Suicide Strike Kills 42 Pakistani Soldiers in Dargai

Over 20 wounded in attack on Pakistani Army training base in the Northwest Frontier Province

orkazai-wana.jpgAs the Pakistani government continues to press for a peace accord in Bajaur and elsewhere in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a suicide bomber strikes at an Army base in Dargai in the Northwest Frontier Province. Over 42 Pakistani Army trainees were murdered and 20 wounded in the attack. “The bomber wrapped a chadar (cloak) around his body and came running into the training area and exploded himself where recruits had gathered for training,” a military official said, reports News.com.au.

“Dargai is a stronghold of militant group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law),” reports Reuters. TNSM is run by none other than Faqir Mohammed, one of the targets of the Chingai raids, who is considered a “local al Qaeda leader” who provided shelter to Ayman al-Zawahiri in Damadola, and is the key tribal leader behind the Bajaur Accord negotiations.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Dargai base, al Qaeda and TNSM will be the primary suspects. The attack is very likely retaliation for the airstrike on Faqir Mohammed’s madrassa and terrorist training camp in Chingai, Bajaur. [Updated: Islamabad has already linked the attacks to the Bajaur strike.]

Elsewhere in Pakistan, Northwest Frontier Province governor Jan Orkazi was the target of a rocket attack in Wana, South Waziristan. Three rockets were fired at Wana as Orkazai was in town to meet with tribal leaders in a ‘jirga.’ The Taliban are said to wish to codify their control over the agency, but there is no word if the jirga was held to conduct a peace treaty. Orkazai’s spokesman claims he did not cut his visit shortdue to the attack, nor was he the target of the attack.

Hassan Abbas of the Jamestown Foundation states President Pervez Musharraf has been seeking peace deals in the tribal regions to placate his base of support – the Pakistani military, which has a large percentage of Pashtun officers and enlisted soldiers.

While Musharraf attempts to please the military, the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to attack it, or subvert it from within. The suicide attack on Dargai is but the largest in an ongoing series of attacks on bases and outposts throughout the Northwest Frontier Province. Governor Orkazai, himself a Pashtun and a Taliban sympathizer, is also a retired Army Lieutenant General. Orkazai is said to have fallen out of favor with the Taliban after the Chingai airstrikes. Up to 20 Air Force officers are believed to be involved in the foiled coup attempt. One of the conspirators is the son of a retired Brigadier General.

Musharraf has a very real problem. His attempts to placate the military results in the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidating their power and taking bolder moves against the government. The rare attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda infrastructure, designed to ‘prove’ Pakistan is indeed a valuable ally in the war, only serve to enrage the pro-Islamist elements within the military, increasing the likelihood of more coup attempts. His attempts to play both sides of the issue only serves to further destabilize a precarious situation in nuclear armed Pakistan.

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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8 Comments

  • DaveK says:

    I’ve said it before… Parvez’ days are numbered, and I think he knows it. He’s in serious appeasement mode, trying to hang on to power for as long as he can. One of these days soon, he’ll make a relatively short-notice trip to Europe, Arabia, USA, or some other remote location, and will conveniently be away when the coup transpires… that is, if he’s both lucky and smart.

    Just my $.02

    DaveK

  • remoteman says:

    He’ll be lucky to get out alive. Pakistan is just going from bad to worse. I will be surprised if there is not a full blown islamic revolution there (meaning the fundi elements make a serious grab for power)within the next 2 years.

  • C-Low says:

    “very likely retaliation for the airstrike on Faqir Mohammed’s madrassa and terrorist training camp”
    Talk about a understatement. I think this incedent is best described as a “eye for a eye”. Training camp for training camp. Damm
    As for Musharaf, I don’t think I would count him out quite yet. It is true Pakistan has a large radical population but lets also not forget like Turkey it has a long history of western military & cultural influence and a very strong presence were it counts the Military of highly westernized Muslims. Don’t think those guys would just go quitley into the night.
    Musharaf’s real danger is the balancing act he has been playing witht the two fractions. His dictatorship really pisses the western leaning military off (even thou his being one of them and from the military offsets this alot) and his on-off crackdown on the radicals along with the underground support to them for thier ops against India gives him the same with the radicals. When he goes thier will be a internal war that will really be something between the two fractions in my opinion. And we haven’t even touched on the what is the US/India wild cards going to do with those Paki nukes in the middle of such a mess PREEMPTIVE definatley the question is at what level.

  • Engima says:

    I suspect that the Islamic Revolution is already underway in Pakistan, but that we won’t recognize it as such until after Musharaf is swept from power.
    But they have nukes there! That is a problem we cannot ignore.
    Exactly right, Lisa. Exactly right. This will indeed be a long war.

  • Pakistan IS indeed a valuable ally in the war, as anybody who knows how close air support gets from the Eisenhower to Uruzgan, or how shipping containers get from the SPOD to Kandahar, knows.
    When Mushy stops that, he’s no longer an ally.
    India has a plan for the implosion of Pakistan. They might even let us in on it.

  • Raj Kumar says:

    C-Low,
    As for Musharaf, I don’t think I would count him out quite yet. It is true Pakistan has a large radical population but lets also not forget like Turkey it has a long history of western military & cultural influence and a very strong presence were it counts the Military of highly westernized Muslims. Don’t think those guys would just go quitley into the night.
    Major difference between Turkey and Pakistan is that in Turkey the military see themself as the defender of the ‘secular’ vision of Ataturk. In Pakistan the military see themself as the ‘Army of Allah’.
    The military in Pakistan was the first state institution which underwent ‘islamization’ under the previous Dictator General Zia Al Haq. All military officers as apart of the Annual Confidential Review have to prove their ‘islamic’ credential.
    The military is the other side of the militant coin as far as Pakistan is concerned, please do not view the two as being different. You will hard pressed to tell the difference between them!!!
    If you think the problem is bad now then think again……in a 5/10 year time frame the people who joined in the post Zia period will be rising to the top and these guys are hard nut islamist. They are at the Col./ 1 star level right now and will start feeding through to the 3/4 star level in the next few years.
    If the west has not taken Pakistan apart before then these guys will have no problem in handing a complete WMD to their buddies for delivery.

  • Anand says:

    Cannoneer,
    India’s foreign policy and national security elites have no plan for the dissolution of Pakistan. I have had only a few conversation with those types (and not in the last two years), but in all of them their biggest concern is dissolution/civil war in Pakistan with corrupt officers selling off Pakistani military armements.
    Note that surface rhetorical hostility aside, their greatest fear is Pakistani weakness and instability, hence the determined efforts by the Manmohan government to reach out to Pakistan via the peace process inspite of extremists operating against India and its ally Karzai from Pakistan. The Indian establishment wants to negotiate a free trade agreement with Pakistan in hopes of stabilizing the Pak economy . . . and is willing to offer foreign aid as part of a peace settlement with Pakistan. (not sure this is likely.)

  • Pia says:

    Raj Kumar, I do not think the West is going to have to take Pakistan apart—the country is already so threatened internally by their own elitist and negligent policies towards ethnic minorities that they are on the brink of fragmentation anyway!
    We talk about stabilizing the area through military action, counter-insurgency and intelligence operations. But what about through inclusive governance, economic incentives, education and political participation for the tribal areas. Think of Balochistan–forcibly annexed into Pakistan during the year following partition. How is their cause any different than any other people fighting for autonomy and the right to benefit from the immense natural resources found in their own backyard (very little of which the Baloch actually see).
    I’m not defending terrorism in any way…but I am suggesting that the approach to eliminating it can not be primarily military because the root causes lie in the denial of basic human rights for the people in those region.
    IMHO Pakistan needs to smarten up and shed their own colonial baggage if they want to create a base upon which true peace can be built. Military tactics need to be waged against the terrorists, while politics needs to be focused on those who seek a bette life for themselves and their children.

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