Rangers deployed to secure Islamabad outskirts

Click map for full view. Taliban presence, in the Islamabad region. 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. Last updated: April 24, 2009.

Islamabad officials have moved paramilitary forces to block a potential Taliban advance into the nation's capital as US officials question Pakistan's ability to stop the creeping insurgency.

Islamabad's deputy commissioner and its senior police official said they are taking steps to counter the Taliban encroachment from the Northwest Frontier Province, Geo News reported. The Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force under the command of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, have been deployed to the Margala hills on the northern outskirts of Islamabad. The deputy commissioner said the Taliban will not be able to cross through the Margala hills and into Islamabad.

The move to reinforce Islamabad comes just one day after Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, an Islamist political party, said the Taliban are beginning to move into the districts of Haripur and Mansehra. Haripur directly borders Punjab province and Islamabad, and is close to two sensitive nuclear storage facilities.

In Buner, the Pakistani government suffered another defeat as paramilitary police forces were beaten back by the Taliban's advanced guard. The government sent an estimated 250 Frontier Constabulary officers into Buner in an attempt to secure government offices. The Taliban ambushed a convoy and killed one officer. The paramilitary police were ordered to withdraw from Buner as the Taliban celebrated their latest victory against the security forces.

The Taliban occupied Buner by force on April 10 and took full control of the district eight days later. Government offices, courts, medical clinics, and offices run by non-governmental agencies have been shut down. The Taliban have been patrolling and recruiting new fighters while they loot government offices.

Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, in the Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab, 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. Last updated: April 24, 2009.

Pakistan's tepid response infuriates US officials

US military and intelligence officials have expressed horror at the speed of the Taliban advance and the lack of a strong response from the Pakistani government and military. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the sensitivity of the issue.

The Taliban have taken years to consolidate control of the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan. The battle for Swat lasted almost two years, and ended after the government agreed to implement sharia, or Islamic courts, and withdraw its troops from the region. But the blitzkrieg takeover of Buner and the swift redirection of forces into neighboring districts marks a dramatic change in the pace of the conflict.

US officials are shocked that the government and security forces have offered little more than a token resistance to the Taliban.

"The Pakistani Army is sitting on the sidelines as the Taliban march all the way to Islamabad's back door," one intelligence official said. "Why is the government putting inferior troops in the path of the Taliban, only to watch them get chewed up and spit out. Where is the Army? The Army is purposefully sitting on the sidelines, either demoralized by losses or unwilling to fight, while Pakistan is burning."

A military officer said the Pakistani government missed its window of opportunity to contain the Taliban. "The time to stop this madness was five years ago, in Waziristan," the officer said. "Instead, the government caved to the Taliban in North and South Waziristan, and this only emboldened them to conquer more and more territory. Now the Taliban is within reach of the capital, yet the government still seems to have no grasp on the threat."

A senior intelligence official said the lack of response by the Pakistani government and military ensures a bloody fight. "The longer the state has deferred taking the Taliban head on, the stronger the Taliban has gotten," the official said. "Any attempt to put the Taliban genie back in the bottle will result a major bloodbath. Assuming the Pakistanis make an effort to defend themselves, that is."

Some US officials have expressed frustration at Pakistan's shifting of the blame for the Taliban insurgency. Pakistani officials have pointed fingers at Afghanistan and India for fueling the Taliban; they have also claimed that the US is withholding funding and advanced weapons. However, since 2001, the US has provided more than $10 billion in aid to Pakistan, of which several billion dollars are unaccounted for.

A senior military officer said the Pakistani complaints about a lack of advanced weapons systems such as F-16s and attack helicopters are "nonsense."

"The Pakistani Army doesn't need airplanes and night vision goggles to fight the Taliban," the official said. "First and foremost, they need to grow backbones, pick up their weapons, and fight it out. And if they don't do it soon, they might not have a country left to fight for."

For more information on recent Taliban advances, see: Taliban advance eastward, threaten Islamabad


READER COMMENTS: "Rangers deployed to secure Islamabad outskirts"

Posted by Jay Kain at April 24, 2009 1:48 AM ET:

This is getting so obvious with every passing day that the Taliban is not going to stop at anything. They subdued the tribes. They got hold of one-third of NWFP and now they want to control the entire Pakistan. They are showing expansionist tendencies. This is threat far bigger than what people are imagining. They will not stop unless they impose their warped laws on everything that they believe is Un-Islamic. And unfortunately for all of us, as per their definition, we are all un-islamic. I wonder what Pakistani military is doing. Perhaps I do. It was their military that started this entire Islamic rubbish in pakistan. I dont think they will ever do anything to stop it. Also it looks like a ploy to extract more concessions from west. They want to make the world feel they are on the verge of collapse so that they can have what they want. Which means more money to kill Afghans, more weapons to threaten India, more luxuries for its military. I see no hope.

Posted by Render at April 24, 2009 5:59 AM ET:

How much longer until the Pakistani military switches sides - openly?


Posted by Jon at April 24, 2009 6:19 AM ET:

In terms of context I too am wondering how far this spreads and when the PAKGOV/MIL starts getting truly reactionary...not to sound morbid, but I think when we get to this moment the Pakistanis do this - and it is perceived - then the escalation will be begin

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2009 7:01 AM ET:

For an effective response, Pakistan would have to be united in nearly every way, something it only is when it comes to India and Kashmir, more so the latter.

Everyone there is more worried about Balochistan seceding than they are about Islamists, because they care first and foremost that the Pakistani "federation" continues to exist, regardless of who controls it. This false notion of unity will hurt them as they will likely lose Balochistan AND NWFP all at once.

Posted by tbrucia at April 24, 2009 8:21 AM ET:

Not, 'how much longer until the Pakistani military switches sides', but 'how much longer until individual units defect'? Many coups in many nations have been launched by JUNIOR officers... making the colonels and generals irrelevant. And occasionally even the best militaries have mutinies led by enlisted men. If the Taliban/AlQueda alliance has half a brain, it already has an intelligence and 'dual command' structure in place within as many Pakistani Army units as possible....

Posted by Ayamo at April 24, 2009 8:30 AM ET:

I've just read that the Taliban have started to withdraw from Buner.
Seems a bit odd to me.

Bill, do you know something about this?

Posted by Aaron at April 24, 2009 9:16 AM ET:

They are withdrawing from buner to islamabad.

This is insane.

Can someone tell me what we can do about the nukes assuming the Taliban get close to aquiring them?

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 9:36 AM ET:

Here's your news release on the withdrawal .


Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 10:03 AM ET:

Has the Pakistani army finally woke from its deep slumber? So far resistance to the Taliban has been so tepid that one wonders what is going on and where loyalties lie. The other strong possibility is that the Pakistani government and army are so rotted out from the inside to be of limited usefulness. Is there a general reluctance to use troops?

Whatever the case may be, I suggest we limit our indulgence in outright speculation. Much of the lose speculation going around hasn't got much to support it. Let's try to keep out commentary to the actual events, and try not to get too far a field with all the speculation and hand waving.

Posted by David M at April 24, 2009 10:15 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/24/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by Barlowmaker at April 24, 2009 10:19 AM ET:

Neo ... no intemperate speculation or hand waving? This is the internet my good man! Pakistan is a serious problem that Obama has no foundational character mettle to address I fear. He's another empty "Good Feelings Charlie" we've seen from that political party every 20 years or so. The world is going to suffer some major pain before folks wake up.

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 10:19 AM ET:

Gen Kayani weighs in on the situation.


Posted by C. Jordan at April 24, 2009 10:37 AM ET:

From the link above....

"Separately, military sources confirmed that an operation against militants in Swat is imminent."

If the past is any guide for the future, i see a new
"peace" deal in the works.

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2009 10:52 AM ET:

Let's not bring Obama into this. Or Bush for that matter. The situation in Pakistan was unfolding long before either of them took the helm, since the days of Reagan. Wanna blame a president, then he's your guy. That said, its also irrelevant to the situation at hand. The Pakistanis are not small children. They have to fix shit on their own.

As for speculation, I speculate purely from what I read from the Pakistani newspapers. These are merely the thoughts of Pakistan's own intelligencia (whats left of them) put into cohesive theory. Just take a gander at the jingoistic joke that is the Pakistani Defense Forum....they think NWFP is an exagerated mess created by RAW/CIA/Mossad and that the real focus should be on the insurgency in Balochistan, for the sole reason that the Balochs want independance from the all mighty federation.

Is their confirmation on the pullout? If so, where are they pulling off to? Shangla, Swat, or Mansehra. They have choices now.

Posted by Raj Kumar at April 24, 2009 11:30 AM ET:

If you read the report then the pull out is only to stop sending armed patrols nothing more.

Pakistan is a gone case gents!! Now we have to figure out how two things;

1) How to stop nukes getting into the black turban brigades hands? and

2) How to stop the land of Pakistan being used to train my fellow citizens so that they can go boom on the London Underground system??

Posted by Libertyship46 at April 24, 2009 11:46 AM ET:

Bill stated in his post that, "US Military and intelligence officials have expressed horror at the speed of the Taliban advance and the lack of a strong response from the Pakistani government and military." Ya think? I said this in my post yesterday that there is a glaring lack of response from both the Pakistani people and the Pakistani Army to these recent developments. Bill also states that, "US Officials are shocked that the government and the security forces have offered little more than a token resistance to the Taliban." Get used to it. This really is looking like the fall of the Shah in Iran all over again. My prediction (for whatever that's worth) is that if the Pakistani Army does not start a major military offensive against the Taliban within the next few days this whole show will be over soon. The Government in Islamabad will simply fold like a cheap tent once the Taliban actually enter the city in force and the Army does nothing to stop it. It just leads me to believe, now more than ever, that the bulk of the Pakistani people support the Taliban and that there is no major opposition to them (or at least not enough of an opposition to stop them).

Ironically, the country that has the most to lose in all of this is India. If the Taliban link up in force with the jihadists in Kashmir, how long do you think it will be before they start making massive incursions into India? And the Taliban will simply be encouraged to do this because they will now have access nuclear weapons once they take over Islamabad.

Well, as the commercial went during the past presidential campaign, it's 3:00 AM and the phone is ringing, Mr. President. Where do we go from here?

Posted by Solomon2 at April 24, 2009 12:47 PM ET:

I suppose the Pakistan military is just waiting for the Talibs to take over. Then they'll have the war with India they've always wanted, looting and raping at will (the PA has a very bad record on this) followed by withdrawal in a disguised defeat. Stuff that couldn't happen if a democratic gov't was looking over their shoulder.

Posted by Mr T at April 24, 2009 1:04 PM ET:

I would think that the Taliban would use a similar strategy to the one they used to take over Afghanistan.

Lie, intimidate, threaten, work on peoples Muslim affiliation and respect for Sharia, brutally crush all resistance, force each family household to provide fighters, take over an area, then spread from there until they take over the main centers of government, etc.

What's a fella to do? Even if I own an AK47 and get together with a few others, I know that the Taliban will arrive in force in the middle of the night and kill us all. While suicide is a preferred option for many Muslims, most don't want to commit suicide opposing the Taliban.

The Taliban leaders know their previous strategy for taking over a country worked, why not do it again in Pakistan? Its the same leaders. They are not all that creative and ingenius. They are vulnerable. We need to attack that vulnerability, militarily, economically, and politically.

Oh, and Obama did say during his campaign, he would attack Pakistan or at least the NWFP. Or was he just playing to his base by criticising the previous administration. Hard to tell with all the rhetoric.

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2009 1:25 PM ET:

India will not let the Taliban get the nukes. They would invade Pakistan to prevent that from happening (especially under the BJP, which must be loving this).

Obama may have said he'd invade Pakistan, but I don't think the generals would approve. Pakistan is a whole different animal from Afghanistan (which was in anarchy) and Iraq (which has only a percentage of the population and had a defanged army). If the US invades Pakistan, the Army would fight or risk total collapse of itself, let alone the country, and they would rather not let that happen.

Army is planning an operation in Swat within the next 24 hours or so. Lets see what this brings.

Any news on the Orakzai operation since yesterday?

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 1:42 PM ET:

Golden nugget of the day from Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan

To a question regarding keeping weapons, he said "Taliban do not possess tanks and advanced weaponry they only have the conventional weapons which he said are commonly found in every house. "Shariah also allows keeping weapons," he argued.

Book of Armamens, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20 (Taliban Edition)
"Then did he raise on high the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, saying, "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the lambs and toads and tree-sloths and fruit-bats and orangutans and breakfast cereals ..."

Said verse apperently applies to all personal sidearms such as heavy machine guns, rocket propelled granades, mortars, explosive vests, truck bombs, etc.

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 1:44 PM ET:

Typo: Book of Armamens = Book of Armaments

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 3:16 PM ET:

If you hadn't already figured out, the second paragraph above is not dirrectly quoted from either Muslim Khan or Shariah law. Than again, the Taliban has been known to rather broadly interpret Islamic law themselves, so fair game. Which was my point to begin with.

Posted by Some VB at April 24, 2009 3:49 PM ET:

Once Taliban finds the nukes, they are not going to sit on it. They will use it. If they don't use it they will lose it.

India is worried but i think China, US, Russian and Iran must be sweating as well.

Posted by Rational Enquirer at April 24, 2009 5:41 PM ET:

The surreal ballet of the Pakistani military and the Taliban/al Qaeda suggests that the two "opponents" are in fact working together to some extent.

Posted by Cordell at April 24, 2009 5:47 PM ET:

Anyone thinking of writing off Pakistan to the Taliban might wish to review events during America's Civil War. General Lee's Confederate Army won almost every battle against the Union's armies until he became emboldened and decided to invade the North. Once Union troops began playing defense on their home territory, Lee suffered a decisive defeat at Gettysburg. Similarly, once the Taliban attempt to move out of the mountainous frontier areas, the Pakistan's military assets will gain the upper hand. This fact may explain why the Taliban has limited its advance. So far, Pakistan's army has been fighting on the Taliban's terms with little close air support.

Posted by C. Jordan at April 24, 2009 6:38 PM ET:

Cordell, you raise a good point.
Does anyone think Pakistan has its "Lincoln" or even
the will of the people to do so?

Or even better yet, can Pakistan find its "William Tecumseh Sherman"?

Posted by Neo at April 24, 2009 7:34 PM ET:

Cordell wrote: "Anyone thinking of writing off Pakistan to the Taliban might wish to review events during America's Civil War."

I like the way you think, but aren't Grant and Sherman under UN investigation for old war crimes. I'm still waiting for the academics to write a politically correct history of the American Civil War without mentioning either of them.

On a more serious note, many Pakistan watchers have been looking for the game to change once Punjab is seriously threatened. It is quite possible that the Pakistani Army may pick up the fight at some point, but there are no strong signs that is happening. There are also serious doubts about loyalties, seriousness, and capability within the Pakistani Army. Who knows what the Pakistani Army is capable of? So far it isn't willing to fight. The window for decisive action has been slowly closing for years now. Pretty soon it may slam shut.

Where Cordell's analogy with the American Civil War breaks down, is the fact that the American North fought hard pretty much from the beginning of the war. It took over three years for Lincoln to find himself competent and aggressive generals, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. The Pakistani's aren't trying or learning as they go along.

Bad News!

Posted by NS at April 24, 2009 9:41 PM ET:

"India will not let the Taliban get the nukes. They would invade Pakistan to prevent that from happening (especially under the BJP, which must be loving this)."

You are putting too much faith in India - or to be precise Indian polity. It has been 150 odd days since the attacks on Mumbai happened - Prosecutors in India are wondering if Kasab (the lone surviving terrorist) should be tried as juvenile - they dont know if he is older than 18 and are now performing orthodontic tests to confirm that.

India's elections officially end on 13thof May - the counting of votes should be over within a week - at this point in time the BJP has no chance in hell of forming the Government.

We have a parliamentary system and expect a hung assembly after the votes are counted - this means that no body has enough strength to form a majority Government - this means Indian politicians will be busy horsetrading.

It is possible and highly likely that the next Government of India will need the help of the Communists to form a majority government - if the Communists help is needed, they WILL OPPOSE ANY MILITARY ACTION against the Taliban. I cannot explain why - thats a long thread in itself.

The Pakistani Army KNOWS all of this and therefore is not worried - my prediction is that they will ask the Taliban to lay low and not advance beyond Buner. If the Taliban does not listen, the Army will not fight - it will rather allow the Taliban to advance knowing fully well that a fractured Indian polity will not challenge the Taliban.

It will try to work out a power sharing deal with the Taliban - they are not going to fight them - why exactly would they risk that ? Pakistani army officers may openly join the Taliban. and the conflict would be needlessly bloody from their viewpoint.

The Taliban's advance is actually more dangerous to India in the long run, but our elections is most probably going to produce a Government that has absolutely no concern or grounding about foreign policy whatsoever.

I dont want to sound alarmist, but if the US military and the State Department have not already factored these likely developments into their calculations, they should.

My only hope is that the nuclear command and control of Pakistan's weapons are under ultra tight supervision.

Posted by Spooky at April 24, 2009 10:21 PM ET:


If memory serves, didn't India wait until the general elections were finished in 1971 before they made their move into East Pakistan? Same deal here methinks, even if there is a possibility for a hung assembly.

I know full well about the dysfunction of India's party politics, but I also know (with the exception of the Left Front as you pointed out) that none of the political parties will sit quietly while terrorists get nukes. If necessary, I could see Emergency rule being enabled until the threat was taken care of.

Posted by Marlin at April 25, 2009 9:10 AM ET:

It's hard to tell exactly what's going on in Buner, but this strikes me as a fairly reasonable explanation of the events.

But while militants from Swat had returned home, armed fighters who hailed from Buner were seen moving around as usual, despite hundreds of police militia being sent to the district.

"They won't lay their arms so quickly," said Syed Javed Shah, a senior government official in Buner. "They know they have developed enmities with residents whose relatives were killed."

Aaj TV: Flux in Buner after Taliban retreat

Posted by Neo at April 25, 2009 9:40 AM ET:

Apparently the SWAT Taliban has retreated leaving behind the Bruner Taliban. Now there is a fine distinction. The SWAT Taliban reserves the right to help anyone outside their area.

Posted by BENGAL UNDER ATTACK at April 25, 2009 10:37 AM ET:

Tribucia got it bang on... Food for thought.

1. Where do you think many of the retired ISI / Pak Army spl ops Generals go after retirement?

2. There have been many "managed defections" in junior ranks in Pakistan Army. Where do you think again that these people go?

3. Secular and professional soldiers and there are many in Pakistan Army - are becoming a rarity. When Maj Gen Faisal Alavi of SSG Commando (equivalent of SAS ) was murdered by Pak Army - the lid was blown of Pak Army General and Taliban complicity. Carey Schoefield will be writing a book soon on this particular issue. Link: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/threat-to-expose-pak-generals-took-officers-life-uk-paper/398488/

4. Even recently the British SAS killed a posse of Taliban and found to their horror that the leader of this group was a serving Pakistan Army Major - and true to British style - they tried to hush this up. Link: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article4926401.ece

5. Even as we speak today, Indian caught another terrorist alive in Gurez sector of J&K. Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Pak-terrorist-held-in-JKs-Gurez/articleshow/4447835.cms

Posted by john lynch at April 25, 2009 11:22 AM ET:

The map key has been removed. The colors don't meant anything unless the reader remembers them from before.

Posted by NS at April 25, 2009 12:07 PM ET:

"I know full well about the dysfunction of India's party politics, but I also know (with the exception of the Left Front as you pointed out) that none of the political parties will sit quietly while terrorists get nukes. If necessary, I could see Emergency rule being enabled until the threat was taken care of. "

I know of only one leader who would even declare an Emergency if the Taliban officially took over the nuclear command and control - unfortunately that leader is the late Indira Gandhi.

The ruling coalition that is most likely to take power is made up of regional parties who have no concerns (or clues) about what is going on in Pakistan - all that they are looking forward to is to protect their own interests and claim their own turf in India - the only member in their group that has any foreign policy positions is the Communist party - and they are DEAD SET against the US and India's interests. They virulently opposed the recent nuclear deal that we had and pulled their support for the Government leading to some totally unnecessary drama.

Also, India getting into a war would be the easy part - how do we get out of it ? If the Taliban does take over the nuclear command and control, India has two choices

A. Pre-emptively attack Pakistan with nuclear strikes - unfortunately we have a no first use policy and this means that we use nukes ONLY as deterrents.

B. Move the troops to the Western border and have them on alert. But even this can only be a temporary move.

The nuclear weapons in Pakistan's hands are its trump card - who is going to bell this cat ??

The situation is very complex and is a huge threat to India more than any other country - but i dont think our polity has either the grasp of the situation or the gumption to deal with it.

Posted by Midnight at April 25, 2009 1:56 PM ET:

Spooky makes an excellent point. Afghanistan is at election so.... Our continued support for putting nuclear weapons in India causes a big part of this, yes. However, with a win in his pocket back then,(against the russian wall), his problem for your future, was to walk away from Afghanistan/Pakistan.
To say that Pakistan needs to be more concerned about the Taliban, more than India is almost a ridiculous thought to have. It was noted on another website the the Taliban should be more of a concern than India I almost fell over, the timing to the whole thing going on over there now begins and ends with Bush going to India over beginning a nuclear weapons program. That is the end all, say all, do all, the Taliban have lived there for years and years and years.

Posted by NS at April 25, 2009 5:34 PM ET:

"To say that Pakistan needs to be more concerned about the Taliban, more than India is almost a ridiculous thought to have. It was noted on another website the the Taliban should be more of a concern than India I almost fell over"
Wow... what a ridiculous thing ! with the Taliban advancing to within 70 miles of Islamabad, it is indeed ridiculous to be concerned about them.

Other than those sentences, the rest of the post was incoherent to say the least.

Posted by KnightHawk at April 26, 2009 8:02 AM ET:

"How much longer until the Pakistani military switches sides - openly?"

I would think they would want to wait till Islamabad falls first. :)

Sure seems like the one of the last make or break points is approaching.