Pakistani Taliban vows to battle India
Baitullah Mehsud from a recent Taliban video.
The Pakistani Taliban has vowed to back the government in the event of war with India, the leader of the group said yesterday.
In an interview with The News, Baitullah Mehsud said he would to send "thousands of our well-armed militants" and hundreds of suicide bombers to Pakistan's eastern border with India "to fight alongside the army if any war is imposed on Pakistan."
"Our mujahideen would be in the vanguard if fighting broke out," Baitullah said. "Our fighters will fall on the enemy like thunder."
While Baitullah did offer to fight alongside the Pakistani Army, he suggested the Taliban forces be given their own area of operations or be directed to hit specific targets.
Baitullah said a conspiracy was underway to destroy the Pakistani state. "We know very well that the visible and invisible enemies of the country have been planning to weaken this lone Islamic nuclear power," he said. "But the mujahideen will foil all such nefarious designs of our enemies."
He dismissed the notion that the Army and the Taliban could not fight together against the Indians because of the years of fighting in the Northwest Frontier province. "Therefore, I want to make it clear that the army was acting otherwise [against the Taliban]. But now it would fight for the protection and survival of the country, which is why we will support them."
Baitullah's commitment to back the government confirms the policy of the Pakistani military and government of creating "strategic depth" by supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and a host of Islamist terror groups inside Pakistan and Kashmir. The Pakistanis believe that the terror groups will provide manpower and support in the event of war with India, and that Afghanistan and the mountainous Northwest Frontier Province would serve as an impenetrable fortress in the rear in case of an Indian invasion.
Shortly after the end of the Mumbai terror assault, the Pakistani military reached out to the Taliban and attempted to paper over the fighting in the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
A senior Pakistani military official called Baitullah and Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah "patriots" and said the military and the Taliban are clashing due to "some misunderstandings."
"We have no big issues with the militants in FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas]," the official said. "We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue."
The Pakistani military official was a corps commander, a senior US military intelligence official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told The Long War Journal. Pakistan has nine Army corps, each commanded by a lieutenant general.
Tensions between Pakistan and India have risen in the wake of the Mumbai terror assault that shut down the city for three days and killed more than 180 people. India and the United States said that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the largest and most powerful terror groups backed by Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, was behind the attack.
India has not ruled out military action against Pakistan. Indian Air Force fighter planes violated Pakistani airspace last week, and the militaries of both countries have been put on alert. India has demanded Pakistan hand over 20 most wanted terrorists. Pakistan has said it would not extradite anyone to India, opting to try them in Pakistani courts if evidence is presented of their guilt.
Yesterday the Indian government turned over to Pakistan evidence of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai attacks. The information included an admission of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only Mumbai terrorist captured alive. Pakistan has dismissed the evidence. President Zardari said there is no proof Kasab is from Pakistan. Kasab's parents, who reside in Pakistan, have confirmed he is indeed their son.