Taliban, Pakistani security forces battle in Tank

Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban mass; 25 Taliban, 1 security officer killed after school principal kidnapped

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies are openly controlled by the Taliban; yellow are under threat. Click map to view.

The Taliban continue to challenge the Pakistani government’s writ in the Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban forces, estimated at “more than 200 Taliban soldiers” by Tank District Police Officer Mumtaz Zarin, massed and attacked the city of Tank on Tuesday night. “They attacked the city to avenge the killing of their colleague who died on Monday,” officer Zarin said. Twenty-five Taliban and one paramilitary officer were killed in the fighting, which included Taliban mortar and rocket attacks. The Taliban attacked two police stations and a paramilitary fort, and looted and burned two banks to the ground. The Pakistani Army was called in to quell the violence, provide security and establish a curfew. “Reinforcements have reached Tank to increase the security level. The militants want to destabilise Tank to spread out to other areas of the province,” said Zarin.

The Pakistani military appears to have only restored a semblance of order in Tank. “Witnesses said a strong corps of militants was holding positions in Wazirabad, Muhalla Mehsudan and Barkiabad localities, while security forces patrolled the cantonment area,” notes Dawn.

On Monday, the Taliban and local police battled after the Taliban were confronted while trying to recruit students from a local boy’s high school. Later the Taliban returned and killed a policeman and kidnapped Farid Mehsud, the school principal. “[The Taliban] were questioning the principal to determine whether he had alerted police about the presence of their associates at the school,” reports the Associated Press. “We will kill him if we find him guilty,” said a ‘militant’ associated with Baitullah Mehsud.

According to the same ‘militant’ who “has regularly provided information on behalf of [Baitullah] Mehsud,” the Taliban that attacked the city of Tank were “followers of Baitullah Mehsud.” A Pakistani intelligence officer agrees. “All clues in the kidnapping point to Baitullah, because the people who were at the school (on Monday) were linked to him,” the intelligence official told Dawn.

“Tank District Nazim Riaz Kundi blamed the instability in South Waziristan for the disturbance in Tank city,” reports the Daily Times “We are on the border with South Waziristan where the security situation is not good,” Kundi told the Daily Times.

The battle in Tank occurred as Baitullah himself was bing called in to “seek his help in bringing normalcy to the district” of Tank. Baitullah was to bring a “peace message” to the people of Tank.

Baitullah is now frustrated with being implicated in the violence in the Northwest Frontier Province. “‘Baitullah Mehsud is angry at being accused of involvement in every militant attack,’ Senator Saleh Shah of the MMA told Daily Times after meeting the Taliban commander at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan.”

Senator Shah is a member of the Taliban supporting Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (or MMA), and organized the meeting with Baitullah. The MMA has been instrumental in providing the political cover for the Waziristan and Bajaur accords, which have ceded the tribal districts to the Taliban. Pakistani politicians of the MMA regularly met with Baitullah, who was directly implicated by the Pakistani police in a wave of suicide attacks this winter, and other Taliban terrorists

Elsewhere in the Northwest Frontier Province, a bombing in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the NWFP, wounded the Secretary of the secular Awami National Party on March 26. Another bombing in Peshawar targeted an International Committee of the Red Cross facility on March 28. In Bajaur, four Pakistani intelligence officers were murdered by the Taliban. ABC News’ The Blotter reports the agents were hunting Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command.

The fighting in Tank, the bombings in Peshawar and the attack in Bajaur only serve to highlight the failure of the Pakistani government to establish its writ in the tribal areas, and in the greater Northwest Frontier Province. The Northwest Frontier Province is falling into the hands of the Taliban. Yet the Pakistani government still seeks to sign away districts and tribal agencies to the Taliban, under the auspices of cutting deals with the local tribes.

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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29 Comments

  • The writ of Islamabad is a fiction in Pashtunistan.
    Perhaps the writ of Kabul would fare better.
    All Pashtun are not Taliban, but just about all Taliban are Pashtun.
    Time to start planning for the implosion of the nuclear-armed failed state currently referred to as Pakistan. We need to be talking to India.

  • cjr says:

    Cannoneer:
    And not all Pakistani are Pushtun. IIFC, they make up ~15%.

  • crosspatch says:

    There is a pretty good PDF document that give a sort of highlight of the historical problems in that reagion. It isn’t huge. It gets good at page 6 of the document in the “Sources of Discontent” section.
    Here is a link

  • Robert B says:

    Geesh, we really don’t need Musharraf giving away parts of his country.
    On the up side, I’m sure Jon Stewart might make a continuing role for him as a sidekick //www.comedycentral.com/search/search_index.jhtml?searchtype=all&pagesize=3&sorttype=default&searchterm=musharraf

  • Freedom Now says:

    India is so anti-Western they would be a more unreliable ally than Pakistan.
    It would also do us great harm to be seen as associating with the Hindu supremists in that country. They are quite violent and intolerant of any other religion.
    …Musharraf is in a hell of a position. His country has quite a history with the Taliban and harbors many sympathizers. The independence of the northern tribal lands is a huge problem as well. I am amazed that he has lasted so long. The guy is a smart SOB, but I wouldnt trust him too much.

  • GK says:

    “India is so anti-Western they would be a more unreliable ally than Pakistan.”
    VERY wrong. India is one of the most pro-US countries in the world. It is a democracy to boot.
    “It would also do us great harm to be seen as associating with the Hindu supremists in that country. They are quite violent and intolerant of any other religion.”
    Also extremely wrong. India has a Muslim President AND a Sikh Prime Minister. Many top movie stars are Muslim.
    To say the Hindu extremists control India is no more true than to say Pat Robertson controls the US.
    Your opinion of India is incredibly wrong, to say the least.

  • RJ says:

    I would venture that most of the “stan” nation-states are ripe for revolution. One looks at their adobe structures with Pepsi signs tacked to them while a modern vehicle wizzes by as the old lady in classic clothing comes out to start a fire; just about says it all for me: The haves work to keep the have nots without power. But, the have nots have received lots of electronic information not to remain idle for long. Religion is one artery of this emerging body politic into which the soldiers march to war. What were are seeing now in this region are atttemps at aligning prior to the major assaults on government.

  • Howard Veit says:

    If Musharraf goes it means Iran, Syria, and other Middle East Krapistans will have the bomb almost immediately. The fact that we will most certainly be blown out of Afghanistan, thus turning it back to a terrorist training ground is almost incidental. Then there is the almost certain war between India and Pakistan that will happen, a war in which we will have to side with India and in which Russia and China will almost surely side with Pakistan. Fun world, everybody. Oh, and don’t forget North Korea. This all means that we better have a president that really knows foreign policy and not just entitlement money to interest groups. Dream on.

  • crosspatch:
    That .pdf was great stuff for wannabe snake-eatin’ ethnologists to digest. Thanks.
    I think it is time to evaluate why Pakistan exists, what sacrifices America should make to ensure Pakistan’s continued existence, and what are the down-sides for America if Pakistan goes down the tubes.
    Al Qaeda cannot be allowed to turn Pashtunistan into a sanctuary and terrorist breeding ground. To keep that from happening, interested powers with common interests must collaborate. Nobody has exercised effective control over Pashtunistan. Ever. I think it is beyond the ability of even the world’s super power. A way must be found to turn the Pashtuns.

  • Michael says:

    Cannononeer,
    I believe some of the Pashtun tribes met recently in Jalalabad with Karzai asking for NATO help. Curious if any see this as the opening needed?

  • Pakistan’s wild western faultline
    No foreign invaders, from Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to the British Empire, had been able to control Waziristan. A stretch of arid land, the region had served as a buffer between rival empires since the 11th century. Protected by mountain fastness, the Mehsud and the Waziris had historically resisted British authority. When the Durand Line was established as the border between Afghanistan and British India in 1893, Waziristan became an independent territory, outside the bounds of effective British rule. Since it became part of Pakistan in 1947, the government had continued the British practice of pacification through payment of subsidies to tribal chieftains. Normal Pakistani laws did not apply.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 03/30/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    I suspect that there is more NATO activity on Pakistani side of the border than we know about. I think that local Pushtun are not ready to deal with NATO raids and airstrikes on their territory, where their families and homes are. The brother of said Meshud is captured, too, as Mr. Roggio reported.
    Perhaps that is the reason why locals want to get rid of foreign fighters ?
    DG

  • crosspatch says:

    “I think it is time to evaluate why Pakistan exists, what sacrifices America should make to ensure Pakistan’s continued existence, and what are the down-sides for America if Pakistan goes down the tubes.”
    It isn’t just Pakistan, it is also in other places like the middle east where the Ottoman Empire was carved up after World War I. Little attention was paid to cultural boundaries. You have Azeris split between Azerbaijan and Iran, Kurds split between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria … and the Russians did their part in the creation of places such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan which have little relation between the political map borders and the cultural borders of Azeris, Kurds, Turkman, Tajiks, and Uzbeks and then there are the Pashtuns who are in a situation roughly like the Kurds.
    It is impossible to redraw the maps these days. Pakistan and Afghanistan would never go for a Pashtunistan being carved out of their territory, or additions to Uzbekistan or Tajikistans from Afghanistan. Or a Kurdistan from Turkey, Iran, Syrian and Iraq.
    What needs to happen if we are truly going to have lasting peace is the creation of a national identity that rises above tribal identity. People must see themselves as Afghan first rather than Pashtun or Uzbek or Tajik.
    This can not be done in one US election cycle, it takes generations. What you first must do is tear down the barriers of isolation between the various groups. Improved highways, more access to markets in other areas, removal of natural barriers to travel, etc. You need to first get the people mingling together. You need to remove social stigma of mixed marriages between the various tribes. As you have a mixed area, generally the national capital is the place where this begins, you start having marriages between people of various ethnic backgrounds. The lines of tribal loyalty become blurred. In short, you need to create a mixing pot of all the various ethnic groups. Pick various traditions from the various cultures and make them national traditions celebrated by everyone.
    Then you have things like national sporting teams that compete internationally and get wide coverage. The people are together rooting for their Afghan or Iraqi team. People of all tribes togther pulling for a national identity. Tribal and religious sectarian fighting only perpetuates divisions and weakens nations. It ensures that the violence will continue forever. It takes generations to happen but you need a good infrastructure with good lines of communications across traditional ethnic boundaries to blur those lines over time.
    I thought Pakistan’s suggestion of a border fence was a good idea but Afghanistan could not support it for internal political reasons. If you cut off the communications back and forth across the political border, over time the cultures evolve differently. You begin to have Afghan Pashtuns and Paki Pashtuns. As time goes by, they evolve into more of a national identity than a tribal identity that spans political boundaries.
    Over the centuries the boundary lines drawn on maps have been more an issue for a far away ruling class than for the people who lived there. They know their cultural boundaries and have relatives and friends all across their tribal region. The lines of communications inside their national borders need to be opened up, and communications across their national borders restricted. After several generations, a more national identity will emerge. But this isn’t something that can be done with guns or decrees or armies in the span of a US political cycle.

  • Freedom Now says:

    GK,
    Stop putting words in my mouth, I never said India was run by Hindu extremists. I said,
    “It would also do us great harm to be seen as associating with the Hindu supremacists in that country.”
    “To be seen as associating” is the key phrase. There is a huge Islamist/Leftwing propaganda war machine out there and that is exactly the message they would spread. However, I am also a bit concerned about Hindu supremacists in that country because of their history of violence against all other religions and the sympathy that they SOMETIMES enjoy from Indian security services.
    Anyways, I’ve seen those statistics before and they are encouraging. India has indeed toned down its historical anti-Americanism. It is quite possible that the silent majority is (and may have always been) pro-American.
    Things have improved since they are no longer a Soviet aligned country and their economy has improved (thanks to watering down their Socialism). Most importantly they view the U.S. as a possible ally in the War on Terror against Islamic Jihadists.
    But if you look at the government, their policy is most often in alignment with anti-Americanism because they have strong Socialist indoctrination. They are also very bitter over British colonialism and often view the U.S. as an imperialistic country.
    While there has been considerable liberalization, the country has always been Socialist and still retains much of its Socialist nature. India was instrumental in the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement, which is a sham. It was basically formed as a pro-Soviet organization and serves as a clearing house for anti-Americanism. That is why Western countries are not welcome in the organization, but Communist countries are. Ironically their last meeting took place in Havana, Cuba and the Castros are now jointly serving as Secretary General (a 2nd for Fidel).
    NAM actively supports Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and are very anti-Israeli to the point of anti-Semitic. The prominent role that India’s government plays in this organization shows where its true sympathies lie and the country’s foreign policy has always closely resembled NAM’s anti-Western agenda.
    While the country has improved its relationship with the U.S. it has also improved its relationship with China, showing that India is adopting a realpolitik line of thinking.
    It should also be noted that India has been dominated by the Indian National Congress. The organization that rightfully fought for and won independence for India. Unfortunately, the fight for independence has left a scar on the psyche of its members. During the Cold War years they looked favorably to the Soviet Union and embraced anti-Americanism. While they have liberalized in recent years, Sonia Gandhi still effectively leads the party and she was extremely pro-Soviet. Gandhi actually hand picked the current prime minister. As a result of her leadership the party still has questionable ties to Communists and is weak against Islamist extremists.
    India’s reluctance to sign any non-nuclear proliferation treaties or bans on nuclear weapons testing is another source of contention. Many Indians are very suspicious of any restrictions on its right to nuclear weapons and is supportive of other nations seeking the same (like Iran).
    At a grassroots level leftwing activists in the country are the most militantly anti-American in the world. They still blame America for Bhopal disaster in 1984 and attack every vestige of American culture (for example their activism against Coca Cola).
    I didnt come to the conclusion that India would be an unreliable ally through ignorance. Instead of relying on a survey I based my decision on actual history and current events.
    This not to say that we shouldnt cooperate with India. Its just that they would be a similar ally as France is. Where it suits them they will be supportive and where it doesnt they will be ruthlessly anti-American.

  • GK says:

    FreedomNow,
    Stop putting words in my mouth,
    er… you specifically said : “It would also do us great harm to be seen as associating with the Hindu supremacists in that country”
    That implies you think those extremists are running that country. A very ignorant belief, to say the least.
    India has a Sikh Prime Minister and Muslim President. There are no riots in the Indian streets over the ethnicities of their leaders.
    Please admit your gross mistake.
    their policy is most often in alignment with anti-Americanism because they have strong Socialist indoctrination. They are also very bitter over British colonialism and often view the U.S. as an imperialistic country.
    Also extremely wrong. This may have been true 25 years ago. If you think that is true today, that is horrendously uninformed. NAM is no more relevant in Indian politics today than Vietnam-era policies apply to the US now.
    While the country has improved its relationship with the U.S. it has also improved its relationship with China, showing that India is adopting a realpolitik line of thinking.
    And this is wrong because?????? China is India’s neighbor. Canada also has alliances with both the US and China.
    India’s reluctance to sign any non-nuclear proliferation treaties or bans on nuclear weapons testing is another source of contention.
    You are behaving like the liberals who say India and Pakistan should be treated equally in terms of nuclear non-proliferation. Nevermind that one is a terrorist-haven dictatorship, while the other is a secular democracy. President Bush, thankfully, thinks differently from liberals (and you), and gave India a special nuclear deal NOT giving the same to Pakistan. Bush also lifted the sactions on India that Clinton had placed, in response to Indian nuclear tests.
    Its just that they would be a similar ally as France is. Where it suits them they will be supportive and where it doesnt they will be ruthlessly anti-American.
    Wrong. The pro-US sentiment in India is far more than in France, from the link I provided earlier.
    India could be America’s most valuable ally in the 21st century. Uninformed rhetoric like yours will blow it.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Crosspatch, I agree with your post.
    I think that all that is happening is partly because tribal structure is breaking down. Tribal structure was preserved for a long time, and some people would like to preserve it forever.
    Mere existence of modern society is destroying it, because people are losing interest in the old ways. You can call it a globalization. That’s why are terrorists so desperate to destroy Western Civilization.
    Speaking of colonial empires, I think that old european powers are feeling guilty of the past, and, because of that, unwilling to face islamic threat.
    My country (Croatia) is in Europe, and it was not a colonial power. It was part of Austro-Hungarian empire at that time, against people’s will. I have no reason to feel guilty, and I don’t want to see terrorists on the streets of my home town just because someone else is having bad conscience.
    If I was an American citizen, I would support politics of president Bush 100%.
    DG

  • Marlin says:

    ABC News’ The Blotter echoes what Bill has been saying for months.
    ————————
    For years, President Pervez Musharraf has said he was doing his best to stamp out extremism in Pakistan’s restive tribal belt. The recent rash of violence has many Pakistanis worried it is spreading across the country.
    The episodes in Tank and Islamabad “should serve as a wake up call to the government,” wrote the News newspaper in an editorial Friday. “They better stand up and speak against the extremists, or risk their very existence and way of life coming under permanent threat.”
    Extremist Violence on the Rise in Pakistan

  • crosspatch says:

    “I think that all that is happening is partly because tribal structure is breaking down. Tribal structure was preserved for a long time, and some people would like to preserve it forever.”
    What they really want to preserve is the power structure. You have a sheik or other elder who is the head of a tribe. You have several of these tribes. If you remove the tribal structure, you are removing many respected members of the community from positions of power.
    There could be a way to handle it so that the power is maintained in a more modern state. At least for a while. What I would do is propose a series of land grants. You basically make each tribal council the landlord. At the same time, you also make the tribal headh a local magistrate so he has the power to settle disputes. Along with the land grants, you tell them that they may do with the land what they wish. They may keep the land and charge rent for the various uses of it, they may divide and grant parcels to others or sell parcels of the land to others. In any case, holders of any parcel of it would have free and clear title of it. Owners of any parcels would pay a small tax set by the central government to the tribal council of elders and get a vote for who would be the chief. That would maintain the power structure, keep the chief in a position of power, but over time stimulate the economy as more land owners are created. Eventually, parcels fall into the ownership of people who were not ethnic members of the tribe and the tribal council and chief structure changes into a local government council with a commissioner. Again, it takes generations and the change is gradual yet maintains a structure that is within the cultural norms.

  • Freedom Now says:

    GK,
    I’m glad you based your conclusion on one survey. Good for you.
    Tell me what India would be willing to do for the U.S. that it isnt already doing.
    Please…

  • crosspatch says:

    I would also venture that over the past 10 years there are literally millions more Indians who have either been in this country or have had close working experiences with Americans. The local elementary school that my children attend is roughly 25% Indian kids. Silicon Vally has a huge Indian community and the company I work for has a large number of Indians working here.
    The tech boom has created an opportunity for many more Indians to work here and many companies in India also have working relationships with companies here so there are contacts with us even if the people themselves don’t get the chance to come here and experience it first hand.
    The point is that there has been a massive exchange of people over the past decade that could indeed result in a significant change in attitudes.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Crosspatch, your proposition looks a bit like feudalism.
    In some countries power and wealth does not come from land, like, I guess, in the desert areas. I think taht tibes don’t like to transfer their power to central government. Maybe some canton-like organization would do.
    But, as soon as even limited individual freedoms are granted, younger people would want to live in a big cities, use Internet, watch TV and video, go to the nightclubs and that would be the end of tribes, tradition, etc.
    I think that mere fact that somewhere on the planet exists life like that is a deadly threat to them. They would feel that they need to eliminate it.
    DG

  • Srirangan says:

    >> If Musharraf goes it means Iran, Syria, and other
    >> Middle East Krapistans will have the bomb
    >> almost immediately.
    Incorrect assesment. Sunni extremists in Pakistan will never share the nuke with Shia’s in Iran and Syria. However, they will share it with the Saudi’s, reports indicate they already might have.
    >> Then there is the almost certain war between India
    >> and Pakistan that will happen, a war in which we
    >> will have to side with India and in which Russia
    >> and China will almost surely side with Pakistan.
    LOL! No. Russia won’t side against India for Pakistan. Maybe China, but they’ll just sit and watch.
    >> I didnt come to the conclusion that India would be
    >> an unreliable ally through ignorance. Instead of
    >> relying on a survey I based my decision on actual
    >> history and current events.
    Say what you may, India remains one of the most pro American country in the world. Multiple surveys prove this.
    >> Tell me what India would be willing to do for the
    >> U.S. that it isnt already doing.
    For starters, neutralize Pakistan for good. You have been played for a fool by the Dictator in Rawalpindi. The United States held India back in 2002, not a very wise move in hindsight, why? Six years on your troops are still fighting the very same Taliban coming out from Pakistan.

  • crosspatch says:

    “However, they will share it with the Saudi’s, reports indicate they already might have.”
    There might be other reasons besides simply wanting to share the wealth, so to speak and quite frankly, some of those reasons would be a good thing for the rest of the world. Not something I would want to go into here, though.

  • Freedom Now says:

    Crosspatch,
    Thanks for your well thought out comments on India.
    That is the greatest thing about the U.S. is that we smoothly integrate all immigrant ethnic groups, regardless of race.
    You will note that I did mention that India may have always had a pro-U.S. majority…
    “It is quite possible that the silent majority is (and may have always been) pro-American.”
    However, since India is a Republic and not a true Democracy that sentiment has never been a driving force for the government. To clarify things because my comments are frequently taken out of context; even the U.S. is not technically a Democracy because a fully representative government is impossible with such large populations and the great size of modern countries. A Republic is the best existing model of a government that seeks to be representative of its people.
    I have to also point out that India is not willing to contribute troops to Iraq (they are strongly opposed to our presence there) and the likelihood of contributing troops to Afghanistan is not high (the presence of Hindu troops in a country with a large population of Pashtun Muslims would not be wise, anyways).
    Therefore in the near future they will never be as close to our country as England or Australia. However, the U.S. should continue to pursue friendly relations with India, as we have over the last decade. This is common sense.

  • GK says:

    I’m glad you based your conclusion on one survey. Good for you.
    That is a very weak, immature rebuttal. This shows that you have no facts to submit. I will take this as a concession of defeat in this debate.
    Tell me what India would be willing to do for the U.S. that it isnt already doing.
    A lot. India has a lot of influence with Iran, can turn screws on Pakistan in many ways, etc. Anyway, you have gone so far as to imply that :
    1) Hindu extremists run India (implied by your statement than an alliance with India would be seen as an alliance with Hindu extremists).
    2) These Hindu extremists are just as bad as Islamic extremists (never mind that Hindu extremists have never killed an American soldier or civilian).
    Shame on you.

  • GK says:

    However, since India is a Republic and not a true Democracy
    More ignorance. How is India less of a democracy than Britain (both have a parliamentary system).
    I have to also point out that India is not willing to contribute troops to Iraq
    Neither is Canada. It seems that your comprehension of what an ‘ally’ is constitutes a simplistic all-or-nothing view. Unless a country devotes itself wholly to the support of America in all possible dimensions, it is not an ally.

  • Srirangan says:

    >
    >> the likelihood of contributing troops to Afghanistan
    >> is not high (the presence of Hindu troops in a
    >> country with a large population of Pashtun Muslims
    >> would not be wise, anyways).
    >
    Geez.. the BJP lead Govt offered Indian military support back in 2001 against the Taliban, however is was Musharraf’s pre condition for support that Indian troops won’t participate, and we know which way the U.S. went.
    Rightly so I think, actual support from Musharraf would be more effective considering geography. But then did the U.S. get real, effective support from the regime in Rawalpindi; I leave that for you folks to discuss.
    Afaik, there are Indian troops in Afghanistan, however they are more of the Military Police class protecting embassies, missions and Indian workers in Afghanistan.
    Link: //www.india-defence.com/reports/1326
    Here is a somewhat recent story on Pakistan’s concern of India sending 300 additional military police personnel to Afghanistan.
    – Sri

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Enough of the personal attacks. If you want to continue, do it elsewhere, but not here.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis