Pakistan strikes at Taliban in Khyber agency


Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat.

The Pakistani government has launched an operation targeting the Taliban in the Khyber tribal agency along the Afghan border. The operation is led by the paramilitary Frontier Corps and police.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, has responded by halting peace negotiations and threatening to conduct attacks throughout Pakistan.

The operation was launched in the early morning by elements from the Frontier Corps, the Frontier Constables, and police commandos. The Pakistani Army has not committed to the fight at this time, but gunship are said to have conducted over flights in the region. Sixty Pakistanis have been reported killed and 80 wounded during the early stages of the fighting.

Reports indicate the Pakistani forces are focusing in on the Bara region bordering Peshawar, where local Taliban commander Haji Namdar holds sway. An estimated 700 Frontier Corps paramilitaries are said to have deployed to the area.

The military also reinforced Peshawar, where the Taliban is gaining ground. Roadblocks and checkpoints have been established in Peshawar in an effort to halt the movement of Taliban into the provincial capital. Government and security officials, business leaders, and residents have said the Taliban are poised to take Peshawar.

The Pakistani government has "given full authority" to General Pervaiz Kayani, the Army Chief of Staff, to conduct operations to secure Peshawar. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani said the federal government fully supports efforts by the provincial government of the Northwest Frontier Province to conduct peace talks with the Taliban.

Khyber has seen increased Taliban activity this year. Seventeen members of the Frontier Corps were captured just days ago after they refused to abandon their checkpoints. In March, the Taliban blew up 42 trucks transporting fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan was kidnapped in Khyber in February.

The road through Peshawar to the Torkham border crossing into Afghanistan is NATO's main supply line. An estimated 70 percent of supplies pass through Peshawar and Khyber en route to Coalition forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have been working to disrupt this flow of supplies to cripple the NATO effort.

The Taliban suspend talks, threaten a nationwide terror campaign

The Pakistani Taliban has reacted to the Khyber offensive by suspending the ongoing peace talks in South Waziristan and threatening additional violence.

"The talks will remain suspended until the government stops talking about operations and attacks against us," Baitullah said. "I am warning that the fire will not only burn in tribal areas and Frontier Province, it will engulf Punjab and Sindh also."

Baitullah was behind the devastating suicide bombing and armed campaign in 2007 and early 2008. Hundreds of Pakistanis were killed in scores of suicide bombing that extended into the capital of Islamabad and other major cities.

Baitullah's forces fought the military to a standstill in South Waziristan and killed and kidnapped hundreds of Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary forces. Allied Taliban groups fought successful campaigns against the Pakistani military in the tribal agencies and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The violence forced the Pakistani government to the negotiating table. This year, the government signed peace deals in North Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur, Malakand, and Mohmand. Negotiations are under way in Kohat and Mardan.

Haji-Namdar.jpg

Haji Namdar.

The Taliban in Khyber

The Pakistani security forces face a group of virulent local Taliban commanders who are often at odds with each other.

Haji Namdar runs a Taliban group called the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice. The Taliban group enforces a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, and advocates fighting US forces in Afghanistan. Namdar's followers beat Muslims for shaving their beards and neglecting to attend mosque.

Namdar's forces have increased their influence throughout the Khyber agency. His fighters are said to have joined the radical Lashkar-e-Islam. The group is run by Mangal Bagh who claims to have 180,000 fighters.

Lashkar-e-Islam has fought pitched battles with Ansar-ul-Islam, a rival group. Ten people were killed in heavy fighting between the two groups just days ago.

Rivalries between Baitullah Mehsud's movement and Namdar exist. Namdar called for Baitullah's supporters in Khyber to leave the region after a suicide bomber targeted his headquarters in Bara. Twenty of Namdar's supporters were wounded in the attack carried out by the Hakeemullah Group. Hakeemullah Mehsud, Baitullah's deputy, took credit for the attack.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistan strikes at Taliban in Khyber agency"

Posted by LDG at June 28, 2008 11:36 AM ET:

@Bill Roggio, requesting a clarification.

from the text:
"The Pakistani Army has not committed to the fight at this time, but Apache gunship are said to have conducted over flights in the region."

-- we sure about that report? Army of Pakistan flies variants on the AH-1 Cobra...

Posted by Bill Roggio at June 28, 2008 11:56 AM ET:

An error on my part, I should have just said 'helicopters' - Ive corrected the text, thanks.

Posted by LDG at June 28, 2008 12:10 PM ET:

Most welcome. Thank you for the clarification.

Posted by Red Howard at June 28, 2008 12:17 PM ET:

Kiyani's emegence now is a very interesting development and a good sign. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall with he and the ISI going at it. Here is some background on Kiyani as his direct involvement and authority to act could be a key:

This chain-smoking son of an NCO is a certifiable 'bad ass' and graduated near the top of his class at CGSC (Command General Staff College) at Leavenworth, US. He is highly respected among U.S./NATO circles as not only a clever tactician, but as an intellectual. As most readers of this blog know, CGSC is where the 'best of the best' from overseas attend. It is also a place where many times lifelong bonds are formed with military counterparts. He has excellent working relationships with many of his USA/NATO counterparts and, although a former head of ISI in 2004, not currently in good favor amongst the ISI element (this is good). I know many of you will say, "just another guy part of the PakMil establishment", and although he is just that, he does have a more balanced view than most and exactly what is at stake here.

Bill? your thoughts on Kiyani?

Incidentally, it was during his ISI tenure that his agency scored big with the arrest of AQ's most wanted chief operational commander, Abu Faraj Libbi, who had allegedly masterminded the Rawalpindi assassination attempts on Musharraf's life amongst other things. It must also be said that it was during his tenure that the Taliban staged a comeback in the tribal areas of Pakistan thus enabling AQ to establish its sanctuaries in the Waziristan region on the Pak-Afghan border. So it's not all good, but I like this guy and he could make a difference. (Sourced in part from: http://thepost.com.pk/OpinionNews.aspx?dtlid=121794&catid=11)

No doubt, the black turbans have been on a pretty good run the past couple of weeks, but their support amongst the locals is only getting weaker and many believe they have overplayed their hand. Without the local support (notwithstanding the tremendous amounts of $$ flowing to the tribal maliks) of the Pakhtun tribesmen, I don't like their chances to consolidate and hold FATA territory to any significant degree...i.e operate freely to command/control. And no way they take Peshawar.

Success here is not "conquering the FATA", but simply keeping the Tban from getting comfortable in a safe sanctuarial environment and methodically taking out their top leadership - which we have been doing. Unfortunately, that's all we can hope for.

Posted by Alex at June 28, 2008 2:55 PM ET:

How loyal are the Frontier Corps? Any speculation as to why no commitment from regular Pakistani Army?

I'm worried that this is going to be yet another half-hearted offensive and that the Pakistani government is going to lose more credibility and territory. At least NATO is talking about stepping up their commitment in Afghanistan.

Posted by Cordell at June 28, 2008 3:08 PM ET:

Today's Taliban-besieged Pakistan, resembles Columbia circa 1998 when it was being overrun by a similarly brutal narco-terrorist group, the FARC. Columbia's weak leadership back then was even willing to hand FARC control over an area the size of Switzerland in the hope that it would put an end to the violence and kidnappings throughout the country. Repeated peace offerings to the FARC only emboldened them and raised their demands. Thanks to the 2002 election of President Uribe, his get-tough policies and alliance with the U.S., the FARC has been decimated and is now just a shadow of its former self. Even some of its top leaders have joined thousands of its troops and surrendered to the government. Pakistan would do well to study Columbia's recent history and adopt its anti-terrorist playbook, especially its close cooperation with the U.S. Perhaps they might even find someone of the stature and character of Uribe to lead them out of their present quagmire. Kiyani might fit the bill here.

Posted by don juice at June 28, 2008 3:14 PM ET:

can anyone inform me on the lastest in the new hunt for osama?...thank u

Posted by Tommy at June 28, 2008 3:25 PM ET:

Until operations are launched in Quetta, I won't take the Pakistanis seriously.

Posted by Jerjes at June 28, 2008 3:42 PM ET:

Posted by Tommy at June 28, 2008 3:25 PM ET:

Until operations are launched in Quetta, I won't take the Pakistanis seriously.


tommy you would not take it seriously because you dont want to take it seriously.

but we want peace now in our country this war on terror is now our own war on terror in our country PAKISTAN.

We are not here to satisfy you, just find it in your own way.

Talibans were created by US and supported by Nato UN since decades.

now they have created strong hold, but we being Pakistani are able to defeat threat which even your nato forces are afraid to handle.

we are not in Nato but being along Nato allies we will defeat these extremists.

Cheers

Posted by Alex at June 28, 2008 4:02 PM ET:

Jerjes,

While I sharply disagree with your political assessment, I hope you are sincere when you say that Pakistan is serious about taking back your country.

Posted by don juice at June 28, 2008 4:12 PM ET:

what pakistan need to do is stop letting the taliban run them over cause they making pakistan look like a weak nation cause how the taliban wants peace but continues to harm and kill people?

Posted by Pete Howard at June 28, 2008 4:32 PM ET:

Jerjes: we appreciate your perspective, and you are right: This is your fight. Know that we are with you in the difficult journey ahead. Inshallah, we will prevail together.

Don Juice: kidding, right? You don't find him, he finds you...

Posted by don juice at June 28, 2008 4:45 PM ET:

pete howard please explain what u meant by yo comment about me?

Posted by libertarian at June 28, 2008 5:06 PM ET:

Jerjes/Alex
1. For the sake of the ordinary citizens of Pakistan let us hope that the Pakistani armed forces can fight their battle and protect their country.
2. However, if Pakistan fails, then it is no longer Pakistan's battle and the Pakistani's will no longer control "their" country; Others will take over the battle and when they do Pakistan will fragment.The lesson for Pakistan is Colombia, certainly but it is also what was Yugoslavia. When Others take over Nations fragment and the world neither cares nor weeps

Posted by Pete Howard at June 28, 2008 5:14 PM ET:

Don: Explanation: You don't find OBL, he finds you. Didn't mean you personally; in the plural. Didn't mean to startle you :)

Posted by Jerjes Talpur at June 28, 2008 7:25 PM ET:

Posted by Alex at June 28, 2008 4:02 PM ET:

Jerjes,

While I sharply disagree with your political assessment, I hope you are sincere when you say that Pakistan is serious about taking back your country.

Alex i was even sincere when we divided soviet union. But we always give 1st priority to our country.

As you do, We know when and how tackle things within our region.

We even know and this whole world knows What is Al-Qaida who created them and supported them who paid them.

If Alex you think we support Al-Qaida than dear you are at mistaken why we would support these illiterate people ? though we can protect our country very well.

We have declared them extremists. because they dont understand anything they are group of people who are fed up of life, due to poverty illiteracy they have not quality of life, these people have no healthy life no future . they are completely out of life. with no aim.

US used them and miss used name of Islam in Cold war,they gave them light and highlighted them as hero, from that day they got aim and that aim was JAHAD.United States completely supported them.

So that is the reason not only Afghanistani or Pakistani, but from all over the world fed up people are group of these terrorist organizations funding by different countries same like as US funded Taliban for Cold War.

I am Muslim Islam has nothing to do with these kind of activities, Islam completely refuse to disturb peace of any individual.

So we Government of Pakistan know, these talibans are not Muslims they are sick stupid people who are just miss using Islam.

That is the reason for protecting our culture custom religion country, we have decided to kill them for our own interest and cut their roots.

I am sincere with my country alex thats why i am saying all that,When ever we will feel any thread to our nation we have power to protect our Country.

We support peace for us and for others.

Posted by Colin at June 28, 2008 8:27 PM ET:

Jerjes:

I disagree with you assessment that the US created the Taliban. The Taliban came into existance in 1994 - long after the US lost interest in Afghanistan.

In fact your country was one of only two worldwide who recognised the Taliban as a legetimate government. Your country openly supported the Taliban until US pressure got you to berak off diplomatic relations.

Now you have a choice - get serious about defeating the Taliban, or have Pakistan join the lost of 'failed states.'

Posted by kelly at June 28, 2008 9:18 PM ET:

Jerjes,

Thank you for responding. First hand local knowledge is always appreciated. Do you find that the typical Pakistani is willing to take up arms or provide some other form of active opposition to the Taliban and other like minded extremist that deform yours and presented version of Islam?

I'm American and am quite familiar with a vocal minority gaining more power than warranted throuh the idleness of the majority.

Posted by Freedom Now at June 28, 2008 9:53 PM ET:

I am highly skeptical of Pakistan's sincerity about waging the War on Terror, but I will support any action taken against our enemies.

We need more of this and I hope world leaders will encourage such efforts.

Pakistani leaders should take care to protect their allies in Taliban controlled territories. Abandoning them is a big mistake. Especially for those allies, but in the long run the Pakistani government suffers as well.

Posted by Tommy at June 28, 2008 10:13 PM ET:

Okay...then

The US and Afghans should send troops into Quetta after the Taliban leadership. Or at least some special agents or something.

We need some Israeli type operations. Blow Mullah Omar up in his house or attack them while they driving through the city.

Posted by don juice at June 28, 2008 10:27 PM ET:

oh naw u didnt startle me i just wanted u to verify what u meant cause i posted two comments one about osama and the other bout pakistan but i was just wondering about the hunt cause bush finally wants to get him after he leaves office

Posted by KW64 at June 28, 2008 10:53 PM ET:

Re: Jerjes Talpur --
We certainly all wish Pakistan success in her fight against the Heretic Al Queda and the fascist Taliban.
However, our experience with ignoring a series of attacks on the US in the US in 1993, Saudi Arabia two years later, Two National embassies in Africa in 1998 and on a warship in Yemen in 2000 was that failure to take strong action just led to even more atrocious attacks like the one in New York on 9/11/01. Restraint is not perceived to be kindness or being of a peaceful nature. It is seen as weakness that can be exploited.

If the democratically elected government wants to resolve the conflict by recruiting locals in the tribal areas to free themselves by doing the fighting, they need to give them better protection until they have the numbers, training, weapons and experience to be successful. Then they will have to convince the citizenry that they can and will protect them if they turn on the Taliban and foreign fighters that oppress them and recruit their children to go to useless deaths.

Intelligence is essential to winning such a fight but you must have enough force to protect areas once you clear them of Taliban control. That means the Pakistani army must help do the clearing and provide air support for the local forces that hold the areas as well as quick reinforcement capability when Taliban forces threaten.

If the Pakistani army and frontier forces cannot do this throughout the frontier, then it will have to do in in small areas first and expand the areas as their capabilities grow. But attacking, then leaving and allowing those people who sided with the government to get their heads cut off when the Taliban come back, will not work. We proved that in 2004,2005 and 2006 in Iraq. In 2007 we changed tactics and won.

Good fortune

Posted by Pete Howard at June 29, 2008 12:27 PM ET:

KW64: +1 excellent analysis.

Posted by S.J at June 29, 2008 12:55 PM ET:

Hi all,
Being somebody whose from Pakistan i assure you a everyday Pakistani is against these taliban and AL-Quida they are illitrate,savage and GOD only knows what type of havoc and coas they cause.

Please understand Pakistan its self is a victim to all these terrorists networks what so ever it might be, we have lost more then 3500 civilions due to sucide bombing,more then 3000 of our soldiers have lost their lives in fighting the War on terror. I must admit it sadens me when i see some of our american friends we are not serious at all, how can we not be serious when so many of ours have died including men,women and children.

You my good friends should realize things arent easy as they seem to be, one big problem the pakistani Army and FC faces when oprating against Taliban is that the Tribal areas of NWFP are more like wild wild West with almost everybody having a weapon when you operate in such a region with every second person having a weapon you can not comfirm its a friend or foe this either leads to killing of civions or the Army being ambushed by Taliban/Al-Quida.

Another thing we lack are military resources like Satalites or high-tech military gear like Apache
AH-64 longbow or the AH-1 Super cobra Zulu we lack a serious punch in terms of combat helicopters. The Air force has been used on many occassions when there was a dire need to take out terrorist strong holds with comfirmed targets in the area there was a famour Afgan Taliban militant comander Noor-mohammad whose hide out was bombed by PAF with 50 comfirmed from PAF F-16 bombing.

You my friends should realize these things take time if it was so easy Iraq and Afgan war would have been over by now and American and NATO forces would have been at home enjoying their lives with their families but such is not the case this war is long from over and it cant be won in a day.

Other ways of controling these problems are economic reforms developing the area's creating job and security and educating the masses, mining and fencing the mine was an excellent idea but Karzai the afgan president started to bark for who knows whatever reason.

At the end of the day lets hope and pray that we tackle these extermists and terrorists and we can have lasting peace all over the world and all the problems are resolved.