Taliban parade capture Pakistani soldiers in Swat

Captured Pakistani soldiers. BBC photo. Click to here to view more images.

The situation in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province has grown markedly worse over the past 24 hours. One day after the military claimed to have killed 70 Taliban in Swat and denied its soldiers were captured, the Taliban paraded 48 captured paramilitary soldiers from the Frontier Corps.

The captured soldiers surrendered after being surrounded by a large formation of Taliban troops. Upwards of 700 troops surrounded a hilltop in Swat, Dawn reported. The soldiers were airdropped on the hilltop days ago and have been besieged since then. The BBC stated an additional 100 Pakistani troops have deserted in Swat.

Last week, Indian intelligence reported the Pakistani military is widely demoralized by the fighting, as well as the abductions and beheadings at the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda in the Northwest Frontier Province. Taliban attacks against government troops outside the Northwest Frontier Province have also eroded the morale of the Pakistani soldier. Just yesterday, a Taliban suicide bomber struck bus carrying air force personnel in Punjab province, killing at least eight. The fighting in Swat began after a suicide bomber attacked a convoy in the district, killing 30.

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

The BBC also reported the Taliban is openly in control of strategic regions of Swat. “A major business centre on the road that connects Mingora with the tourist resorts of Madyan, Miandam and Kalam, Charbagh is in Taleban control,” the BBC noted. “Taleban militants were seen directing the traffic on the road. There was an air of jubilation among them after the news that Khwazakhela, another important town 27km north of Mingora, had fallen to the militants. One of them was distributing sweets to commuters on the road.”

Pakistani military statements concerning the events in the Northwest Frontier Province have not been reliable. Yesterday the Pakistani military denied the soldiers were captured. “But the forces were well-entrenched and well-positioned and they responded with full force, inflicting massive casualties on the militants,” said provincial Home Secretary Badshah Gul Wazir. “Our reports are that they suffered between 60 and 70 casualties. They were literally running down the hill.” The Taliban claimed it lost seven fighters.

When over 300 Pakistani soldiers were captured in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military denied they were captured for several days until the fact could no longer be hidden. The military has also deflated the number of casualties taken in 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.



  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the – Web Reconnaissance for 11/02/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Khalid says:

    There is no need to show any mercy. These taliban type fighter should only be dealt with force and brute force I must say.

  • Hugh Murray says:

    You can’t help but think Pakistan is as dangerous if not more than Iran and they are supposed to be allies. That country is one bullet or well placed IED away from chaos.

  • Neo says:

    I found this map among the others that I posted last week. It is an ethnographic map showing Pashtu areas on both sides of the Pakistan / Afghani boarder. The Pashtu areas of the map pretty well match the extent of the current Taliban insurgency with the exception of a few areas at the foothills of the mountains.
    Pashtu Ethnographic Map
    The loss of Swat will mean the Taliban will have access to most of the Mountainous north including none Pashtu areas. Those areas to the north fall within the next six months if not before that.
    I expect an intensifying terror campaign within Pakistan over this winter. What follows depends on how weak the government is. The Islamists may succeed in overthrowing the government directly through assassinations. If that does not produce immediate results, I expect them to move on Peshawar and possibly open a front in the mountains directly north of the capitol of Islamabad.
    Of course the situation is much more complicated. What will be the reaction of the various other political factions and ethnic groups? Much of the Punjabi military establishment is sympathetic to furthering Islamic influences within the Pakistani government. I’m not sure that the radicalized form of Islam brought in with Al Qaeda and an invasion of Taliban led Pashtu warriors was what they had in mind though. I’m also not sure US pressure to bring in Benazir Bhutto, a Sindhi politician, into the government will help much either. The Sindhi political block finds itself odd man out in the current arrangement. Unfortunately, General Pervez Musharraf also finds himself in a awkward position. His ethnicity is self-claimed to be Sindhi, although the Sindhi political establishment doesn’t claim him. He was born in Delhi, India. He is the product of the westernized University system and came up as a member of the Punjabi dominated military establishment. In the current political climate this leaves Musharraf without a clear political base, which may have had advantages coming up, but now leaves him with enemies on all sides. Lacking clear political ties, he now portrayed as America’s man though the US government had nothing to do with his political rise and previous to 9/11 antagonistic was toward many of Musharraf’s policies.
    There’s also a question about how much is left of Pakistani nationalism after so much factional squabbling and bad blood.

  • Neo says:

    none Pashtu areas = non-Pashtu areas

  • Therapist1 says:

    I agree Hugh. This also shows how good our military personnel are in mastering their enemy in any environment.

  • MarkJ says:

    The problem for the Taliban is that they’d better pray to their bloodstained god that nukes don’t fall into their hands. Acquisition of nukes by the Taliban would simply be an engraved invitation to the Indians, and perhaps even the Chinese, to administer the “Mother of All Nuclear Enemas.”
    Any Taliban victory, during which it overran Pakistani nuclear installations, would only last as long as took Indian and Chinese ballistic missiles to turn the entire country into a glowing ash tray. I simply can’t envision any scenario in which either the India or China, both of which have significant Muslim minorities, could tolerate nukes in the hands of turbaned Wahabi nutjobs.
    By the same token, if the Taliban “wins”–but doesn’t get nukes–I can still readily see almost immediate invasions of Pakistan by India (“Kashmir, anyone?), Iran, China, and perhaps even Afghanistan in a “divide and conquer” strategy. Indeed, given their military capabilities, the Indians could easily be washing their tanks along the banks of the Indus within a matter of weeks.

  • templar knight says:

    Mark, I disagree with your assessment, as I think a Taliban state within a state is very likely, and I believe China and India will have a wait-and-see attitude. India will do nothing, as it is hostage to a very large and potentially violent minority of Muslims who have proven in the past that they will act if they think they have been provoked.
    China will wait to see what the US does, mainly because they have a very small number of Muslims, most of whom are not radicalized to the extent they are in Pakistan and India. China would love for the US to take a serious blow from these Islamists, thus putting themselves in a position to increase their power and influence in the region.
    As for the Indian Army, I doubt they have the ability to defeat the Taliban in the NWFP, and would be driven back with heavy casualities, very much like what is happening to the Pakistan forces at the present time. Only the US has the tactics and equipment to defeat the Taliban in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Perhaps the Chinese, although I doubt their abilities, both tactical and strategic.

  • Gerald says:

    The Pathan don’t want to kill each other, unlike the indigenous in Iraq, different religious ethnography.
    Many of these captured are just refusing to kill relatives etc. Rather than desert out right, they are ” captured”.
    While it makes fighting hard, it bodes well for talks.

  • Placitus says:

    Is this how Osama now intends to acquire nuclear material and or weapons? More trouble in Mr. Robert’s neighborhood.

  • Jim C says:

    I think it’s time that the US step in and start kicking some behind. I think we need to tell Pakistan that we will no longer sit by and let the taliban and AQ regain strength while they do nothing.
    Jim C

  • Thanos says:

    Thanks Lisa — just stopped by to drop that news off, I”ll being doing updates through the day over at my place.

  • Winger says:

    The US has their hands full and the current World political climate does not allow any invasions (except for the Al Qaea invasion in Iraq and Pakistan).
    People in their own countries can attack & maim and torture and rape and pillage but other countries are not allowed to be involved. The international community does not think that military should be used even in a situation like Darfu. That means that they will not allow the US, China, India, or anybody that is not a nation, to commit any such aggressive acts. They will be demonized on a grand scale like our President has for invading Iraq.
    I think it is more likely the Taliban will have their state within a state soon. Then they will consolidate and work on taking over all of Pakistan while they continue to take back Afghanistan. Remember, their stated goal, which they read directly from the word of Allah, as written in the Koran, is the global caliphate. They will not stop until it is achieved.
    They will use the strategy of near and far. They establish a caliphate near, and then expand to the far. This is something they have been doing for years. They have spread Islam but can’t seem to unite because of all the bickering over who’s in charge. The leaders all want the power for themselves. Osama has now pointed out that Allah is the top dog and is uniting the people to join him in the far strategy.
    Pakistan must fight for it’s survival against the Taliban instead of India. It would be interesting to see what Russia and China have to say about the Taliban getting a Nuclear weapon. As Hugh stated, they are only a well placed IED away from getting one.

  • The socalled CAPTURED PAKISTANI SOLDIERS are realy the DEFECTORS with their arms. These AFGHAN AND PAKISTANI NOMADIC tribes are fond of pillaging and raping weaker opponents. They fear only superior force and weaponary. They will easily RAPE AND PILLAGE, BENGALIES, SINDHIES,BALOACHS AND KASHMIRIES but cannot has the GUTS to do the same to PUNJABIES,pathans AND ARABS whom they consider superior RACE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Neo says:

    I’m sure there are a share of defectors and infiltrators, but the situation is more complicated than you portray and evidence of mass defections during battle are a bit sketchy. Defections are happening, but it is too soon to say they have become the norm. The two mass surrenders that I am aware of happened to groups of soldiers that were left surrounded and exposed to the enemy. That’s not the same thing as a mass defection. Whether they were hung out to dry by their commanders by incompetence of complicity is another question. It may also be the case that key people are defecting and the rest are being forced into compliance or killed. I seriously doubt that soldiers who have had their heads removed are defecting.
    Once again, I’m not fundamentally disagreeing with the direction your headed. I do think you tend to overstate. One thing to watch out for is the tendency to look for the invisible hand of conspiracy in everything. There is plenty of plotting but what is happening is as much a political movement as it is a conspiracy. People join because they feel compelled to for a variety of reasons, there isn’t always an invisible hand guiding them in everything they do. There’s a reason people worry about momentum, if this sort of extremist movement can gain momentum, than people start jumping onboard of their own accord. It happened in Anbar four years ago, it’s happening in Western Pakistan right now.

  • Questions that perplex me – humor leavened by Pakistan, the new un-humor

    1. If women tell us what to say when we call somewhere and interrupt us during the call to amke sure we do it right even though they normally berate us for lowering our functional IQ by multi-tasking, why do they make us place the call in the first pla…


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