June 15th, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Security Brief – June 15, 2011

Compiled by Tim Lister

Pakistan arrests CIA informants on OBL

Pakistan released al Qaeda militant who was crucial to search for bin Laden – report

Syria: troops advance on another town, as Turkish PM meets Syrian envoy

Afghanistan: attacks by Afghan troops on ISAF soldiers rising – but motives complex

Yemen: CIA building drone base

Yemen: Islamists seize part of another town in south

Libya: rebels advance – but UK officials anxious about long air war

Libya: more evidence of rape as a weapon

Cybersecurity: White House renews push for landmark legislation

Pakistan arrests CIA informants on OBL

Pakistan's intelligence agency arrested "a few" informants who gave information to the CIA before the raid that left Osama bin Laden dead, Pakistani intelligence officials said Wednesday.

The arrests were addressed during the Friday meeting between CIA Director Leon Panetta, Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Pakistan's head of military intelligence.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said he did not know the exact number of informants arrested or what date it happened. "The arrests were made by the ISI immediately after the raid – so this is not a new piece of information," a Pakistani official said.

The arrests could point to another blow to the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. The relationship between the two countries has been in a downward spiral over disputes about how to pursue counterterrorism efforts.

Originally reported by the New York Times:

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

At a closed briefing last week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael J. Morell, the deputy C.I.A. director, to rate Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations, on a scale of 1 to 10. "Three," Mr. Morell replied, according to officials familiar with the exchange.

In recent months, dating approximately to when a C.I.A. contractor killed two Pakistanis on a street in the eastern city of Lahore in January, American officials said that Pakistani spies from the Directorate for the ISI, have been generally unwilling to carry out surveillance operations for the C.I.A.

Rogers implicates ISI in assisting bin Laden??

"I believe that there are elements of both the military and intelligence service who in some way, both prior and maybe even current, provided some level of assistance to Osama bin Laden" said Rep. MIke Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, who recently returned from a visit to Pakistan. The comments go beyond what Rogers said previously. Last month he told CNN that Pakistani elements may have supported OBL.

Terrorist crucial to OBL investigation was "released by Pakistan"??

The Associated Press: The terrorist described as the linchpin in the hunt for Osama bin Laden has rejoined al-Qaida after the Bush administration released him from a secret CIA secret prison under pressure from Pakistan, according to former and current U.S. intelligence officials.

Shortly after the CIA decided to close the secret prisons, the U.S. intelligence agency returned al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul in 2006 to his native Pakistan, which had been demanding his release since his capture about two years earlier. Pakistan held Ghul for at least a year before he was released, eventually making his way back to al-Qaida to help with operations against the U.S., the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because details about Ghul's case remain classified.

Ghul's return to Pakistan also raises questions about how the Bush administration, which was committed to keeping arguably less dangerous detainees locked up at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could hand over the man who provided the key information about bin Laden's trusted courier, intelligence that this year led to bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. commandoes.

Drone Strike kills 4

Suspected US missile strikes kill 4 people near Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials say.

Afghanistan aid – a waste of money?

America has spent billions in Afghanistan, giving the people hospitals, hit-tech power plants and even asphalt roads. There's one problem: they didn't work out how much it would cost to keep them going after NATO leaves, meaning billions of dollars of projects risk mothballing once the money dries up. Nick Paton Walsh reports from Kabul Wednesday.

Attacks on coalition soldiers by Afghan troops on rise – but causes complex

From CNN's Tim Lister

According to a NATO analysis seen by CNN, "green on blue" attacks have killed 52 U.S. and allied soldiers since 2005, many of them in the past year.

The analysis concludes that combat stress provoked 36% of the attacks, even if the Taliban subsequently claimed responsibility. In 23% cases, an Afghan soldier had been persuaded by the Taliban to carry out an attack - but the motive in an additional 32% of cases was unknown.

A senior intelligence official involved in NATO's training program told CNN that "battlefield conditions and frequent deployments are the leading causes" of such incidents. "When you are in the mountains for months, you've just had enough," he said. The official said cultural differences over the handling of weapons and the attitude of western soldiers to Afghan women can exacerbate tensions.

Reintegrating Taliban fighters a tall order

AFP reports: Multi-million dollar plans to reintegrate Taliban fighters into society to help end a decade of war have hit a stalemate in one of Afghanistan’s toughest battlegrounds.

Despite a deal struck earlier this year between the government and tribal elders in the north of Sangin district, violence continues and US Marines are dubious of insurgent claims to want peace. But a plan to reintegrate low-level fighters, which has been running for about a year and has cost at least $140 million in foreign aid, has proved to be a complicated and unpopular process. It has hit particular problems in Helmand province, which includes Sangin, one of the most dangerous districts for foreign troops in Afghanistan, and which is seen as strategically pivotal to the outcome of the war as a whole.

Libyan rebels make further gains

Libyan rebels made fresh gains on the western front on Tuesday, pushing back forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi in a string of clashes that brought them closer to the capital Tripoli. Insurgents also sought to extend an advance in the east, setting their sights on the oil town of Brega in a bid to extend their control over the region, epicentre of the four-month rebellion against Gadhafi's four-decade rule.

They seized the town of Kikla, 150 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, after government troops fell back, and pushed several kilometres west of their Misrata stronghold to the outskirts of government-held Zlitan, Reuters photographers said. Pro-Gadhafi forces retreated about nine km from Kikla and rebels were setting up defensive positions, they said.

Boehner plans to invoke War Powers Act 

From CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Tom Cohen

The Obama administration could be in violation of the War Powers Resolution if it fails to get congressional authorization by Sunday for U.S. participation in the Libya military mission, House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.

In a letter to President Barack Obama that his aides made public, Boehner, R-Ohio, complained that the administration has failed to address questions about the mission that were in a House resolution passed June 3. That resolution set a two-week deadline for a response. Boehner's letter reiterated the Friday deadline and took the additional step of warning that a failure to respond could violate the War Powers Resolution. According to Boehner, a 90-day deadline for congressional authorization of the Libya mission expires Sunday.

"It would appear that, in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission," Boehner's letter said.

Two opponents of the operation – Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina – say they will file a lawsuit today in federal court over the NATO-led campaign. Both men have said U.S. involvement in the operation is unconstitutional.

NATO chief in London amid concerns over length of air war

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will meet in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague for discussions on the 11-week military operation.

The talks, a day after top brass from Britain and France publicly raised concerns about the length of the NATO air war, come as rebels advanced against Gadhafi's troops by taking a village southwest of Libya's capital.

Almost three months into the campaign of air strikes, Britain and its NATO allies no longer believe bombing alone will end the conflict in Libya, well-placed government officials have told the Guardian. Instead, they are pinning their hopes on the defection of Gadhafi's closest aides, or the Libyan leader's agreement to flee the country.

"No one is envisaging a military victory," said one senior official who echoed Tuesday's warnings by Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, head of the navy, that the bombing cannot continue much beyond the summer. Stanhope, whose comments caused fury in Downing Street, was expressing publicly what many senior defence officials say in private, officials made clear.

The conflict is also straining relations between Washington and its European allies. Although few Nato countries are taking part in the air strikes, Europeans – including the British – are dismayed at the refusal by the US to deploy its low-flying A10 "tankbusters" and helicopters.

The UK PM, David Cameron, has said today in his weekly Q and A session in Parliament that the UK has enough resources to participate in the NATO operation in Libya ‘for as long as it takes’ and added that ‘time is running out for Gadhafi.’

More evidence of use of rape in Libya

On the frontlines of Libya¹s war, rebel fighters say they are finding a lot more than weapons on captured or killed Gadhafi soldiers. Rebels claim to have video proof of Ghadafi loyalists torturing and raping Libyan citizens on confiscated cell phones. CNN has obtained exclusive access to video from one such confiscated cell. CNN’s Sara Sidner describes how this potential evidence of war crimes is being handled on the battlefield.

More evacuated from Misrata

Migrants and wounded were taken out of Misrata on an IOM-chartered ship on Monday following renewed shelling of the city that had ended relative calm there over the past few weeks.

The 222 migrants rescued in the IOM operation funded by the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), were mainly from Chad, Nigeria, Sudan and other parts of Africa.

IOM staff on the ship say the migrants were frightened and confused after several weeks of living in temporary shelter near the port, especially after the resumption of shelling.

Syrian forces move on another town

From agencies: Syria's government suggested Wednesday it was preparing to step up its crackdown on a northern town, even as it called for the return of thousands of refugees who fled to Turkey to escape violence.

Army units that had surrounded Maaret al-Numan were poised to enter the town as a senior military official claimed that "gunmen" inside were "intimidating people into fleeing the area."

Maj. Gen. Riad Haddad, head of the military's political department, said the government feared a repeat of the violence in nearby Jisr al-Shughour, where authorities say gunmen killed 120 officers and security personnel last week, prompting troops to storm the town in Idlib province.

Haddad said the army had not entered Maaret al-Numan "yet," implying they were bracing for a military operation there.

CNN's Arwa Damon sees the misery of hundreds of those who have fled to the Turkish border

Heavy rain poured overnight on the hundreds of Syrians huddled under plastic sheeting strung up between green plum trees, their mud-caked shoes set carefully at the edge of sodden blankets.

As the clouds break, one man stands beside a 10-year-old girl in a pink jacket, Sanaa.

"My daughter, she went out in a demonstration and just because she said the word freedom, she has given herself a death sentence," says Abu Firas, a carpenter.

His two sons are in Lebanon and can’t return, because their identity cards list their place of birth: the contested town of Jisr al-Shughur. If they show them at the border, the father says, "right away they would be detained, dead."

Turks step up diplomatic efforts re Syria

The Turkish prime minister plans to meet with a special Syrian envoy on Wednesday as more and more refugees flee across the border to Turkey, an official from the prime minister's office told CNN.

Turkey's disaster and emergency management directorate said in a statement that the number of Syrians who've crossed the border now stands at 8,421. That flight has been spurred by violence and a military offensive in the conflict-scarred country.

At least 32 Syrian children, ages 12 to 17, remained in detention this week and could be at risk of torture, Amnesty International says.

Last month, Syrian activists posted numerous Facebook pages for children killed and wounded in the conflict. They organized "Friday of the children of freedom" marches in several cities to honor children killed.

Opposition leaders say they hope the stories and photographs will motivate more middle-class Syrians to speak out against what they call an abusive police state. "The detention of children represents the extreme of these abuses, demonstrating the lawless and cruel nature of the security forces," said Beirut-based activist Rami Nakhle.

More than 1,400 people have been killed during the uprising, including about 80 children, Nakhle said.

Security Council silent on Syria

from CNN's Richard Roth

Despite months of a similar violent crackdown in Syria, there has not been a peep from the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China are getting their diplomatic revenge for the way the Libya resolution quickly turned into NATO bombing.

They feel the resolution was over-interpreted. The two countries have veto power when it comes to U.N. voting at the Security Council so a Syria resolution pushed by the UK and France has stalled.

Brazil's foreign minister Antonio Patriota said concerns with the Libya resolution was "influencing the way delegations look" at other resolutions, like Syria. It's the way it is at the Council table. Whether its Myanmar or Zimbabwe, no matter the level of repression, several countries led by Russia and China feel it is not the U.N.'s role to get involved in each member country's dilemma.

"The failure of the U.N. Security Council to act is a tragedy," says Jamie Metzl of the Asia Society.

CIA building base in Yemen

The CIA is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones, an American official said Tuesday. The construction of the base is a sign that the Obama administration is planning an extended war in Yemen against an affiliate of Al Qaeda that has repeatedly tried to carry out terrorist plots against the United States.

The clandestine American operations in Yemen are currently being run by the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, with the C.I.A.’s assistance and with the approval of Yemen’s fragile authoritarian government. But with Yemen’s embattled government on the brink of collapse, Obama administration officials are concerned that a future government might not support American operations. By putting the operations under C.I.A. control, they could be carried out as a "covert action," which can be undertaken without the support of the host government.

AFP adds: The United States is still cooperating with Yemen in the fight against al Qaeda despite the Gulf nation’s political crisis and the absence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a top official said Tuesday.

"We’ve got good discussions with the vice president. Doors are open," said Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department. He was referring to Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is acting leader as Saleh is treated in Saudi Arabia for wounds sustained during an attack on the presidential palace on June 3. "We think that counterterrorism is not about one man, it’s about national interest," Benjamin told journalists.

*A senior military officer loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh – identified as Colonel Mutia al-Sayani – was killed when unidentified militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) targeting his vehicle in the Burayqah area of Yemen's Aden governorate on 14 June.

Islamists attack another Yemeni town

Associated Press reporting: Security officials say the militants who attacked the city of Houta on Wednesday are believed to include members of al-Qaeda. They are now in control of several neighborhoods in the city, which is the provincial capital of Lahj province.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media. Islamic militants, taking advantage of the four month political turmoil gripping Yemen, attacked and seized two other southern cities in late May.

...as protests demanding Saleh steps down continue 

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis protested in several major cities on Tuesday, demanding that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his relatives face trial and calling for the creation of a transitional presidential council.

The protests were the largest since Saleh flew to neighboring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment for severe injuries sustained in a June 3 attack on his presidential compound.

In addition to political paralysis, the nation is reeling from shortages of fuel, electricity and water as government forces are engaged in an intensifying struggle with Islamist militants, many with links to al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, who have taken over large swaths of territory in southern Yemen.

For the Saudis – high stakes in Yemen

Bernard Haykel is Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and contributed this column to CNN's GlobalPublicSquare

The central question now is whether the Saudis will allow him to return to Sana'a or offer him and his family asylum, most likely in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, which he cannot refuse. Yemen's fate hinges on this decision – Saleh's return would very likely result in a civil war.

This is unlikely, however. Influential members of the Saudi royal family know Saleh well and know that his return could be explosive, a scenario they want to avoid at all costs. One senior Saudi prince recently told me that Saleh was the root cause of Yemen's problems and described him as a "lying trickster" who could not be trusted to bring calm. If Saudi Arabia will not allow Saleh to return to Yemen, what sort of government will it work to establish in his place?

Already various Yemeni opposition figures, including the Ahmar brothers, are publicly ingratiating themselves with Riyadh, in the hope that they will be chosen as the Kingdom's favorites in succeeding Saleh. The Ahmar brothers, for example, have praised Saudi leadership and declared that they are obediently abiding by a Saudi-negotiated ceasefire.

Yemen expert Christopher Boucek argues that what sets Yemen apart from the other countries facing protests is that it is home to the world’s most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate.

Throughout the protests in Yemen, violence has been relatively low. There were a few episodes of pretty severe violence, but the overall number of casualties is relatively small. Early on, people were saying that the violence could get out of hand because there are large numbers of weapons in the country. That never happened. But right now, there’s a potential for things to get really violent as the regime goes through the last spasms of trying to maintain order and control over the situation.

What we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks is growing protests in the major cities of Sana’a, Taiz, and Aden. Taiz is really the center of the uprising. Also, there is a resurgent al-Qaeda organization that is seeking to exploit the ever-growing under-governed spaces in Yemen. And as the state’s authority recedes through desertions and defections in the country and also through officially organized or tolerated chaos, we see other Islamists emerging, especially in South Yemen, and they have taken control of some cities. This is not al-Qaeda, though, that is doing this.

Bahrain trial adjourned

From CNN's Nic Robertson in Manama

The trial of three Bahraini opposition journalists accused of fabricating news to disrupt peace during the civil unrest in the Gulf state adjourned after a few minutes Wednesday.

Civilian High Court judges postponed proceedings until Sunday after the defense presented documents showing detailed communications between editors of Al-Wasat newspaper, King Hamad and other top government officials.

In the correspondence, the editors express their beliefs that they're working for peace and stability. Other communications with senior officials discuss articles from the paper that call for calm and restraint.

Bahrain is to sue the Independent newspaper, accusing it of "orchestrating a defamatory and premeditated media campaign" against the Gulf state and neighboring Saudi Arabia. It singled out for criticism the newspaper's award-winning Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk. A UK-based legal firm has been hired, according to a report by the state news agency in Bahrain, where the ruling regime has been suppressing popular uprisings for months. Last week the Bahrain grand prix was cancelled following complaints by Formula One teams.

Iraq pattern of attacks on police and politicians

The recent attacks against the council buildings in Tikrit and Baquba are part of a broader pattern of assassinations, bombings and assaults aimed at Iraqi politicians and security forces. Militants have killed scores of government officials and midlevel army and police officers in recent months. On Tuesday alone, three Iraqi soldiers and one army general were killed in attacks in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.

The United States military initially said its forces had not assisted Iraqi troops in responding to the attacks beyond providing observation from helicopters, but it later corrected that account, saying a passing American patrol had helped search the council building after the attack and set up a cordon at the scene.

The United States also said Tuesday that two American service members had been killed a day earlier on a route clearance patrol near the southern Iraqi city of Kut.

Profiling the new commander in Afghanistan

Of all the members of President Obama’s new national security team, Lt. Gen. John R. Allen, tapped as the fourth commander in two years to run the war in Afghanistan, may have the toughest assignment.

In the coming days, Obama is expected to make a key strategic decision about how many troops the United States can afford to withdraw from Afghanistan without giving ground to the Taliban. To execute that high-stakes plan, he’ll turn to Allen, 57, a low-profile Marine with no combat experience in Afghanistan but with a reputation as a military turnaround specialist.

Unlike the household name he is slotted to replace, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Allen has served in relative public obscurity for the past three years, as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa.

Like Petraeus, however, Allen is known in defense circles as a scholarly leader whose strategic acumen helped reverse the tide of the war in Iraq. While serving as deputy commander in Anbar province in 2007 and 2008, Allen orchestrated the Sunni Awakening, the long-odds campaign to persuade hostile tribes to side with the U.S. military against al-Qaeda in Iraq and foreign fighters who were fueling the insurgency.

White House pushes cybersecurity law as hacks rise

The recent rash of disclosures about cyberspying comes as the White House is making its third attempt to push through a historic federal cybersecurity law. The timing is no coincidence, some cybersecurity analysts say. After two previous bills went nowhere, the White House needs to garner public support for a new law that could equip America for cyberwarfare.

"The best way to do that is to get folks worried that we're under attack from some foreign state like China or North Korea," says Ed Adams, CEO of Security Innovation, which integrates security systems for government agencies.

Recent disclosures of cyberattacks against the IMF, Google and several defense contractors coincided with an unprecedented pronouncement last week by CIA Director Leon Panetta, who warned a U.S. Senate panel that the U.S. needs to take "defensive measures as well as aggressive measures" to win at cyberwarfare. The bill is gaining bipartisan support in Congress. It would establish a framework for distributing billions of dollars for new cybersecurity systems, while placing responsibility for securing cyberspace with the DHS.

Richard Clarke was a national security official in the White House for three presidents. He writes in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday:

Senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations. Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans. In a global competition among knowledge-based economies, Chinese cyberoperations are eroding America's advantage.

The Chinese government indignantly denies these charges, claiming that the attackers are nongovernmental Chinese hackers, or other governments pretending to be China, or that the attacks are fictions generated by anti-Chinese elements in the United States. Experts in the U.S. and allied governments find these denials hard to believe.

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  1. Zoglet

    Good point- or how about if the Mexican gov decided to drone attack US gun shops that are supplying the weapons which the drug cartels are using to terrorize the Mexican people as they supply the US markets?
    The US needs to grow up and join the civilised world- its military response to every situation is going to land it in serious trouble.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  2. Lee Oates

    I wonder if England decided to use drones on the US trying to hit IRA members hiding there, if we would be as understanding as we expect Pakistan to be? The US seems to feel that international law is not applicable to them, that they are a self-appointed police force of the world. I think that the US is in for a real shock in about 5-10 years as China and Russia become just as tough and intrustive as the US, and resouces dry up.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Reply

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