Taliban advance eastward, threaten Islamabad
The Taliban are pushing past the districts of Swat and Buner and are threatening Islamabad, a senior Islamist member of parliament said at a briefing.
The Taliban have consolidated control over the district of Buner and are moving on Mansehra and Haripur. These two regions, which are just on the outskirts of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, have been relatively spared from the violent Taliban insurgency that has plagued the Northwest.
The Taliban have entered the district of Mansehra and are threatening to take control of the Tarbela Dam in neighboring Haripur district, said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, an Islamist political party, during a debate in parliament.
"If the Taliban continue to move at this pace, they will soon be knocking at the doors of Islamabad as the Margala Hills seem to be the only hurdle in their march towards the federal capital," Fazl said, according to a report in The News. "After occupying Buner, they have reached Kala Dhaka and may also be taking over the water reservoir of the Tarbela Dam."
Pakistan has reportedly rushed paramilitary forces into Buner today, but some units were attacked by the Taliban stationed there. Six platoons of Frontier Constabulary forces were sent into Buner to secure government buildings. One policeman was reported killed after the Taliban ambushed a convoy, The Associated Press reported. The military claimed the Taliban only control 25 percent of Buner, but Taliban fighters have been reported in all of the major regions in the district.
The Taliban advance on Mansehra and Haripur takes place at the same time they are moving on the districts of Swabi, Mardan, and Malakand. The takeover of these five districts would essentially cement the Taliban's control of the province.
The Taliban takeover of Haripur would put the Taliban on the doorstep of Islamabad and would also put two major nuclear facilities at risk.
Haripur borders the Margala Hills, a region in the Islamabad Capital Territory. Haripur also borders the Punjab districts of Attock and Rawalpindi.
Attock hosts two major nuclear facilities in Pakistan: the Wah Cantonment Ordnance Complex and the Kamra (Minhas) Airbase. The Wah Cantonment Ordnance Complex host three sites where nuclear weapons and components are stored and assembled and aircraft and missiles are modified for use in nuclear attacks. The nearby Kamra Airbase is thought to host attack aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Rawalpindi is the "garrison" city for Pakistan's military. The city hosts the headquarters of the Army and Air Force, and several nuclear weapons research facilities are also located there.
During 2007 and 2008, The Taliban and al Qaeda conducted several suicide attacks at Pakistani facilities that are thought to house nuclear weapons and research facilities. It is unclear if the suicide attacks were a demonstration of the groups' capacity to penetrate security at sensitive locations or merely attacks on targets of opportunity.
On Aug. 21, 2008, two Taliban suicide bombers killed 70 Pakistanis and wounded more than 1,000 in attacks outside the munitions factory in the Wah complex.
Suicide bombers targeted security forces on or near the Sargodha Air Force Base during the summer and fall of 2007. Sargodha Air Force Base is in the district of Sargodha in central Punjab province.
The Sargodha Air Force Base serves as the "headquarters of the Pakistan Air Force's Central Air Command and home base for nuclear-capable F-16 combat aircraft, and Hatf-III/Ghaznavi/M-11 ballistic missiles," NTI reported. "Analysts believe that the F-16s have been most likely modified for nuclear delivery. Some analysts believe that components or partially assembled air-deliverable nuclear devices might be stored at an ammunition depot at the Sargodha air base."
On Aug. 2, 2007, Pakistani police prevented a suicide bomber from attacking a parade at a police training facility. On Nov. 1, 2007, a suicide bomber drove his motorcycle into a bus carrying military and intelligence officers at the air base. Eight were killed and 27 wounded in the strike.
There have been 56 major attacks against the police, the Army, the Frontier Corps, and other Pakistani security and intelligence services since July 2007 when the Musharraf government cleared the radical, pro-Taliban Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in the heart of the capital of Islamabad.