Ambush in North Waziristan kills 17 soldiers
NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.
13 soldiers wounded, 5 Taliban killed as Pakistan's insurgency intensifies; Pakistan still attempts to appease the Taliban
Taliban fighters conducted a successful ambush against a Pakistani military convoy in the Madakhel region of North Waziristan. Seventeen Pakistani soldiers were killed and at least 13 were wounded after the Taliban initiated the ambush with a roadside bomb, then raked the convoy with small arms fire. Five Taliban fighters are reported to have been killed in the engagement.
Elsewhere in North Waziristan, seven people were wounded in two bomb attacks. The first bombing targeted a military convoy, while the second targeted the home of a former federal minister. On July 17, three soldiers were among four people killed in a suicide attack on a checkpoint in Mir Ali, while three other checkpoints were destroyed without casualties.
The most powerful Taliban commander in North Waziristan is Sadiq Noor, who runs a sharia court, collects taxes, and conducts operations against U.S. forces in Khost province in neighboring Afghanistan. Abu Kasha commands an al Qaeda contingent. An American intelligence source told The Long War Journal that Abu Kasha is the key link between al Qaeda's Shura Majlis (main Shura or consultive body) and the Taliban. There are several al Qaeda and Taliban training camps in North Waziristan.
Today's attack in North Waziristan is the latest in the Taliban offensive against the Pakistani government. Over the past five days, there have been major suicide attacks in Islamabad, North Waziristan, Swat, and Dera Ismail Khan. Yesterday's suicide attack in the capital of Islamabad targeted Pakistan's ousted chief justice. There have been numerous small arms and roadside bomb attacks against government forces over the same time period. The Taliban has intensified attacks against the army and Frontier Corps forces since the Pakistani government assaulted the Taliban-supporting Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, and killed Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, its leader.
The Pakistani military has lost well over 100 soldiers over the past week. During military operations in the tribal areas from 2004 to 2006, the government claimed it lost only 700 troops, while American military and intelligence sources tell The Long War Journal the number is closer to 3,000. Using the Pakistani estimate of 700, the military lost one-seventh the amount of forces in five days than it lost in over two years of operations. The power of the Taliban is clearly growing in the Northwest Frontier Province.
Yet the Pakistani government still insists on negotiating with the Taliban and seeks to restore the negated Waziristan Accord, which gave the Taliban de facto control over the tribal agency. On Tuesday the chief secretary of the Northwest Frontier Province held a meeting with provincial leaders and security officials and stated government troops would not be used to attack the Taliban, but are available to provide back up for local security forces.
"The meeting dispelled impression regarding apprehensions about a possible military operation in the Swat district," Dawn reported. "The chief secretary informed the meeting that the President and the Prime Minister had categorically announced that there was no need of any such operation when the problems with the people like Maulana Fazlullah could be resolved through talks and traditional 'Jirga.'" The Pakistani government signed a peace deal with Maulana Fazlullah, who has been launching attacks against government forces since the attack on the Lal Masjid.