Information regarding the location of 29 Taliban bases, ID’d by U.S. intelligence and shared with Pakistan, has lost its targeting value for Islamabad’s promised offensive against the militant group with the apparent evacuation of 28 of the training camps along the country’s northern border with Afghanistan.
The U.S. presented Pakistan with a dossier meticulously detailing the bases’ locations in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan, but, according to a report by Asia Times, the camps ‘have simply fallen off the radar.’ Neither the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led coalition in Afghanistan nor Pakistan intelligence have detected any movement in the camps since early this month.
On-the-ground intelligence from both sides of the national border indicate all camps but one, operated by a hardline Islamist mullah, have been dismantled and all Taliban commanders, as well as leaders of Arab insurgent groups in the country, have disappeared.
The development comes as tribal leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan are meeting in Kabul for a four-day “jirga,” or peace conference and for discussions on how to best fight the Taliban. Tribal leaders from North Waziristan and South Waziristan refused to attend the summit because the Taliban was excluded from the talks.
The evacuation of the camps also coincides with the release of a videotape earlier this week featuring Adam Gadahn, the “American al-Qaida,” threatening new attacks on U.S. cities. New York City authorities responded to the unspecified threat earlier today with checkpoints and radiation monitoring of vehicles entering Manhattan.
According to Asia Times, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who has been invited to address the closing session of this weekend’s peace summit, was expected to begin military strikes against the Taliban bases in his country after the jirga ends. Indeed, Pakistani helicopter gunships launched assaults today on al-Qaida and Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan. Three militants were reported killed, however, with the high-value targets now evacuated, the effectiveness of any military initiative is in question, particularly since summer is passing and winter’s heavy snows makes military operations difficult or impossible.
According to Asia Times, the Taliban has redefined its command structure following the death in May of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah in Afghanistan during a coalition raid. Dadullah enjoyed almost cult-like status and his death was a demoralizing blow to the group.
Much of the Taliban leadership left the field in June and was headquartered in Quetta, Pakistan, Asia Times reports. As WND reported, the Pakistan enclave has long served as a safe haven for the Taliban seeking respite from fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, despite Musharraf’s promises to crack down on them.
Musharraf, whose five-year term in office ends this fall, threatened earlier this week to declare emergency rule, but has since told Washington he will not. Many of his top commanders are sympathetic to the Taliban, a fact that the evacuation of the training camps following the transfer of U.S. intelligence may indicate.
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