A sketch map of North and South Waziristan. Map from The Khyber Gateway. Click to view.
The Pakistani military repelled a Taliban assault on a fort in the lawless South Waziristan tribal agency, killing 11 Taliban fighters and wounding up to 20 more. The Taliban launched the attack on the Tiarza Fort and the Tiarza Bridge Checkpost just outside of Wana late last night. The military estimated between 75 and 100 Taliban fighters were involved in the assault on the Frontier Corps fort, the Associated Press of Pakistan, the government’s official public relations outfit, reported.
The military claimed 11 Taliban were killed and an estimated 15 to 20 were wounded after the assault was repulsed. No military casualties were reported. A curfew has been declared in Wana.
The attack on the Tiarza Fort occurred the same day as a senior Taliban leader was killed in Swat. Pakistan security forces claimed to have killed Ikramuddin, who is described as a “close associate of Baitullah Mehsud,” the leader of the Pakistani Taliban as well as the commander in South Waziristan. The Taliban claimed Ikramuddin was killed in an accidental discharge of his handgun.
The Taliban’s military campaign in South Waziristan
The Taliban have heavily targeted military forts, outposts, and convoys in South Waziristan since last summer. Several forts were overrun in the region, and the military abandoned several others.
A Taliban force captured a company of Pakistani regular Army forces in September 2007 and paraded their captives on television several weeks later.
Fighting intensified in January 2008, when the Pakistani military launched an offensive in South Waziristan after the Taliban brazenly launched major attacks against Pakistani troops and on a series of forts in the region. The Taliban were able to overrun two forts in South Waziristan in January.
On Jan. 16, the Taliban overran the Sararogha Fort after conducting a conventional nighttime assault with a force estimated between 500 and 1,000 fighters. The Taliban killed 16 Frontier Corps soldiers manning the base and captured 24. There have been no reports of the military retaking the Sararogha Fort.
The Taliban also overran the Saklatoi Fort after Frontier Corps paramilitaries surrendered the outpost. Sixty members of the Frontier Corps were captured. Pakistani commandos of the Special Services Group retook the outpost in a helicopter assault on the Saklatoi Fort on Jan. 19, just one day the military denied the fort was in Taliban control.
The Pakistani military launched an operation to clear the Taliban from South Waziristan on Jan. 24, but halted the offensive on Feb. 2 after 10 days of heavy fighting. The military initiated a cease-fire and started negotiations with Baitullah.
The Taliban also made three attempts to overrun the fort at Ladha. Pakistani forces repelled the attacks but at high costs. Scores of paramilitaries were killed, wounded, or captured while defending the outpost at Ladha.
In the beginning of August, the military abandoned the Ladha Fort and outposts in the Saam region of South Waziristan. Military officials claimed the outposts would be rebuilt, but other officials said the military was unable to hold and resupply the outposts due to Taliban activity.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups maintain secure bases in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in some of the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. These groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.
Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. 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.
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