Artillery, helicopters assault two camps near the Afghan border
As the security situation in North Waziristan and the greater Northwest Frontier Province deteriorates, the Pakistani military launched an assault on two “militant” bases near the Afghan border. The military struck two Taliban and al Qaeda bases in the village of Daygan with artillery and Cobra gunship helicopters. “No ground forces were used in the assault,” the Associated Press reported. The attack, which occurred 10 miles west of Miramshah, lasted four hours.
Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said the attacks in North Waziristan are not linked to the Camp David talks between President George Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, where the situation in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province was a focal point. Since the release of the National Intelligence Estimate this summer, which stated the Northwest Frontier Province has become an al Qaeda haven, there have been conflicting statements on whether the US would take unilateral action against al Qaeda inside Pakistani territory.
While there has been much talk of a pending Pakistani operation to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda in North Waziristan, an all out assault has yet to materialize. Pakistani military operations have been defensive in nature. The Taliban has repeatedly launched ambushes and mortar and rocket attacks against Pakistani troops that have deployed in the region, and Taliban casualties have occurred during counterattacks. Pakistan has lost 200 troops in the tribal areas since July 19. Today’s action highlights the hesitance of the Pakistani military to engage in ground combat in North Waziristan, as the military relied on helicopters and artillery to destroy the camp.
The strike on the Daygan camps are the latest in a series against al Qaeda and Taliban training facilities strung across the Northwest Frontier Province. Compounds in Damadola, Danda Saidgai, Chingai, Zamazola, and again in Danda Saidgai over the course of 2006 and 2007. Most recently, a camp in Mami Rogha in North Waziristan was struck in June 2007, killing upwards of 32 Taliban and al Qaeda operatives. These strikes have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan.
The US is believed to have been behind the bulk of these strikes, with the Pakistani government providing cover for the operations. The Danda Saidgai attack, which was launched against Osama bin Laden’s elite Black Guard, was conducted by US Special Forces. Unmanned US Predator attack aircraft have been spotted in several attacks, and others occurred at night, which stretch the limits of the Pakistani military’s capabilities.