Pakistan’s On-again, Off-again Border War

Pakistani Army initiates an offensive in Waziristan as President Bush begins tour of the region

Amidst troubling reports that Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas of North and South Waziristan have become de facto al Qaeda and Taliban mini-states, Pakistan has initiated an offensive in the border town of Danda Saidgai, which lies about ten miles north of Miranshah in North Waziristan. The Pakistani Army has conducted an air assault on the isolated town, and report over thirty “foreign miscreants” (code for al Qaeda) have been killed or wounded. An unnamed Pakistani Army official states a senior Chechen commander was killed in the raid; “This Chechen commander Imam was behind most of the attacks against Pakistani security forces along the Pakistan-Afghan border… He was an important man for al-Qaida linked militants, and he died with his three bodyguards.”

The strike occurs one a week after the Pakistani military suspended operations in Waziristan, with the hope the local tribes can “restore peace and normalcy through their own customs and traditions.” The brutal reality is the Pakistani government exerts little control in North and South Waziristan outside of the government controlled bastions in Wana and Miranshah. President Musharraf is trying to demonstrate his government’s ability and sincerity in conducting operations in Waziristan as President Bush arrives for a tour of Pakistan and India, and a surprise stop in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently presented Pakistan a list of known Taliban operatives, along with their locations within Pakistan. Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is said to have been on the list. President Musharraf disputes this allegations, stating “certainly Mullah Omar is in Afghanistan… I’m 200 percent sure he’s in Afghanistan. He’s living in his own area.” Musharraf does recognize Taliban is operating from Pakistani territory and has offered to seal the border, “I have been telling (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and the United States, ‘Let us fence the border and let us mine it.’ Today I say it again. Let us mine their entire border. Let us fence it. It’s not difficult.”

The reality is sealing the Afghan-Pakistani isn’t all that simple. This is some of the roughest terrain on the planet, and Pakistan exerts little real control on its western border. Like the northern provinces, the southern province of Balochistan is a virtual haven for al Qaeda, and there is a low level insurgency being waged against the Pakistani government there. Over the past few days, a politician sympathetic to the central government was assassinated, a gas line was destroyed and a train was attacked in the region.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Marlin says:

    There is certainly no question that the situation is grim on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border and that the Pakistani Army can’t be counted on to police it adequately. However, other activities are underway that over time could significantly undermine the lure of jihadism for the Pashtun.
    Stars and Stripes has an article today about the groundbreaking for a road project (contracted to an Afghan company) that will connect the provincial capitals of Khowst and Gardez. I personally believe that making it easier for the ‘world’ to get to these remote border areas will allow the Pashtun to begin focusing on making their lives better, not just warring with their neighbors.
    The ceremony outside the city of Khowst in southeastern Afghanistan marked the groundbreaking of a road project that will connect the provincial capitals of Khowst and Gardez, providing a valuable trade route from Afghanistan to the port of Karachi in Pakistan. Work on the nearly 60-mile, $6.7 million road began in October 2005 and is expected to be complete in November. The project has been contracted to the Khowst-based Zurmat Construction Co., an Afghan company. Officials predict the company will hire about 300 local residents to help build the road.
    “This will be, we predict, the major route linking Afghanistan and Pakistan,”

  • Dan Darling says:

    Imam is almost certainly Daniar, who commanded the al-Qaeda forces against the Pakistani military in the spring of 2004.

  • blert says:

    Now this IS productive.
    Much more along these lines needs to happen. Roads are even more critical than schools. They transform the economy overnight.
    Dynamite and bulldozers: true front line weapons of construction.

  • When I read Tommy Franks’ “American Soldier” he vowed that after his experience in Vietnam, he would never let an enemy operate from a safe sanctuary (as the Vietcong did with Cambodia).
    It seems by relying on Pakistan to clean up its border as it sees fit in terms of methods and timings, we have allowed ourselves to half-ass this area of operations. Those operating in this region obviously still have lots of room to breathe. In the end, if we want the situation fixed, the hammer has to be brought down full bore. The question is: can we deal with the potential loss of life and the mess afterwards?

  • reliapundit says:

    THE HUNT FOR BIN LADEN: dead-end; time -warp; or near the end?
    Late in February 2004 – THAT’S 2004! – the US military claimed that Bin Laden was “contained” withing 100 square miles of eastern Afghanistan and the Waziristan province of Pakistan. They said that TASK GROUP 121 – which had captured Saddam was being flown in for a SPRING 2004 offensive.

  • Amber says:

    Pakistan’s On Again, Off Again War

    Bill Roggio provides another excellent analysis of a little-known part of the war in this region. Pakistan has become the key to the part of the war that is in Afghanistan. One of the principle reasons we lost in Vietnam was the safe havens the enemy h…


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