June 27th, 2011
12:59 PM ET

Security Brief: Split within Pakistan Taliban, drawdown issues, more

Compiled by CNN's Tim Lister

Today's Security Brief includes:
* Afghanistan: Drawdown issues – and the fight for eastern Afghanistan
* Pakistan: Split within Pakistan Taliban
* Pakistan “unhappy” about being excluded from Taliban talks
* Iran looks to ‘post drawdown’ Afghanistan
* Libya: Rebels now 60 miles south-west of Tripoli; ICC issues arrest warrant for Gadhafi
* Syria: dissidents meet in Damascus
* Yemen: Islamist militia close in on second city; Saleh “media appearance” expected
* LulzSec calls it a day
* Drawdown fallout continues

House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Sunday again raised the prospect that Obama's decision to withdraw all 33,000 surge troops by next summer was done for political reasons. "The fact that it lines up to have those troops out before the first debate of 2012 is concerning to me, mainly because conditions on ground have not changed," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a final interview with USA Today that the drawdown would cause a gradual change in strategy from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism. "When you get into late 2012, 2013, it's clear that the balance, as we turn more and more responsibility over to the Afghans ... that our role will increasingly be kind of an over-watch role and a higher weighting on the counterterrorism," he said. "The shift was inevitable regardless," Gates said. "The question is whether it's accelerated by coming out at the end of September instead of December. It's only four months. My suspicion is that in that time frame it probably does not require significant change."

Critics such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said that drawing down forces in September will remove combat power in the middle of the fighting season and could jeopardize the progress already made. Taliban fighters generally retreat to sanctuaries to rest when snows and cold weather make movement difficult.

Iran looks to post-drawdown Afghanistan
Iran is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran's efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out troops.

The Afghan and Pakistani presidents, visiting Tehran, discussed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "many issues…that might come up after the NATO military force goes out of Afghanistan," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview here Sunday.

The three presidents were very forthcoming in carrying out the cooperation and contacts so as to make sure things will go as smoothly as it could," he said.

That was a jab at Washington, which is increasingly in competition with Tehran for influence in the region, particularly as popular rebellions have surged across the Middle East and North Africa since January.

Tough fight ahead in eastern Afghanistan
From the WashingtonPost.com:

Pfc Rob Nunez, 21, who spent about a year in Konar province near the Pakistani border, cared little that the commander in chief had declared Wednesday night that the “tide of war is receding.”  Not after Konar.
Nunez’s regiment fought for days in early April to win control of a remote valley called Barawala Kalay. Six U.S. soldiers died, and Nunez still can’t figure out why he wasn’t one of them. Bullets came from nowhere, hitting everything but his flesh.

“It was like fighting ghosts,” he said.

Days after Nunez’s regiment fought in the battle for Barawala Kalay, U.S. troops emptied out of the valley. The mission was to disrupt a Taliban haven, not to maintain a presence there. Nunez’s tour was up. He flew back to Fort Campbell puzzling over the strategy.

Now, 2 months later, when he hears the word “withdrawal,” Nunez thinks of Barawala Kalay — what he came to see as a painful fight of uncertain value, hastily planned and quietly abandoned.

Suicide bombing in east kills 38
At least 38 civilians were killed and over 100 were wounded in a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) attack targeting a hospital in the Azra district of Logar province on 25 June. Unverified reports claimed that as many as 60 people were killed.

Afghan election officials reject ruling to remove 60 lawmakers
The United Nations urged the Afghan parliament on Sunday not to take any action that might provoke unrest after election officials rejected a ruling by a specially appointed court that threw out a quarter of lawmakers elected last year.

The court, established by presidential decree after fraud-marred parliamentary elections, ordered on Thursday that 62 lawmakers elected in the September poll vacate their seats in the 249-seat house over fraud concerns.

The ruling has been condemned as unconstitutional and illegal by Afghan officials and international poll observers.

Pakistan upset at being excluded from Taliban talks
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani said that Pakistan is not part of the negotiations between Washington and the Taliban and is upset about it.

“We have told America that we are not happy with this,” said Haqqani in an exclusive interview with Express 24/7.

The Obama administration has recently confirmed that it had established contacts with the Afghan Taliban though it insisted the negotiations were at a preliminary stage. It is widely believed that the US has deliberately kept Pakistan at bay about its efforts to seek a peace deal with the Taliban ahead of the phased withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“If America believes that Pakistan’s participation is required for success in Afghanistan, they will have to get Pakistan on board in their negotiations with the Taliban,” said Haqqani.

Haqqani dismissed reports that the Pakistan Embassy in the US had issued 67 visas to CIA operatives. A local newspaper last week quoted embassy officials in Washington as saying that the Pakistan embassy has issued visas to CIA officials for deployment in Pakistan.

UK military trainers to leave Pakistan
George Sherriff, the spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad, confirms to CNN that the Pakistani government has asked at least 18 British military trainers to leave the country.

“The UK has been asked to withdraw some of its training support teams on a temporary basis by the Pakistan Government in response to security concerns.  We are providing training support at the invitation of the Pakistan Government and welcome their advice on these matters.  The training teams will continue their own training and will be ready to re-deploy at the first possible opportunity,” Sherriff told CNN.

Split emerges in Pakistan Taliban
AFP and Dawn reporting: A Pakistani Taliban warlord who claims to control hundreds of foot soldiers said Monday he had broken with the militia and would form his own anti-American group along the Afghan border.
Fazal Saeed described himself as the leader of Pakistan’s umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) faction in the tribal district of Kurram, but said he had run out of patience with the network for killing civilians.
TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden.

Hinting at a possible a split in Pakistan’s deadliest militant outfit, blamed for more than 4,500 deaths in attacks since July 2007, Saeed said he had decided to form a new organisation — Tehreek-i-Taliban Islami.

“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.

*** At least 12 police officers were killed when two Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suicide bombers – with the group claiming that they were husband and wife – assaulted a police station in the Kolachi area of Dera Ismail Khan district in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa on 25 June. Five officers were shot dead in the assault before 10 more were taken hostage. When soldiers stormed the compound, the militants detonated their explosives and killed a further seven officers.

ICC issues arrest warrant for Gadhafi
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and two of his relatives.

A spokeswoman for the court read the decision Monday to issue warrants for Gadhafi, his son Saif al-Islam and brother-in-law Abdullah al-Sanussi.

Reaction from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague: “People at all levels of seniority should think carefully about the consequences of what they do – whether they are ordering attacks on civilians or carrying them out; whether they are firing rockets into residential areas or intimidating ordinary Libyans who want a better future. Those involved must take full responsibility for their actions, and must be held to account.” 

Libyan rebels make ground in the west: now 60 miles from Tripoli
Fighting between forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and the opposition raged Monday just 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Tripoli in a see-saw battle that has brought the rebels to the doorstep of the Libyan leader's stronghold.

Casualty reports were not immediately available in the battle near the town of B'ir al Ghanam, though the majority of the fighting by both sides was being waged with heavy artillery, according to journalist David Adams, who witnessed much of it on Sunday.

NATO warplanes struck a rocket launcher system mounted on a government truck near the town, Adams said.

*RAF says : On Sunday, Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft attacked a pair of artillery pieces near Yafran, in the Djebel Nafousa south west of Tripoli.

Air strikes in Tripoli Monday
The thunderous late morning blasts on Monday could be felt at a hotel where foreign journalists stay in Tripoli. Smoke could be seen rising from the area near Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya complex, where Libyans hold daily rallies in support of the government.

Gaddafi is not believed to be staying in the compound. Nato jets were heard overhead minutes after the blasts as sirens from emergency vehicles blared in the streets. It wasn't immediately clear what was hit or if there were civilian casualties.

Misrata rebels complain about lack of equipment
From the BBC:

In recent days Nato has intensified its efforts here, with warships firing at Col Gaddafi positions just along the coast, and Apache helicopters targeting heavy weapons near the town of Zlitan.

But the front lines around Misrata have barely moved in weeks. "You are making history here. If Misrata falls, Libya will be divided. We are behind you and united," says the general.

Then it's the fighters' turn to speak.

"We need more weapons, more ammunition.” …."We need cars. Ours are in very bad shape."…."And we need binoculars."

All this comes out in a torrent from several men speaking at once. They've been stuck out here in the dunes for more than a month now, under almost daily rocket and artillery bombardment. Frustration is evidently growing.

UK Defence Minister: we have the hardware
Liam Fox tells BBC: “The message should ring out very clearly to Colonel Gaddafi and his regime that, not only can we do it, not only do we have the military hardware to do it, but we have the political and moral resolve to continue to protect the population of Libya as long as we are asked do so under the authority of the United Nations and as long as Colonel Gaddafi is waging war on his own people.”

He added that the way in which the mission was carried out was "sustainable" in spite of questions raised by Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, the RAF head of combat operations.

In eastern Libya ... hankering for the king
From the Financial Times:

Above the facades around Tubruq’s harbour, the flag of the Kingdom of Libya flutters again. Portraits of Idris I, the king ousted nearly 42 years ago, sit in shop windows next to those of Omar al-Mukhtar, an earlier anti-colonial warrior.

“Every Libyan loves King Idris. Every Libyan loves Omar al-Mukhtar. And every Libyan hates Muammer Gaddafi,” says Adel Aroud, a watchman in the eastern port town.

Affection for the king is more a rejection of the detour the country took under Colonel Gaddafi, the leader still clinging to power in central and western Libya, than a sign that Libyans pine for a return to monarchical rule. “We remember the king as good. Having a king again now is not important,” says Moussa Saad, a tourist policeman who grew up on a British base 25km south of Tubruq, near King Idris’s favourite palace.

Syrian dissidents open meeting in Damascus
Syrian dissidents opened a public meeting in Damascus on Monday that they say is unprecedented in five decades of iron-fisted Baath party rule, to discuss a way out of a crisis now in its fourth month, an AFP correspondent reported.

The more than 100 participants meeting in a hotel sang the national anthem and held a minute's silence for the "martyrs, both civilian and military" in the protests which have rocked Syria since mid-March drawing a deadly crackdown.

Anwar Bunni, a prominent human rights lawyer who has spent five years in Syrian jails, said it was the "first meeting of its kind at a public venue announced in advance."

Financial Times adds: Intellectuals and activists opposed to the regime of Bashar al Assad are set to hold their first meeting inside Syria on Monday in an attempt to articulate a way out of more than three months of unrest.

The activists received permission to hold the meeting after a month of lobbying the government. One person involved said the regime had decided to allow it after the protest movement held two conferences abroad and called for the fall of the regime.

“The objective is to discuss the situation and the transition to democracy, and what the nature of that would be,” said Aref Dalila, a dissident who spent seven years in jail and was released in 2008.
Up to 200 opposition figures are expected to take part in the meeting, including Michel Kilo, a leading member of the Damascus Declaration, a grouping of dissidents formed in 2005.

Syrian general: 400 soldiers killed so far
Syria's military spokesman says more than 400 members of security forces have been killed in the months-long unrest that has taken hold in the country, a charge that came as videos surfaced allegedly showing children killed in the violence.

In an interview with CNN in Damascus, Maj. Gen. Riad Haddad said that 1,300 security personnel also were wounded, and that 300 soldiers, 60 security officials and 50 police died in the violence.

He also has said 700 people, whom he described as terrorists, and their families had fled Syrian authorities for Turkey.

Haddad offered no details about the killings of the security forces other than to blame the deaths on armed gangs. CNN cannot independently verify the claim.

Yemeni President expected to make 'media appearance'
Wounded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, not seen in public since an attack on his palace in early June, is well enough to return soon to Yemen and will make a media appearance within the next couple of days.

Speculation about Saleh's health and the likelihood of his return to Yemen have been rife since he was hurt in a bomb blast on June 3 in a mosque in his presidential palace. He flew to Saudi Arabia for treatment, leaving behind a country on the verge of civil war.

The president has not been seen in public since the explosion, which killed several people and wounded the prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and the speakers of both parliamentary chambers. It is not clear what role if any Saleh, under pressure to step down, sees for himself in ruling Yemen.

"He will appear within the next 48 hours despite our fear that the burns on his features and on different parts of his body will be an obstacle given that his appearance will not be as the media expects it," said Ahmed al-Sufi, the President's media secretary.

Islamist militia close in on Yemen’s second city
From the New York Times:

The ancient port city of Aden is now virtually surrounded by roving gangs of Islamist militia fighters — some linked to Al Qaeda — who have captured at least two towns, stormed prisons and looted banks and military depots in southern Yemen.

Yet the Yemeni government, still busy fighting unarmed protesters farther north, has done little to stop these jihadists. Members of the military, the police and local officials have fled their posts across much of southern Yemen. The country’s American-trained counterterrorism unit has not been deployed. It is no surprise that many Yemenis believe the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, intended it all to happen.

Asked whether the jihadists could soon attack or even overwhelm this strategic coastal city of 800,000, Gen. Muhammad al-Somli — the one commander who has made any serious effort to fight them — said, “I cannot rule anything out.” 

Prison break adds to terrorism fears
A growing chorus of sources in the capital of Sanaa says elements of the Yemeni government looked the other way while 62 hardcore al-Qaida insurgents tunneled out of the prison in al-Mukalla.

The escape happened while guards outside the prison were bogged down with a bold attack by other al-Qaida fighters that triggered a 30-minute gunfight.

The prison breakout has set off alarms throughout the intelligence community.

"The combination of the inability of the people in Yemen to keep senior guys (al-Qaida) in prison, and the chaos in Yemen now where security forces are focused on domestic security and not al-Qaida, means to me only one thing," says J. Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the national security branch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"It means the continuation of al-Qaida's ability to embed in Yemen and the prospect that we're going to see another underwear bomber or more attempts against cargo aircraft or something broader."

He says the jailbreak was no secret.

"Some of these prison breaks have been so brazen that you can't help but sit back and say there's no way these guys spent months burrowing out of that prison without somebody knowing what's going on."

Bahrain opposition: crisis inevitable without reform
From Reuters: A leader of Bahrain's second largest opposition group said the party would join a national dialogue next week but a sectarian crisis was inevitable unless talks led to genuine political reform. Four months after Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers quashed pro-democracy protests led by the Shi'ite majority, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has set July 1 as the start of a national dialogue to discuss economic, political and social reforms.

The opposition has said only deep political reform, not mere dialogue, can permanently end popular unrest.

"The government needs to develop progressive solutions. This crisis is political," Radhi al-Mousawi told Reuters in an interview. "Without a permanent solution to reforming the constitutional monarchy, the crisis will return in a few years."

From CNN’s Jenifer Fenton: More than two dozen medics accused of misdemeanors returned to court in Bahrain on Monday.

The case is one of two involving 24 doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics who are accused of working against the kingdom's government during large protests earlier this year. Prosecutors allege the accused refused to help patients at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the main hospital in Manama. Charges also include deadly assault, storing and funneling weapons to protesters, and effectively holding people hostage, according to Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority.

Tunisia’s Islamists pull out of commission over election delay
AFP: Tunisia's Islamist movement Ennahda (Renaissance), has definitively pulled out of a national commission tasked with bringing in reforms, its leader Rached Ghannouchi said Monday.

The Guardian spoke with Ghannounchi last week: Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of al-Nahda, the main Islamist party, had warned that the deferral of polling day – from 24 July to 23 October – may not be the last postponement, and the staging of an election at the start of the academic year and at a time of student protest and workers' strikes could present an opportunity to foment chaos.

He described the postponement as an attempt by parties who had cohabited former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's dictatorship to regain their posts.

Ghannouchi, who returned to Tunisia in January after more than 20 years in exile, said: "They [the former elite] are trying to escape the ballot box. Those whose weight is low do not want to stand on the scales."
As it is, al-Nahda and the leading liberal faction, the Progressive Democratic Party, have made compromises to keep the electoral process on track in the hope that the democratic transition was more important that the result.

Sahara battle with al Qaeda militants
Mauritanian special forces joined troops from Mali in launching an offensive targeting what they called an al Qaeda base camp, Mauritanian army officials said Sunday.

Col. Brahim Vall Ould Cheibani said the operation aimed against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African arm of the terrorist network, had been "well planned." He said the forces from the two African nations, which were divided into two wings, "destroyed" the terror organization's "base camp."

"We were not lured into this fight, we acted knowingly," Cheibani told reporters. "We went searching for the enemy to destroy it."

According to Mauritanian army officials, 15 al Qaeda militants were killed in the offensive. Two Mauritanian soldiers were killed and another five were injured.

Somalia frees U.S., British pilots
From the Associated Press:  Somalia has freed six foreigners who had been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison each for bringing into the country millions of dollars intended for pirate ransom, a government spokesman said Sunday.

And in Washington, the Pentagon has notified Congress that it plans to send nearly $45 million in military aid to Uganda and Burundi to help battle the growing terrorist threat in Somalia.

The spokesman said the country’s president had pardoned the foreigners. The three Britons, an American and two Kenyans were freed after the court processed their release, he said.

The men were arrested in Mogadishu last month after two planes were found to be carrying millions of dollars in cash. On June 18, two of the defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, and the others were sentenced to 10 years and a $10,000 fine. Pirates have been receiving millions of dollars in ransoms for several years, but this was the first time Westerners were sentenced for their role in paying out the ransoms.

LulzSec hackers say its over ...
Lulz Security, the hacker activist group claiming credit for breaking into websites at Sony Corp. (SNE), the U.S. Senate and the Central Intelligence Agency, said it’s ending a wave of cyber attacks that began almost two months ago.

“Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance,” the group said in a June 25 posting through its Twitter account. “This is our final release.”

Hacker activist groups gained attention after Anonymous, made up of hundreds of members in several countries, in December targeted EBay Inc.’s PayPal unit, Visa Inc. (V) and other companies deemed hostile to WikiLeaks, an organization that posts secret documents on the Web. Intruders into Sony’s PlayStation Network stole data on more than 100 million accounts in April, forcing the company to shutter the service for more than five weeks.

The CIA’s public website was taken down on June 15.

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