The Forgotten War In Central Asia Continues

More fighting in Talibanistan, and Helmand province, Afghanistan

Miranshah by air.

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.

12 Comments

  • kingsley smith says:

    Bill- is there any hope that these military setbacks to Pakistani Army will be a blow to Pakistani pride and trigger a more robust response or is the general populace of Pakistan harbouring some sort of sympathy for the Taliban?
    Surely at some point the Pakistan Army will be embarrassed by this and respond more fully?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Anything is possible, but Pakistan has been taking a beating since 2004 and has yet to apply the force needed to resolve the problem.

  • Lisa says:

    Yes Bill…
    Is there any hope? What is the direction are people go from here? I am telling you they are like ant hills…you kill one and another pops up somewhere else!
    Lisa

  • Lisa says:

    Once again I ask what drives them to hate? What keeps them fighting? How we can convince them that democracy means you don’t take a life just because they chose to be Christian? It is a religious war I am convinced.
    Lisa~:>)

  • Lisa says:

    When the public sees this…that they are pouring terrorist out of Pakistan…they will feel that we created more hatred by being in Iraq and that we didn’t finish what we started in Afghanistan.

  • Rob says:

    The fighting in Waziristan is becoming one of the focuses of the War on Terror. The Al Qaeda have taken refuge there and this is a tribal area where the control of the Pakistani government has been limited. This is a concept a little strange to us, but immagine an indian reservation with guns. A no-go area a little like the French banue. The British gave up trying to control this area and the country of Pakistan has recognised this area as different; where the effort to exert control was not worth the price. Now that is changing.
    Expect change to be slow and difficult.
    But change has been coming, with a sputtering Pakistani military effort to clean out the foreign fighters and overt Taliban.
    Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the most part are unwelcome in Afghanistan, but comfortable here among their traditional base among the tribes in the Pakistani frontier provinces
    It looks like there will be more of this military pressure.
    And there will be more counter pressure. The Baluchi border tribes to the west are being stirred up and this could easily be a way to ease the military pressure on Waziristan.
    The press will be shouting failure and disaster, but rather this is a tough problem that has been avoided or ignored in the past that has reached the boiling point and which the great War on Terror will now force to be addressed.
    Pray for Pakistan. They face a tough problem here.

  • I don’t believe it is a religious war because our side is not seeking to impose its religious view on those we are fighting, nor on those we are protecting.
    The other side’s impetus is religious in the sense that their hate and motivation is spread via extreme religious activities, agendas, and proclamations. But it takes two to tango. We are just trying to stop the killers–no matter what the motivation.
    Going back to Pakistan, it is beginning to sound like we can’t even trust their numbers of enemy killed, especially if we don’t have a verification ability. The credibility of the Pakistanis seems to be deteriorating in the face of their mission results. This is like any major problem–you let it go long enough, the harder it is to take care of. Someone is going to have to drop the hammer sooner or later. And I hope it is sooner, and I hope it is coalition guys–because I think we are the only ones who can get it done.

  • JAF says:

    Off topic but ‘War on Terror’ related, the Strategy Page asserts that the killings going on in Iraq now are more and more revenge killings against the Sunnis than are Sunni insurgent/Al Queda activities.
    Lisa,
    We didn’t create that hatred, that hatred was already there in Al Queda’s hearts. By the way, hopefully someone has a link here, but I’ve read that support for Al Queda has plummeted in the Middle East. In Jordan for example, support was real high, that is until Al Queda bombed a wedding a killed a lot of people. In Iraq, support is at a real low, just ask the fleeing Al Queda from their former Sunni partners.
    There is one thing that could be said, we have now more muslims fighting Al Queda terrorists than we did on September 10, 2001.

  • nds says:

    It seems like a classic strategy in fighting guerilla and terrorist insurgencies is to let them have a safe spot for a while, then attack the safe spot. Peru did this against the Shining Path.
    The tribal areas of Pakistan are now that kind of safe spot. A campiagn in the tribal areas modeled on Sherman’s in Geogia and S Carolina would be about right.

  • cjr says:

    Like Bill has shown us in Iraq, we shouldnt view Afgahanistan/Waziristan/Pakistan as isolated series of actions. We should be looking at it as an overall campaign plan that may have several phases and may take years to complete.
    For example, here is a wild guess at the campaingn plan:.
    Step one: drive organized Taliban out of Afghanistan: done by 2002
    Step two: get NATO to send troops to provide some level of security across Afgahnistan. This frees up US from security duties and provides them with some freedom to take offensive actions: in progress, done by end 2006.
    Step three: US starts limited raids into Waziristan in order to drive Taliban to consentrate on the defensive instead of offensive action. 2007 to 2009
    Step three: train Afgan troops to take over security, freeing up NATO troops from that task: done by 2009
    Step four, now that both NATO and US troops are free from guarding Aghanistan, THEN go on a major offensive in Waziristan.
    etc etc…
    I think this is what would be important to understand, not just what we are going to do about Waziristan right now.

  • Enigma says:

    JAF,
    Is this link what you are looking for?

  • Grim says:

    Here’s something for you on al Qaeda and Bangladesh, Bill.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis