The Karachi Project

While the world looks to Pakistan’s hinterlands, al Qaeda is swarming its largest city. Ali K. Chishti in Foreign Policy:

In a dramatic series of raids in February, Pakistani authorities captured more than two dozen top al Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani Taliban leaders, mostly in Pashtun areas on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. The list included Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s top deputy, Mullah Baradar, whose capture raised hopes that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan was finally gaining momentum.

The arrests also sparked a debate in Kabul and Washington over the seeming policy shift on the part of Pakistan, which for years had resisted cracking down on top insurgent leaders despite repeated entreaties from the United States. Some accounts suggested that Pakistan had nabbed Baradar to prevent him from cutting a separate peace deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was reportedly angered by his arrest.

In fact, NATO sources say, most of the Afghan Taliban frontier leadership — known as the Quetta Shura — had for at least three years been sheltered in Karachi under an ultra-secret program run by the Pakistani security establishment and known as the “Karachi Project.” The idea that most of the leadership of Taliban’s was stationed in Quetta was a “smoke screen,” a top NATO source told me. “In reality, it’s Karachi Shura,” confirmed a top NATO commander.

The origins of the Karachi Project reportedly date back to 2003, when, under intense U.S. pressure, then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf closed “Forward Section 23,” a combo of safe houses and camps in Indian-occupied Kashmir that had provided cover and refuge to top militants. More:

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