Day three of the Waziristan infighting

NWFP/FATA. Click map to view.

Uzbeks vs the Taliban; casualties rise as Pakistani Army pounds Uzbek positions

The fighting between Taliban-back Uzbeks and al Qaeda backed Taliban in South Waziristan continues into its third day. The Nation puts the number killed at 102 Uzbeks of Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and their local Taliban supporters, and 25 local Taliban lead by Mullah Nazir, including 9 civilians. Over 70 Uzbeks are reported to have been captured.

As we noted early yesterday, the ‘pro-government tribals’ lead by Mullah Nazir are actually a Taliban group that supports the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has an interest in labeling Mullah Nazir’s fighters as pro-government to provide evidence the Waziristan Accord is working. “It is the result of government policy that the local tribesmen are acting against foreign militants,” said Interior Minister Sherpao, in an interview with the Associated Press.

But the official Pakistani line that the local tribes are enforcing the ‘peace agreement’ is false. As the reporting in the Pakistani newspapers notes repeatedly, Mullah Nazir turned his forces on the Uzbeks only after the Uzbeks were accused of killing Saiful Adel, a mid level al Qaeda commander. “Maulvi Nazir supports the Arabs and suspected that the Uzbeks had murdered Adil,” Pakistani officials told the Daily Times. Nazir was defending his al Qaeda Arab allies against the Uzbeks.

The Uzbeks, on the other hand, have their local support. “Uzbek militants are being supported by key commanders of the late Taliban leader Nek Mohammad,” reports the Daily Times. Nek was an influential and fierce Taliban commander killed by the Pakistani Army during the fighting in South Waziristan in June of 2004. Taliban commanders Noor Islam and Maulavi Abbas are backing the Uzbeks.

Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda allied group, is believed to have escaped the Taliban assault on his madrassa. “He was nearly caught”, a senior Pakistani official told Dawn, “He is desperately running around to muster support in Mirali” in North Waziristan.

“The militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas support the Taliban insurgency against coalition forces in Afghanistan so it is not in the interests of the Taliban to have them fighting each other,” the BBC correctly notes. It has been rumored that Baitullah Mehsud “rushed to the affected area for reconciliation” Nazir’s forces and the Uzbeks. Earlier, it was reported that Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the military commander of the Afghan Taliban, along with his aide, Bakhta Jan, have traveled to Wana to settle the fighting.

Numerous reports from Waziristan indicate the Pakistani military engaged Uzbek positions, using mortar and artillery fire from a base near Wana. “Former FATA security chief Brigadier Mehmood Shah said the government should take advantage of the situation by covertly or overtly supporting the tribesmen,” notes Dawn.

By providing artillery support to Nazir’s forces against the Uzbeks, the Pakistani government has sided with the Taliban who support Arab al Qaeda fighters against Uzbek terrorists backed by elements of the local Taliban. The Pakistani government has involved itself in an internal power struggle withing the al Qaeda / Taliban jihadist movement in an attempt to portray the failed Waziristan Accord as a successful model of governance.

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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  • RJ says:

    This reads like a movie script where the Bloods and the Crips decide to take on each other while The Man just leans against a tree knowing that in the end he will have to clean up what remains. Somewhat arrogant of The Man, to think that he will be the last man standing, no? Looking from the land of the Afgans, I would venture this is not viewed as a good sign for their security. We need to open up the limits to the shooting gallery.

  • DJ says:

    I am familiar with that region of Pakistan and the situation since the days of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.
    Nice insight by the author as this is something i was suspecting aswell. It will be intresting to see how this turns out, Uzbeks are a visible minority in the Pushtun dominated region and can be easily singled out. They make good targets for both mullah Nazir (to consolidate his position in the region) and the pakistani govt to pick a side and regain their lost influence in the region.
    Another intresting development somewhere hidden in this struggle are the local tribsmen (not taliban or any foreign group) who are starting to take regroup themselves in this area. Their role will be intresting in the near future. Cheers

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    In fact, it is unclear what is going on in Pakistan. First, the government policy on Taliban, the seem to support and fight them in the same time. Then, theese inter-taliban conflicts.
    There is something going on within Taliban ranks. But who are the factions, and what is their agenda ?
    There was the rumour that Saudis are trying to regain influence on Taliban……

  • crosspatch says:

    All indicators continue to point to Pakistan. Breaking from Sky News.

    Three men have been arrested in connection with the terrorist attacks in London on July 7, 2005.
    Two men, aged 23 and 30, were arrested at Manchester Airport as they were about to catch a flight to Pakistan.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 03/22/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • DJ says:

    Basically, there are various factions who have supported the taliban in the past including Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics all faced a power vacum left by the fall of the Soveits and this was filled in by Islamist movements under Saudi and CIA financing and ISI implementation (mostly afghanistan). The problem was the big three (USA, PAK, Saudia) thought they could maintain control over the factions using the religious card. The factions are sort of a rag tag army consisiting of Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Hazaras and even Tajiks. On the western front in the Herat region you have more pro – Iranian based factions under Ismail Khan.
    So when the ill-planned and ill-concieved Toras Bora campaign took place by Uncle Sam, most of the rebels simply melted away into The border region with Pakistan and other regions in Afghanistan.
    Now let’s be clear on something, Al-Qaeda and the arab group are just one part of the overall rebel group. To say that Al-Qaeda has a global network running and controlling all factions like Talibans (Pashtuns), Uzbeks etc is simply not true.
    Yes Al-Qaeda (if they still operate) still assist and ally with factions but make no mistake Talibans don’t take orders from AL-Qaeda (they didn’t take orders from ISI who created them with CIA assistance). The arabs stand out easily in this region and it is hard for them to melt in the society without some sort of local protection.
    As far as the Uzbeks are concerned, it’s simple a powerplay option taken by Nazir to consolidate his position. Such actions are not taken just for revenge or protection of anybody. Nazir feels that the uzbeks are a threat and being Phustun he simply wants to take charge and remove them. Who is supporting Al-Qaeda or not is irrelevant as they don’t matter in that region Period. The war against the US and NATO is being fought by various factions and not just al-qaeda.
    Wether the uzbeks win (which is highly unlikely) or loose it won’t change the resistance movement in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are supporting Nazir simply because he is the more powerful faction leader and in this way the Authorities can maintain some sort of control and influence over the local talibans.
    The point is war isn’t going well in Iraq or Afghanistan due to lack of clear leadership in the US government ( this does not imply military leadership as they are very capable of doing their job). The US abadoned this region before and there is a feeling this is going to happen again. If and when that does happen, Pakistan needs to have some influence in order to protect its western borders, thats exactly what they did by assisting the Talibans.
    So the case is simple Strategic thinking and has little to do with Al-Qaeda or the global terrorism nonsense. The afghans are fighting the US simply because they are occupied and have always resisted occupation throughout their history. Al-Qaeda is trying to cash in on this because that is what these foolish people do. Pakistan is trying to secure its borders and maintain influence on factions which are opposed Indian influence. US has made a mess in Iraq so they are trying to fix Afghanistan. When they realize things aren’t working here either, they play the blame game. With all the high technology, the US still cannot keep mexican aliens out of their borders. How in the world do they expect Pakistan to keep afghans away in a region which has tough terrain, has no clear identified border and where culutural links between either side spans centuries.

  • tsquare says:

    Okay…this is ‘red on red’ fighting, right?
    Help me out here, I’m having trouble seeing the down side of all this…
    …well short of wanting the Pakistan Army fire in BOTH directions.
    Think we (USAF) could provide support for (against) BOTH sides? Just a thought…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The down side is Pakistan gets to promote this as progress in the Waziristan Accord.
    Syed Saleem Shahzad has more in his article at the Asia Times today. This will deflect the fighting away from Pakistan and into Afghanistan.
    “The Uzbeks are tenacious fighters, but the most likely outcome will be their surrender and agreement that from now on all fighting will be done in Afghanistan. Such unity of purpose would be a boon for the Taliban’s looming offensive against NATO.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Another reason why misrepresenting this is dangerous:
    US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Wednesday that local tribesmen in Waziristan were fighting the extremists hiding there. Ms Rice told a congressional hearing here that local tribal groups had begun to fight back against extremists along the Afghan border which, she said, “is remote, it is cut off, it is underdeveloped, and it is a hotbed for extremism.”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “Now let’s be clear on something”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “The Uzbeks are tenacious fighters, but the most likely outcome will be their surrender and agreement that from now on all fighting will be done in Afghanistan. Such unity of purpose would be a boon for the Taliban’s looming offensive against NATO.”

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Akkkk – call the grammar police. That was unintelligible. Try this instead.
    “The Uzbeks are tenacious fighters, but the most likely outcome will be their surrender and agreement that from now on all fighting will be done in Afghanistan. Such unity of purpose would be a boon for the Taliban’s looming offensive against NATO.”

  • DJ says:

    Dear Neo-andertal,
    My apologies if I wasn’t clear enough. I am very well aware when the Taliban were formed and the reasons behind it along with the active players and political entities motivating it. I assumed it would be common knowledge of talibans creation. I am also very well aware of the connections established between the ISI and the Arab and Afghani faction since the beginning of the soviet invasion. I don’t like to give names but certain individuals such as Brigradier Muhammad Yousef (Head of JIX – ISI’s departmental head of the Afghanistan campaign and the person who was incharge of the rebel campaign against the Soviets ) have provided highly insightful details on the inner workings of the region. My point was not to get into specifics as this is neither the correct place or time to discuss such things. As regards to wholescale fabrications of history, I couldn’t agree with you more 🙂

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    DJ, if it was not because of AQ, why do Pakistani Taliban fight in Afghanistan in such great numbers ? And why would Pushtun people in Afghanistan feel “more occupied” then Pushtun people in Pakistan ?

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Sorry, I probably jumped to conclusions about what you were getting at. I was reacting partly to the statement: “The problem was the big three (USA, PAK, Saudia) thought they could maintain control over the factions using the religious card.”

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I’ve closed comments on this post because an individual named Matt Dubuque has attempted to comment on this thread no less than 14 times, despite repeated warnings not to comment on this site in the past due to his rude and abusive behavior and his failure to respond to these requests. Matt refuses to accept he is not welcome here.
    If you wish to let Matt know how you feel about having the comments shut down because of his actions, you can contact him here:
    [email protected]


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