June 30th, 2011
09:04 AM ET

Security brief – June 30, 2011

Compiled by Tim Lister

Pakistan tells US to leave drone base

NATO : senior Haqqani leader killed

More details emerge of US-Taliban talks in Germany, Qatar

Afghanistan: the $3 billion computer that's not helping

Lebanon: new political crisis as Hariri Tribunal indictments target four Hezbollah officials

US blames Iranian backed militia for killing three soldiers in Iraq

France dropping weapons to Libyan rebels as Gadhafi calls up women

Yemen's acting President tells CNN: Government has lost five provinces

Yemen: Islamists win more ground in south

US drones now operating in six countries: add Somalia

Pakistan tells US to leave drone attack base 

Pakistan on Wednesday told the United States to leave a remote desert air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks.

"We have told them (US officials) to leave the Shamsi Airbase," Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said while talking to journalists here. His remarks are the latest indication of Pakistan attempting to limit US activities since a clandestine American military raid killed Osama bin Laden.

The minister reiterated that the trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States has increased after the Abbottabad raid of May 2, especially because the US has withheld payments to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

Mukhtar said Pakistan is not in a position to enter into a war with America but Islamabad will have a review afresh its relationship with Washington. He said Pakistan was fighting the war against terror using meager resources since the US had stopped payment of CSF.

Pakistan Taliban threaten nuclear sites – report 

Militant groups under the banner of the Taliban in Pakistan as well as those operating in South and Central Asia pose the 'greatest threat' to Islamabad's nuclear infrastructure, a report by a US think tank has said.

As Pakistan continues to build up its stockpile of nuclear weapons, the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said there is a broad appreciation of the danger of them falling into the hands of what the report called the 'Pakistani Neo-Taliban'.

"The greatest threat to Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure emanates from jihadists both inside Pakistan and South and Central Asia, generally," said the FAS report entitled 'Anatomizing Non-State Threats to Pakistan's Nuclear Infrastructure: The Pakistani Neo-Taliban' released on Wednesday.

Pakistan naval base attack "had help from insiders" 

According to members of the investigation team, CCTV footages clearly showed that the terrorists were standing in front of the compound where 17 US and Chinese nationals were staying. However, the commandos had succeeded in taking them out of the compound moments before the attack.

The naval authorities concluded that it was impossible to carry out the attack without help from insiders. The terrorists had stayed for three to four days in a locality close to the naval base. Some locals have also been included in the investigation.

Afghanistan: fierce combat in east

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh captured a heavy firefight at a key U.S. outpost near the Pakistan border. The Taliban attack U.S. Combat Outpost Pirtle King about every day, and U.S. troops respond with impressive force, scrambling through the sandbagged outpost, launching mortars, firing machine guns red hot and calling in airstrikes to silence the attackers.

ISAF says senior Haqqani leader killed 

ISAF officials said they killed a senior commander of the Haqqani network, which is being blamed for Tuesday's attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, in a precision airstrike on Wednesday in eastern Paktia province. "Ismail Jan was the deputy to the senior Haqqani commander inside Afghanistan, Haji Mali Khan. Jan and several Haqqani fighters were killed in the strike. ...

Jan also served as an insurgent leader in the Khost-Gardez Pass area, along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and moved into Afghanistan from Pakistan in late 2010. During this time he led approximately 25 to 35 fighters in conducting attacks against Afghan and coalition security forces," ISAF said in a statement.

Kabul attack: cops melted away

Nazeer Amiri, an ex-cop out for a leisurely late dinner with friends at a hilltop hotel, could hardly believe his eyes.

Insurgents had burst into the lushly landscaped complex in Kabul, spraying bullets and setting off bombs. Amiri had already seen several bloodied diners crumple to the ground. Afghan police arrived, and he frantically shouted at them to shoot the assailants.

"They ran away and left us there!" he recounted, still incredulous after the nearly all-night siege ended early Wednesday, leaving at least 19 attackers and victims dead. "I saw some of the security forces flee with their weapons. I was begging them to give me their guns, so I could shoot back."

If the Taliban movement was seeking to make the Afghan public and Western governments more uneasy about the ability of the police and army to safeguard the country, it could hardly have picked a more symbolic target or a more sensitive time.

Gates admits military wanted to keep more troops in Afghanistan

While the Pentagon's top brass argued for keeping the extra 33,000 troops Obama sent to Afghanistan until the end of 2012, Gates said, other advisers wanted them out as early as April, as patience wears thin for a war that now costs more than $110 billion a year.

Obama ultimately decided, in a move announced last week, to remove 10,000 troops this year and the remaining 23,000 troops of the surge force by September 2012.

"The president had a real tight-wire to walk in terms of balancing military risk and political risk," Gates said in an interview on the eve of his departure from the Pentagon.

"It wouldn't make any difference if the president said keep them there another two years if the Congress wouldn't vote the money ... Even some Republicans are beginning to talk about coming out sooner," Gates said.

Details emerge of Taliban-US talks

Veteran journalist Ahmed Rashid writes in the Financial Times: The first face-to-face meeting between Taliban leaders and US government officials took place in a village outside Munich on November 28 2010. It was chaired by a German diplomat. There were also Qatari officials whom the Taliban had asked to be involved. The talks lasted 11 hours.

The second round took place in Doha, the Qatari capital, on February 15. Three days later Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, made the most far-reaching US public statement to date, saying: "We are launching a diplomatic surge to move this conflict toward a political outcome that shatters the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, ends the insurgency and helps to produce not only a more stable Afghanistan but a more stable region.’’

The third meeting took place again in Germany on May 7 and 8. All the same participants have taken part in the three rounds which have largely involved trying to develop confidence-building measures between the Taliban and the Americans, such as lifting sanctions from the Taliban, the freeing of Taliban prisoners and the opening of a Taliban representative office.

On June 17, in a big step forward, the UN Security Council accepted a US request to treat al-Qaeda and the Taliban separately on a 13-year-old UN list of global terrorists. There will now be two separate lists and UN sanctions on al-Qaeda members will not necessarily apply to the Taliban.

Breaking from NBC News: Fresh round of peace talks between the Afghan Taliban, the UN and a British delegation begins in Malaysia – NBC News...

Real-time intelligence computer (cost $2.7 billion) not working 

The Army's $2.7 billion computing system designed to share real-time intelligence with troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has hurt, rather than helped, efforts to fight insurgents because it doesn't work properly, several analysts who have used the system say. Their comments mirror concerns raised by the top military intelligence officer in Afghanistan and members of Congress over the past two years in an unsuccessful bid to get the Army to consider alternatives to its portion of the military's Distributed Common Ground System, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

Lebanon: Hariri assassination indictment targets Hezbollah

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon charged with investigating the assassination of Rakik Hariri has issued four indictments. They have not been unsealed, but UN and other sources in the region tell CNN that all four are Hezbollah members and include two senior officials of the organization.  

The indictments could provoke a new political crisis in Lebanon. Hezbollah is in the current government

Statement from Hariri's son, Saad calls on Lebanon to implement obligations to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, "and there is no excuse for anyone to escape from this responsibility. I humbly ask that no one puts our will in doubt or the decision of the Lebanese people to persevere justice on behalf the killings, which affected all the martyrs of the Cedar Revolution, and that everybody should be assured that attempts at intimidation will not work in breaking this will."

Hariri and 22 others were killed on February 14, 2005, when a bomb went off as his motorcade passed by. Hariri was 61 when he was killed, a self-made Sunni billionaire of humble origins. His son Saad, 40, leads a political bloc known as "March 14," which includes prominent Christian leaders. His adversaries include the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

US blames Iranian backed militia for killing of three soldiers in Iraq

A rocket attack on a U.S. base near Iraq's border with Iran killed three American soldiers, an official said Thursday, blaming the strike on a Shiite militia linked to Tehran.

The deaths came at the end of the bloodiest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years, and with just six months before the American military is scheduled to leave after more than eight years of war.

A US official speaking on background tells CNN: The attack that killed three U.S. service members has every indication of being conducted by an Iranian-backed Shi'a militia, given the location, tactics and type of weapon being used. This rocket attack occurred at a U.S. base located a few kilometers from the Iranian border in the southern part of Iraq.

CNN count is total so far this month include these 3= 15 KIA & non combat; VS 24 total Jan-May.
All US troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq 6 months from today (Dec 31st)

Libya: France dropping guns, RPGs to rebels

France confirmed on Wednesday that it had provided weapons to the Libyan rebels, the first instance of a NATO country giving direct military aid to the forces seeking to oust Col. Gadhafi.

Col. Thierry Burkhard, a spokesman for the French military, said France responded in early June to a United Nations request, made in May, for a "humanitarian pause" to allow the delivery of essential medical supplies and other relief items to Libyan civilians in the besieged city of Misrata and in the towns of the western mountains, also under attack from loyalist forces.

"The U.N. request never actually took effect," Colonel Burkhard said. "So we airdropped water, food and medical supplies" to Misrata and to the Nafusah Mountains south of Tripoli.

"During this operation, troops also airdropped arms and ammunition several times, including assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and launchers," he said.

"We decided to provide self-defensive weapons to the civilian populations because we consider that these populations were under threat," French Ambassador to the United Nations Gerard Araud told reporters.

Resolution 1973 authorized UN member states "to take all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. It also adds "notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970" on the embargo, opening up what some US and European officials say is a loophole allowing them to arm rebels.

RAF also targeting Gadhafi forces in south-west: On Wednesday, Royal Air Force patrols over the western highlands of the Djebel Nafousa prosecuted various elements of Qadhafi’s forces mustered against the towns in the area. North of Nalut, near to the Tunisian border, an armed pick up truck was destroyed, while three tank transporters carrying main battle tanks were identified north of Yafran; all three transporters and their tank cargos were successfully engaged."

Gadhafi recruits more women to the ranks 

From CNN's David Mackenzie: Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is calling for fresh volunteers in a months-long war with rebels attempting to bring about an end to his 42-year rule - and women of all ages are answering, CNN has learned.

Women from in and around Gadhafi's stronghold of Tripoli have been traveling south to a training facility in Bani Walid to practice with weapons, a common sight in a country where young girls receive military training in schools.

As NATO's airstrikes crossed the 100-day mark and rebels continue to fight to oust Gadhafi, he is tapping everything and everyone in his arsenal to hold on to power.

Yemen's President: we've lost 5 provinces 

The Yemeni government has lost control over five provinces, and security in the country is deteriorating, the nation's acting president told CNN in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

In his first interview with a Western TV network, Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi detailed how U.S. drones are using voice recognition to target al Qaeda leaders and help the government win back control.

During Wednesday's hour-long meeting, Hadi said Saleh's wounds from what he described as an assassination attempt were so severe that he has no idea when the president will return from medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Hadi said he saw Saleh immediately after the bomb attack. The 68-year-old ruler's chest had been pierce by a piece of wood and his face, arms and upper body had been burned, Hadi said. But, he added, the president's health was improving daily.

He acknowledges that his house is surrounded by opposing forces, but he challenges claims that he is unable to use the presidential palace. Hadi says he calls Saleh's son, commander of the powerful Republican Guard at the palace, whenever he wants to give him orders.

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh has authorized the start of transition talks with the nation’s main opposition coalition, said Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the minister of foreign affairs in the caretaker government.

Saleh, who is in Saudi Arabia recovering for wounds suffered in an attack on the presidential compound, approved talks based on the Gulf Cooperation Council plan and UN Security Council statements, said al-Qirbi in a statement carried on state TV.

Islamists gain more ground in southern Yemen

Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda gained ground on Wednesday in fierce fighting with security forces just outside the southern port city of Zinjibar.

At least 47 people were killed in the clashes, including 5 civilians, according to local military and government officials. The insurgents took over a sports stadium about five miles east of Zinjibar, which is the capital of Abyan Province, and the fighting continued into the night.

The militants seized Zinjibar may 29th, after having seized the nearby city of Jaar in late March. They call themselves Ansar al Sharia, meaning supporters of Shariah, Islamic religious law; the name was identified by Qaeda leaders this year as an alternate name for their own organization in Yemen.

A military official in Aden, Yemen, said that 25 soldiers and 11 militants had been killed in the battle for the stadium. There were about 300 militants, said a reporter who was just outside Zinjibar, Ziad Mohammed, and they used machine guns, Katyusha-type rockets and rocket-propelled grenades.

The UN Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Yemen estimated on Wednesday the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who fled month-long battles between government forces and al-Qaeda militants in southern province of Abyan at more than 30,000.

White House sanctions Iranians helping Syrian crackdown

The Obama administration on Thursday accused Iran of assisting Syria’s government in its brutal crackdown on demonstrators, listing names of Iranian security officials that the White House says helped train and arm Syrian police to attack peaceful protesters.

Sanctions unveiled by the Treasury Department identified Iran’s national police force and a pair of senior Iranian officials, one of whom allegedly traveled to Damascus in April to offer expertise on dealing with the country’s protest movement, White House documents showed. While the U.S. has previously accused Iran of backing the crackdown, Thursday’s statement was the first to provide specific names and dates.

"We are exposing further Iran’s provision of its military and security forces to support the Syrian government’s ongoing violence and repression of the Syrian people," said David S. Cohen, the department’s acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Bahrain suspends military trials

Associated Press: A lawyer says Bahrain has stopped bringing protesters to speedy trials at a special tribunal with military prosecutors, ending a practice criticized by rights activists.

The tribunal was set up during a period of emergency rule used by Bahrain's Sunni monarchy to help quash Shiite-led protests demanding political freedoms and equal rights. The trials of dozens of opposition supporters continued even after the emergency laws were lifted, drawing criticism from Bahrain's Western allies, who expressed concern over the fairness of the proceedings.

US drones now operating in six countries: add Somalia 

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them, a senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation said Wednesday.

The strike last week against senior members of al-Shabab comes amid growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.

The airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. And it comes as the CIA is expected to begin flying armed drones in Yemen in its hunt for al-Qaeda operatives.

See CNN's Barbara Starr on this story earlier this week here.

US counter-terrorism strategy -an evolution 

A new U.S. counterterrorism strategy released Wednesday focuses on the ability of al Qaeda and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack the homeland, said John Brennan, White House counterterrorism adviser.

Speaking at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Brennan said, "Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts."

He added, "We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil... It's not enough to simply be prepared for attacks, we have to be resilient and recover quickly should an attack occur." Brennan said the ability to snap back quickly in the event of an attack would deny al Qaeda "the economic damage and disruption it seeks."

Brennan made it clear the administration wants to follow a strategy of drone strikes and targeted raids against terrorists and avoid prolonged wars. "Al Qaeda seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment," he said. "Our best offense won't always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us."

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano speaking to CNN in Madrid : "we’ve seen the growth of these individuals, particularly over the last two and a half years and many of them are inspired by al Qaeda or al Qaeda like ideology and it’s clear that al Qaeda’s reaching out to them with English-language publications and the like. The internet appears to be an accelerant of radicalization to the point of violence. So the strategy includes a counter violent extremism part, CVE we call it, which is really designed to focus on how we best protect the United States, within the United States.

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