Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.
As the fighting between the Taliban and the military in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency nears the end of the fifth day, the Pakistani military has halted attacks in the town of Mir Ali in order to allow civilians to bury the dead. Raids and airstrikes have been reported in the Mosaki, Hurmiz, Asokhel, and Hyder Khel. Multiple reports indicate the Pakistani government is seeking a negotiated end to the fighting.
The Pakistani Air Force conducted bombing runs in Mir Ali and the surrounding areas in an attempt to strike at Taliban and al Qaeda positions. The fighting in Mir Ali on October 9 alone is reported to have killed 72 Pakistanis, many of them civilians. Fifteen Taliban were reported killed in Hurmiz, Asokhel, and Hyder Khel today, while the Pakistani government has officially claimed 47 troops have been killed in the five-day battle; reports of higher casualties exist.
The decision to use air power against the Taliban was borne out of frustration over the pounding the military has taken in North Waziristan. “Over the past few months soldiers and paramilitary troops have been targeted by suicide bombers, blown up by roadside bombs, kidnapped and had their throats slit,” Reuters reported. “Militants in South Waziristan humiliated the army by taking captive about 250 soldiers in late August.” Scores of soldiers and police have been captured in separate engagements throughout the Northwest Frontier Province.
Morale has suffered among security forces stationed in Waziristan. Sick of being on the receiving end, the Pakistan army lashed back last weekend, unleashing fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and ground troops on militants.
The recovery of comrades’ decapitated, charred corpses fuelled anger in the army, according to a senior intelligence officer. “It was too much, We couldn’t take it any more,” he said. “That’s why air power is now being used against them.”
Governor Ali Jan Orakzai in 2004, when he was a general in the Pakistani Army. Click picture to view.
Despite the repeated attacks on Pakistani forces, the government is seeking a political solution with the Taliban in the tribal regions. The peace efforts are led by Governor Ali Jan Orakzai, the architect of the North Waziristan Accord and a strong advocate for further deals in Bajaur, Swat, and Mohmand agencies.
Orakzai is seeking to “renegotiate the peace agreements, introducing more stringent measures, and to win over the militants and tribespeople with the promise of a nine-year, $2 billion development program,” The New York Times reported. “The governor said the military would be used where required. But he expressed the hope that once local security forces were better trained and equipped, the government could withdraw the military from the tribal areas, deploying troops only on the Afghan border.”
Orakzai has pushed for the signing of peace agreements with the Taliban in the tribal agencies and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province despite clear evidence the Taliban bypassed the accords immediately after signing the agreements. The Taliban violated the terms of the accord when it established a shadow administration, opened recruiting offices, taxed the populations, enforced sharia law, attacked Pakistani troops, and conducted a campaign of murder and intimidation against its rivals.
Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terror groups operate 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan. Senior al Qaeda operatives are believed to be operating in North Waziristan, including Hamza bin Laden — Osama bin Laden’s son and possible successor in al Qaeda — and Abu Kasha.
In January 2007, an American military intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Abu Kasha is the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis — main Shura or consultive body — and the Taliban. Abu Kasha is an Iraqi Arab who is runs his organization in Mir Ali. He has two local commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar, who administer local al Qaeda offices.
Abu Kasha has a working relationship and close communication with the Uzbeki terror groups, including the Islamic Jihad Group run by Najimuddin al Uzbeki, who also operates out of North Waziristan.
North Waziristan also shelters Taliban commander Sadiq Noor, who runs his operations from Miranshah and hosts Taliban and Al Qaeda meetings from his offices. Noor and his Taliban conduct sharia courts, adjudicate local disputes, announce punishment, collect taxes, and run a private jail. Sadiq Noor is closely associated with JUI-F (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazlur Rehman). He “fought on the Bagram front in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance. He is also believed to support anti-U.S. entities in Khost, Afghanistan,” The Jamestown Foundation reported.
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.