Thursday, April 13, 2006

Another One Goes Ka-Boom

NBC News is reporting a significant victory in the War on Terrorism. An airstrike in the tribal lands of northern Pakistan has reportedly killed Moshin Musa Matawalli Atwah, an Egpytian who was known as one of Al-Qaida's top bomb makers. U.S. authorities had placed a $5 million bounty on his head, claiming that Atwah had trained the terrorist bombers who attacked U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than a dozen Americans, and hundreds of African nationals.

Atwah was apparently one of fourteen terrorists killed in today's air strike, but it's unclear who deserves credit for the operation. Pakistani officials claim the attack was carried out by one of its helicopter gunships, which targeted a building that housed the insurgents. However, local residents claim a U.S. Predator drone launched a Hellfire missile at the structure, killing the terrorists inside.

The competing claims are significant. A similar operation a few months ago also killed a key Al-Qaida bomb-maker, but it also strained relations between Washington and Islamabad. The reason? That strike was carried out by a Predator, but (officially) U.S. aircraft and drones aren't supposed to operate on Pakistan's side of the border. In reality, our UAVS frequently cross the border and the Pakistanis don't object, as long as that fact isn't heavily publicized.

Here's the likely scenario behind today's attack and the explanation: Atwah and his cohorts had likely been under surveillance by U.S. drones for some time. When the hit was ordered, the U.S. coordinated with Pakistan to have their helicopters operating in the same area. The Pak pilot was probably ordered to launch a missile and strafe the area after observing the Hellfire explosion. That secondary strike served a two-fold purpose: eliminating any terrorists emerging from the rubble, and offering some measure of cover for both Washington and Islamabad.

Pakistan has a limited number of U.S.-made attack helicopters (AH-1 Cobras), but they are equipped with older, TOW missiles, not the more advanced Hellfire. And, since the U.S. does not "push" Predator video into the cockpit of Pakistan's attack helos, the Pakistani crew would have to be briefed on which target to fire on (in advance) if they launched at all. Video from the target area will probably indicate whether the building was struck by a single missile (probably a Hellfire), or by missiles from the drone and the helicopter.

Today's operation highlights improved cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan, including its p.r. aspects. U.S. officials are referring media queries on the attack to their Pakistani counterparts, who ensure reporters that 'we were responsible." Both sides clearly want to avoid another situation like the previous Predator strike, which exposed U.S. operations, and left Pakistan President Musharaff in an embarassing position.

About the time that Atwah became eligible for his vigin quota, Al-Qaida's #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appeared in a new video. In the tape, Zawahiri praises terrorist fighters in Iraq, and their leader, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. The tape appears "new" only in the sense that it hasn't been previously aired. Some of the references in the tape suggest it was recorded last November. That may suggest that either Zawahiri is more reluctant to leave his hiding place (he was the target of the previous Predator strike that killed several of his associates) or that Al Qaida is having a harder time getting its message out. In either case, that's good news, as is the demise of Atwah.

1 comment:

jp said...

what do you make of this?

Chapter 7, Iran War Warning, part 4. - Friday, April 14, 2006 @ 1:35:07 AM

1. Best signals source says that Tehran chief brain and strategist Rafsanjani is now in Damascus for a round of meetings with the terror camps, from the al-Assads to Nasrallah of the Hizb to the usual suspects of PFLPGC, Hamas, IJ, Al Aqsa: the topic is agreed: the struggle to liberate the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the whole of Palestine, is the same struggle as to liberate Iraq. Iran means to crush Israel and retake Palestine just as if this was the end of the second crusade.

2. The Damascus meetings turn on what is to be done to prep for the pre-empt that the Iranians aim to launch before October showdown with the UNSC. The collective attack on Israel will soften the resistance to the general assault in the Gulf region on the oilfields.

3. Rafsanjani next heads to Kuwait to warn the Sunni princes of oil that they either turn the Americans out of their back acres or they will burn with the Americans. This same message will be delivered to Bahrain and the UAE. Burn later or surrender now.

4. The Tehran regime will not wait for the expected American punch under cover of the UNSC. The IRGC will pre-empt, forcing an escalating scale of strike/counter-strike.

5. Iran possesses several nuclear warheads purchased from Central Asia and the Black Sea Fleet in the 20th century. It also has up to 3 hand made plutonium bombs acquired from the North Koreans. The Chinese and Russians both know that Iran has these weapons and will use them at the point the escalation rounds become unbearable in Tehran. The Chinese especially understand, because Bejing is proliferator in chief. Those cascades in Iran are built with Pakistani, Iraqi, North Korean, Chinese technicians. The Iranians are working with the North Koreans because the warheads they aim to produce must fit on the North Korean missiles and use the North Korean warheads.

6. The question unanswered is: Does the US State Department asknowledge that Iran is a nuclear weapon power with the capability of launching warheads on the command of the National Comand Center (Ayatollah K)?

7. My Israeli signals source estimates two rounds of consultations at the UNSC through the summer months, heading to a final series of resolutions for sanctions in October. Israel is not surprised by anything so far. Israel does not know what the US president will do as the confrontation deepens into tactical options.

8. Best signals source indicates that Iran will treat any UNSC sanction as an act of war and will escalate the attacks on Israel and the US interests in the Gulf . Iran will use the oil weapon like turns of the screw. An open source suggests a possibility that the Sauds believe China will pay $90/barrel as a floor. The oil weapon will threaten the US economy first and foremost and will stagger the Bush GOP chance to retain command of Congress. Cynical question: do the Dem wannabees who are hawking the Iran-not-nuke-for-ten-years yarn count on the Bush team losing to Tehran in a catastrophe, and does this mean that the Dems will inherit a hobbled giant for a generation?

9. The UN is on a glide path to Chapter 7, Article 42. No one state can turn it off. Point of no return already passed. The Tehran regime welcomes the showdown. The Tehran regime may be manipulating the showdown.

10. Best signal identifies shooting by November election, since the Tehran regime believes thet the Bush Admninistration cannot handle a foreign policy crisis in an election year.

11. In the event of airland battle, the winter months will bog down troop movements and will make airstrikes sloppy in poor weather. Tehran believes the UN will bargain for a ceasefire that will leave Tehran triumphant in the region and the US in retreat from Iraq.

12. Endgame is acceptable up to the unknowable: Will the US national security apparatus resupply the beleaguered region with naval forces that the Iranians will strike with a nuke? What will the US response be to such a calamity?

13. This is a war warning, part 4.

Posted By: John Batchelor