Taliban, Pakistani Army battle in North Waziristan

Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.

Pakistan’s insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province intensified over the last week as major clashes are underway in the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuary of North Waziristan. Upwards of 200 have been reported killed in the fighting, which includes artillery barrages and helicopter and attack aircraft assaults. The Pakistani military claims 120 Taliban and 45 soldiers have been killed in the fighting, but independent reports put the number of soldiers killed much higher.

Heavy fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani military has been reported for the fourth day in a row in and around the town of Mir Ali, an al Qaeda stronghold. Pakistani fighter-bomber have been called in to conduct airstrikes on Taliban positions in the region, while over 50,000 civilians are said to be fleeing the area.

The fighting began over the weekend after the Taliban ambushed a Pakistani Army convoy near the town of Ahmad Khel October 6. A roadside bomb attack was followed by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire ambush. One soldier was killed and 19 wounded.

On October 7, the fighting spread to Mir Ali. The Taliban attacked a series of checkpoints and bases in the region, and the army responded with a ground assault and Cobra gunship attacks on enemy positions. Ten soldiers and 35 Taliban fighters were reported killed. The Taliban claimed it captured 28 Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers in a separate ambush. The Pakistani military Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) referred to the Taliban claim as “highly erroneous.”

On October 8, clashes between the army and the Taliban resulted in 20 soldiers and 60 Taliban killed. Fifty Pakistani soldiers were reported missing in action south of Mir Ali in the Hasu Khel and Shahbaz Khel regions after two check posts and a patrol were attacked. The soldier’s “communication system was effected after clashes with militants,” the ISPR reported. The ISPR stated 30 soldiers later reestablished contact with the military.

The Pakistani military appears to be taking far greater casualties than being reported. Syed Saleem Shahzad reported that “Dozens of Pakistani soldiers are still missing and the death toll is expected to rise.” The bodies of 73 Pakistani soldiers were turned over to the army, while negotiations are underway for a separate transfer of soldiers killed.

On Monday, a jirga or tribal council of Muslim scholars including Moulvi Nek Zaman — a member of parliament from North Waziristan — met the commander of 7th division of the Pakistan army, Major General Ghulam Dastagir, and handed over the bodies of 73 Pakistani soldiers.

A member of the jirga, on condition of anonymity, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the militants had handed over the bodies to the jirga. The jirga members also handed over 50 seriously wounded military personnel who had been seized by the militants as well as 10 burnt vehicles.

With the consent of both the Pakistan army and the militants, another jirga was sent to collect bodies from Khushali village, 10 kilometers away from the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali, where the fighting has been taking place.

The Pakistani military has repeatedly understated casualties of troops fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province. The military claimed about 1,000 troops were killed during the Waziristan campaigns in 2004 through 2006. The real number is thought to be well over 3,000 Pakistani troops killed.

North Waziristan serves as a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold. Al Qaeda’s Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s son and possible successor, has been recently reported to have arrived in the region.

Taliban and allied terrorist groups have established 29 training camps in North and neighboring South Waziristan. The Pakistani government signed a “peace accord” with the Taliban in September 2006. The Pakistani government was to withdraw the military in exchange for the Taliban halting cross-border attacks into Afghanistan and ejecting “foreigners” from the region.

The Taliban immediately 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. Numerous terrorist attacks and plots against India, Britain, Spain, Afghanistan, and Pakistan itself have been traced back to North Waziristan.

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • Marlin says:

    The military has been demoralized by its inability to fight the Taliban. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that its battlefield defeats were not due to lack of capabilities but to a lack of will. As Bill Roggio recalled in a recent report on Pakistan in his online Long War Journal, in August CNN reported that among US officials “There is… a growing understanding… that Musharraf’s control over the military remains limited to certain top commanders and units, raising worries about whether he can maintain control over the long term.”
    Today the US is planning to train Pakistani counter-insurgency forces. It has also pledged $750 million in USAID development funds to Pakistan. Yet as Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani police chief in the Northwest Frontier Region of Pakistan wrote in a recent paper for the Jamestown Foundation, it is unclear how US development assistance can be credibly put to good use. Over the past several years, US development funds to Pakistan have been squandered by corrupt officials or passed out in a manner that often increased public hostility to the US. Still today, the US has developed no Pakistani local leaders who can be trusted to manage development projects.
    The situation in Pakistan shows clearly just how vital the war of ideas is in this conflict. Although it is expedient for foreign ministries to maintain relations on government-to-government levels, in light of the cultural and religious realities in the Islamic world today, this is a failed strategy.
    Caroline Glick: Pakistani Nightmare

  • Raj Kumar says:

    Pakistan state has failed totally. Its leaders have taken the GoUS and by extension the taxpayers in the west for a ride. They have taken the money from the US and used it to fund the campaign against it in Afganistan. Similarly they have taken the ‘expertise’ gained from fighting in Afganistan and used it against the ordinary people in all western capitals. Every single islamic terror event in the west is connected to Pakistan as far logistics & training is concerned.
    It is time for us to pull our support from the elite ruling Pakistan and to look for alternate partners. I think we should seek out and support the ‘Green Beards’ as an alternative. If for no other reason then the fact that they will be resisted by the existing elites amd the two lots can fight it out and leave the rest of us in peace for a bit.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 10/10/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.


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