Taliban overrun Frontier Corps outpost in northwest Pakistan
The Taliban overran a Frontier Corps outpost during an assault today in the Arakzai tribal agency. The attack took place just seven days after the top Pakistani military commander declared an end to military operations in Arakzai.
A heavily armed Taliban force overran the Frontier Corps checkpoint in the village of Karonchi, killing six Frontier Corps troops and wounding eight more, according to AFP. The Pakistani military conducted a counterattack and claims to have killed 30 Taliban fighters during artillery barrages.
On June 1, the Pakistani Army declared that the operation in Arakzai, which began on March 21, was finished and that the Taliban have been cleared from the region.
"COAS' [Chief of Army Staff] visit to Arakzai Agency marks the successful conclusion of operations in the Agency," a June 1 press release at the Inter-Services Public Relations website stated. "Return of IDPs [internally displaced persons] is excepted to start shortly. He appreciated the professional conduct of the operation which has cleared the Agency of terrorists."
Local officials in Arakzai said that half of the agency is still under Taliban control despite the military's announcement that the operation was over.
The military had claimed that 1,118 Taliban fighters were killed between March 21 and June 1, according to reports in the Pakistani press compiled by The Long War Journal. But US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal have said the Pakistani military has exaggerated Taliban casualties and mixed civilian casualties in with those numbers. The Pakistani military over-relies on airstrikes and artillery to fight the Taliban, and Taliban casualties are often not confirmed by ground forces or local reporters, who are barred from the region.
Despite the military's June 1 declaration of victory in Arakzai, the military has reported engagements with the Taliban daily. The military has claimed that 143 Taliban fighters have been killed in Arakzai since June 1, according to reports in the Pakistani press compiled by The Long War Journal.
The Pakistani military has targeted the Taliban in Arakzai, Khyber, and South Waziristan over the past several months, and has claimed to have defeated the Taliban during operations in Swat, Bajaur, and Mohmand over the past year. But the Taliban still control large swaths of territory in these tribal agencies, while al Qaeda and allied groups maintains safe havens in these agencies as well as in North Waziristan. The Pakistanis have rebuffed US pressure to target the Taliban and al Qaeda bases in North Waziristan.
Some of the most deadly Taliban groups operate from Arakzai, and many of the suicide and military attacks carried out in Pakistan have originated from this tribal agency [see list]. The Taliban terror alliance in Arakzai has taken credit for some of the most lethal terror attacks inside Pakistan, including suicide attacks in Islamabad and terror-military assaults in Lahore and Peshawar. These groups often cooperate in attacks, and leaders and members may be affiliated with several groups.
Hakeemullah Mehsud, the currently leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, rose through the Taliban ranks to lead the group in Arakzai.