NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; yellow under threat. Click map to view.
32 reported killed in strike launched from Afghanistan; follows news of Taliban, al Qaeda suicide squads graduation
A joint al Qaeda and Taliban training camp was struck in a missile attack in Pakistan’s lawless Northwest Frontier Province. A strike, believed to have been launched by U.S. forces from Afghanistan, hit a train camp in the town of Mami Rogha in the Datta Khel district of North Waziristan. Upwards of 32 Taliban and possibly foreign al Qaeda were killed in the strike on the camp, which is situated about 26 miles west of Miramshah.
“A U.S. pilotless drone aircraft carried out the attack at around 10:30 a.m. (0530 GMT),” Reuters reported, based on an anonymous Pakistani intelligence source and local residents. “There was a cluster of three houses and a tent which were hit. There were about 45 people in that area… Intelligence officials said some foreigners were among those killed in Mami Rogha, raising the possibility that al Qaeda fighters might have also been present.”
An anonymous intelligence source familiar with al Qaeda’s training camps in the region told The Long War Journal that the Mami Rogha camp known to the intelligence community. “There is a camp there, also barracks and supply posts,” said the source. There are “dozens” of camps in the Northwest Frontier province, but the source refused to give specific numbers. There are also several camps “run by lesser groups,” such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, “in Azad Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan.”
The strike on the Mami Rogha camp is the latest in a series of U.S. strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban training facilities strung across the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda camps in Damadola, Danda Saidgai, Chingai, Zamazola, and again in Danda Saidgai over the course of 2006 and 2007.
The news of the attack on the Mami Rogha camp comes as the Taliban released a video of a graduation of suicide teams assigned to strike in the U.S., Canada and Europe. “Some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12,” were in attendance, according to video obtained by ABC News.
Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, the successor of recently slain Mullah Dadullah who was killed in Helmand province in May addressed the graduation and “congratulated each team as they stood.” “These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places,” Dadullah says on the tape. “Why shouldn’t we go after them?”
The Taliban/al Qaeda camp where the graduation ceremony was held is believed to be inside Pakistan. Recently, the Taliban held a major rally of upwards of 10,000 gatherers in Baluchistan to mourn the death of Mullah Dadullah.
The Northwest Frontier province continues its rapid decent into Taliban occupied territory. Art Keller, a retired CIA case officer who served in Pakistan and visited Waziristan, stated the Pakistani Army has given up the fight in the province.
“Their approach was to pretend that nothing was wrong because any other approach would reveal that they were unwilling and unable to do anything about Talibanisation,” said Keller to Guardian. There are the moderates [in the Pakistani Army] who fear Talibanisation, the professional jihadis who want to embrace the Taliban again, and the middle group who aren’t too fond of the Taliban but resent doing anything under pressure from the US out of sheer bloody-minded stubbornness… Because of [that], the Pakistani military remains paralysed.”
The Taliban continue to dominate the tribal agencies and are expanding into the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. The settled district of Tank is now Taliban controlled territory (we noted the serious decline of the security situation starting in February of 2007.) “The government has lost its writ in Tank,” said Sardar Ahmed Gul, a resident of Tank City. “Every evening there is shooting and people cannot go out.”
In North Waziristan, the Taliban have banned TV and video CDs in public places. The move was made by the Taliban’s “peace” committee and in Orwellian fashion, implemented to keep “children away from watching jihadi CDs.” The same peace commission is threatening to end the Waziristan Accord, which the Pakistani government ceded the region to the Taliban. The reason given was attacks by the Pakistani Army – which have been non-existent. The Taliban routinely violate the agreement by setting up a parallel government, instituting laws, conducting executions, attacking government security forces and recruiting for jihad in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Taliban have grown so powerful that Maulana Fazalur Rehman, the secretary general of the Taliban supporting Muttahida Majlis Amal political party, which runs the Northwest Frontier Province, has demanded the Taliban be part of the joint Pakistan – Afghan Peace Jirga. This, despite the Taliban is conducting the attacks in Afghanistan and has vowed to destroy the Karzai administration and eject NATO forces.
In Bajaur, the Taliban are up in arms over the building of a proposed U.S. helipad across the border in Kunar province, which is viewed as a “threat to Pakistan, particularly Bajaur Agency”. “The Taliban are spreading the word that they will resist the construction of the helipad. They are urging the local tribes to resist the US designs,” sources told The Daily Times.
The Pakistani government also surrendered Bajaur to the Taliban in a “peace deal” earlier this year and the security situation has declined ever since. Bajaur is a known command and control center for al Qaeda operations into northeastern Afghanistan.
See The Fall of Northwestern Pakistan: An Online History for more information.