The strike in Danda Saidgai, suicide bombing in Karachi & fighting in Miranshah make Pakistan’s “miscreant” problem difficult to paper over
The Taliban and al Qaeda provided an embarrassing scene for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as President George Bush visited the country last week. Eager to demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani military launched an offensive against a terrorist camp in Danda Saidgai, North Waziristan. The Islamists responded by murdering a U.S. diplomat in a suicide strike outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, as well as launching a counteroffensive against the seat of government in Miranshah, North Waziristan.
The attack on the camp in Danda Saidgai and the fighting in Miranshah reveal much about the tenuous situation the Pakistani government faces in the lawless border regions, particularly in North and South Waziristan. Their is plenty of evidence the Pakistani government exerts very little influence outside of the government center in Miranshah and Wana, which have essentially become military garrisons inside hostile territory controlled by the Taliban.
The terrorist camp in Danda Saidgai wasn’t just a transient camp hastily assembled, but a “sprawling hideout ” and “military complex” which housed hundreds of foreign fighters and served as a training center. There were “eight residential quarters” which served as barracks for the terrorists. This camp has been in existence for some time, and it is believed there are several more like it spread throughout the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Provinces.
The Taliban responded two days later by launching a devastating counteroffensive (from a military, political and propaganda perspective) against the garrison city of Miranshah and outlying town of Mir Ali. On Saturday, a confidential source in Wana informed me “Miram Shah got hammered today.” While the Pakistani military eventually regained control of the city, and claim to have killed up to 100 Taliban fighters, the performance of the Pakistani units in Miranshah is troubling. The Taliban occupied government buildings, including a telephone exchange, and looted a local bank. The fighting is still raging around the city.
According to one press account, the Taliban “compelled the [Pakistani] military to transfer its helicopters and other vital equipment to Bannu from Miranshah.” A confidential source informed me the situation was much worse, and the Taliban actually seized military equipment after Pakistani troops abandoned their posts – equipment which includes American made heavy weaponry including armor-piercing rounds, mortars and other equipment.
Despite the Pakistani military’s boasting about retaking the city and inflicting high casualty rates on Taliban forces, the military essentially lost control of Miranshah. The Taliban is openly is flaunting power in Waziristan, and boldly amassed hundreds of fighters to strike at one of the few government strongholds in the region.
The resurgence of the Taliban is often credited to their resilience in Afghanistan, however the truth is the Taliban is not very popular within Afghanistan proper. The Taliban’s power is derived from Pakistan, as it always has since its inception in the early 1990s. The fighting in Afghanistan is largely being fueled in Pakistan’s lawless border region, and Pakistan has proven unable to establish government control five years after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.