Taliban step up attacks in South Waziristan


Hakeemullah-Waliur-Rehman.jpg

Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, before the Pakistani Army launched the South Waziristan offensive.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan after the group's leader recently vowed to continue fighting the Pakistani government.

Over the past week, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has killed eight Pakistani Army soldiers and captured one more, in two separate strikes. In addition, other small-scale attacks have been reported in the tribal agency.

Five Pakistani soldiers were killed in the first attack, on Oct. 15, when Taliban fighters launched attacks on the Talab checkpoint in the Sararogha area of South Waziristan. One soldier, who was first reported as missing, was captured by the Taliban.

Three more Pakistani soldiers were killed and two more were wounded in the second Taliban attack, which occurred in the Kalundar Keley area on Oct. 19 when the Taliban ambushed an Army patrol. Two other soldiers were wounded in a separate roadside bomb attack in the same area.

The recent attacks that killed the Pakistani soldiers have taken place just two weeks after Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the South Waziristan commander of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, vowed to continue the fight in the tribal agency.

In an interview with Reuters in late September, Waliur Rehman said he commands more than 2,500 Taliban fighters in South Waziristan, and estimated that the overall Taliban movement has 18,000 fighters throughout the tribal areas. He also accused the Pakistani Army of waging a war for the US and abandoning the fight against India in the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

"We are sure, God willing, we would defeat the Pakistani army one day," Waliur Rehman said. "They have imposed an American war on us. Instead of conquering Kashmir, they are trying to conquer us."

Waliur Rehman also expressed the Pakistani Taliban's support for al Qaeda, and said his group was involved in the global jihad against the West.

Waliur Rehman granted the interview from North Waziristan, the neighboring Taliban-controlled tribal agency that is home to multiple Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups. The Movement of the Taliban's leadership, including Hakeemullah Mehsud, the group's top leader, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, the senior military commander, and many of its fighters fled South Waziristan after the Pakistani Army invaded the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan.

The bulk of the Taliban's forces were withdrawn and sheltered in North Waziristan, the Wazir areas of South Waziristan, and the tribal agencies of Khyber, Orakzai, and Kurram. A small Taliban force, backed primarily by fanatical fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, fought a rearguard action against the Pakistani Army in an effort to slow its advance and bleed the force.

The Pakistani military has claimed success in South Waziristan, but a recent US government report which was leaked to the Wall Street Journal issued a scathing critique of the operation. The report said the Pakistani military has been unable to capitalize on the initial limited success of the operation, and that its forces have since "stayed close to the roads and did not engage against those [Pakistani Taliban] militants who returned after fleeing into North Waziristan." [See LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation, from Nov. 26, 2009, for an assessment of the Pakistani Army's efforts.]

Despite the operation in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the Taliban remain in control of much of the tribal agency. Also, the military has refused to go after the Taliban in Mullah Nazir's tribal areas in South Waziristan. Instead, the military cut a peace deal with Nazir, who has since broken the agreement by sheltering Waliur Rehman's forces as well as al Qaeda and other terror groups. Nazir has openly stated he supports Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, yet the Pakistani establishment considers him one of the so-called "good Taliban" as he does not advocate attacks against the Pakistani state.

Sources:

Three soldiers killed in South Waziristan: official, AFP
Five soldiers killed in Taliban attack, AFP
Pakistan Taliban commander vows to expand fight, Reuters
Waliur Rehman Mehsud says Taliban is tight with al Qaeda, bin Laden alive, Threat Matrix
Taliban escape South Waziristan operation, The Long War Journal



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban step up attacks in South Waziristan"

Posted by Steve337 at October 20, 2010 10:23 AM ET:

Pakistan is in a pickle! They're trying to walk the razor's edge between and within so many factions... ...and they have nukes. When will the timer time-out on this time bomb? Tick tick tick tick....

Posted by Charu at October 20, 2010 11:02 AM ET:

This has to be the most inept military ever! They are a textbook case of what a professional military shouldn't be; carry out mass genocide of civilians, start wars that they have no hope winning and which they lose every time, proliferate WMDs to other rogue nations, use terrorists as a proxy and terrorism as a tactic, run major businesses and industry and operate as a state-within-a state, and overthrow elected civilian governments time-and-again. The term "banana republic" doesn't do justice to the failure that is Pakistan. And here we are, planning to provide 2 billion in military aid to reward epic failure; with assurances, no less, from the Pakistanis that they would not use these weapons against India and presumably against our troops in Afghanistan. The kickbacks have to be enormous for this level of policy "incompetence".

Posted by madashell59 at October 20, 2010 11:34 AM ET:

My guess is that these soldiers were setup from inside. Now we know why it was a good choice to completely disband the Iraqi army and then rebuild it.This should be a mandate on Pakistan and Afganistan

Posted by Victrola at October 20, 2010 11:58 AM ET:

What? We were all assured that the Pakistani Army was "consolidating gains" in South Waziristan. The Pak Army is the very epitome of martial prowess. Not.

Posted by jayc at October 20, 2010 12:04 PM ET:

Charu,
The other day I was laughing at the fact that the Chinese have North Korea, until I realized that we have Pakistan. Now I am depresssed.

Posted by Anup at October 20, 2010 12:50 PM ET:

@Charu,

The apparent misalignment of policies may be by design, and *not* due to corruption. This article may provide clues as to why the U.S. seems to contradict itself: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/04/reading_woodward_in_karachi?page=full

Those billions of dollars in aid is a small price to pay to 1) do as we please in the Pakistani skies 2) conduct "integration testing" of our drone systems 3) delay the inevitable forces that will destroy the Pakistani state so that they are manageable 4) ensure that there is no vacuum of power, even if it is left in the hands of corrupt Punjabis

Besides, those dollars are depreciating. And all military aid will only spur subsequent sales to India which will help our economy.

Yes, the Pakistani state (manifested as its Army and ISI) is an inept, arrogant, and an enemy of democracy. It is run by folks totally obsessed with a piece of land that is part of India. And they have been spoiled rotten by money and freedom to terrorize others. But what goes around comes around. It'll come, don't fret.

Posted by Neo at October 20, 2010 2:32 PM ET:

The Taliban in Pakistan long ago promised a huge winter offensive against Pakistani forces in South Waziristan. They didn't specify which winter that would be though. This years Taliban offensive will probably be fairly limited. For the large Taliban offensive we may have to wait until next winter or the one after that.

Posted by Charu at October 20, 2010 4:19 PM ET:

@Anup, that article was classic delusional Pak victim-speak: boo hoo, we have suffered so much and put so much into the GWOT (which side?) so why doesn't the US trust us?

I think that the cost-benefit ratio is rapidly hitting zero if it hasn't already gone negative. We are paying them to wage war against us and work against our interests. It is worse that Iraq where we essentially paid billions to strengthen Iran's hand. You couldn't make this up even on South Park. This is great-power folly on an epic scale; the sort that brought the Roman or Ottoman empires down for keeps.

@neo, my understanding was that fighting in this theater only began in spring after the snow had melted in the passes.

Posted by munnabhai at October 21, 2010 9:10 PM ET:

Just the way Musharraf, the chamelion, who (as Director-Military Ops &) under Benazir's Presidency (or Prime Ministership) started recruiting & training the terrorist squads to infiltrate & carry out terror activities in Kashmir & elsewhere to (unsuccessfully) destabilize India finally confessed to have done so recently in his interview to 'Der Spiegel', he will also confess to having armed & trained TTP's militia, just wait till elections are announced in Pakistan.
Musharraf, like the mythological character Ravana in Indian epic Ramayana, has 10 mouths & each is programmed to sing a different tune depending on 'political climatic' conditions.
Viva Pak Army, ISI & all ex- & future dictators!
Munnabhai