The Afghan Army clashed with the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal agency of Mohmand on June 10. While initial reports indicated the US conducted a targeted airstrike against a Taliban or al Qaeda leadership target in the tribal agency, the aircraft appear to have been supporting Afghan troops during the clash with the Taliban. Conflicting reports fault the clash for killing Pakistani soldiers at a nearby Army outpost.
The fighting started after Afghan forces attacked a Taliban force as it attempted to cross the border. Between 10 and 13 Pakistani soldiers were killed after Afghan and US forces pursued Taliban forces fleeing into Pakistan.
“The militants launched a cross-border attack into Afghanistan,” an unnamed Pakistani security official told Reuters. “At least 10 of our soldiers were killed in a counter-offensive by forces in Afghanistan.” Geo TV reported 13 Pakistani soldiers, including a major, were killed. An estimated 50 Pakistani soldiers were manning an outpost in Suran Dara along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier. The region borders Afghanstan’s Kunar province.
Mullah Omar, a spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said the fighting occurred after US and Afghan forces attacked Taliban positions inside Mohmand. Omar stated that Pakistani troops were not deployed in the region.
The Pakistani military’s public relations department initially denied Afghan and Pakistani troops clashed in Mohmand. Major General Athar Abbas, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said Afghan troops crossed the border to establish a checkpoint in the area. But the Pakistani military later “condemned this completely unprovoked and cowardly act on the (military) post and regretted the loss of precious lives of our soldiers.”
All of the reports indicated NATO aircraft were involved in the fighting. The initial reports of a possible US airstrike sparked speculation the US conducted another targeted attack on senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas. But it appears the US warplanes were backing Afghan forces during the fighting on the frontier.
The US has conducted four known strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas this year. Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi was killed in a strike in North Waziristan, and external operations chief Abu Sulayman Jazairi was killed in an attack in Bajaur. The US military also targeted a compound run by senior Taliban leader Siraj Haqqani in North Waziristan and a complex owned by Noorullah Wazir, a Pakistani tribal elder in South Waziristan.
Background on the Taliban in Mohmand
The local Taliban in the Mohmand tribal agency is led by Omar Khalid. His involvement with terrorism stretches back at least a decade. He was a member of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a banned terrorist group that conducts attacks in Kashmir.
Khalid trained in terror camps in Kashmir and fought Indian forces. After fighting in Kashmir, Khalid maintained close links with the Kashmiri terror outfits while supporting the Taliban cause in Afghanistan. Immediately after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Khalid took hundreds of fighters across the border to fight US forces.
Khalid claims to have 3,000 armed and trained fighters under his command. In July 2007, Khalid’s forces seized a historic mosque and shrine in the Mohmand tribal agency and renamed it the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, after the Taliban mosque in Islamabad that was assaulted by the government in mid-July.
Last Summer, Khalid denied links with the Taliban and al Qaeda even as he pledged allegiance to Red Mosque leader Ghazi Abdur Rashid. “If [the Taliban] come to us, we will welcome them,” said Khalid. “We will continue Ghazi Abdur Rashid’s mission even if it means sacrificing our lives.” Khalid also threatened to “use suicide bombers in self defense” if the new Red Mosque was raided. He seeks to “Islamize” the local tribes and plans establishing a “vice and virtue force” to enforce sharia, or Islamic law.
But Khalid has since joined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the umbrella Taliban organization led by Baitullah Mehsud that united movements in the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Khalid is the Taliban’s representative for Mohmand agency. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has repeatedly stated that the series of peace agreements signed with the Pakistani government will not prevent them from conducting attacks against NATO and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with Khalid’s Taliban in Mohmand on May 28.
See Report: US strikes inside Mohmand tribal agency for early reports on the US airstrike and background information on recent US targeted strikes against senior al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan.
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.