From Waziristan to Afghanistan, and Back
The Taliban repatriate their dead fighters from Afghanistan back into Pakistan's tribal agencies of North & South Waziristan
Pakistan's tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan continue to serve as Taliban safe havens and armed camps for attacks into Afghanistan. On January 11, the Pakistani military attacked a Taliban convoy moving into Afghanistan from the Pakistani border town of Gorvek in North Waziristan. The Pakistani military used "artillery and mortars" against the Taliban vehicles, and found heavy weapons, including rockets and mortars, after the attack. No Taliban were found. This is the first Pakistani military strike against the Taliban in North or South Waziristan since the signing of the Waziristan Accord in November. A U.S. military source source serving in Afghanistan tells us that the Pakistani military carried out the strike against the Taliban convoy only after being pressured by NATO.
As the Pakistanis attacked the Taliban in Gorvek, NATO forces hit a large Taliban formation directly across the border in Paktika, Afghanistan. Up to 150 Taliban are estimated to have been killed during the air and ground strikes.
The Taliban were sent by Jalaluddin Haqqani, according to Major General Benjamin Freakley, commander of the U.S. military's Combined Joint Task Force 76. "It is clear to me that some of these men were just either collected in a poor part of a village or perhaps from a madrassa or perhaps from a refugee camp and told to come fight." The Associated Press said the Taliban were "ill-equipped fighters, some wearing plastic bags on their feet."
"Jalaluddin Haqqani is operating from inside Pakistan and sending men to fight in Afghanistan," said Mj. Gen.Freakley.
The Taliban brought some of their dead and wounded home to North Waziristan. The bodies of 25 Taliban who were killed during the battle with NATO forces were brought back to Miranshah, where "the Taliban asked everyone to attend the funerals of these martyrs."
"About 25 other militants wounded in the fighting were being treated at private clinics in Miranshah and another 25 were being treated elsewhere in the region," according to The News.
The BBC reports 175 Taliban from South Waziristan have been killed in Afghanistan since 2005. "Families of the dead fighters were recently awarded certificates of commendation by the Taliban." The Taliban ceremony "was presided over by Baitullah Mehsud" and "was held on 28 December in the village of Spinki Raghzai, eyewitnesses said."
Baitullah is described as the most powerful Taliban commander in South Waziristan. In February 2005, he signed the peace deal with the Pakistani authorities, which ceded authority of South Waziristan to the Taliban. After the agreement, Baitullah established established 16 Taliban offices throughout the agency, and commands a lashkar [or tribal militia] of 30,000, which includes thousands of Taliban fighters.
While Taliban control of the tribal agencies is no secret, the Pakistani government refuses to take meaningful action, and continues to press negotiations with the "militants" and "miscreants."
See The Fall of Waziristan: An Online History for more information.