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Viewing cable 09PESHAWAR147, FATA: PLAYERS IN WAZIRISTAN - A PRE-OPERATION PRIMER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09PESHAWAR147 2009-07-13 10:10 2010-11-30 21:09 SECRET Consulate Peshawar
VZCZCXRO5640
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHPW #0147/01 1941059
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 131059Z JUL 09
FM AMCONSUL PESHAWAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8109
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 4882
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE IMMEDIATE 1979
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI IMMEDIATE 1987
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 1613
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE 1242
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 0822
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 1008
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE IMMEDIATE 0871
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0822
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA IMMEDIATE 0916
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 5174
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 PESHAWAR 000147 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/13/2019 
TAGS: PTER PINR MOPS PK AF
SUBJECT: FATA: PLAYERS IN WAZIRISTAN - A PRE-OPERATION PRIMER 

REF: A) PESHAWAR 144; B) ISLAMABAD 1464; C) ISLAMABAD 1385; D) ISLAMABAD 1358; 
E) IIR 6 802 0086 08 

CLASSIFIED BY: Lynne Tracy, Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate 
Peshawar, Department of State. 
REASON: 1.4 (d) 
1. (C) Summary: As the government of Pakistan has worked to 
prepare for its upcoming ground operation in South Waziristan 
Agency (SWA) against Baitullah Mehsud (ref C) and the 
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it has narrowed the focus of 
its operation by attempting to keep neutral the two other major 
militant leaders in the area and building two other more minor 
leaders up against Baitullah. The government has worked through 
jirgas led by Deobandi clerics associated with the Jamiat 
Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) to isolate Baitullah and his lieutenants; 
as the operation has become more imminent (and to JUI-F leader 
Fazlur Rehman's chagrin), these jirgas have been sidelined. 
Tribal maliks, though included in those jirgas, are too cowed to 
play anything other than supporting roles, and the SWA Political 
Agent, while talented, is rarely able to even enter SWA due to 
security concerns. Political actors will continue to work 
around the edges, but they are ceding the field to the military 
and militants for the foreseeable future. End summary. 

Baitullah Mehsud and His Lieutenants 
------------------------------------ 

2. (C) 35-year-old Baitullah Mehsud has been the most 
prominent militant in Waziristan since the death of Wazir leader 
Nek Mohammad in 2004 and the most notorious militant in Pakistan 
since his announcement of the formation of the TTP and 
assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. He has 
undisputed control over the Mehsud home areas of northeastern 
SWA and significant influence in areas with Mehsud diaspora 
populations such as Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts. Since 
the formation of TTP, an umbrella group whose expressed aim is 
to overthrow the government of Pakistan and secure its FATA 
safehaven in order to support cross-border attacks into 
Afghanistan, Mehsud and his allies had established significant 
levels of effective control in part or all of Kurram, Orakzai, 
Khyber, Mohmand, and Bajaur agencies, as well as in Swat, 
Shangla, Buner, and Lower Dir districts prior to recent military 
operations. In all of these areas, Consulate contacts and 
Pakistani press have reported a strong presence of Mehsud 
tribesmen and allied Uzbek militants supporting local elements 
fighting against the government. 

3. (C) Qari Hussain has long been Baitullah's most feared 
lieutenant from Waziristan; a post contact in the NWFP 
parliamentary assembly included him as one of six militants 
whose death would prove that the Pakistani government was 
"serious" about finally getting tough on militants. He was 
notable over the period 2006-8 for claiming the most extreme and 
offensive actions taken by the TTP, particularly in the wake of 
the government's July 2007 operation against the Lal Masjid in 
Islamabad. These actions included suicide bombings throughout 
the NWFP, the kidnapping of FC personnel, and an attack on the 
Tank family residence of the Political Agent for Khyber Agency 
which killed many of his relatives and guests, among them 
surrendering women and girls, violating one of the strongest 
taboos under Pashtun tribal law. Baitullah disavowed most of 
these activities, though they generally directly benefited him. 
In late 2008, after the conclusion of the most recent peace deal 
in SWA, Baitullah "exiled" him to North Waziristan because of 
his poor image; he recalled him to SWA recently. Hussain may 
have been killed in an air strike on a post-funeral meeting on 
June 23 in South Waziristan. 

4. (SBU) Hakimullah Mehsud, a first cousin to Baitullah, has 
come to prominence more recently, initially commanding TTP 
forces assisting Sunni militants who were fighting Shi'a 
militants in Kurram agency and neighboring Hangu district. His 
activities quickly spread to Orakzai, where he masterminded an 
October 2008 suicide bombing of a jirga that killed over fifty 
tribal maliks and broke virtually all organized resistance to 
TTP control in most of the agency. By early December 2008, his 
men in Khyber were launching regular raids on trucking depots 
around Peshawar and burning hundreds of trucks containing 
supplies for American forces in Afghanistan. A Pakistani 
military operation in Khyber in January 2009 reduced TTP 
effectiveness operating out of that agency, but Hakimullah 
continued to plan and execute attacks out of his base in Orakzai 

PESHAWAR 00000147 002 OF 005 


prior to returning to SWA in late May, reportedly with large 
numbers of those under his command and in preparation for the 
upcoming SWA operation. 

Misbahuddin Mehsud and Turkestan Bhittani - GOP Surrogates 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
5. (C) Misbahuddin Mehsud, the 23-year-old younger brother 
of the recently assassinated Qari Zainuddin (ref C), is 
Zainuddin's apparent successor as leader of a group of Mehsuds 
independent of Baitullah who have engaged in tit-for-tat 
assassinations and street battles with the TTP in the areas of 
Tank and Dera Ismail Khan over the past several months. 
Zainuddin was generally considered raw and untested; his close 
familial relation (first cousin) to deceased militant leader 
Abdullah Mehsud and the clear Pakistani government backing given 
to him, however, had made him the pole around which 
anti-Baitullah militants had coalesced. Misbahuddin is even 
more untried. He is reportedly more poorly educated and rougher 
of manner than Zainuddin (Misbahuddin's nickname is Tofan, 
meaning "storm" and referring to his temper). 

6. (C) Turkestan Bhittani, a 40-year-old soldier who retired 
from the South Waziristan Scouts (Frontier Corps) in 1998 to 
fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan, was an ally of Baitullah 
Mehsud until 2007. Following his break with Baitullah, he 
formed a militia composed primarily of members of the Bhittani 
tribe. The Bhittani, whose population lives primarily in the 
area along the border between SWA and Tank and controls access 
between Mehsud territory and the settled areas to the east, has 
a history of feuds with the Mehsuds; relatively few Mehsuds are 
settled in Jandola and the other Bhittani-dominated areas around 
it. A June 2008 incident in which TTP-affiliated Mehsuds 
overran the town of Jandola and carried off thirty Bhittani 
tribesmen and killed over twenty of them (including many close 
relatives of Turkestan) solidified Bhittani tribal opposition to 
the TTP. As Qari Zainuddin's group gained mass over recent 
months, Turkestan allied his own, longer-lived group to it, and 
this alliance seems unlikely to change with Zainuddin's death. 
A Bhittani contact told us that it was Turkestan's firm control 
of F.R. Tank that allowed Qari Zainuddin space to grow his 
group; Turkestan had and continues to have a strong personal 
interest in assisting any group that would weaken the TTP. 

Hafiz Gul Bahadur - Siding with the TTP 
--------------------------------------- 

7. (C) Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a senior militant commander in 
North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and erstwhile rival of Baitullah 
Mehsud for the title of "leader" of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, is an 
Utmanzai Wazir in his late 40s. Despite considerable effort by 
the Pakistani government to keep him on the sidelines and an 
initial period in which his quiescence appeared to indicate that 
he would stay out of the fight, Bahadur allowed and then claimed 
a series of escalating ambushes of Pakistani military convoys 
June 26-28. His spokesman then announced on June 29 that the 
February 2008 peace deal with the government that Bahadur had 
hitherto more or less respected was now a dead letter due to 
continued drone strikes in and Pakistani military operations 
near NWA (ref B). (Note: Consulate contacts told us that 
Bahadur had faced pressure from lieutenants to confront the 
Pakistani military.) The government responded with airstrikes 
against his positions on June 30, but reiterated its commitment 
to the peace deal. A low-level conflict has ensued since, with 
occasional minor attacks by militants on Pakistani military 
installations. 

Maulavi Nazir - Neutral? 
------------------------ 

8. (C) Maulavi Nazir, the senior militant commander in 
southern and western SWA, is an Ahmadzai Wazir in his 30s. Our 
contacts from and in SWA consider Nazir to have been the 
Pakistani government's man ever since his 2007 campaign against 
Baitullah Mehsud ally Haji Omar and associated Uzbek militants 
residing in Ahmadzai areas of SWA, though Nazir signed on to the 
February 2009 alliance with Baitullah. Like Bahadur, he has 
remained silent about the upcoming operation; on July 2, he told 

PESHAWAR 00000147 003 OF 005 


a jirga that he would maintain neutrality. A well-connected 
Ahmadzai Wazir who resides part-time in Wana told us that Nazir 
will stay out of the fight unless a spillover from the campaign 
creates significant casualties among Ahmadzai Wazir militants or 
civilians. In such a circumstance, Nazir would come under 
considerable pressure to retaliate proportionately. This is a 
plausible eventuality. According to a Consulate contact in SWA, 
since the beginning of June, an Ahmadzai lieutenant of Nazir in 
the Angoor Adda area of SWA (near the Afghan border) has 
repeatedly detonated roadside bombs against Pakistani military 
vehicles, killing several soldiers and wounding dozens of 
others. More recently, over the past two weeks rockets have 
been fired from Ahmadzai Wazir areas toward Pakistani military 
installations in and around Wana. The Pakistani army has 
retaliated in each instance by shelling militant positions in 
the areas from which attacks have been launched. 

The Haqqanis - Staying Out of the Fight 
--------------------------------------- 

9. (S) Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, Afghans 
who are based primarily in NWA, are involved primarily in the 
fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Jalaluddin, a 
former anti-Soviet mujahid from the Zadran tribe who had been 
aligned with Hizb-i-Islami (Khalis), is now in his 70s and is 
considered by our contacts to have a close relationship with 
Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. Sirajuddin, in his 
30s, runs day-to-day affairs for the Haqqani network. This 
Taliban group operates primarily in Khowst and Paktika provinces 
but is also suspected of having a hand in some of the most 
audacious Taliban attacks in Kabul, including the July 2008 
bombing of the Indian embassy there. The Haqqanis have 
generally taken the stance that attacks against Pakistan's 
government are illegitimate, and they have worked to keep 
militant leaders in Waziristan focused on the war in Afghanistan 
- without success in the case of Gul Bahadur. They appear to be 
hunkering down as well; a Consulate contact in the inner circle 
of the NWFP's ruling Awami National Party (ANP) says that they 
have moved their families out of the agency and to Rawalpindi 
(ref A). 

Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the Deobandis - The Would-Be Mediators 
--------------------------------------------- ------------------- 

10. (C) The opening moves to the government's SWA campaign 
have occasioned a flurry of jirgas aimed at mediating between 
the Pakistani government and the various militant leaders. 
These jirgas have been very similarly composed: led by elected 
officials or prominent mullahs (and usually both), they have 
been composed in equal measure by maliks from the affected areas 
and prominent mullahs active in the region but outside of tribal 
structures. The most active jirga, which has been shuttling 
between the Pakistani government and Baitullah Mehsud, has been 
led by Senator Saleh Shah, a Deobandi cleric in his thirties 
from SWA (but not a Mehsud or Wazir) who leads two madrassas, 
one in the Tirarzia tehsil of SWA (north of Wana, in the Mehsud 
area) and the other in the Mehsud-settled Murtaza area of Tank. 
In his absence (when the Senate is in session), jirga leadership 
has generally fallen to Maulana Esamuddin Khan, a Mehsud 
Deobandi cleric who has led a madrassa in Makeen, the heart of 
the area controlled by Baitullah. Maulana Mirajuddin Qureshi, 
another Mehsud Deobandi cleric who is a former National Assembly 
member, has also played a leading role. Over the past two 
weeks, activity by this jirga has tailed off as military 
operations have increased their pace. 

11. (C) Saleh Shah, Esamuddin, and Qureshi (along with fellow 
repeated jirga leaders Noor Mohammad among the Ahmadzai Wazirs 
and Maulavi Nek Zaman among the Utmanzai Wazirs) are affiliated 
with the Deobandi Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam party faction under the 
direction of Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F). Fazlur Rehman, 
whose hometown is nearby Dera Ismail Khan, has positioned 
himself and his party as a primary mediator between the 
government and militants; his affiliates have been mediators in 
each of the five peace agreements concluded in the Waziristans 
since 2004. His decreasingly oblique criticisms of Pakistani 
military operations in Swat and the surrounding Malakand 

PESHAWAR 00000147 004 OF 005 


division and his more direct criticisms of a follow-on 
Waziristan operation have kept pace with the increasing drumbeat 
of official talk about Waziristan. Fazlur Rehman's upset at the 
prospect of such an operation may in part be a reaction the 
political support that his party continues to carry there 
(significantly greater than that enjoyed by his party in 
Malakand), but it also reflects the fact that the beginning of 
such an operation will represent the eclipse of his affiliates' 
mediating role in favor of force wielded by parties outside of 
his control. 

The Maliks - A Non-Factor 
------------------------- 

12. (C) The peace jirgas of the past two months, led and 
partially staffed by Deobandi clerics, have generally been 
filled out by Mehsud maliks (tribal elders). Our contacts from 
SWA have uniformly dismissed them as entirely cowed by Baitullah 
and irrelevant in mediation; the deaths of over three hundred 
other Waziristan maliks over the past four years appear to have 
sapped them of the willingness to confront Baitullah in any way 
and rendered them essentially placeholders in the jirgas for 
sake of form. Asked if there were any maliks of sufficient 
stature to chart an independent course at all, one contact 
responded with a Pashtun proverb in which a prince, queried on 
how he kept his kingdom under control, replied by silently 
chopping off the tops of all of the tallest poppies in the field 
where he was walking. 

Shahab Ali Khan - The Absentee Political Agent 
--------------------------------------------- - 

13. (C) Shahab Ali Khan, a Bannu native in his mid-30s, was 
appointed Political Agent (PA) of SWA in September 2008. He has 
been in district government service for just over ten years; 
before his current posting, Khan had most recently served as 
District Coordination Officer in the sectarian strife-ridden 
Hangu district from 2007. Shahab Ali has been described by his 
peers and locals as a good negotiator in an agency where many 
consider such skills a necessity, and he most recently played a 
secondary role in the release of the kidnapped students from 
Razmak Cadet College. He reportedly holds conservative views 
and is pious. His youth is noted by his colleagues, though it 
is not his greatest handicap: effective militant control over 
virtually all of "his" agency makes it difficult to travel 
outside of Wana and makes life dangerous even in that city. He 
reputedly spends most of his time in Tank. 

The Division Commanders - A Mixed Bag 
------------------------------------- 

14. (C) The commanders of the three Pakistani military 
divisions that will bear the brunt of the fight in Waziristan 
come from widely varying backgrounds. The Seventh Division, 
headquartered in Miram Shah, NWA, is commanded by Major General 
Navid Zaman. Zaman, a Punjabi from Rawalpindi, spent several 
successful years as a staff officer at Pakistan's General 
Headquarters (GHQ) prior to assuming command in October 2008. 
The Ninth Division, headquartered in Wana, SWA, is commanded by 
Khalid Rabbani. Rabbani, who has previous experience as a 
brigade commander in the FATA, was most recently assigned as 
Pakistan's Defense Attache to Libya and Algeria, which face 
counterinsurgency challenges of their own. He left that 
position at the end of 2007 and was given command of the Ninth 
Division at roughly that time, making him the longest-serving of 
the three in their current capacities (ref E). The Fourteenth 
Division, headquartered in Tank, is commanded by Major General 
Ijaz Chaudhry, of whom less is known; he assumed command of the 
division in September 2008. 

Comment 
------- 

15. (C) Baitullah Mehsud and the military are the predominant 
actors in South Waziristan. However, as the government plays 
out a strategy of divide and rule, the alliances, feuding, and 
maneuverings of other militants as well as tribal and political 

PESHAWAR 00000147 005 OF 005 


figures bears watching in assessing the direction that 
operations in South Waziristan will take. End comment. 
TRACY