Tuesday, February 5, 2008

US missile hit in Pakistan's tribal area: is there a Libyan connection?

Imtiaz Ali and Craig Whitlock from The Washington Post Foreign Service have an important story “Al-Qaeda Figure Moved Freely in Pakistan: Commander Killed Last Week Had Lived in Northwest for Years,” on p A1 Monday Feb. 4, 2008, link here. The website article has the subtitle “Libyan Killed Last Week Operated Openly.” This refers to Abu Laith al-Libi, who operated relatively openly near Peshawar in the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan, where the Taliban has been regrouping. PBS Frontline had reported on this general problem with a film last week, discussed here.

Al-Libi was apparently killed in a US missile strike (reportedly a CIA drone) in north Waziristan. The US has complained that Pakistan had been particularly lax in pursuing him, but that may be related to the lack of ability of the Pakistani area to operate in the tribal areas.

There are some dots to connect here. Relations between the United States and Libya are said to be improving and formal diplomacy is supposed to be getting re-established. (Check Wikipedia and the CIA site.) Yet, a recent book by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento notes that, in keeping Pakistan armed with small nuclear weapons (which Al Qaeda could get control of if there were a coup unless US troops could protect them still), a company in Libya has been supplying unusual machine parts. These sorts of weapons require maintenance and specific parts to remain operative. I discussed this book in December 2007 in my books blog, here.

Early on Thanksgiving morning in 2007, I received cell phone calls from “Africa” looking for another party with a common English surname. I traced the country code to Libya. The calls may have been genuine wrong numbers, but I had to turn the cell phone off to stop the calls. After I read the book by Armstrong-Trento, I reported this to the FBI.

Visitors should also check out The Washington Times commentary today (Tuesday, Feb. 5) by Claude Salhani, "Jihad Turning Point?", here.

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