NOT ENTIRELY CONFIRMED, BUT INTRIGUING - AT 8:38 A.M. ET: Pakistani troops have made a fascinating discovery during a sweep:
SHERWANGAI, Pakistan — Pakistani soldiers battling their way into a Taliban stronghold along the Afghan border have seized passports that may be linked to 9/11 suspects, as they confront an enemy skilled in operating in a mountainous terrain with endless ways to wage a guerrilla war.
The military on Thursday took foreign and local journalists for a first look inside the largely lawless territory since it launched a ground offensive here in mid-October. The U.S.-backed operation is focused on a section of the tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban are based and are believed to shelter Al Qaeda.
Soldiers displayed passports seized in the operation, among them a German document belonging to a man named Said Bahaji. That matches the name of a man thought to have been a member of the Hamburg cell that conceived the 9/11 attacks. Bahaji is believed to have fled Germany shortly before the attacks in New York and Washington.
COMMENT: We have to be cautious here, but the key question is whether this evidence was found in a Taliban or Al Qaeda stronghold. We are being told by the smug set that they are separate, that we should be going after Al Qaeda rather than the Taliban, but the linkage between the two could easily be strong. After all, the Tals gave Al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan.
This warrants much further inquiry, by the press and by our intelligence services. The relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda clearly must play a role in our future strategy in the region, especially as the Taliban is threatening the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan.
October 30, 2009