to fight in support of the Assad regime. The Afghan fighters are part of the “Fatemiyoun Brigade,” the second-largest group of foreigners fighting for Assad in Syria.

Western media estimate they have 10,000 to 12,000 fighters.

A recent Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria.

The prospects of Afghan fighters returning home after the war in Syria is over is worrisome for Afghans.

“This is quite dangerous: What happens to this Fatemiyoun force when the war in Syria is over?” Rahmatullah Nabil, a former Afghan intelligence chief, recently told The New York Times.

“The fear is that rivalry in the region, between Iran and Saudi, will shift to Afghanistan. And I think that clash is already shifting here,” Nabil added.

Azami, of Westminster, echoed Nabil’s concerns and said IS’s goal in Afghanistan is to turn the country’s conflict into a sectarian war between the minority Shiite and predominant Sunnis, and remarks like those made by Mohaqeq in Iran may help contribute to the realization of that goal.

“Referring to some of its attacks in Afghanistan, IS has said that they were in retaliation for the support of Afghan Shiite militia to the Syrian regime,” Azami said.

Source: Voice of America