Taliban move forces eastward into Battagram


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.

As the fighting between the Pakistani military and the Taliban heats up in the war-torn district of Swat, the Taliban has moved a small force eastward into the district of Battagram.

More than 150 Taliban fighters advanced into the northern district on May 14, linked up with local supporters, and attacked a police checkpoint in Batta Mori. The Taliban force quickly captured the four policemen on duty, took control of the checkpoint, and seized the policemen's rifles and ammunition.

The Taliban then threatened to torture and behead the policemen, according to a report in The News. The police were released after they promised to quit their jobs. The Taliban then torched the checkpoint.

The checkpoint was established to block a Taliban advance into the district after fighting broke out in the neighboring districts of Shangla and Buner, as well as in nearby Swat and Dir.

Unnamed Pakistani sources close to President Zardari claimed the Army was moving six brigades of troops from the border with India to help halt the Taliban movement from the combat zone. But President Zardari himself contradicted these reports and said there were no more troops available for the fighting in Swat. General Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of Army Staff, confirmed Zardari's statement when he told parliament that no troops would be moved from the Indian border despite guarantees by the international community that India would not attack Pakistan.

US military and intelligence officials said the Taliban attack in Battagram highlights the disorganization and lack of planning behind the Swat operation.

"Clearly the military launched the Swat operation due to international pressure a need to show progress against the Taliban as President Zardari visited the US, and not out fear of the Taliban's advance," a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

"If they were serious, they would have deployed the forces to block any potential Taliban retreat or redeployment prior to kicking off the operation," the official continued. "Instead they talked of moving forces after the fighting began, but then again we're not even convinced they are moving significant forces."

Other officials said the Battagram incident shows the military isn't serious about the operation. "They put four police officers at an outpost when its well known the Taliban are attacking in large formations?," a military officer who is tracking the situation in Pakistan said in disbelief. "Have they been paying attention to what has happened in their own country over the past few years?"

The Taliban have expanded eastward from Swat since the government agreed to a peace agreement with the Taliban that would impose an end to the fighting and impose sharia, or Islamic law, last February. Hundreds of Taliban fighters poured into Buner and Shangla and took over the districts, while advance parties have moved into Haripur and Mansehra, just on the outskirts of Islamabad. Unconfirmed reports indicate the Taliban have established a presence in Swabi as well.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military said it is advancing toward the main town of Mingora in Swat, where the Taliban are said to have dug in for a siege. Between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians are said to be trapped in Mingora. Previously the military claimed it had surrounded Mingora.

The Pakistani military currently has an estimated 15,000 troops in Swat, while the Taliban forces are numbered at between 5,000 to 7,000 fighters. The military claims that more than 1,000 Taliban fighters have been killed since the fighting began in late April, but US officials are highly skeptical of these reports. Today, the military claimed 47 Taliban fighters were killed during fighting over the past 24 hours.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban move forces eastward into Battagram"

Posted by Marlin at May 17, 2009 7:23 PM ET:

Bill reported; But President Zardari himself contradicted these reports and said there were no more troops available for the fighting in Swat.

If that's true then this proclamation in London almost has to be false on its face. I suppose he will say (falsely) it was not possible because they did not receive all the aid requested.

PAKISTAN is to extend its war on the Taliban beyond Swat into the fiercely independent tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda leadership are believed to be hiding.

"We're going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations," President Asif Ali Zardari told The Sunday Times in an interview. "Swat is just the start. It's a larger war to fight."

The Times: Pakistan to attack Taliban in Bin Laden's lair

Posted by Neo at May 17, 2009 8:14 PM ET:

This is a little like being half pregnant.

Posted by Neo at May 17, 2009 9:55 PM ET:

I really don't like the sound of this either.

Power riots erupt in many Karachi localities
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/metropolitan/03-power-riots-erupt-in-many-karachi-localities-ss-01

How to turn a populous against the government 101. Chapter 2: Mess with the power grid.

Posted by tbrucia at May 17, 2009 9:57 PM ET:

If the issues weren`t so serious, this would be comic. Does the Pakistan military realize it`s only a small step from becoming a laughing stock? Incompetence on this scale is more like the Keystone Kops than the actions of a 21st century military organization....

Posted by coinoperator07 at May 18, 2009 10:02 AM ET:

The Pakistani military seems to fight counterinsurgency operations as well as the Sri Lankan military has. The difference is that Islamabad doesn't have the luxury of 26 years of warfare.

There is no winning hearts and minds or trying to wield any kind of positive governmental influence in the region. The people are obviously already looking toward the Taliban. 150 fighters don't just show up one day and take a check point. There was prior coordination with the police and the spheres of influence in the area.

There is cause for concern, here. Body counts don't win counterinsurgencies. Just ask GEN Westmoreland...

Posted by David M at May 18, 2009 1:55 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/18/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by ramsis at May 18, 2009 3:54 PM ET:

coinoperator07:
"There is no winning hearts and minds or trying to wield any kind of positive governmental influence in the region. The people are obviously already looking toward the Taliban. 150 fighters don't just show up one day and take a check point."

I agree, It seems to me that by flatting every village they deem sympathetic or harboring the Taliban I can't help wonder how many more of those fleeing civilians they will have to fight tomorrow. This heavy handed approach to counter insurgency warfare will almost certainly drive the Taliban into the cities where the government wont have the luxury to respond to every attack with such a standoff and pound strategy. While they're continuing to strengthen the ranks of the Jihadists they erode the support they have in the cities. ultimately this will be their downfall i'm afraid.

Posted by Midnight at May 18, 2009 5:41 PM ET:

Where it will drive them and where they will go, now that is a novel idea.

In truth I believe that Musharraf did this at least once and found it to be counterproductive to the entire area, by area I meant to say AF/PAK area.

Posted by Neo at May 18, 2009 9:30 PM ET:

It is only 25km from the Malam Jabba sky resort to the southwestern most part of Battagram province and nearby portions of Manshera province. On foot it might be over 70km through winding mountain paths. This is pretty rough terrain and much of it is probably more accessible by foot than vehicle. It is covered with deeply cut valleys and little "rabbit warren" villages nestled throughout.

Reports have much of the Taliban in Buner back-filtering into the Mongora area. I would expect some of them to hold up in east of Mongora in the mountains. This area is a nightmare for the army. Once the Taliban settles in only the locals could have any real chance of chasing them out. To do that the army would have to both convince the locals into cooperation and find a way to back them up against the Taliban.

Posted by Neo at May 18, 2009 9:47 PM ET:

Reports have the Pakistani army still heavily engaged at Kanju town just across the river from Mongora. They are also reported to have a major clearing operation ongoing in Matta 15 km north of Mongora along the west side of the Swat river.

There seems to be an attempt to take the Kheta heights and emerald mine on the eastern side of Mongora. These heights and the Kosa heights southwest of town dominate the town.

Posted by Tool Die design at May 19, 2009 3:16 AM ET:

laughing stock of Pakistan military.

Posted by dvd at May 19, 2009 6:45 AM ET:

I hate the war, Taliban should not move, should stop, and this area need peace, long war let more people lost home and friend. why not stop it. all people sit together to sing a song, and listen music and watch TV.

Posted by Indianink at May 19, 2009 7:20 AM ET:

Pakistan military concentrated much on kashmir and developed terrorist to destabilize india, but now they are not able to contain the talibans who are killing innocent pakistanis.

Posted by Zarin at May 19, 2009 9:23 AM ET:

This is just HIDE and SEEK game.

Posted by Paul at May 20, 2009 12:44 AM ET:

And who is to say these Taliban are not escaping disguised as women with the fleeing refugees?

Posted by KnightHawk at May 20, 2009 1:30 AM ET:

They can't spare a few more brigades due to the largely unfounded paranoia about India? The joke continues.

Posted by Jawad at May 20, 2009 3:00 PM ET:

Pakistan army is fighting most complex war out there. Tamils in srilanka cannot have that kind of terrain, also no way to escape from the island. Its sea everywhere. Swat is heavily forested mountainous area. Taliban has advantage of not only terrain but also they got support from neighbouring Afghanistan. Possible indian links through afghanistan for the fundings and ammunition support. There can only be three parties empowering taliban with weapons, that are RAW, Afghan govt, or CIA. Pakistan military must identify the main source of taliban. There main weapon supplier and they have to deal with it. Only then this war can be won. Otherwise insurgency will continue. Despite all the terrain support and third-party support Taliban has been pushed back from many of the area, for that Pakistan military must be appreciated. USA with all the advanced weapon systems is failed to defeat taliban. 50% of Afghanistan is under control of taliban. There must be two way effort now. USA and coalition forces must take on taliban in Afghanistan now.

Posted by NS at May 20, 2009 11:37 PM ET:

"There can only be three parties empowering taliban with weapons, that are RAW, Afghan govt, or CIA"

Jawad, thanks for the joke. This site gets a little too serious at times and we need some comedy once in a while.

Posted by ibrar khan at December 9, 2010 2:19 AM ET:

There is no talaban in battagram.The people of battagram are very peacefull & want peace on battagram & all over the world.

Posted by Daniel Sandercock at May 7, 2011 6:23 AM ET:

Whats the situation like in Battagram now?