Call Off Drone War, Influential U.S. Adviser
The Shadow Army is organized under a military structure, a US military intelligence officer familiar with the situation in northwestern Pakistan informed The Long War Journal. There are units analogous to battalion, brigade, and division formations found in Western armies.
The military organization has a clear-cut command structure with established ranks. A senior al Qaeda military leader is placed in command of the Shadow Army, while experienced officers are put in command of the brigades and subordinate battalions and companies.
The re-formed Brigade 055 is but one of an estimated three to four brigades in the Shadow Army. Several other Arab brigades have been formed, some consisting of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards as well as Iraqis, Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, North Africans, and others.
During the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion in 2001, the 055 Brigade served as "the shock troops of the Taliban and functioned as an integral part of the latter's military apparatus," al Qaeda expert Rohan Gunaratna wrote in Inside al Qaeda. At its peak in 2001, the 055 Brigade had an estimated 2,000 soldiers and officers in the ranks. The brigade was comprised of Arabs, Central Asians, and South Asians, as well as Chechens, Bosnians, and Uighurs from Western China.
The 055 Brigade has "completely reformed and is surpassing pre-2001 standards," an official said. The other brigades are also considered well trained.
One official said the mixing of the various Taliban and al Qaeda units has made distinctions between the groups somewhat meaningless.
1) The target in question poses a threat to the international community (not solely to U.S. forces or interests in Afghanistan); AND
2) It is located in an area outside of effective Pakistani sovereignty (e.g. in a non-controlled area of the FATA or in a micro-haven elsewhere) AND
3) Pakistan has tried but failed to extend its sovereignty into the area, or to deal effectively with the target on its own; AND
4) The target is positively identified and clearly distinguishable from surrounding populations, reducing the risk of collateral damage to a level acceptable to elected political leaders.
Some might argue that this sets an extremely high bar, so high that in practice such strikes would almost never be approved. I agree – that’s the whole point. Others might argue that there is no guarantee of success in this diplomatic strategy. Again, I agree – but would respectfully suggest that there are no guarantees in any strategy, military or otherwise, and that the current approach is having a severely de-stabilizing effect on Pakistan and risks spreading the conflict further, or even prompting the collapse of the Pakistani state, a scenario that would dwarf any of the problems we have yet faced in Iraq or Afghanistan.