A cross border raid into Waziristan; Achilles update

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Map of ISAF Mission in Afghanistan. Click to Enlarge.

Deputy Taliban commander in Waziristan captured by Task Force 145; Taliban commander arrested in Kandahar; Tora Bora Front cell broken up; Achilles update

As NATO and Afghan forces are on the offensive in northern Helmand province, U.S. special forces have conducted a cross border raid in Pakistan and nabbed the deputy Taliban commander in Waziristan, according to a report by Al Jazeera Television. The Taliban leader is identified as Mullah Hakimallah Mansub, however the likelihood is the Romanization of the name is incorrect. ‘Mansub’ may well be of the Mehsud tribe, of which Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud are the two leading Taliban commanders in South Waziristan.

This raid would have been conducted by Task Force 145, the specialized hunter-killer team designed to detain or kill senior al Qaeda leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Task Force 145 was behind the strike in Danda Saidgai against Osama bin Laden’s praetorian Black Guard in the spring of 2006, among other operations in western Pakistan.

Today’s raid in South Waziristan follows the capture of Mullah Mahmood, a Taliban commander fleeing the fighting in southern Afghanistan. Mahmood was captured by Afghan soldiers after he tried to pass through a checkpoint while wearing a burka.

In Nangarhar province in northen Afghanistan NATO forces captured the leader of an IED cell of the newly formed Tora Bora Front. The Tora Bora Front is an al Qaeda linked organization and offshoot of Hizb-i-Islami Khalis fighters led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid. Mujahid is the son of Maulvi Yunis Khalis, who hosted Osama bin Laden after he entered Afghanistan in 1996.

Meanwhile, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Taliban and al Qaeda allied Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), has claimed he has broken with the Taliban and is willing to negotiate with the Afghan government. “The jihad went into high gear but later it gradually went down as certain elements among the Taliban rejected the idea of a joint struggle against the aggressor,” Hekmatyar told AFP “He said his forces were now mounting only restricted operations, partly because of a lack of resources.” Hekmatyer has always been an opportunist in Afghan affairs, but this might be a sign that the Taliban and al Qaeda no longer see any use in Hekmatyer’s services as they are now secure in Western Pakistan.

The raids against Taliban leaders occur as NATO and Afghan forces enter the third day of Operation Achilles in Northern Helmand province. Over 4,500 NATO and 1,000 Afghan troops are battling Taliban forces in the Taliban infested districts. Mullah Abdul Qassim, a “top Taliban commander in Helmand province,” according to The Associated Press, claims to have 4,000 fighters in northern Helmand and up to 9,000 fighters in the entire province.

“All of them are well-equipped and we have the weapons to target helicopters,” Qassim told The Associated Press. “The Taliban are able to fight for 15 or 20 years against NATO and the Americans.”

The fighting over the past 24 hours has focused around the Garmsir district. “[The NATO led International Security Assistance Forces] consisting of the British 45 Commando Royal Marines, supported by Afghan National Army troops, have successfully engaged Taliban extremist strongholds as well as compounds being used by the enemy as arms and ammunition storage facilities in the general area of Garmsir,” according to the ISAF press release. Afghan artillery has been firing in support of the operation, and U.S., British and Dutch close air support has been called in as well.

Elements from the Royal Canadian Regiment and the U.S. 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division appear to be conducting blocking operations at the Kandahar and Helmand provincial boundaries.

The Taliban control the districts of Musa Qala and Washir, and claimed to have captured Nawzad. The Sangin, Kajaki and Grishk districts have also been been the scene of heavy Taliban activity this winter. ISAF is attempting to secure the region around the Kajaki Dam in northern Helmand province to push forward with reconstruction projects 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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15 Comments

  • Raids by a task force are one thing, but I wonder how long it will be before we finally lose our patience and cross the border in force? Of course, that would open up a whole other hornets’ nest.

  • Rubin says:

    Hekmatyar, has claimed he has broken with the Taliban and is willing to negotiate with the Afghan government
    Sequel #3, OP bait and switch. Hek is moving his base and/or husbanding $$$, men and materials. I would be surprised if his Talib friends weren’t in on it.

  • joe says:

    Hekmatyar is never to be trusted. If he is talking he is lying.

  • RJ says:

    I would like to know more about the Afgan government: Is it rallying around true leaders who understand that the poppy fields(a true mini government) represent a grave threat along with the Taliban and AQ? What plans do they have to strengthen the government while fighting these evil forces? Will they “get our back” as we (NATO, et al.) go toe to toe at the tip of the spear? It’s good to read about captures, etc. but there needs to be another machine (political) marching in harmony with such efforts. Where’s this article describling such?

  • Great News!!!!
    The more of this the better, Pakistan has shown it’s unwillingness to confront al-Qaeda and their allies in the frontier areas. After the ouster of the Taliban, al-Qaeda’s Afghan sanctuary was shut down, with this development in the tribal areas they are back in business, and able to plan and coordinate attacks on the West
    //www.weaselzippers.blogspot.com

  • Bob says:

    I’ll consider hekmatyar fully surrendered when he’s six feet under! This agent of iran just like satar in iraq only offer to talk when they just about defeated.

  • Marlin says:

    The Fergana.ru article referenced in the Pakistan entry on the right side bar suggests that it was the Uzbek Tashir Yuldashev who was captured in Pakistan today. The Pakistani newspaper Dawn is suggesting it was Hakimullah Mehsud.
    ————————
    A close companion of militant commander Baitullah Mehsud was captured in a joint operation conducted by Nato and Afghan forces in a Pakistan region on Wednesday, informed sources told Dawn on Thursday.
    The sources said that two military helicopters landed in the Lawara area of Shawal adjacent to Afghanistan’s Paktika province and armed personnel captured Hakimullah Mehsud. However, five foreign comrades of Mehsud escaped.
    The sources said that Hakimullah was flown into Afghanistan for interrogation.
    […]
    Reports reaching here said that Nato forces had intensified their aerial activities over the tribal areas apparently in view of a spring offensive likely to be launched by Taliban. People living in tribal areas close to the Afghan border said that spy planes and choppers had increased their reconnaissance missions in the region.
    Dawn: Baitullah’s aide picked up by Nato forces from tribal area

  • Michael says:

    It appears Meshud is a common name.
    //www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007\03\09\story_9-3-2007_pg7_8

    “Abdullah Mehsud, who is wanted by the government for his involvement in the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in October 2004. Waheedullah had been assigned to carry out a suicide attack, reported Reuters, but his target was not known. Police were investigating whether the attack was in retaliation over the killing of a Shia Muslim leader in DI Khan last month. “Police arrested Waheedullah (28) from a street in Tank city after being tipped off about his location,”

  • Luke Willen says:

    Good news if it turns out that the right individual was captured.
    Even if this is not the case it would be foolish to let the Taliban or Al Quaeda think they have a secure refuge on the Pakistan side of the border. Since General Musharaff and the Pakistani security services either cannot or will not deal with the problem then Western forces have to do the job.
    If the Pakistani military want to help clear up the mess then that would be better and it certainly would make the job much easier if they did make a genuine effort. If not then Pakistan has no right to complain as they would then be in the position of tacitly supporting terrorists. If they were foolish enough to oppose, militarily, a NATO or US military incursion targeting Taliban or AL Quaeda units in Pakistan then that would be am act of war and should be treated as such. Let us hope that the Pakistani military never do anything so stupid as that.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 03/08/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Mark Buehner says:

    Its early but I think we are handling this well, perhaps brilliantly. NATO commanders have pre-empted the supposed Taliban spring resurgence, brought the fight to the border areas (which is better ground perhaps but ground on which the enemy will stand and fight and die instead of disperse into the countryside), and allows us the chance to strike across the border when targets are discovered.
    Last year I posited that Musharraf signed his agreement with the Tribal Areas to intentionally allow US forces to incur freely, and thus legitimately claim that he has no writ in the area so its not his problem. I think now that was optimistic on my part as far as Musharraf goes, but the reality on the ground seems to be ultimately the same. We _shouldnt_ cross the border in force, it hands the enemy all the advantages. Small special forces raids combined with extending an intelligence network with every bribe we can make is the way to go. Sadly we are very likely to lose some people on the wrong side of the border at some point, possibly an entire team. Thats when things will get messy diplomatically and politically. God willing it wont happen and all our people will be safe.

  • Someone has to go medieval on Hekmatyar, and the sooner the better. If he lives he’ll be as dangerous to Afghanistan as Stalin was to Russia.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    I’ve read that Hekmatyar bombed Kabul with unguided missiles three times, once while he was a prime minister in Afghanistan government. He has been fighting Russians, and after the war he decided to bomb Kabul for the first time, although he was on winning side. After that he joined the government, but, after a while, he bombed Kabul for the second time. Then he accepted the position of prime ministers, and bombed for the third time.
    He spent some time fighting Taliban, and killed quite a lot of them.
    He was a student of mechanical engineering, like me, but unlike me, he has never finished. I guess he changed his mind, as always.
    I feel sorry for the people who are trying to create a psyhological profile of this guy. They probably have hard time doing that.
    DG

  • julio says:

    regarding Hekmatyar: one of the most odious characters in a country blighted by quite a few of them. Yes, he bombed kabul while in the coalition gov’t, killing thousands of innocents. He did very little fighting against the Soviets, content with collecting CIA weapopns and financil assistance and letting Massood and co. do most of the heavy lifting. All the while pulling a “Ho Chi Minh” using the CIA larghese to knock off future rivals. A real piece of work this guy.

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