Pakistani forces clash with Taliban in Bajaur

The Pakistani military and the Taliban battled in the northern tribal agency of Bajaur after security forces launched an attack. More than 25 extremists were reported killed and 30 wounded after Pakistani forces targeted Taliban hideouts in the Loisam region in Bajaur with helicopter gunships and artillery, Geo News reported.

The Taliban struck back, killing one soldier in a roadside bomb attack. The Jaish-e-Islami, a splinter Taliban group in Bajaur, also claimed to have killed three security personnel.

The fighting began four days after a Pakistani TV station said operations would be launched against the Taliban in Bajaur and the neighboring Mohmand tribal agency. The Taliban overran several Frontier Corps outposts along the border with Afghanistan in late July, and fighting over a TV booster substation has been ongoing for the past week. Three military checkpoints were overrun on Aug. 5. In early July, the Taliban took over two girls’ schools in Bajaur and turned them into madrassa.

Pakistan’s current operation in Swat

The fighting in Bajaur occurs as the Pakistani military is in the midst of its latest offensive in Swat. The fighting in the settled district of the Northwest Frontier Province began on July 30, after the Taliban continually attacked security forces and civilians alike. More than 60 girls’ schools have been torched in Swat this past year, in spite of a peace agreement.

The provincial government ordered Pakistani forces to root out the Taliban, led by Mullah Fazlullah. “We have been given three months to clean up the area,” an unnamed government official told Dawn.

The military claimed more than 100 Taliban fighters, including two senior leaders, have been killed during the current fighting. The Taliban disputes the government’s casualty figures. In the past, the Pakistani military has inflated enemy casualties while hiding its own casualties during operations.

On Aug. 6, security forces killed Ali Bakht, Fazlullah’s deputy, along with 13 Taliban fighters. Bakht was in charge of peace negotiations with the government. The Taliban confirmed Bakht’s death.

On July 31, Pakistani security forces killed Maulvi Hussain Ali, who is also known as Toor Mullah. Ali was “very popular with the militants throughout the region” as well as “Afghanistan’s Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives,” Daily Times reported. He provided shelter for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

A fight to the finish, or prelude to more peace deals?

The current offensive in Swat and the apparent operation in Bajaur comes as Pakistan has come under enormous pressure from the US government for failing to halt the spread of extremist control of the border regions.

It is unclear if the Pakistani government and military plan on defeating the Taliban in Bajaur and Swat. The current operations, which have been launched in a manner that fails to simultaneously pressure the Taliban’s network in the northwest, indicate the government does not seek to strike a decisive blow. As pressure increases in one district or tribal agency, the Taliban are able to retreat to neighboring regions and return once the Army withdraws.

If the past is any indication, the current operations will be short-lived, inconclusive, and end in “peace” negotiations. The military operations launched in 2007 and 2008 have failed to defeat the Taliban. Recent offensives in Khyber and Hangu ended after less than two weeks of fighting, and resulted in peace agreements that gave the Taliban free rein in the regions.

Swat has been the one region where the government has been willing to fight. The government fought a protracted, five-month battle with the Taliban in Swat from November 2007 through March 2008. This was the most serious effort to uproot the Taliban, yet it still resulted in a “peace” agreement in May of this year.

At the beginning of the current offensive in Swat, a government official said the desired the endgame is more negotiations, not the Taliban’s defeat. “We will revive the [Swat peace] agreement when the militants accept our terms,” the official told Dawn.

Background on recent peace agreements between the government and the Taliban

The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, and Hangu.

Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Marian. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

On July 23, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.

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

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6 Comments

  • don juice says:

    im not gonna be optimistic but i hope this is the beginning of the end for the taliban and al-qaeda and pakistan has finally smelt the coffee

  • KW64 says:

    Maybe burning down 60 girl’s schools did not go down well politically in the rest of Pakistan and the Government and army felt they better do something. That is possible in Democracies.

  • Buff52 says:

    I am guessing it would take one combined arms division per district occupying the area like General Ulysese S. Grant would do to “pacify” the Taliban.
    Of course community building programs like the U.S. Marines exercise in these situations would have to be used also.

  • Alex says:

    See, eventually I think that the Pakistani government will prevail and that it won’t go the failed state route, but not after a lot of unnecessary bloodshed since they don’t seem to be stomping them out now.
    We recently switched to satellite television, and one of the new channels that we get is CNBC World, which shows clips from the various CNBC stations across the world. One of their segments is called Business Pakistan. Watching it, it seems like there are almost two completely different societies there: one, a forward-thinking society that is on CNBC and talking about their business ventures, and another one with 13th century values.
    But, then again, Iran before the revolution was by far the most cosmopolitan country in the Middle East/Southwest Asia region…look at it now where adultery is a capitol offense and the method of execution is stoning. I’m hoping for the best.

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  • Rhyno327/lrsd says:

    Its hard to believe the P-stani military is really doing some fighting. If they have learned anything, it is the T-ban/AQ do not honor ANY agreements. Burning down girls schools, and making madrossas out of others…thats where they learn this twisted version of Islam. They are liars, cowards, and always target the population of the areas they move into. Like a Dark Ages plague, they infect the tribal lands. The US better find a new route for logistics, coz I believe in the end, it will be US warplanes and troops engaging the militants in Waziristan and other areas. We need not occupy these lands, just eliminate the camps, madrossas, compounds the militants use. Tell the Pakistanis to stay out the way. There will be no stable A-stan until the “safe havens” are not safe anymore.

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