January 15, 2006 | Counterterrorism Blog

Walid Phares: Allies or Not Allies is the Question

By: Dr. Walid Phares.

Walid Phares asked me to post the following for him (quote him directly) – EDIT: I added links to Intelligence Summit clips of his weekend TV appearances:

The Predator's strike inside Pakistan's border area, aiming at al-Zawahri's possible stay in a village may have (or not) missed its target. But the missile attack triggered a series of political explosions in the region. In short, the issues are out. I addressed them in a series of interviews over the weekend: Here is a summary:

1. The Pakistani official position
The Government's immediate reaction was “to condemn the strike,” to the surprise of many Americans and still the dislike of the Jihadists. Why did Islamabad “lodge a complaint” with the US embassy in Pakistan? In an interview with MSNBC I argued that “Had the US strike been successful, Pakistan would have taken credit. But since, (till proven otherwise) the strike wasn't, Pakistan's politics comes first: It is a fact that areas close to the border with Afghanistan are dominated by pro-Taliban forces. It is another fact that Pakistan's Salafist parties have a significant influence in the country.

2. Is al-Zawahri dead or not?
Strangely, it was an Arab network, al Arabiya, which informed the world, that according to its “sources,” the number two of al Qaida wasn't killed and is still “around” – an interesting indicator of the vast resources of many Arab TV networks in establishing contacts with sources able to inform them about the “state” of al Qaida.

3. Jihadi reaction to the strike
In an interview with MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, I argued that the main goal of the Jihadist movements inside Pakistan, in reaction to the strike, was to drive a wedge between Islamabad and Washington: Take advantage of the attack, especially its failure (unless reported otherwise), to blame the Musharraf Government for “opening” the country to US control.

4. Why the US strikes inside Pakistan?
This question is important, especially in light of the “incitement” unleashed by the Jihadists as a result of the attack. Why is the US using drones to target terrorist objectives inside Pakistan? For a very simple reason: Pakistan's isn't doing it, or can't do it for an array of reasons. As I told MSNBC Saturday, “Had Pakistani intelligence and the 80,000 troops been able to find and remove al Qaida from these areas, the wouldn't have had to perform these operations. But civilian casualties are always bad and unacceptable, whatever their identification is.”

5. The alliance is being tested now
In an interview Sunday on MSNBC, I noted that the alliance between the US and Pakistan against al Qaida is up and running. The organization attempted to assassinate Musharref and wages operations against many countries. But the alliance is being tested now. As far as possible scenarios (till proven otherwise), one can establish two: either the US learned about al-Zawahri's movement, but the latter discovered the matter; or the possibility that sympathizers of al Qaida may have circulated the information to draw a US response.

6. The Jihadist propaganda counter-strike
The strike and the Pakistani reaction opened the path for a vast debate in the Arab media on what was dubbed by the Jihadist machine as “American attack on a Pakistani Muslim village.” In a panel on al Jazeera on Saturday, along with the former director of Pakistan's intelligence M. Ghoul and an official of Islamist organizations in the border areas, I exchanged several arguments with the panelists. The anchor of the show, “Ma Wara' al khabar” (Behind the News) raised the issue of US “aggression” on Pakistan, endorsed by the two other panelists. Both guests defined it as an “American shelling of a Pakistani Muslim village.” I noted that the strike was aimed at an al Qaida target “inside” the village, not a “shelling of” the village. I explained that the US operates on the assumption that there is an alliance with Pakistan against al Qaida, “unless this has changed lately.” I asked the panelists, without getting an answer, if al Qaida is or isn't an enemy in Pakistan. Responding to statements that “Al-Zawahri was never there, nor is al Qaida present in these areas,” I argued that it is not likely that al-Zawahri is going to inform all the neighborhood that he is attending a dinner party in the area nor is it likely that al Qaida signals its open presence in the border areas. The conclusion, in my sense was clear: Either Pakistan considers al Qaida as an enemy or it doesn't: Either it consider the US an ally or not in this war. If these two parameters are clarified, both Governments have to establish a clear modus operandi in their campaign against terrorists.