Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.
On the same day Pakistani security forces captured the former Taliban commander of southern Afghanistan, the Taliban retaliated by kidnapping Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan. The Taliban have offered to release Ambassador Tariq Azizuddin in exchange for Mansoor Dadullah.
Ambassador Azizuddin went missing yesterday after traveling from Peshawar to Kabul. He has been reported to have been kidnapped in the town of Jamrood in the Khyber tribal agency as he was traveling to Afghanistan. Ambassador Azizuddin is said to have traveled “without taking a security escort,” the BBC reported yesterday. “Mr. Azizuddin is said to have previously travelled to Kabul by road, often without the tribal security escort.”
The kidnapping of Ambassador Azizuddin is a troubling development, said Tim Lynch, the Director of Operations at Vigilant Strategic Services, a contracting company operating in Afghanistan. The Afridi tribe, which controls the region, is considered friendly to the Pakistani government. “If [the Afridi] kidnapped the ambassador it is not a good sign,” said Lynch.
Security along the Khyber Pass is tight, as this is a main supply route for US and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan. “There are not many areas of the pass that are isolated – in fact none come to mind,” said Lynch, who has traveled the Khyber Pass several times escorting dignitaries between the countries. “You can’t boost an ambassador in the middle of the Khyber agency – there are too many people with guns hanging around.” The BBC reported the road is heavily guarded, with “a contingent of tribal police posted every 100 meters.”
But Taliban has been active on the road in the past. A suicide bomber attacked a military outpost in Jamrood on Jan. 24. The Taliban blew up 13 oil tankers destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan in June 2007 and another tanker in November 2007.
“Local Taliban” have claimed responsibility for Azizuddin’s kidnapping and have demanded the release of Mansoor Dadullah as a condition to set the ambassador free. Mansoor was captured by Pakistani forces yesterday along with five other Taliban fighters in the district of Zhob in Baluchistan province. Mansoor was the former Taliban commander of forces in southern and southwestern Afghanistan before he was relieved of his command by Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Dadullah was fired after he “carried out activities which were against the rules of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Omar said in a statement.
The Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas remain chaotic
The kidnapping of Azizuddin and the capture of Mansoor occurs just days after the military halted operations in South Waziristan and the Taliban declared a cease-fire in the tribal regions and the settled district of Swat. The new Pakistani interior minister ordered the formation of a peace jirga, or committee, to negotiate with the Taliban.
But the attacks have not abated. On Feb. 9, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a political rally held by the Awami National Party in the settled district of Charsadda. Twenty-five Pakistanis were killed and more than 35 wounded. Two days later on Feb. 11, the Taliban again struck a political office of the Awami National Party, this time in North Waziristan. Eight Pakistanis were killed, including two senior party leaders, and 13 were critically wounded after a car bomb slammed into the party office near Miramshah. The Awami National Party is a secular Pashtun political party despised by the Taliban.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.