WASHINGTON: The Pak-Afghan region has the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world, warns Gen John W. Nicholson, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.
In an annual assessment of US military operations in Afghanistan this year, the general also took credit for rescuing former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son from a militant hideout in Afghanistan earlier this year and for killing the perpetrator of the Dec 16, 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
At a recent news briefing at the Pentagon, Gen Nicholson said that there were 98 US-designated terrorist groups around the world and 20 of them were in the Pak-Afghan region.
“This represents the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world,” he added.
Thirteen of these 20 groups were based in Afghanistan and seven in Pakistan.
Gen Nicholson said that the groups operating in this region often “mix and converge”, which made them even more dangerous.
“For example, Islamic State of Khorasan today is formed of members of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and even some former members of the Afghan Taliban,” he said.
Throughout the year, US counter-terrorism (CT) forces focused on these groups, conducting over 350 operations against Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group in 2016 and dozens more against other groups.
In these operations, US forces killed or captured nearly 50 leaders of AQIS (Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent) leaders. Additionally, about 200 other members of Al Qaeda and the Al Qaeda Islamic State groups were killed or captured as well.
“Our CT forces rescued the son of the former Pakistani prime minister Gilani in a raid against Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan… and killed five emirs of these 20 terrorist groups,” he said. “We killed Hamidullah, the emir of the Islamic Jihad Union, and Omar Khalifa, who is the Tariq Gidar Group emir.”
The Tariq Gidar Group carried out the attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, and killed over 130 children. They also attacked the Bacha Khan University where they killed dozens of professors and students, as well as a Pakistan air force base.
On Oct 23, US forces killed Farouq al-Qatari, the emir of eastern Afghanistan, for Al Qaeda Islamic State.
He was also their external operations director. Qatari and his accomplices were involved in planning threats against the United States last year.
The US forces also killed Mullah Mansour, the emir of Taliban and a designated UN terrorist, Gen Nicholson said.
He said he was not in a position to comment on a recent telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US President-elect Donald Trump but he was looking forward to meeting the new Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. “I’ll meet him upon my return to the region (this) week,” he added. “And there are many areas of mutual cooperation with the Pakistanis with respect to the border, our joint efforts against terrorism and so forth. And so, we’re looking forward to working closely with them going forward.”
While responding to a question, Gen Nicholson said the Haqqani network still posed the greatest threat to the United States and its coalition partners and to the Afghans.
He recalled that the Haqqanis, who were still holding five American citizens hostage, remained a malfunctioned
Mohammad Asghar — Updated about 2 hours ago
RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan International Airlines ATR-42 that crashed into the mountains near Havelian on Wednesday had been flying smoothly at 13,375 feet when its left engine malfunctioned, exploded and damaged a wing, an initial inquiry report by the Civil Aviation Authority available with Dawn says. So far PIA has not released any report on the cause of the crash. Earlier it had said the real cause of the accident would only be determined once the data from the black box had been analysed.
The plane had descended in an unsymmetrical manner after which it lost altitude in the few moments before it crashed.
The plane had started bumping at around 4.12pm, which is when the pilot had reported the engine failure. It gradually lost 2,000 feet, entered free fall and lost another 1,800 feet in a millisecond.
The report says that the plane had been stable for a few milliseconds and the pilot gained some control. It glided for a few seconds before the free fall at around 4.13pm but within minutes disappeared from the radar.
The report suggests that the ATR 42-500 is one of the most recent versions of the aircraft. Its first delivery was made in 1995 while the plane in question was delivered to the PIA on May 14, 2007. The aircraft had one instance of an engine failure in 2014. The engine was replaced and since then, it had been operating smoothly.
The ATR 42-500 has six-bladed propellers powered by PW127E engines rated at 2,400 shp (1,800kW) for improved high performance and increased cruise speed. Its engines are certified to be safe and strong in a variety of conditions. It had flown 18,740 hours before it crashed on Wednesday near Havelian.
The weather conditions in the area at the time of crash were normal at 4.10pm. Temperature was recorded at 23°C, dew point at 10°C, humidity at 44pc, air pressure at 1,016 hPa and visibility at 16km. The wind’s direction was south-east and the speed 7.4km/h. The pilot of the ill-fated plane had extensive experience of flying in northern areas. “The PK-661 flight was damaged structurally. Since it fell freely, we can say with certainty that the aircraft was not intact and it had lost its shape and failed to glide,” the report says.
It says that ATRs can glide even if both engines are switched off or have malfunctioned. Had the plane’s structure been intact, it could have glided for 15km to 25km before hitting the ground as it had been flying at around 13,000 feet.
However, an aircraft will fall freely if there is structural damage as hampered aerodynamics does not allow it to glide with gradual descent. There is a possibility then that the failed engine had exploded and damaged the wing attached to it.
Pilots have a way of shutting down an engine. Before that the plane needs to descend and reduce speed to match the aerodynamics of the situation the aircraft is in, which the pilots of PK-661 did, as can be seen in the graph.
Pilots do not shut down a problematic engine at once. They bring the plane to a certain altitude and speed to make sure that the remaining engine can handle the load and aerodynamics. The pilot had been trying to do that but the failed engine had probably caught fire and damaged the wing, the report says.
What seemingly happened, the inquiry report suggests, is that the pilot had reduced speed and dropped altitude after which the plane free fell due to structural damage. He had shut down the malfunctioned engine, which had exploded before that and damaged the wing.
The aircraft was flying at a good height and speed, and chances of stalling were unlikely. The plane had not run out of fuel as was clear from the burns at the crash site.
Complete details of the PK-661 crash will be possible after decoding information from the black boxes recovered on Wednesday night and investigators are still looking for the speed sensors. They were shifted to Islamabad to be sent abroad for analysis.
courtesy : dawn news