Fighting intensifies in Swat, Shangla

Map of Swat. Click map to view.

The Pakistani Army is pressing its offensive against Maulana Fazlullah’s Taliban forces in the settled district of Swat and Shangla after Fazlullah’s fighters took over the two districts by force over the past several weeks. The strikes in Swat and Shangla happen to coincide with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte’s diplomatic visit to Pakistan.

After four days of fighting upwards of 146 Taliban, Pakistani troops, and civilian have been reported killed and over 100 wounded. “The killed included 31 militants and 11 others in district Swat, while 38 militants and more than 35 others were gunned down in district Shangla,” The Nation reported. “Militants spokesman Sirajuddin claimed that they had killed almost 25 personnel of security forces,” after the Taliban targeted a military convoy.

Sirajuddin confirmed the Pakistani Army killed Commander Matiullah, a senior officer in Fazlullah’s command, in an artillery strike. “His Second-in-Command Muhammad Ali was missing feared dead,” the Pakistani military stated.

Fighting has been reported in “the mountainous areas of Yagorai, Dolat Kalay, Shalmano, Tander, Shahtoot, Mian Kalay, Pirabad and Bailay Baba areas,” after the Pakistani Army targeted Taliban hideouts. The military appears to be relying on attack helicopters and artillery to root out the Taliban. The News reported Pakistani Cobra helicopter gunships struck Taliban positions in Sar Senai, Kabal, Hazara, Koza Banda, Dherai Kanju, and Mam Dehrai areas. Two Taliban bunkers were reported to have been destroyed, but no casualties were reported.

Curfews have been put in place in Swat and neighboring Malakand district as the Pakistani military is continuing deployments into the region. The Taliban have been reported to be patrolling the streets in some regions of Swat and Shangla. The Taliban also appear to own the night in Swat. “Nonetheless, the militants, who had announced the imposition of Islamic Shariah in the district of Swat continued their armed patrolling at night in various areas of the volatile region,” The Nation reported.

Map of the northern regions of the NWFP, including Swat.

The Musharraf government has been embarrassed by the armed Taliban takeovers of the settled districts of Swat and Shangla. These Taliban offensives occurred just as Musharraf overturned the constitution under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The Pakistani military offensives in Swat and Shangla also were timed just as US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is conducting a diplomatic visit to Pakistan. Negroponte will voice the US government’s displeasure with Musharraf subverting the democratic process, arresting the political opposition, and the failure to address the rise of the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province.

Pakistan has a history of making arrests and conducting strikes and offensives on Taliban and al Qaeda sites when the political situation suits it. The February 2007 arrest of Mullah Obaidullah, the senior Taliban leader released this week, occurred as the US and Britain were pressuring Pakistan to take meaningful action against the Taliban and al Qaeda camps, leaders and operatives inside its borders. At the time, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and CIA Director Kappes made public and private statements that Pakistan’s situation in the western and southern regions could no longer be tolerated.

Last year’s strike on al Qaeda’s Black Guard training camp in Danda Saidgai occurred just as President Bush visited Pakistan and less than a week after the bombing of the Karachi Consulate that killed a US diplomat.

Also, last year’s strike on the Chingai madrassa in Bajaur agency occurred as Britain’s Prince Charles, the future King of England, was visiting Pakistan. The NATO commander in Afghanistan, General James Jones, had just visited Pakistan and stated “the movements [of Taliban and al Qaeda] across the border have increased since the signing of agreements on the other side of the border,” referring to the Waziristan Accord.

The Pakistani government arrests and strikes have been short lived. The government signed over Bajaur and North Waziristan, along with Swat and Mohmand, to the Taliban after numerous airstrikes on al Qaeda and Taliban camps. The government released over 2,500 al Qaeda and Taliban operatives as part of the terms of the North Waziristan Accords. Obaidullah was recently released along with 24 other senior Taliban operatives in exchange for Pakistani troops captured in South Waziristan.

The military may make short-term gains in Swat and Shangla, but the question that cannot be answered is if the Taliban is driven to the shadows, will the government secure the region and fight the sure-to-be-launched Taliban insurgency?

Recent history indicates the government will not fight the long-term battles required to secure the districts. In the past, the government and military have sued for peace at any cost directly with the Taliban. Musharraf’s overturning of the constitution has complicated his ability to fight the required long-term insurgency, as he must also focus on his political enemies in the capital and major cities, and he lacks a broad mandate to put down the Taliban uprising.

The Taliban has secure territory in neighboring Bajaur agency, and the two districts abut districts with a strong Taliban influence. The Taliban has been persistent in fighting the military and government in Bajaur, North and South Waziristan, Mohmand, Tank, and Bannu, as well as in most of the districts and agencies throughout the Northwest Frontier Province.

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



  • MattR says:

    Thanks for the information. All you’d know about this reading the newspaper is there’s some “disturbance from the Taliban on the Afghan-Pakistan border.”

    Anyway, what is the overwhelming-force strategy and how big will it need to be to defeat this insurgency?

  • templar knight says:

    Has the promised offensive finally begun? Let’s hope so. Time will tell.

  • Gary Johnson says:

    What I don’t understand is – how can the Taliban be in a Peace Treaty with Pakistan, and be persistently fighting the government. Are they in a Peace Treaty or not? Who is breaking the Treaty every time? The Taliban. Who is releasing prisoners after military Losses? Musharraf. Who is capturing villages as we speak? What does Musharraf have left to sacrifice in exchange for peace? Why are we not coming to his aid against the Taliban – Treaty be damned?

  • L. Sumpter says:

    No one has noted that this rag-tag band of cave dwellers sponsored by Saudis ans Al Quds are fighting a two front war. They are taking on the forces of the United States, NATO, Afganistan and Pakistan. At present, it is questionable whether they have ceded much territory despite suffering heavy casualties.

  • Tatterdemalian says:

    “What I don’t understand is – how can the Taliban be in a Peace Treaty with Pakistan, and be persistently fighting the government.”
    Same way the Palestinians only “strain” their peace treaties when they fire RPGs into Sderot, or kill each other in the streets. Modern peace treaties can only be broken by specifically designated “oppressor groups,” while “victim groups” can do whatever they want.

  • Tony says:

    Lisa said:
    “This is about nukes getting into the wrong hands. Has always been about that.
    Not about how much ground they cede or sharia law…this is about keeping nukes out of the wrong hands.”
    My point exactly.
    And apparently what some (not all) in the Bush Administration are beginning to conclude is that unqualified support for General Musharraf may translate directly into an increaed risk of nukes falling into the wrong hands, because of the widespread Pakistani opposition to his rule.

  • Tony says:

    Re: Sectarian violence
    Lisa, this happens all the time in Pakistan. I’ve been following events in Pakistan for about 30 years BEFORE 9/11 and the Sunnis and Shia routinely slaughter each other in these numbers all the time.
    Recall that hundreds of thousands were slaughtered in the late 1940s in the sectarian violence associated with the separation of Pakistan from India after Mahatma Gandhi died. Far, far more bloody than Iraq’s sectarian violence ever was.
    This is why the notion of having Indian troops come in and “put the house in order” in Pakistan is such madness.
    The sectarian violence which would surely result would make Iraq look like a little picnic in the park.
    Once again, as in the 1940s, there would literally be rivers of blood.

  • Tony says:

    I think it’s more than knowing where there nukes are. It’s much worse than that.
    The largest proliferator of nuclear weapons technology to evildoers is a fellow named A.Q. Khan who lives in palatial splendor in Pakistan. Musharraf calls him a national hero because he is the father of the Pakistani bomb.
    A.Q. Khan is the fellow who gave critical nuclear blueprints to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Because of him, the nuclear weapons programs of these 3 rogue states are far more advanced than they would have been with out this criminal propagation of WMD secrets.
    The FBI wants to question him to find out how much he gave to the Iranians, but Musharraf is protecting A.Q. Khan and won’t let us talk to him.
    President Bush has stated that you are either with us or for us in the war on terror.
    Now in my book, any person who delivers critical nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya is against us, not for us. Could anything be more clear?
    Musharraf is protecting this proliferator of WMDs to rogue states and calls him a “national hero.”
    Therefore, I am not at all convinced that Musharraf is actually “for us.”
    Who else is A. Q. Khan talking to now?
    So it’s much more than just keeping track of the nukes. We still have a proliferator of WMDs on the loose and Musharraf is protecting him.
    And remember, you aren’t hearing these truths on CNN or Fox News, you are hearing them courtesy of the one and only Bill Roggio.
    Thanks for helping to bring the REAL news to people Bill!


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