The quake was relatively shallow, at a depth of just over 3 miles, and nearly two dozen people noted feeling it in the USGS’s reporting system. The shaking was categorized as “moderate,” with the expectation of only very light damage.
Earthquakes are not necessarily unusual in the state; Wednesday’s temblor was the fourth in the last 12 months, per government data.
According to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey is actually considered overdue for a moderate earthquake, much like the magnitude 5.5 quake that hit in 1884.Copyright NBC New York
It is pitch black in the video when, suddenly, after about ten seconds, a bright light appears and shoots upwards in the sky. For the Russian government, the flash of light signals the world’s first ever successful launch of a hypersonic missile from a submarine.
The missile “hit its target”, the defence ministry said in a statement on Monday, adding that the hypersonic weapon was fired from the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea.
“This was a show of force that fits in with Russia’s approach, which is to relaunch the strategic arms race,” said Alexandre Vautravers, a defence and security expert and editor-in-chief of specialist publication the Revue Militaire Suisse.
Zircon is a hypersonic missile, capable of exceeding Mach 5 (6,174 kilometres per hour). That means it can “hit any target at a distance of 1,000 km”, Putin noted at a speech in December 2018 when he confirmed that Russia was developing this new generation of weapons.
Hypersonic weapons can also be guided as they fly – unlike traditional ballistic missiles, which cannot change course in mid-flight. That means this type of weaponry is likely to be much more effective against moving targets such as warships. The Zircons are “first and foremost anti-ship missiles, although they can also be used to strike targets on land”, said Gustav Gressel, an expert on Russian military issues at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Russia started working on the Zircons in the early 2010s and has conducted several tests over the past five years.
But Monday’s launch from a submarine marks a significant breakthrough. This kind of weapon is usually carried on the stealthiest possible vessels, and in Russia’s case “that’s submarines, because the country doesn’t have adequate technology for long-range stealth bombers capable of avoiding American radar systems”, Vautravers pointed out.
If Russia ever engages in a military confrontation against NATO forces, submarines are the “only part of the Russian navy that would stand a chance of surviving” against US and NATO military might, Gressel said. Russia has developed a “real sense of paranoia about the US”, he continued, and that motivates Moscow to always think about what would happen in the event of a conflict.
In light of this, it looks on the face of it like Russia has a head start in the arms race thanks to its launch of a hypersonic missile – which many analysts think of as the weapon of the future – from a nuclear submarine.
“Russia is the only country that’s demonstrated its ability to use these weapons in an operational manner; the US has also carried out tests but from launchers designed specifically for this kind of missile [instead of from an operational vessel like a submarine]; and there is absolutely no reliable data on the progress of the Chinese programme in this field,” Gressel said.
Nevertheless, Gressel continued, one should not overestimate Russia’s capacity: “You have to overcome two main obstacles in order to be able to operate hypersonic missiles: you have to make them fly without disintegrating, and you have to show that you can guide them from a distance so they can hit moving targets – and the Russians have shown that their missiles can fly, but there is no evidence that they can adjust those missiles’ trajectory mid-flight.”
The videos released by the Russian defence ministry after each “successful” launch just focus on the launches and “only show rather blurry images”, Gressel added. “I’d like to know how big the target it hit was, and whether it was a fixed target or a moving target.”
The US does not yet have a definite cause for concern. But if Russia demonstrated total mastery of this technology, that could be a game-changer. At present, American efforts to develop a missile defence shield – dating back to the “Star Wars” programme launched by then President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s – have failed to produce a defence system “capable of launching all the missiles already in existence; such a system would be even less effective against hypersonic missiles”, Vautravers said.
In the event that Russia demonstrates its mastery of hypersonic missile technology, Vautravers said, the US would have to choose whether to focus on its anti-missile defence system or to make hypersonic missiles a new priority of its own. If Washington pursued such a course, Vautravers concluded, that would “restart the arms race at a global level”.
Posters of parties and candidates participating in the early general election race in Kirkuk, Iraq on 2 October 2021 [Ali Makram Ghareeb/Anadolu Agency]October 5, 2021 at 2:53 pm
Despite US President Joe Biden’s scathing criticism of his predecessor’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has not shied away from implementing them. In Afghanistan, he stuck to Trump’s troop withdrawal agreement with the Taliban. Following the Taliban’s swift takeover of Kabul, Biden blamed Afghanistan’s corrupt government and army.
In Iraq, Biden – just like Trump – has made no secret of the fact that he is hell-bent on keeping US troops in the country even though they are targeted persistently by militias belonging to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a government controlled alliance of predominantly Shia and Iran-backed groups which answered Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s call to fight Daesh in 2014. The PMF demand the unconditional withdrawal of US forces in compliance with the vote in Iraq’s parliament on 5 January last year. The vote was organised after Donald Trump ordered the assassination at Baghdad Airport of General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, the deputy leader of the PMF.
The rapid collapse of the Afghan army is similar to the swift unravelling of Iraq’s US-trained army in the face of the Daesh advance on Mosul in 2014. Both were trained in such a way that made them completely reliant on US air cover and logistical support. This has been employed repeatedly by the US as political leverage, compelling both governments to toe Washington’s line.
Even though Iraq’s unelected Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi — who came to power in May 2020 after waves of protests forced his predecessor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to resign — has kept his pledge to stay out of the early election scheduled for 10 October, he has been working tirelessly to secure a second term. Clearly, Kadhimi is aware that going to the polls means a humiliating defeat, given that the same underlying causes –rampant corruption, chronic electricity and water shortages, and widespread unemployment – that sparked the October 2019 protests have worsened dramatically. He has also failed to fulfil his own pledge to bring to justice those in the security forces responsible for killing 600 protesters, and rein-in militias, including the PMF.
As part of the aggressive Trump-inspired strategy sponsored by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Iraq and not Syria has become the central battleground for rolling back Iranian influence in the region. Former US Envoy to Iraq Brett McGurk managed successfully after the 2018 parliamentary election to forge a coalition of Shia political blocs headed by Muqtada Al-Sadr, Ammar Al-Hakim and ex-Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi. It was Soleimani who derailed the attempts to install a US–friendly prime minister.
Buoyed by Soleimani’s assassination, Hakim, Sadr and Abadi scrambled to revive their alliance. They also conspired with Iraqi President Barham Salih to promote Kadhimi’s premiership and simultaneously thwart attempts by Iran-friendly political leaders, namely Hadi Al-Amiri, Nouri Al-Maliki and Qais Al-Khazali, to appoint an Iran-backed prime minister.
Biden’s embrace of such a strategy incentivised Kadhimi to double down on his efforts to wean Iraq off Iran and steer it into the US-Saudi orbit. The prime minister also sought to bolster his position internationally and regionally by presenting himself as a neutral mediator. His overriding priority on the international front has been to gain Biden’s endorsement. To this end, Kadhimi has striven to bring the PMF under control, hoping that this will reduce attacks on US interests. Hence, he ordered the arrest on 26 May of Qasim Mosleh Al-Khafaji, a commander of the PMF in Anbar province. This operation was identical to the detention in June last year of 14 members of the umbrella movement.
While on both occasions Kadhimi had to back down after the PMF stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, he exploited both operations successfully to get a meeting first with Trump and then with Biden. Even before meeting Biden, Kadhimi ruled out requesting a full US withdrawal. “What we want from the US presence in Iraq is to support our forces in training and security cooperation,” he told Associated Press on 25 July.
Biden handed Kadhimi a symbolic victory by telling reporters on 26 July that, “Our role in Iraq will be to continue to train, to assist and to deal with [Daesh], but we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission.” Neither Biden nor Kadhimi defined what was meant by combat forces, yet this declaration has so far eased tensions between Kadhimi and the PMF and also reduced attacks against US troops, thus easing some of the pressure on Biden.
At the top of Kadhimi’s regional agenda has been the mollification of Riyadh. Against this backdrop he decided, in July 2020, to make Saudi Arabia rather than Iran his first overseas destination. He aimed to address Riyadh’s outrage that the balance of power in Iraq has tilted in Iran’s favour. At that time, however, Bin Salman’s overarching goal was pushing Trump to take decisive military action against Iran and so he refused to meet Kadhimi. With Biden in the White House, though, Saudi hopes of using force against Iran have been scuppered, for now.Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on October 22, 2020 in London, England [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]
Faced with the unpalatable prospect of a potential breakthrough in the Vienna negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, King Salman invited Kadhimi to visit Riyadh on 31 March. He received Bin Salman’s blessing to host direct mid-level negotiations with Iran in Baghdad.
The holding of four rounds of talks under Kadhimi’s supervision of – the latest was on 29 September — looks like part of a concerted Saudi campaign to help the Iraqi prime minister to tighten his tenuous grip on power while also reflecting Bin Salman’s urgent need to end the futile war in Yemen. To showcase his leadership, Kadhimi organised a regional summit on 28 August in Baghdad, in concert with French President Emmanuel Macron, which ostensibly aimed to ease regional tension. In reality, it sought to warn the Iraqi people discreetly that removing Kadhimi means forfeiting economic support.
On the internal front Kadhimi’s staunchest support has come from Sadr, who leads the biggest parliamentary bloc and holds a lot of clout on the ground. Although the Sadrist movement claimed that it joined the 2019 protests to promote its leader’s anti-corruption drive, in practice the chief objective was to block the appointment of any prime minister who does not pledge loyalty to Sadr. The focus, however, shifted to dispersing protesters violently after Sadr bullied Amiri – head of the second largest bloc in parliament – into approving Kadhimi’s premiership somewhat grudgingly.
In return, Kadhimi opened the door for the Sadrists to appoint their loyal members in every state institution, specifically targeting senior positions that control state wealth, therefore empowering Sadr to run the show. With Sadr firmly in control, he accused his Iran-backed rivals in April of stoking tensions with the US to avoid an early election. Despite Sadr’s repeated promises to wage an inexorable war on corruption, a Sadrist-controlled government has failed spectacularly to do so.
Nonetheless, Kadhimi tried frantically on 9 May to exonerate Sadr from responsibility after a hospital fire killed scores in Baghdad by blaming himself. “The only thing Sadr asked from me was to take care of Iraq,” explained the prime minister. “Sadr has no ministers in government nor does he control the government.”
However, when a second hospital fire broke out in Nasiriya on 12 July, Sadr announced three days later that he will not take part in the election. As ever his move was a ploy to dilute public anger. He endeavoured to postpone the election, seeking more time to disentangle himself from what is widely perceived as the worst government since 2003. Given that Sadr was on the back foot, though, his rivals were adamant, and refused to change the election date. This forced him to make a screeching U-turn: “We will enter these elections with vigour and determination to save Iraq from occupation and corruption,” he announced in August.
In stark contrast to Sadr’s fiery rhetoric against the US presence in Iraq, in reality he desperately needs the Americans to be there as a deterrent to Iran-backed groups. The US also needs Sadr to put a brake on Iranian expansion.
Al-Sistani’s call last week for a high election turnout will turn the tables on Sadr, who thrives on low turnouts, which generally do not affect his support base.
Iraq’s general election is happening with confidence in the political system at rock-bottom. As anticipated, the most vicious contest to determine who names the next prime minister, will be between a US-Saudi backed Shia coalition – consisting of Sadr, Hakim and Abadi – and an Iran-aligned coalition – Amiri, Maliki and Khazali – thereby turning Iraq’s Shia heartland into the principal battleground for their conflicting interests.
However, while Sadr has vowed that Iraq’s next leader will be a Sadrist, in fact this is just a bargaining chip to coerce his opponents into countenancing a continuation of the Kadhimi premiership. As such, the US and Saudi Arabia will endorse Sadr’s drive to impose Iraq’s prime minister by diktat, even if it has the potential to precipitate the disintegration of Iraq’s fragile democracy hot on the heels of the unravelling of Afghanistan’s democratic experience. Both, remember, will be on Biden’s watch.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.
In a previous article, “Russia and China are Already Winning the Nuclear Arms Race,” I discussed the dangers to U.S. national security from the breathtaking advances by China and Russia in expanding the size of their nuclear arsenals to a level far in excess of the size of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal. The more that Russia’s and China’s superiority over the United States in terms of nuclear and other unconventional weapons such as super-Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and cyberweapons, as well as in terms of overall nuclear war survivability, continues to increase, the greater their temptation will be to engage in increasingly brazen international aggression abroad. We have already seen examples of this happening with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, China’s occupation of disputed islands in the South China Sea over the last several years, and what appears to be an increasingly imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
In March-April 2021, Russia reportedly massed 100,000-150,000 troops along Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders poised for a possible invasion. In response, the United States raised its alert status to Defense Condition (DEFCON) Three for the first time since September 11, 2001. Moreover, U.S. European Command raised its watch level to “potential imminent crisis” in fear that a Russian invasion of Ukraine might be followed by a Russian attempt to overrun frontline NATO states including the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It was this crisis that caused President Joe Biden to propose the June 2021 Geneva summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin to reduce tensions and improve U.S.-Russian relations, which were then at their worst since the end of the Cold War. More disturbingly, Russia’s achievement of nuclear supremacy over the United States could potentially enable it to coerce or blackmail U.S. leaders to do its bidding and unilaterally disarm or, far worse, launch a catastrophic attack on the U.S. homeland with a comparatively low risk of effective U.S. military retaliation. Such an attack would essentially have the effect of erasing the United States from the geopolitical map much as the Allies did to Germany at the end of World War II.
The commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard,testified to Congress in April 2021 that the United States might well face a two-front or even a three-front war if Russia were to invade Ukraine and/or other Eastern Europe nations, China were to attack Taiwan, and North Korea were to attack South Korea simultaneously and in coordination. Adm. Richard testified that the United States currently has no contingency plans for how to confront two allied nuclear superpowers in a future war. Thus, the ability of the United States and its allies to survive, let alone win, a war fought with such powerful, unconventional weapons against our enemies remains very much in doubt.
In a recent article in the National Interest, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs A. Wess Mitchell expanded upon this increasing danger warning that:
The greatest risk facing the twenty-first-century United States, short of an outright nuclear attack, is a two-front war involving its strongest military rivals, China and Russia. Such a conflict would entail a scale of national effort and risk unseen in generations, effectively pitting America against the resources of nearly half of the Eurasian landmass. It would stretch and likely exceed the current capabilities of the U.S. military, requiring great sacrifices of the American people with far-reaching consequences for U.S. influence, alliances, and prosperity. Should it escalate into a nuclear confrontation, it could possibly even imperil the country’s very existence. Given these high stakes, avoiding a two-front war with China and Russia must rank among the foremost objectives of contemporary U.S. grand strategy [emphasis added]. Yet the United States has been slow to comprehend this danger, let alone the implications it holds for U.S. policy…A debate has erupted among defense intellectuals about how to handle a second-front contingency…There has been much less discussion of how, if at all, U.S. diplomacy should evolve to avert two-front war. In the current budgetary environment, though, the most likely outcome could well be the worst of all worlds—namely, that America will continue to try to overawe all threats…while reducing real defense spending. Such an approach keeps U.S. power thinly spread…This creates an ideal setting for an increasingly aligned Russia and China to conduct repeated stress tests of U.S. resolve in their respective neighborhoods and, when conditions are ripe, make synchronous grabs for, say, Taiwan and a Baltic state.
U.S. concerns about the risks of fighting a coming war with Russia and China are well-grounded, given it is unprepared to fight even a purely conventional war with them. In 2019, former U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, and David Ochmanek, one of the Defense Department’s key defense planners, offered a public summary of the results from a series of classified recent war games. Ochmanek summarized the results of the wargames by stating: “When we fight Russia and China, ‘blue’ [the United States] gets its [butt] handed to it.” As The New York Times summarized, “In 18 of the last 18 Pentagon war games involving China in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. lost.” While many U.S. leaders have been keen to defend every nation threatened by Russian and Chinese aggression—including those thousands of miles away on their borders, such as Taiwan and Ukraine, where our enemies enjoy overwhelming theater military superiority—they need to adopt a more realistic assessment of the chances of the United States prevailing in such a conflict. In an article for War on the Rocks, Edward Geist, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, notes that in November 2018, the National Defense Strategy Commission found that “If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan … Americans could face a decisive military defeat … Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights.” He surmises that:
These findings suggest that, in a pitched battle with a near-peer adversary such as China, American forces may be defeated even if its commanders don’t make any mistakes…If defeat is to be prevented, U.S. strategy and planning may need to think about all the different forms defeat might take so as to be ready for alternative kinds of conflicts and concepts of operations … In the present, when near-peer adversaries are increasingly capable of defeating U.S. conventional forces on a theater level, U.S. decision-makers can no longer afford to pretend that defeat is not a real possibility. And, so long as policymakers do not take losing seriously, they are unlikely to take the difficult steps needed to prevent such a defeat [emphasis added] … Unfortunately, U.S. strategy has not planned seriously for protracted near-peer conflict since the early Cold War… It is much more unpleasant to envision losing than winning — but this does nothing to change the fact that defeat is an increasingly plausible possibility in a war with Russia or China…An essential first step could be to start taking the prospect of protracted near-peer conflict seriously. Whether or not U.S. policymakers want such a conflict, one may be imposed upon them — and at present, America is woefully underprepared for it.
While U.S. policymakers are right to focus in recent years on the threat of great power wars with Russia and China, it is imperative that U.S. leaders recognize the increasing prospects of defeat in such conflicts so that they can better determine whether fighting losing wars against America’s nuclear superpower enemies and risking the lives of tens of millions of Americans and our nation’s very existence best serves U.S. national security interests. Furthermore, U.S. policymakers made a strategic mistake in expanding NATO into eastern Europe in the late 1990s and subsequently into the former Soviet republic of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as the United States and its allies do not have sufficient military capability to defend its Eastern European members against potential Russian aggression. Last month, Stephen Philip Kramer, a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, expounded upon NATO’s inability to credibly defend its frontline NATO members from Russian aggression.
Putin has allied Russia to China, defying the basic rules of geopolitics. But Russia and Putin—including his supporters—cannot be ignored; Russia remains a threat because of its vast … nuclear arsenal and its newly acquired skills at projecting its limited power in clever and unpredictable ways. It is also important to recognize that if Putin’s regime feels seriously threatened, that there are few limits to what it might do to retain power… Almost every assessment of NATO’s ability to deploy and defend against a major Russian incursion into the Baltics comes to the stark conclusion that our current capabilities are not adequate; the alliance would be presented with a fait accompli before it could emplace traditional defensive forces to meet the obligations of Article V of the NATO charter…It is easy to answer the question of whether Europe can defend itself against a determined Russian invasion of the Baltics or other NATO allies in eastern Europe—the answer is no. As noted above, geography and the current correlation of military power favor a successful attack. The cost of mounting a counterattack to reclaim and secure the territory would be tremendous for all concerned—and catastrophic for the nations and people in the areas where kinetic warfare would actually occur. Beyond that, the destruction of infrastructure and other enabling capabilities—obvious targets in such a war—would have massive impacts on both sides. This is all without including the possibility of nuclear escalation. Even the limited use of tactical nuclear weapons would have devastating consequences.
“The phenomenon of organized crime [in the Israeli-Arab sector] endangers Israel more than external threats,” Sa’ar said.
The current wave of Arab-Israeli violence is a greater threat to the State of Israel than Hamas and Hezbollah, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told The Jerusalem PostMonday.
“The phenomenon of organized crime [in the Arab-Israeli sector] endangers Israel more than external threats,” he said in an interview that will appear in full in Friday’s Post.
Pressed if he really believed the issue was a greater threat to the country than threats posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, Sa’ar responded without hesitation, “In my view, yes.”
“If you do not know how to deal with this issue, it will cause neighborhoods to crumble to pieces from within,” he said.Addressing the potential pitfalls of involving the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in combating the murder wave, as opposed to leaving the police to handle it, Sa’ar said the “Shin Bet Law empowers the agency to deal with organized crime,” such as the current Arab-Israeli wave of violence that is “undermining the foundations of the rule of law.”
“It is smart,” he said. “This is a hard situation, and we need all of the state authorities. We are not using them to replace the police tomorrow, but they [the Shin Bet] can help in different ways.”
When it was noted that many Shin Bet officials would prefer not to be involved in anything beyond their more regular counterterrorism mission, Sa’ar said: “They will come committed to the effort” when called on
JEWS AND ARABS protest outside the home of public security minister Amir Ohana in Tel Aviv, earlier this year, against the high crime rate and violence in the Israeli-Arab communities. (credit: MIRIAM ASTER/FLASH90)
Furthermore, elements of the current wave of violence also have spilled over into nationalistic crimes, and the Shin Bet’s capabilities were most appropriate for combating the approximate 500,000 illegal weapons in the Arab-Israel sector, he said.
Sa’ar later said in New Hope’s faction meeting he would insist on completing the passage of a bill requiring minimum jail sentences for possessing illegal weapons. He said he would also widen the authority of economic courts to take action against the tax evasion and money laundering of organized crime and enable police to take more steps to prevent evidence from being lost.
Ra’am (United Arab List) head Mansour Abbas on Monday told his faction he was worried about the security of Arab society, which is suffering from violence and crime.
“Happily there are practical steps that are advancing as part of the five-year plan for eradicating violence and crime,” he said. “Our priorities are eradicating violence and crime in the Arab sector, advancing construction programs and land allocation for Arab society through various committees, including recognition of Negev settlements, and economic development of the Negev.”
The passage of the budget is critical for implementing a change in policy to achieve the goals his party set, Abbas said.
“We [did] not make a coalition to break it up,” he said. “We want it to continue working and to continue to exist, but we are demanding that the government and coalition fulfill its promises to Ra’am.”
New Delhi, Oct 3: Highlighting the multiple dangers of Pakistani nuclear power, the international community should watch Islamabads nuclear program cautiously at least till such time some form of stability returns to Afghanistan in order to prevent the countrys nuclear assets from landing in the hands of rogue elements, French journalist Roland Jacquard writes in the in Global Watch Analaysis.Pakistan’s association with its nuclear programme and adherence to nuclear safety norms has always been marred by lack of clarity and shrouded in mystery, including the very acquisition of nuclear know how, Jacquard said. From the very inception of the process of creating a nuclear weapon, Pakistan was aware that it was not in a position to put together a weapon system on its own. Moreover, Pakistan’s aspiration for acquiring a nuclear weapon saw an element of urgency as it needed to keep pace with India, which was confidently surging ahead with its own self sufficient nuclear program. This desperation compelled Pakistan to resort to unethical means to acquire sub systems for their nuclear program from different sources. Jacquard said.
With the Taliban coming to power setting up the ‘Islamic Emirate’ and trying to evolve as a viable nation, the overall political dynamics in the Pakistan Afghanistan theatre is bound to remain fluid for some time to come. Given the several challenges Pakistan faces in sustaining itself as a stable and responsible member of the global community inspite of a weak political establishment in place, the international community should closely focus on ensuring the safety and security of vital assets including the nuclear assets in Pakistan, he writes.
With the Taliban coming to power, there has been an enthusiastic narrative among the conservative members of the Pakistani society including government establishment who are excited and motivated by this development. In the event of any deteriorating political situation, the threat of hard core radical elements taking over the government or the vital national assets cannot anymore be considered remote. The role of IAEA and the larger global community would be crucial in this regard, Jacquard writes.
Most significantly, in the past, Taliban-linked groups have successfully attacked government and military targets in the country. In 2012, armed Islamist militants used rocket propelled grenades to attack the sensitive Minhas (Kamra) Air Force base which hosts the Pakistan air Force’s Research and Development facilities. Significantly, the then Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan stated that the Taliban was proud of the operation as their leadership had decided to attack the Kamra air base a long time ago. The base was also targeted earlier in 2007 and 2009 by suicide bombers.
In the past, Al Qaeda leaders had called for attacks on Pakistani nuclear facilities as well. Likewise, in September 2014, an attack was carried out by AQIS on Pakistani nuclear ship Zulfikar, docked at Karachi Naval Dockyard which had also drawn concern from the international community on the capability of such cadres to target vital facilities in Pakistan. Authorities in Pakistan had even alleged that the ship had been taken over by the AQIS operatives, Jacquard writes.
The years of recruitment of conservative minded individuals in the Pakistani armed forces has also ensured the presence of large number of service personnel who could get easily influenced by radical groups and leaders to pursue their agenda. Several members of ISI and Pakistani Army and Navy are also incorporated within the cadres of AQIS and affiliated organisations for coordination and facilitation. A classic case was that of Adil Abdul Qudoos, a senior AQIS leader, who was a Major in the Pakistani Army’s Signals Corps. It is from his home in Rawalpindi from where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (9/11 mastermind) was arrested in 2003. There have been other such cases in the past of defence personnel being linked to these organisations.
It has also been noticed that the Taliban inevitably maintains links with the Al Qaeda and its affiliates such as AQIS, LeT, Al Badr, IMU etc., which continue to operate in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban. The AQIS has operated very closely with the Taliban and were involved in fighting foreign forces alongside the Taliban. Such association from the battlefield cannot be written off overnight and the Taliban will continue to maintain these links while denying such connections.