Taliban insurgency expands into Punjab

Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and reports from the region. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani Taliban has expanded its insurgency beyond the Northwest Frontier Province after its forces assaulted a police checkpoint in a district in Punjab province.

Seven policemen were killed in the complex attack on a police checkpoint in the district of Mianwali in Punjab. The attack took place in the early morning when Taliban fighters detonated a bomb outside of what was described as an “an important checkpoint” in the region. The Taliban assault force then opened fire on the policemen, killing all seven manning the outpost. The police checkpoint “was completely shattered in the offensive,” Geo News reported.

The Mianwali district borders the district of Lakki Marwat in the Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban forces loyal to Baitullah Mehsud are active in Lakki Marwat and control most of the region.

The attack in Mianwali took place just two days after a suicide bomber killed more than 30 civilians and wounded more than 50 in Dera Ghazi Khan, also in Punjab province. The attack took place outside a mosque during a Shia religious procession. The bombing sparked riots in the district.

Dera Ghazi Khan borders the district of Dera Ismail Khan, which borders the Taliban controlled districts of South Waziristan, Tank, and Lakki Marwat.

Last year, Baitullah Mehsud had threatened to wage “jihad” and turn the provinces of Sindh and Punjab “into a furnace” if the operations in northwestern Pakistan did not cease.

The Taliban have also stepped up attacks along NATO’s supply route through the northwest for its forces in Afghanistan. A bomb detonated on a vital bridge in Khyber closed the route on Feb 3. On Feb. 5, the Taliban said it would shut down NATO’s supply lines if the Pakistani Army’s offensives in Khyber and Swat did not end. The Pakistani military responded by striking a Taliban ammunition depot in Khyber. The military claimed 52 Taliban were killed in the attack.

The Pakistani government has downplayed the situation in the northwest and claimed the insurgency has been tamped down in Bajaur and under control in Swat. On Jan.30, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said the Taliban and al Qaeda have largely been driven from much of the tribal areas. “We are genuinely attacking the targets and the most areas have already been cleared of the terrorists,” Gilani said. He also claimed that al Qaeda operatives are no longer present inside Pakistan.

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracy and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

12 Comments

  • KW64 says:

    Hopefully the Taliban’s reach exceeds its grasp.
    Bill, what do we know about where the Taliban’s money comes from?

  • Micah says:

    I would also like to know and have been wondering about this for some time. Where are they drawing financial support from? Clearly, in places like Swat the Taliban do not have the wide range of public support they used to have (at least thats the impression I get) and usually that is a must for any insurgency to survive strongly in its local area of dominance. So where is their financial support coming from?!? When I was in Swat and other nearby areas, the local concensus amongst Pashtos is that these were not “true” taliban, and foreign intelligence agencies were involved, like Indian intel and even theories of Mosad. However, they didn’t really have any reason WHY, and seemed like just a conspiracy theory. But who knows. I would be interested to know more about this.

  • Raj Kumar says:

    I for am glad that Taliban are extending their area of operation. My reasoning is very simple, I have been asking for the last 5 years for Pakistan as a nation or what remains of it to be to isolated from the world and people have not listened to my advice.
    Well now perhaps once the Taliban control the Punjabi heartland of Pakistan then people will begin to take me seriously and the western world will take public action to remove the nuclear weapons currently in Pakistan’s posseion.

  • Render says:

    KW64 – I would say the bulk of their funding is drug money, followed by individual donations from Saudi and Gulf States patrons, and then the ISI.
    IN
    THAT
    ORDER,
    R64

  • m3fd says:

    I’d agree with your funding assesment. We the individuals in the Gulf states that are funding the madrasses. This current cycle of jihad won’t end until someone eliminates those funding sources.

  • KW64 says:

    Re: Render comment 4
    That certainly sounds plausible. So the next question is, if we can surge in Afghanistan and gain some real control there, can we start to control the drug money supply?

  • Render says:

    KW64: I’m actually not a fan of the term “Surge”

  • Rhyno327 says:

    That map is turning red faster and faster. How can we supply all the troops that are going to be sent? P-stan is on its way to an islamic theocracy-with nuclear weapons. A bad situation all the way around.

  • Hugh says:

    I fear the State of Pakistan is going to have to fail and fall into a civil war before the end of this Taliban/AQ problem. Only then will the Pakistani government and people clearly draw a line in the sand and get serious about fighting this scourge of an ideology. No more ridiculous “peace agreements” with the Taliban and AQ. Those are only used to regroup and rearm.

  • KW64 says:

    Render
    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I hope our “counter-attack” does not get delayed from indecision at the top.
    Securing the two major passes from inside Pakistan with coalition forces will be politically as well as militarily dicey.

  • lcronin says:

    The conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is becoming increasingly complex as the Taliban gains power. As previous respondents have mentioned, the Taliban appears to be loosing support in some areas while seemingly remaining strong. Even without local support, the Taliban is able to fund its attacks through a combination of drug money and foreign donations, primarily from the Gulf region. Since the drug market is more lucrative abroad, the Taliban needs to ensure it has access to shipping routes in order to export the drugs and ensure continued funding. Therefore, while Taliban activities in Pakistan may be an attempt to spread their influence, perhaps even more important to their cause is the guarantee of shipping routes to export their drugs.
    The Taliban benefits from the chaos its presence in Pakistan creates for a variety of reasons. By engaging the government militarily and launching sporadic yet devastating attacks, such as the one mentioned in this article, the Taliban ensures governmental forces are too preoccupied with security or unable to monitor all the trading routes. This enables the Taliban to continue funding its operations and offers another motive for them to continue the conflict: financial gains. If the Taliban looses its fight, it will not only fail to spread its extreme ideology, but also loose its primary income. Given that many of the fighters will likely scatter and find themselves without a livelihood, they have a vested interest in ensuring they defend the regional trading routes.
    Other conflicts, such as the fighting over diamond mines in Angola between UNITA and government forces, have seen these economic factors play a role in prolonging conflict. In this situation, even when a peace offer was agreed upon, the conflict continued partially due to the insurgents’ desire to keep their lucrative trade going. However, while these economic factors can prolong a conflict, they also make the insurgents incredibly weak since they draw their funding from one main source. As other respondents have mentioned, surges or possible “mini-surges”

  • KHWAJA AFTAB SHAH, Florida, USA says:

    The people of BHAKKAR district have elected a chief minister of Punjab and a prime minister of Pakistan in different elections. Although a goup of local leaders sponcer the occasion and personally benefited by this gesture but basically the people of Bhakkar elected these leaders in hope of a better Bhakkar. It’s requested to the prime minister of Pakistan and chief minister of Punjab to please consider upgrading Bhakkar as a divisional head quarter by appointing a commissioner to provide better governance, extra facilities and security in the area. There are news that religious violence and drug smuggling is increased in the area recently. Bhakkar is a gate way to the Punjab and Sind provinces for NWFP and Afghanistan. Bhakkar has been head quarters of divisional level organization of Thal Development Authority since 1952. TDA was abolish in 1971 on corruption charges against it’s high officials. Bhakkar is also a border district to Dera Ismail Khan and a capital city of Thal desert area-spread in six districts in Punjab. Thanking you, Khwaja Aftab Shah,Florida, U.S.A

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