Remind me why Pakistan is still a "major non-NATO ally"?
President Obama is still figuring out how many more U.S. troops to send to Afghanistan to defeat the Afghan Taliban. Meanwhile, the Taliban chieftain and protector of Osama bin Laden, the camera-shy Mullah Omar, has been chilling in Quetta, Pakistan, not far from the Afghan border. U.S. intelligence has long believed that Omar scooted there from Kandahar after the American invasion in 2001. Lately, the war has been getting closer to Quetta. In particular, there has been lots of speculation that as U.S. drone missile attacks have been getting very effective at zapping Taliban and al Qaeda leaders hiding in the Pakistani tribal areas, the U.S. might start aiming them at the Quetta area in an effort to get Omar. So Omar is on the move again -- but with the help of our supposed ally:
Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed leader of the Afghan Taliban, has fled a Pakistani city on the border with Afghanistan and found refuge from potential U.S. attacks in the teeming Pakistani port city of Karachi with the assistance of Pakistan's intelligence service, three current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.
Mullah Omar, who hosted Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders when they plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had been residing in Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban shura -- or council -- had moved from Kandahar after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Two senior U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior CIA officer told The Washington Times that Mullah Omar traveled to Karachi last month after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He inaugurated a new senior leadership council in Karachi, a city that so far has escaped U.S. and Pakistani counterterrorism campaigns, the officials said.
The officials, two of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI, helped the Taliban leaders move from Quetta, where they were exposed to attacks by unmanned U.S. drones.
The development reinforces suspicions that the ISI, which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s to expand Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, is working against U.S. interests in Afghanistan as the Obama administration prepares to send more U.S. troops to fight there.
Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran and analyst on al Qaeda and the Taliban, confirmed that Mullah Omar had been spotted in Karachi recently.
"Some sources claim the ISI decided to move him further from the battlefield to keep him safe" from U.S. drone attacks, said Mr. Riedel, who headed the Obama administration's review of policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan last spring. "There are huge madrassas in Karachi where Mullah Omar could easily be kept."
Any choice words for our Pakistani allies? Post a comment.