Suicide bomber hits tribal meeting in Pakistan

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas and the NWFP. Click to view.

The Taliban continue to attack the nascent tribal organizing against it movement in Pakistan’s turbulent northwest. A suicide bomber struck at a meeting of Ali Zai tribal leaders in the Arakzai tribal agency, killing 55 and wounding more than 100.

The attack occurred as the tribal leaders were in the middle of a meeting to discuss the formation of a tribal militia, or lashkar, to secure the region and oppose the Taliban. More than 500 members of the tribe were present at the meeting, according to Geo TV.

The government has been fighting the Taliban in the city of Darra Adam Khel and in neighboring Kohat after the Taliban took control of the Indus Highway and the Kohat Tunnel. The military was able to reopen the tunnel and the highway after the Taliban held it for almost a month.

The Taliban have ruthlessly targeted tribes looking to back the government. Tribes in Kohat attempted to organize against the Taliban in January 2008. A suicide attack on a tribal leader’s meeting in early March killed 40 and wounded more than 40. Several senior tribal leaders were killed, and the organized resistance to the Taliban faltered.

The Pakistani government has been courting the tribes to support the efforts to take on the Taliban in the tribal areas and in the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. Tribal lashkars have been formed in Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Buner, Bajaur, Khyber, and Arakzai.

But the government has failed to obtain support from the major tribes, senior US military intelligence sources told The Long War Journal [see Pakistani Army rejects Waziristan operation]. The tribes that have been brought into the government’s fold are small and scattered. There is no overarching support mechanism to provide political and ideological support for those who dare to take on the Taliban.

The Taliban maintain support from the major tribal confederations, and have increased their capabilities by forming the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This organization has allowed the Taliban to coordinate military, political, and propaganda efforts.


Pakistani Army rejects Waziristan operation

Oct. 8, 2008

Taliban have not split from al Qaeda: sources

Oct. 7, 2008

Pakistan engages the tribes in effort to fight the Taliban

Sept. 29, 2008

Note: this entry was updated to reflect latest casualty figures.

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



  • C. Jordan says:

    This is what AQ tried in Iraq.
    Hopefully these tribes are strong
    enough to stand up and perhaps
    have their own awakening.
    My thoughts and prayers are with them.

  • NS says:

    Sadly, there are only a few tribes that actually want to do some thing – as Bill reports most of these tribes dont really have any problem with the Taliban – blood runs thicker than water – and these tribals are Pashtun too – never would these tribals take up arms against people of their own ethnicity – why should they do that ? for what ? Democracy ?
    I am actually surprised that there are tribes who are willing to look past their ethnicity and fight the Taliban – suicide bombings like these send a message-you cross the Talib at your own peril.
    The conditions in Afghanistan/Pakistan only serve to illustrate how different and important Iraq is – the Anbar Awakening could have very easily folded when AQI hit them back for co-operating with the US. They did not. They fought back. They refused to live under terror and are now slowly joining the Shia Government. Iraqis on the whole seem to be able to look past their religous and sectarian differences.
    Pushtuns in Pakistan, just cannot – as far as they are concerned the “Crusader” needs to go. And who ever helps them – whether the Pakistani Govt or other people are “traitors”.
    And where the demonstrations on the streets of Pakistan against these terrorists? They are reserved only for the “American poodle” Musharaff. Not for terrorists.
    How long is democracy going to last ? I think Kayani must be licking his chops

  • Marlin says:

    NS –
    I agree with most of what you say. But I have to believe that even the Pashtun will eventually grow tired of suicide bombers and actions like this.

    Taliban beheaded four elders from the Charmang tribe on Friday after they had attended a pro-government jirga in the insurgency-hit region of Bajaur, officials said on Friday. Assistant Political Agent Muhammad Jamil said the Taliban kidnapped the four – Malik Dastan, Malik Jamaldar Khan, Malik Aman Gul and Malik Sana Gul – when they were returning home after attending a jirga convened to plan action against the Taliban. “We found the bodies of elders at a dry canal near the Kotki area of Khar.”

  • My2cents says:

    The Pushtun tribes will end up fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban because the tribal leaders do not want to give up power. Their only choices are between the bad and the worse.
    The Taliban insists that they are the government in areas that they control and that they can override the tribal leaders and. So if the Taliban wins the tribal leaders lose power.
    Then there are the allied forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, particularly the US, who appear to have decided that the only way to win is to eliminate the Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan. Their attacks/raids into Pakistan have embarrassed the government and may force it to act in one of three ways: defend the frontier against the allied forces (probably a non-starter), root out the Pakistan Taliban in the tribal regions (which they have failed to do multiple times), or the Pakistani government can swallow it’s pride, admit that they cannot control the tribal regions, and ask the allied forces in Afghanistan for help.
    The Pakistan government has been paying the tribal leaders bribes to keep things under control, but now is rapidly losing faith in their ability to deliver and is threatening to send in the military to chase the Taliban and al Qaeda out. The government is nearly broke, so win or lose, the bribes are going to drop if combat operations start. Worse yet, if the government wins they may decide to stay (actually they would almost have to keep the Taliban from coming back), ending the tribes local autonomy and the much of the power of the tribal leaders.

  • Private Finch says:

    The P-gov is on the edge of bankruptcy and they have about enough money for three more months. They should be willing to agree to cut a deal with us to help clean-up the border areas.

  • NS says:

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  • NS says:

    Oh brother, my post vanished for the second time.. ok, i dont think its going to appear any more.. possibly for mentioning the names of two Presidential candidates ?

  • NS says:

    “Discuss the issue at hand and do not go off topic. The comments section is not a place for a political discussion.”
    I respectfully disagree – i know that this is your website and you have a right to a policy on what should and should not appear.
    But this war has a huge geo-political dimension to it. It cannot be swept under the rug. I guess this site does not want to get into it and i can understand why- it could easily devolve into nasty verbal spats – but imho this robs readers of an angle that is the big elephant in the room.
    just my 2C. Thanks for hearing me out.

  • TEM says:

    When AQ starts to see the writing on the wall (i.e. death and defeat) they start with the beheadings and sucicide bombers, that will backfire in the same manner that it has in other parts of the world. The local population will finally see through their lies and propaganda and realize they are backing mentally ill individuals. Their dream of a caliphate is as absurd as Hitler’s dream of a 1000 year reich or the marxist creating a heaven on earth. Both of those ideologies were doomed for failure as is the AQ along with their sick fantasies.
    It takes a sick mind to send 7&8 year olds out on sucicide missions, while the cowardly planners of the attacks, hide under rocks.

  • Noocyte says:

    If nothing else, this sort of thing underscores the possibilities for an intelligently crafted and implemented counterinsurgency doctrine. By developing relationships with the tribes (no mean feat, to be sure!), including cash, logistics, hot-fire backup, and other forms of support in exchange for assistance in battling the miscreants in their midst, COIN operators could conceivably put into effect a clear-hold-build regime, akin to (but by no means linearly scalable from) that which has borne such bountiful fruit in Iraq.
    WHOEVER turns out to be C-In-C, I do hope that he gives CENTCOM’s General Petraeus all the support he asks for.


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