Pakistan pulls punches in Khyber operation

Click to view images of the senior leaders of the extremist groups operating in the Khyber agency.

The Pakistani government continues to claim success during the current operation against extremist groups operating in the tribal agency of Khyber. The military and government claim the Taliban threat to provincial capital of Peshawar has been relieved.

The operation is said to be directly targeting the Ansar-ul-Islam, Lashkar-e-Islam, and Namdar’s forces. The government has refused to name the specific targets of the operation, but Ansar-ul-Islam, Lashkar-e-Islam, and Namdar’s group have been officially banned by the government.

The Pakistani military claimed its forces detained 22 “militants” on Tuesday and 30 on Wednesday. No “untoward incidents” have been reported, while the military has leveled some homes of extremist members as seized vehicles and other equipment.

But reports from Pakistan indicate the Pakistani military is pulling punches in Khyber. The government and military have been clear the operation was limited in scope and a “show of force.”

Haji Namdar, the leader of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice group allied with Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-e-Islam, was seen riding along with the Frontier Corps, Pakistan’s paramilitary group assigned to conduct operations in Khyber. “He was taken along to ensure that encounters with militants were kept to a minimum,” the Asia Times reported.

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.

On the same day, Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, narrowly escaped a blast at one of Namdar’s offices. Seven people were killed in the attack, which Namdar subsequently blamed on a US strike. The Pakistani military denied attacking the office. The US may have attempted to sabotague negotiations between Namdar and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Omar was meeting with Namdar’s representatives to iron out an agreement between Baitullah’s Taliban organization. Hakeemullah Mehsud, Baitullah’s deputy in Khyber, tried to kill Namdar in a suicide bombing in April after Namdar purportedly turned on the Taliban.

Ansar-ul-Islam, the rival to Lashkar-e-Islam, said it supported the government operation and criticized it as “eyewash.” “We favor the operation, but it should not be limited only to razing houses and offices of religious outfits in the agency, it should be purposeful,” said Haji Muhammad Amin, a leader in the extremist group.

Lashkar-e-Islam has offered to conduct peace talks with the government. A tribal jirga has been dispatched to conduct negotiations. Bagh denied his group had designs on taking Peshawar.

Baitullah said talks are back on

The seriousness of the government operation in Khyber can be gauged in Baitullah’s posture towards the current negotiations with the government. Just several days after ordering the Pakistani Taliban to suspend peace negotiations and existing peace agreements, Baitullah did an about face and said negotiations should proceed. Baitullah had previously threatened wage “jihad” and turn the provinces of Sindh and Punjab “into a furnace.”

Meanwhile, fighting between Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam took place in the Tirah Valley, far from the scene of the current operation. Seven were killed and 16 wounded during heavy clashes. Eighty-nine were killed and 110 were wounded during 12 days of fighting between the two groups, Daily Times reported. More than 500 Pakistanis have been killed during ongoing fighting between the two groups over the past two years.

For more information on the fighting in Khyber and the security situation in Peshawar, see:

In Pictures: Extremist leaders in Pakistan’s Khyber agency

Pakistani military advances in Khyber

Pakistan’s inconclusive military operations against the Taliban

Pakistan strikes at Taliban in Khyber agency

Northwest Pakistan descends into chaos

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

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.



  • Pete Howard says:

    Bill: Some things never change: here’s Haji and Maulvi riding around in an Frontier Corps Nissan pickup truck (license plate: ISI-1) belly-laughing and back slapping each other while listening to Nusrat Ali Khan on the radio with a bunch of berets with Shalwar Kameezes piled into the bed of the pickup laughing and having a great time occassionally shooting off a few rounds into the air…smoking cigars with the required Johnny Walker Black hidden in the glove compartment…occassionally poking their head out the window looking up into the sky. Let’s face it, Bill, this is real serious stuff, but sometimes you just gotta shake your head a bit.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Pete, if I had the time, I’d set up “The Long War Journal, Ironic Edition.”
    Some features:
    “Pakistani politicians: Our Nukes are safe! Really!”
    “Negotiating with the tribes, not the Taliban. Honest.”
    “ISPR Spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan’s greatest hits.”
    “US to attack Iran: for the 30th time.”
    “Three carriers in Persian Gulf = war. Again.”
    “Mahdi Army: the more you kill, the stronger we get. That’s why we flee to Iran.”
    “The Nationalist Muqtada al Sadr, live from Qom, Iran.”
    I could go on….

  • Pete Howard says:

    Honest to God, Bill, I don’t know what we would do without your unique perspective, sense of humor and timely information. And, Inshallah, it will be a good weekend. God bless you and your family.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thank you for the kind words, Peter. Your extremely humorous comment inspired me…
    I do have one quibble (minor): the license plate definitely isn’t ISI-1. Probably something like ISI-137. Haji Namdar and crew are merely low-level players, late to the game, and don’t rate such a high vanity plate. We’ll leave plates ISI-1 thru ISI-136 up to the reader’s imagination.

  • Marlin says:

    I could not agree more that the Pakistani government just does have the willpower to actively engage in FATA and the settled areas. There was a good article published today that makes that same point.

    That is not to say the Taliban are popular, exactly, but many believe their emphasis on strict law and order is preferable to the anarchy that prevailed under the reign of the Pakistani state.
    While the Taliban cannot bring economic development to an area, they do take a heavy-handed approach to lawlessness and provide their own Islamic courts that dispense speedy justice – both improvements on the chaos that existed previously. And development projects were not taking place anyway, locals said.

    The National: Taliban tame a wild town famous for selling guns

  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    TimesOnline says the T-ban have Peshawar under siege, and STILL the government of P-stan thinks they can talk to these people. Yeah, if it wasn’t so serious I would get a good belly laugh. I would love to wake up to the headline: “US warplanes destroy Waziristan camps.” We better find another way to keep our troops supplied coz eventually we may HAVE to intervene. The P-stani gov. keeps ceding territory, and then belly-aches about its “SOVEREIGNTY.” They do not even govern these areas, the T-ban/AQ do. As for the ISI, they are and have been all along in bed with our enemies. I’d like to hear about the sudden dissapearance of Hamid Gul also. I bet he’s got some info we would like to know of. This is getting monotonous. Treaties, lies, backstabbing. Look at wat we are dealing with.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram