The fighting in North Waziristan appears to have reached a pause, as the Pakistani military has halted operations to allow locals to bury the dead. In neighboring South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban displayed the captured Pakistani troops and allowed several officers to be interviewed.
The Pakistani military claimed to have killed over 200 “miscreants” — the name given to al Qaeda and the Taliban — during fighting over the past five days. Fifty of these “included 50 foreign militants,” Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Waheed Arshad said, “out of which 25 foreign militants were identified as Uzbek and some as Arab, Afghan and Tajik.”
The heaviest fighting in North Waziristan was reported in the village of Ippi. The Pakistani Air Force is said to have attacked the main bazaar as it was filled. Over 50 civilians were reported killed, and 60 percent of the town was “reduced to ruins,” an AFP reporter said; a mosque was among the damaged buildings. “The mosque is named after the Fakir of Ippi, a wild Pashtun tribal leader who fought all occupiers for nearly three decades — first the British colonialists and then, after independence in 1947, Pakistani forces too,” AFP reported.
The killing of numerous al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan confirms the belief that the terrorist organization is backing the Taliban in the region. “The resistance from local Taliban is tougher than what the government usually expects,” a tribal affairs official in Peshawar told The Washington Post. “Such tough resistance also gives credence to speculation that al Qaeda-trained foreign fighters might be backing these local Taliban.”
Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.
Al Qaeda is known to have established 29 terror camps in North and South Waziristan, in conjunction with the Taliban and allied Pakistani terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Native Pakistani terror groups Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jangvi, and Sipah-e-Sahaba recently merged with al Qaeda in order to increase their effectiveness in attacking the Pakistani military. “These groups are being led by Abu Ali Tunisi, a terrorist from Tunisia. Tunisi, based in North Waziristan, is coordinating with the groups and individuals who believe in bringing about a revolution through terrorism,” The News reported in early September.
Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s son and possible successor, is believed to have traveled to North Waziristan. Al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha, the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis — main Shura or consultive body — and the Taliban, also operates in North Waziristan, along with the Islamic Jihad Group run by Najimuddin al Uzbeki.
With the pause in fighting, Pakistan has sought to renegotiate the failed Waziristan Accord with the Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. But the Daily Times is reporting the Pakistani government will go on the offensive shortly. “The government has abandoned the hope that talks can restore peace in North Waziristan and given security forces the go-ahead to launch a major offensive on militants in the restive tribal region bordering Afghanistan ahead of Eid, which is some three days away,” anonymous sources told the Daily Times.
Meanwhile, the opposition in the Pakistani Senate is organizing against the operation in North Waziristan. “The military operation was a conspiracy against Pukhtoons [Pashtuns], as innocent people were being killed in the name of the war on terror,” a senator told the Daily Times. “He said Pukhtoons were part of Pakistan and the government should protect their rights and stop the ‘genocide’ in the Tribal Areas.”
The government has boasted it would carry out major operations in North Waziristan several times over the past year, but the operations failed to materialize. The weather will soon work against the Pakistani military, which is poorly trained and equipped to fight a counterinsurgency campaign in some of the roughest terrain on the planet against an organized, trained, and motivated enemy.
See The Fall of the Northwest Frontier Province for the full history of the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal regions and beyond.
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