March 11, 2006
Consolidating Power in Talibanistan
Fighting continues in North Waziristan; Shariah law declared in South Waziristan; The worst-case scenario
The Battle of Talibanistan continues to rage. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Agency regions of North and South Waziristan have become de facto Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds, despite government attempts to establish control. Throughout the week a series of battles and skirmishes between Taliban and foreign "miscreants", and Pakistani Army and paramilitary forces have occurred in Miranshah, the regional garrison in North Waziristan, and outlying towns and villages of Mir Ali, Norak and Datakhel.
The Pakistani Army claims to have killed well over 100 Taliban and foreign "miscreants" and destroyed compounds, mosques and madrassa of tribesmen supporting the Taliban. The Taliban is not the only side taking casualties; Pakistan's Interior Minister claims "At least 120 pro-government leaders and soldiers have been killed in the ongoing operation in North Waziristan tribal agency." The fighting isn't as one-sided as the Pakistani Army would want you to believe.
The most disturbing element of the news trickling out from the region relates to the extent of the Taliban's power in the tribal areas. The London Times provides an account of the fighting from Ashraf Khan, a local who fled the scene of fighting. The Taliban have instituted elements of Shariah law in North Waziristan, and the government of Pakistan is powerless to stop it. In fact, the government was the direct target of the Taliban; “The Taliban were arresting people, government employees or those supporting them, and beheading them. The Army came and we were watching them, they were fighting, they came in Jeeps and helicopters and they were bombing the area.” Ironically, the Pakistanis who fled the fighting crossed into Afghanistan for protection.
In South Waziristan, clerics have usurped the law of the tribes, and openly declared Shariah law. The Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times provides the details:
The Pakistani government and military can no longer hide the rise of Talibanistan, and this has serious implications for the stabilization of Afghanistan and the reorganization and revitalization of al-Qaeda. In an email conversation with Dan Darling, he asks the 800-pound-gorilla-in-the-room question:
None of the options are good. If Pakistan fails to reestablish control in the tribal belt, al-Qaeda will have a base of operations, and a ready access to recruits and training facilities - far more so than it currently enjoys today. The U.S. would almost be forced to take direct military action to suppress the growth of al-Qaeda. This could include covert and overt ground and air campaigns (I'd wager there are covert hunter-killer teams teamed up with Pakistani 'scouts' already).
But this creates an entire new set of potential problems: the possible destabilization of the Musharraf government and nuclear armed Pakistan falling into the hands of the Islamist parties, who are openly sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Any plan for direct military involvement in Talibanistan will need to include a plan to neutralize Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, lest it fall into the wrong hands. And the United States isn't the only country concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nukes. India has a vested interest in assuring the same Islamist parties which fuel the terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir do not possess the power to lite the nuclear match on the subcontinent.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 11, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
More Problems in Western Pakistan
An update on North & South Talibanistan, and across the border in Afghanistan
The situation in Pakistan's rebellious tribal regions worsens. , the tribes have invited the Taliban to "establish their offices to control the law and order situation in the agency," and according to an unnamed official, "the move has been welcomed by a number of officials including military [officers]." The tribes and Pakistani military wronglybelieve the Taliban will not be enforcing Shariah law and "instead of spreading hate and extremism, will be providing justice to the resident of the largely lawless tribe." Portions of South Waziristan has essentially been turned over to Taliban control, without a fight from the Pakistani military. The question is will the Pakistani military and the local tribes who oppose the Taliban's extremism oppose them.
Land mines confiscated from bunkers in Afghanistan. Image courtesy of ISAF.
In North Waziristan, the towns of Miranshah, Khatti Kalay, Miran Kalay, Porakhel, Tapi, Esha and Dattakhel are being deserted by the local residents out of fear of fighting. Pakistani forces are razing Taliban owned madrassa, the schools where the Taliban indoctrinates the youth with education in radical Islam. The madrassa owned by Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani has destroyed. Haqqani is one of the more effective Taliban commanders, and Pakistani police are said to be actively hunting him.
Across the border in Afghanistan, two large weapons caches were uncovered. One cache contained over 400 pounds of explosives, and another was a massive find, which purportedly include "1 bunker of detonators, 2 bunkers containing a total of 80 tonnes of Russian TNT, 1 bunker with 15,000 Anti Personnel and 10,000 Anti Tank mines..."
A bunker of explosives confiscated in Afghanistan. Image courtesy of ISAF.
In Ghazni city, five government supporters, including a former provincial governor who was outspoken against the Taliban, were murdered in a Taliban ambush
The Afghan police have arrested two couriers in Nangarhar province. This provides supporting evidence that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri are in Pakistan's tribal belt.One was a Taliban district leader during prior to the regime's fall, and "was carrying letters from Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri," and the other courier "was arrested with some 500 'night' letters which asked people not to cooperate with the 'illegitimate government' and to obey orders of Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri." Making distinctions between the Taliban and their al-Qaeda sponsors is often meaningless, a lesson the Pakistanis have yet to learn.
By Bill Roggio | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1) | Print Article
March 22, 2006
Afghan Army Battles Taliban at Border Crossing?
Fifteen Taliban may have been killed outside Spin Boldak; Further news on North & South Talibanistan
Map of Spin Boldak and the border regions on the Afghan/Pakistani border
The influx of Taliban fighters from the Pakistani side of the border has long been a source of concern for the Afghan Government and Coalition forces. Today, the Afghan National Army reported it intercepted a Taliban raiding party crossing the border at Spin Boldak in Kandahar province, and killed fifteen Taliban during the fighting. An Afghan Army officer claims Mullah Shien, a mid-level Taliban commander, was killed during the engagement, and observed four Taliban were observed crossing back into Pakistan. Naimat Khan Noorzai, the deputy governor of Kandahar and a member of the Noorzai tribe, states those killed were not Taliban, but members of a local tribe who "were killed in cold blood because of a tribal conflict." The Afghan government has opened an investigation. There is also the possibility this is related to Afghanistan's drug trade.
The border crossing at Spin Boldak sits astride a main roed between Kandahar city and Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. al-Qaeda and the Taliban are believed to be operating from Balochistan, and the province is mired in a renewed insurgency. Balochi tribal chief Nawab Akbar Bugti is believed to be directing the insurgency from "a series of large caves in the mountains of Dera Bugti with several thousand armed tribesmen." Yet another gas pipeline was attacked by the Balochi insurgency.
The Guardian reports the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of North & South Waziristan are now essentially under Taliban control. The report essentially matches our analysis of the situation in Waziristan which started in January and continued throughout the month of March. Adding insult to injury, the Taliban destroyed a government sponsored radio tower in the garrison city of Wana, South Waziristan. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government claims "foreign terrorists not to be given amnesty again" (note the again), it is prepared to "set up peace committees in Waziristan" and that the "Al-Qaeda network has been dismantled and the current anti-state activities are sporadic and of separate nature.”
Pakistan has essentially lost control of its border provinces in the tribal regions, and the renewed insurgency in Balochistan will only bleed off more forces needed to reestablish control in Waziristan - assuming the government has the will to do so. In the mean time, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are arming, training and pouring forces into Afghanistan in an attempt to derail the political progress and fragile security situation in the nascent democracy.
By Bill Roggio | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0) | Print Article
Islamic clerics who sympatize with Taliban = targetted assasinations
March 23, 2006
The Forgotten War in Central Asia
A status update on developments in Afghanistan & Talibanistan
In Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Kandak (battalion), 1st Brigade of the 205th Corps killed six Taliban fighters after striking a Taliban “command cell” in Uruzgan province. Equipment “intended for the manufacture of improvised explosive devices” was also seized in the assault. CENTCOM reports this is the fourth operation this battalion conducted in the past month “deep in what had been the insurgents’ safe haven.”
The border crossing incident at Spin Boldak, where the Afghan National Army claimed to have killed 15 Taliban has become even more confused. Yesterday, the vice-governor of Khandahar claimed these were civilian Afghanis. Today Pakistan has lodged a protest and stated those killed were Pakistani citizens. Although one of those killed was wanted by the Pakistani government, the claim is they were not Taliban. Husain Haqqani looks at the historical and recent events which have contributed to the decline in relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Across the border in Talibanistan, formerly known as Waziristan, the Taliban continues to consolidate power. In South Waziristan, a telephone exchange was destroyed, and a cleric was murdered. Maulana Sibghatullah, pro-government cleric, was assassinated by “attackers, who were masked.” Dawn notes that “that the cleric had been associated with the Taliban in the past. However, during the unrest in the agency he dissociated himself from the group and entered into an agreement with the government.” In a conversation with counterterrorism expert Dan Darling, he notes that murdering clerics who do not tow the party line is a common tactic of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and an age-old tactic as well:
The Asia Times’ Syed Saleem Shahzad reports there is a “Revolution in the Pakistani mountains” as the three main tribes of the regions, the Wazirs, the Mehsuds and the Dawar have, for the first time in history, united and a backing the Taliban. This report should be tempered with the fact that there are still large segments of the tribes which back the Pakistani government, or are ambivalent to the Taliban’s goals, however, as recent event have born out, the pro-Taliban factions certainly have the upper hand in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The Daily Times provides a small ray of hope and reports the Council of Islamic Ideology “has made 22 recommendations to the government on how to end terrorism in the country, along with the recommendation that incidents of terrorism should not dubbed as jihad.” The CCI is an influential group established by the Barelvi sect of Islam, which makes up the majority of Pakistani Muslims and founded Pakistan’s ruling Muslim League. The CCI confronts the problem of terrorism and its association with Islam head on in a report titled ‘Islam and Terrorism.’
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Musharraf issued a threat to the foreign ‘miscreants’ during a speech, “All foreign militants should leave Pakistan, otherwise they would be crushed.” The terrorist in Pakistan are not all foreign, however, and the Taliban was largely a Pakistani movement. The Council of Islamic Ideology understands this, and Musharraf, while he may recognize this as well, has not addressed this publicly.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 23, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
Won't last through the summer.
March 26, 2006
The Forgotten War In Central Asia Continues
More fighting in Talibanistan, and Helmand province, Afghanistan
Miranshah by air.
The current fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan are not isolated events, but intricately linked to the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan's lawless tribal belts. As the Taliban consolidates power in North & South Waziristan, they are able to train, arm and move their fighters across the porous border to strike at the Afghan government and military, and Coalition forces.
Pakistan has waged an ineffective war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and has essentially become isolated in the garrisons of Miranshah (North Waziristan) and Wana (South Waziristan). And as the recent battle in Miranshah demonstrates, Pakistan's hold on the cities is tenuous.
Yesterday, the Taliban attacked a security checkpoint in Miranshah, killing one Pakistani soldier and wounding four. The Pakistani military counterattacked and claims to have inflicted heavy casualties. “We suspect foreign militants among the dead,” said Major General Shaukat Sultan, "Fifteen to 20 miscreants were killed.” Further fighting raged in the towns of Saidgai and Mir Ali, and four soldiers and four "miscreants" were killed. Local residents reported the Pakistani military attacked a madrassa and encountered return fire from the Taliban within. In the restive province of Balochistan, "nearly 60 tribesmen suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces and government installations."
Syed Saleem Shazad reports the Pakistani military may be using advanced technology while combating the Taliban in western Pakistan, including "listening devices and other surveillance equipment," as well as "helicopter gunships equipped with night vision." The Pakistani military has conducted a low-tech psychological operation, and dropped pamphlets in the tribal areas. The "miscreants" are the problems, not the Pakistanis, "This war is against foreign terrorists and their harborers who are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Jews and Hindus against the state of Pakistan." Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao denies the Taliban is even in country, “There are no Taliban in the tribal areas. It is only propaganda."
Meanwhile, the Coalition and Afghani military battle the Taliban in Helmand province. Seven Taliban and one U.S. solder were killed during a strike against twenty Taliban. Helicopter gunships and airstrikes were called in for support, and the Taliban took over 30% casualties.
The Taliban claim to have assembled a brigade of suicide bombers and will target the British units who are arriving in Helmand. "We are happy that they are coming to Helmand," said Mullah Razayar Noorzai, the Taliban commander of Helmand province, "It is both a trial and a great honour for all Muslims. We will now get a fair chance to kill them... We have already prepared 600 suicide bombers alone for the Helmand, and you'll see that we will turn it into their graveyard."
The Jamestown Foundation looks at the problems in Helmand, a province that is rife with opium production, unemployment, poor governance and a cadre of committed jihadists, and concludes the Taliban is working to bloody the British contingent and cleave them from the Coalition, "The consensus in Afghanistan is that the surge in violence is directly linked to the new mission of the British-led NATO International Security Assistance Force in Helmand. This force will be dominated by the British 16th Air Assault Brigade. It seems likely that the insurgents, alongside al-Qaeda, will seek to test the resolve of the British troops early, hoping to inflict serious losses on their forces."
The British, Canadians and Dutch are taking over a large portion of the security in southeastern Afghanistan. The will of the West will be tested this year.
By Bill Roggio | Posted March 26, 2006 | Permalink | Print Article
Which side? Mushareff or the Taliban?
Forgotten war? Forgotten by whom? Certainly not those that have fought there, are fighting there, or have havd been killed or injured there.
They took advantage a highly unusual turn of events, the earthquake, the suddenly drained the vast majority of military manpower and resources that Pakistan had. Now the winter has passed, and those troops will be heading back this way over the summer.
It may or may not turn out to be a pretty big tactical blunder on the part of the Taliban.... they have consolidated in one region and made themselves very good targets, and may come out of this summer weaker than they would have been had they just laid low.
Time will tell.
Operation Linebacker 2: Electric Boogaloo
The Futurist is one pundit who is actually more pessimistic about Pakistan than Iran and Iraq. Rather a lone voice right now but interesting.