A series of military strikes in the tribal agency of North Waziristan has caused a Taliban commander who is favored by Pakistan’s ruling class to reconsider his peace agreement with the military and the government.
A spokesman for Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who is considered to be a “good Taliban commander” as he does not advocate attacking the Pakistani state and instead directs his forces to fight in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban group’s executive council has met at an undisclosed location to reconsider its peace deal with the government. Ahmadullah Ahmadi, Bahadar’s spokesman, told Dawn that his forces “cannot remain silent over [the] bombardment on people.”
“The spokesman warned that the government would be responsible for any destruction in case it did not stop the military offensive,” Dawn reported.
The Pakistani military launched a series of airstrikes in the Miramshah and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan last night to punish groups responsible for “various terrorists’ acts of IED blasts and suicide attacks in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], KPK [the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], and Karachi,” the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations branch said in a statement released today on the attacks.
The ISPR claimed that “60 hardcore terrorists including some of the important commanders and foreigners were also killed in the strikes and around 30 were injured” during airstrikes that targeted “terrorist’s hideouts in North Waziristan Agency.” The reports cannot be confirmed; tribesmen in North Waziristan have claimed that civilians were the targets of the attacks.
An additional 11 “terrorists” and four soldiers, including an officer, are reported to have been killed during clashes in North Waziristan today.
The Pakistani military has launched similar punitive raids against Taliban fighters in North Waziristan this year, but the strikes have not been aimed at Bahadar’s group or the Haqqani Network, another Taliban group favored by the Pakistani military and government. Those strikes were directed at the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is at war with the Pakistani government, and also targeted allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Group.
Background on Bahadar and his ties to terrorist groups
Bahadar, the senior leader in North Waziristan, is known to shelter top al Qaeda leaders and is one of the most powerful Taliban commanders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. His forces fight US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. Bahadar is also allied with and shelters the Punjabi Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and other terrorist groups that conduct attacks inside and outside of the country.
Bahadar has long been described by Pakistani officials as a “good Taliban leader” as he does not openly attack the Pakistani state and wages jihad against the US and NATO in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military have long rebuffed US pleas to conduct an operation against Bahadar and the allied Haqqani Network. In early May, the US ambassador to Pakistan yet again pleaded for Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan.
Bahadar and the Taliban maintain a “peace agreement” with the Pakistani military that allows him to run a state within a state in the remote tribal agency. Bahadar and his commanders have set up a parallel administration, complete with courts, recruiting centers, prisons, training camps, and the ability to levy taxes.
The peace agreement allows North Waziristan to serve as a base for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and nonaligned Taliban groups, as well as the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and a host of Pakistani terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Punjabi Taliban.
Bahadar wields considerable power in North Waziristan. In July 2011, a spokesman for Bahadar claimed that there were no “militants” in North Waziristan, and that Bahadar’s Taliban faction has lived up to its terms of a peace agreement with the Pakistani military. But, as documented here at The Long War Journal numerous times, Bahadar provides support and shelter for top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from a number of Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups, including the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Bahadar’s Taliban subgroup is a member of the Shura-e-Murakeba, an al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-brokered alliance that includes the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the Mullah Nazir Group, another “good Taliban” group in South Waziristan. Mullah Nazir, the group’s former emir, was killed in a US drone strike in early 2013.
In June 2012, Bahadar suspended polio vaccination programs in North Waziristan in protest against the US drone strikes in North Waziristan. Bahadar has objected to the US drone strikes in the past. On Nov. 12, 2011, Bahadar suspended meetings with the government and threatened to attack the Pakistani state if it continued to allow the US to conduct attacks in areas under his control.
The US has conducted numerous airstrikes against terrorist targets in areas under Bahadar’s control. Of the 354 drone strikes that have taken place in Pakistan’s tribal areas, 99 of the strikes, or nearly 28 percent, have occurred in areas directly under the control of Bahadar. Numerous al Qaeda leaders have been killed while being sheltered by Bahadar. [See LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2014, and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2014, for more information.]