More fighting in Talibanistan, and Helmand province, Afghanistan
The current fighting in Pakistan and Afghanistan are not isolated events, but intricately linked to the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belts. As the Taliban consolidates power in North & South Waziristan, they are able to train, arm and move their fighters across the porous border to strike at the Afghan government and military, and Coalition forces.
Pakistan has waged an ineffective war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and has essentially become isolated in the garrisons of Miranshah (North Waziristan) and Wana (South Waziristan). And as the recent battle in Miranshah demonstrates, Pakistan’s hold on the cities is tenuous.
Yesterday, the Taliban attacked a security checkpoint in Miranshah, killing one Pakistani soldier and wounding four. The Pakistani military counterattacked and claims to have inflicted heavy casualties. “We suspect foreign militants among the dead,” said Major General Shaukat Sultan, “Fifteen to 20 miscreants were killed.” Further fighting raged in the towns of Saidgai and Mir Ali, and four soldiers and four “miscreants” were killed. Local residents reported the Pakistani military attacked a madrassa and encountered return fire from the Taliban within. In the restive province of Balochistan, “nearly 60 tribesmen suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces and government installations.”
Syed Saleem Shahzad reports the Pakistani military may be using advanced technology while combating the Taliban in western Pakistan, including “listening devices and other surveillance equipment,” as well as “helicopter gunships equipped with night vision.” The Pakistani military has conducted a low-tech psychological operation, and dropped pamphlets in the tribal areas. The “miscreants” are the problems, not the Pakistanis, “This war is against foreign terrorists and their harborers who are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Jews and Hindus against the state of Pakistan.” Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao denies the Taliban is even in country, “There are no Taliban in the tribal areas. It is only propaganda.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition and Afghani military battle the Taliban in Helmand province. Seven Taliban and one U.S. solder were killed during a strike against twenty Taliban. Helicopter gunships and airstrikes were called in for support, and the Taliban took over 30% casualties.
The Taliban claim to have assembled a brigade of suicide bombers and will target the British units who are arriving in Helmand. “We are happy that they are coming to Helmand,” said Mullah Razayar Noorzai, the Taliban commander of Helmand province, “It is both a trial and a great honour for all Muslims. We will now get a fair chance to kill them… We have already prepared 600 suicide bombers alone for the Helmand, and you’ll see that we will turn it into their graveyard.”
The Jamestown Foundation looks at the problems in Helmand, a province that is rife with opium production, unemployment, poor governance and a cadre of committed jihadists, and concludes the Taliban is working to bloody the British contingent and cleave them from the Coalition, “The consensus in Afghanistan is that the surge in violence is directly linked to the new mission of the British-led NATO International Security Assistance Force in Helmand. This force will be dominated by the British 16th Air Assault Brigade. It seems likely that the insurgents, alongside al Qaeda, will seek to test the resolve of the British troops early, hoping to inflict serious losses on their forces.”
The British, Canadians and Dutch are taking over a large portion of the security in southeastern Afghanistan. The will of the West will be tested this year.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.