Two more suicide strikes in Pakistan’s northwest [Updated]

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.

16 killed in suicide attack on military convoy in Swat; 20 police recruits killed in Dera Ismail Khan; the Waziristan Accord is over

One day after a Taliban suicide attack on a military convoy in North Waziristan, the Taliban hit hard in Dera Ismail Khan and Swat. In Swat, a pair of suicide bombers struck another military convoy. Sixteen were killed, including 12 Pakistani soldiers and four civilians, and 40 were wounded after the suicide team rammed their cars into a convoy near the town of Matta. In Dera Ismail Khan, a suicide bomber attacked near the main hall of the police recruitment center as about 200 recruits were being tested. Up to 20 recruits were killed and 50 wounded, the Kuwaiti News Agency reported.

Swat is the home of Maulana Fazlullah and his outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) have blocked the Silk Road to China, and have attacked police and army units with ambushes and rocket, mortar, and suicide attacks. Fazlullah has incited the TNSM to violence since the Lal Masjid crisis began. The provincial government signed peace agreement with Fazlullah in May. Dera Ismail Khan borders the Taliban sanctuary of North Waziristan.

Yesterday’s suicide attack in North Waziristan killed 24 paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps, and wounded 29. The Taliban has threatened to negate the September 2006 peace agreement. Despite having repeatedly violating the terms of the agreement, the Taliban claimed the government is at fault. A Taliban spokesman named Abdullah Farhad gave the government until July 15 (today) to withdraw from North Waziristan, the Daily Times reported. The truce has been officially terminated by the Taliban.

Elsewhere in the Northwest Frontier Province, a series of attacks and attempted bombings occurred against government forces. Three soldiers were wounded in an IED attack in Bannu. The Peshawar police found and a car bomb outside a bank, while troops discovered and defused explosives in North Waziristan.

Meanwhile, the new Taliban military leader in Afghanistan, has threatened further attacks against the West during a recent interview with a Pakistani journalist. “You will, God willing, be witness to more attacks. … We have many friends.”

Mansoor Dadullah stated the tribal areas are an ideal launch point for his attacks in both Afghanistan and against targets in the west. “It is very easy for us to go in and out of the tribal areas (at the Pak-Afghan border). It is no problem. … These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places … Why shouldn’t we go after them?”

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and their allies have launched a new offensive against the Pakistan government and military in the Northwest Frontier Province. The question that remains is how will the government of President Pervez Musharraf respond. When the military launched operations in Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, the Taliban and al Qaeda bloodied the nose of the Pakistani military, While the military claimed it lost 700 troops in the attacks, American military and intelligence sources have informed The Long War Journal the number of killed is closer to 3,000.

The defeat of the Pakistani military forced the government to sign a series of peace deals with the Taliban up and down the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban and al Qaeda have consolidated power in the region and opened training camps for terror and conventional operations. The Taliban’s power has expanded beyond the tribal areas and into the settled districts of the province, including Peshawar, the provincial capital.

If the government chooses to take on the Taliban and al Qaeda, the battles will be far bloodier than those from 2004 through 2006.

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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21 Comments

  • thanos says:

    Bill, the next two weeks are going to be interesting.
    The only difference I am seeing so far between this and the last offensive: it’s been only suicide bombers to date. If that’s all they have left it will go differently in the regions.
    I am headed out on vacation, but hope you will be keeping good tabs on things as you usually do since I plan to check in here a few times.

  • joe says:

    Another 38 killed today this is not looking good for Pakistan. The Pak Army needs to stop staying on the defensive it makes them sitting ducks. They have to either pull out of the tribal areas completly or go on the offensive and be prepared to take a lot of casualties. There can be no more half stepping.

  • Tony says:

    Much of the critical analysis comes down to how both converging and diverging Chinese and American interests are played out.
    The role of China is rarely discussed by the MSM in Pakistan, but it is no coincidence that it is the Silk Road which is being blockaded.
    My judgment is that it was Chinese pressure on Musharraf which was a key factor in going ahead with the attack on the Red Mosque. Not the only factor, but a key factor.
    The Chinese are demanding more protection for their nationals after recent kidnappings and murders and Tasneem Aslam of Pakistan’s foreign ministry states that Pakistan has agreed to provide increased security for the nearly 3,000 Chinese nationals working there.
    Additionally the Chinese are quite upset with Chinese Muslim separatists, often radical Uighurs, who harbor in the Northwest Frontier.
    So these areas are where the interests of the US and China converge.
    However, the Chinese are quite keen on keeping their close ally Pakistan as a firm bulwark against expanding Indian and Hindu influence which has now made substantial inroads into Afghanistan as well.
    In this context, the Chinese view US policy in the region as being excessively tilted towards India.
    And this is where Chinese and US interests diverge.
    How these convergent and divergent interests play out will be most interesting. China is not a featherweight country which is easily pushed around.
    After the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, all bets are off.

  • bnelson44 says:

    60 die in weekend Pakistan attacks

    Pakistani army trucks carrying thousands of additional troops have rumbled into remote areas in recent days after Gen Musharraf vowed to crush extremists and “root them out from every corner of the country”.

  • Neo says:

    I hope Musharraf remembers the old military dictum “Force your enemy to come to you on your own terms”

  • grognard says:

    I am hoping this gives Musharraf the opening to let NATO forces into Pakistan to help put down the AQ and restore Pakistani sovereignty.

  • crosspatch says:

    “The Pakistani army just isn’t capable of conducting sustained large scale operations in hostile mountain terrain.”
    Might they be able to do so with a relatively small amount of special ops and large amount of air support from the US, Northern Alliance style?

  • Anthony says:

    Neo,
    I’m sure that the old military dictum that you cite relies on your enemy being something of an army, rather than a force of suicide bombers intermingling with the civilian population.

  • Neo says:

    “I’m sure that the old military dictum that you cite relies on your enemy being something of an army, rather than a force of suicide bombers intermingling with the civilian population.”

  • Marlin says:

    I don’t believe that Musharraf can prevail against the al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Federally Administered Tribal Areas without American/NATO assistance. I’m glad that the administration views it the same way.
    —————————
    Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s 10-month-old peace deal with tribal elders in northwestern Pakistan that was aimed at marginalizing pro-Taliban militants, has failed, said Stephen Hadley, the adviser.
    “It has not worked the way he wanted. It has not worked the way we wanted it,” he said on the ABC television program “This Week.”
    Concern about a resurgent militant threat has grown over the last two months, Hadley added. “And we’re responding to it … In the short run, we need to take it on operationally,” he said without elaborating.
    […]
    “We are supporting that effort in order to get control of the situation,” he told ABC.
    Reuters: US backing Pakistani crackdown in tribal area

  • Jim Rockford says:

    Rummy was probably smart to nix the raid. It was likely too small to succeed, and with questionable intelligence.
    As Westhawk points out, the only raids that the US does well are big ones where forces can overwhelm local defenders and air power paralyzes movement of re-inforcements. The ones where we went small (Mogadishu, Afghani raids, etc.) were fiascoes or complete disasters.
    Given the terrain and size of opposing forces, I would not want to send men in harm’s way without twice to three times the supporting forces and massive A-10/AC-130 air cover, plus fighter air cover, and anything else I could throw at them.
    As for Musharraf, the reason he did not move offensively IMHO is because his Army would mutiny and he knows it. Much of the officer and non-com not to mention soldiers are pro-Taliban and AQ.
    I predict when the President is killed by pro-Taliban forces or ousted in a coup, our political paralysis will preclude us from doing anything but dither and quiver. Until we lose about three cities or so to their nukes.
    Politically at home we mirror Pakistan. Most of the political class is profoundly threatened by military action in any sense since it sidelines them. Of what possible use is Anderson Cooper or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Emily’s List when we are fighting dangerous enemies intent on killing us? Instead power politically must be shared with those doing the fighting, dying, and so on. THAT folks is something our elites cannot have. Their method is “negotiation” which means face-saving surrender because to fight would mean a diminution of their absolute power.
    In Pakistan what I see is the fight between the current elites (Musharraf coalition) interested in staying in power and not provoking war against either China or the US, and the angry outsiders, i.e. the Taliban, AQ, and the out-of-power military leaders who see provoking anti-foreigner wars a means to win power. They are probably correct.
    But while we may dither, I don’t see China doing so. They have all those “bare branches” i.e. permanent bachelors who have no chance of wives due to selective sex abortions skewing the gender ratio so it’s something like 4:1 male:female. These guys will make trouble just like in Pakistan (polygamy means lots of losers among men as the rich guys scoop up all the women) unless a role is found for them. Traditionally that’s war.
    I don’t think China would shy away from war with Pakistan. They have the manpower to simply annex it and run it like Tibet. They’d have a seacoast from which to launch operations to seize oil resources in the Gulf and the manpower which probably has to be used in that way or face internal revolts. Unlike the US, China’s elites are not faced with power-loss in military operations. So I don’t see lots of constraints on their actions. If they’ll sell poison toothpaste they’ll invade Pakistan if they see it in their interests.
    Of course, AQ and the Taliban dismiss the Chinese. Stupidly.

  • Anthony says:

    bnelson,
    We could achieve just as much good by simply burning the $750 million. The money would be better spent buying hundreds of missile armed Predator drones.

  • Don Vandervelde says:

    We need a repris of our original Afghan invasion, a la Alexander the Great. We went half way round the world with a relatively small force and took Afghanistan, mountains and all, back from the terrorists in a matter of months. Put Rummy back on retainer.
    Show the same regard for this “Pakistani” border as the enemy does. Put special forces into the Waziristans and other Talibanistans, who will call down unlimited quantities of 2000 lb bombs, with pinpoint accuracy, on the Taliban and their sympathizers, and recruit local opposition. Special forces would be backed by Afghan Army units, reprising the role of the Northern Alliance, who would, in turn, be backed up by NATO.
    Then, Musharraf’s troops can play anvil to our hammer, trapping the terrorists between and hitting them from all sides. Victory will then put Pakistan, finally, in charge of their tribal areas for the duration.

  • Neo says:

    Anthony,
    “We could achieve just as much good by simply burning the $750 million.”

  • Doc says:

    I spent 6 and 1/2 months in the NWFP last year. The Pakistani troops that were present are not normally stationed there. They were airborne brigades moved north specifically for earthquake relief. It was a “hearts and minds” mission. They did not want to be there as they knew how dangerous it was. The leader of the Junior Officers Academy in Shinkiari was very critical of US policy and made no bones about it. There is little to any control of that area by the Islamabad government and that has always been true as far back as the British colonial control. The people in that area consider themselves members of tribes, not citizens of a country. That is why the border (no one is sure where it really is) means nothing to them. The media refers to “anti-Western sentiment” but many of the people I met there did not even know that the United States was a country. The Karakoram Highway is the only connection from those areas to the outside world. That means that any movement into the area is easily monitored and subject to attack. The topography is such that troops cannot move easily among the villages except by foot or animal. Any mission will be slow and close quarters battle. The political reality is that Musharraf is only the leader of southern Pakistan and any efforts in the north will rapidly destabilize his already shaky hold on power. While the best strategy is probably weapons from the sky, it is nearly impossible to send special operations people into those areas because they are immediately recognized as strangers. If we could find a not so whacko warlord up there and pay him to clean up the area, it might be the best alternative, as abhorrent as it sounds.

  • GWOT {Global War On Terror} Update With a Pakistani Focus, video non-update, just extra this Sunday, and real updates

    I am often asked by anti-war interlocutors, “why don’t you invade Saudi or Pakistan then?”, or some such rot. Today, lets answer that question about Pakistan. First off, Pakistan is a bona fide nuclear power and helped us track the pr…

  • Paul says:

    Doc,
    What an informative post! You paint a great picture of what we’re up against. It’s interesting to see how despite all our military know-how, we could struggle against a people you describe.
    Thanks for your input.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 07/16/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Rob says:

    The idea that the China will attack Pakistan militarily is unreal. However, there are many other forms of pressure.
    Part of the problem is that as peace increases with India, there is more energy for mischief inside Pakistan proper.
    Recently Pakistan has in effect directed the attention of the militants away from India, and tacitly toward Afghanistan where they have been killed in great numbers. Without those outlets militants in the tribal areas turn on the Pakistani central government.
    Musharraf is running a dynamic balancing act and if you watch closely the United States is trying to help him as much as possible even though it makes it harder for us in Afghanistan.
    Note that the tribal territories are extremely rugged. So rugged that it is very hard to move and support conventional military forces. These are often V shaped valleys with the road at the bottom if there is even a road. Classic indian country.
    Also note that this same rugged terrain has not stopped us from dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It can be done.
    I have read that some of this latest uproar may be a diversion to cover the fact that OBL may be being flushed out by American pressure along the border. Interesting if true.
    Bottom line, pray for Musharraff.

  • Doc says:

    The point about India is well taken. The Pakistani Army has no illusions that they could ever defeat India in a military conflict. That is why they had to get nuclear weapons. The sheer population difference makes it impossible for Pakistan to win. The military leaders know that. They would much rather have the militants move over to Afghanistan and cause mischief than to stay in Kashmir inciting a potential war with India which they know they will lose. Musharraf himself said in a speech I heard him deliver that Pakistan was a wasteland when it was donated for the Muslims. There was no infrastructure or industry. Pakistan has not been a country very long. He wants to develop an industrial and commercial base for the country in an area that historically had none while set in the middle of India, Afghanistan and China. It is a very difficult task when you consider the danger. We can criticize him but he is walking the edge of a cliff.

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