Unrest Continues in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Taliban claims to have set up the “Islamic Republic of Waziristan”
The fighting in southeastern Afghanistan has not abated. A suicide bomber has attacked a police outpost in Kandahar, the former stronghold of the Taliban, and thirteen police are killed and eleven wounded. Another suicide bomber is intercepted before reaching his target, Ustad Atta Mohammad, the governor of Balkh province. The terrorist is identified as being from Mali, and was under surveillance by Afghan police for some time prior to his arrest.
This follows last week’s arrest of eight foreign fighters, including five Bangladeshis, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi. Four Taliban fighters are detained in the province of Ghazni. A U.S. soldier is killed in a gunfight in the city of Mihtarlam, and one Taliban fighter is killed and another is wounded, along with two Afghan police, in Khost.
While the fighting continues in Afghanistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda have claimed to have set up the “Islamic Republic of Waziristan”, much like al Qaeda in Iraq did in Haditha and Qaim, and established bases in North and South Waziristan. Adnkronos International provides a summary of the Taliban propaganda tape:
The newly released video obtained by AKI, begins with footage of headless bodies of alleged criminals around the Miramshah Bazaar in North Waziristan. The criminals have been executed by the Taliban, who then come out into the open and appear to take over the control of North Waziristan. Thousands of people are then seen to be welcoming them as they announce the establishment of Islamic state.
The second segment in the video revolves around the establishment of powerful bases by the Taliban. Thousands of young men wearing turbans are seen moving with their weapons. Their commanders select a squad among them to carry out a guerrilla mission to attack the US base in the south-eastern Afghan province of Khost. The men are seen wearing headbands bearing the slogan: “There is no God but one God, Mohammed is the messenger of God”.
The youths then emerge out from their bases in the night and attack a US base in Khost. After a 30-minute battle, the US base is in flames and the members of the squad return to their base.
The attack on the base in Khost is purely for propaganda effect, as a night strike makes for great visuals (“the US base is in flames”) but rocket attacks are often ineffective. The images of thousands of Taliban fighters gathered in the open is worrisome, as it indicates they are comfortable in their security situation. The taliban believes the Pakistani Army cannot touch them and the U.S. is restrained from cross-border attacks except for in the most select circumstances, such as the Damadola strike.
The report goes on to explain how the Taliban is attempting to revive their Islamist movement among the Pashtun tribes by portraying the tribes as being involved with criminal enterprise and Western influences (“the gangs have various sanctuaries where they take drugs, drink alcohol and keep the kidnapped men, women and children.”) This is a powerful recruiting tool for the Taliban, and it has worked in the past.
According to the Pak Tribune, the Taliban is preparing to attack the NATO peacekeeping contingent which will soon deploy in southeastern Afghanistan. “Their targets will be the 3300 British and 2000 Canadian troops in Helmand province and the 1400 Dutch peacekeepers in neighboring Oruzgan.” This would be an attempt to break the NATO Alliance and put further pressure on the U.S. military to provide more troops for the region.
Western Pakistan appears to be awash in an insurgency. Three Pakistani soldiers are wounded when their truck hit a land mine in Waziristan. Police are investigating two train derailments which killed five and injured twenty-seven, and suspect sabotage. A gas pipeline is destroyed in Balochistan, and six people are killed in the ensuing fight. A Taliban commander is buried in Balochistan. The Pakistani government claims it will “take decisive action to flush out miscreants,” in Balochistan, but does not plan to use the military to do so. Shortly afterward, the military conducts an attack on Nawab Bugti, the home of the Nawab Akbar Bugti, who is believed to be the leader of the Baluch resistence.
While the bulk of the visible fighting appears to be occurring in Afghanistan, the real root of the problem lies in Pakistan. Despite the Pakistani government’s protestations, the tribal regions are essentially a safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban, and Balochistan remains an area of instability which diverts Pakistan’s energies against the Islamist terrorists. The Pakistani military is unable or unwilling to “take decisive action” over a sustained period of time to rid the region of their influence.
The attack against high-value targets in Damadola may become the norm rather than the exception if al Qaeda and the Taliban are able to solidify their bases in the region. President Musharraf has few good options, as U.S. strikes are sure to enflame the Islamist elements, however he cannot countenance the presences of al Qaeda as they have tried to assassinate him three times in the past. And U.S. patience is not infinite.