Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.
As the Pakistani government continues to push negotiations with Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, 18 of his fighters were killed while fighting Afghan and Coalition forces inside Afghanistan.
The 18 fighters were among dozens of Pakistanis killed, an anonymous Taliban commander told The News. “They were staying in various houses when someone informed the US forces about their presence. The US planes bombarded their positions, killing most of them.”
The Taliban source said the Mehsud fighters were killed in Helmand province. “Dozens of Mehsud tribal militants, led by Commander Khan Ghafoor, had gone to Afghanistan to fight against the US-led forces,” The News reported.
But there were no reports of major clashes in Helmand province on June 5. The US military reported “several” Taliban were killed and five detained during a targeted raid and airstrike in the Kajaki district.
There was a major engagement reported on June 5 in Paktika province, which borders South Waziristan in Pakistan. Between 20 and 32 Taliban were killed in a US airstrike. Most of those killed in the airstrike “were foreign fighters, including Pakistanis and Central Asians,” The Associated Press reported.
The bodies of the dead Pakistani Taliban are being repatriated to South Waziristan, the Taliban commander said. The 18 fighters were from the town of Makeen in South Waziristan. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, sheltered in a safe house in Makeen at the end of December 2008 after claiming credit for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.
The Pakistani government is currently negotiating a peace agreement with Baitullah, who has been behind suicide attacks, major fighting with the Pakistani military, and the kidnapping, murder, and capture of soldiers and government officials.
The draft of the peace agreement does not contain a clause that prevents the Taliban from fighting inside Afghanistan, according to the current copy obtained by the Daily Times. “Mehsud tribes say they cannot include this point in the agreement since they have no common border with Afghanistan, but our allies (in war on terror) say this clause must be included,” Owais Ahmed Ghani, the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province said.
The peace agreement is unenforceable, as the Pakistani military is withdrawing from South Waziristan. The government and the Taliban signed a similar agreement in September 2006, but the Taliban immediately violated the accord.