Pakistan, US coordinate strikes against the Taliban


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

US and Pakistani forces operating along the porous border between Afghanistan’s Paktika province and the Waziristan tribal areas in Pakistan’s tribal areas coordinated attacks against Taliban forces on Nov. 18. The cooperative effort is the second this week, and signals a renewed effort to stem the flow of Taliban fighters crossing the border is underway.

The US military contacted the Pakistani military after a US combat outpost and an Afghan checkpoint came under “artillery fire” from Taliban forces operating across the border in the lawless Waziristan tribal region on Nov. 18. “The Pakistani military then launched a mortar strike on the insurgents’ firing location inside Pakistan,” an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) press release stated.

It is unclear if there were Taliban casualties, but no US or Afghan forces were killed or wounded in the initial attack. ISAF did not say if the attack was launched from North or South Waziristan. The powerful Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar operate in North Waziristan. Taliban forces under the command of Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Nazir operate in South Waziristan.

The Nov. 18 incident was preceded by another coordinated US-Pakistani strike. Taliban teams twice fired rockets at a US base in Paktika province on Nov. 16. The US military determined the rockets were launched from within Pakistan, “coordinated with the Pakistan military,” and fired 20 “artillery rounds” at the launch site in Waziristan, ISAF reported. “The Pakistan soldiers assured ISAF that they would engage any insurgents attempting to flee deeper into Pakistan.”

US and Afghan forces have fought pitched battles against the Taliban in Paktika, and Paktia provinces over the past week. On Nov.16, US attack helicopters killed a “large number of insurgents” after they attacked a combat outpost in Paktika’s Bermel district.

On Nov. 15, US troops killed 10 Haqqani Network fighters and captured a commander in Paktia. The day prior, US forces killed four al Qaeda operatives, also in Paktia province.

Operation Lionheart in the Kunar-Bajaur border region

The US and Pakistani military have also increased cooperation further north on the Afghan border. US troops operating in Afghanistan’s Kunar province are coordinating their efforts with Pakistani forces fighting the Taliban in Bajaur.

The effort, called Operation Lionheart, has US soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade conducting simultaneous operations in the Kunar River Valley and along the mountain border crossings with Pakistan.

“The objective is to share intelligence and prevent the enemy from transiting the border, as they continue operations to defeat the insurgents in Bajaur agency,” said Colonel John Spiszer, the brigade commander at a Pentagon briefing on Nov. 18. “By conducting near-simultaneous operations on both sides of the border, we’re making it difficult for the enemy to operate and eliminating his essential safe havens.”

The US military has refocused its “intelligence surveillance reconnaissance assets, to do everything we can to identify [insurgents] transiting across the border,” Spiszer said. He has conducted meetings with the Bajaur Scouts, a unit that is part of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, as well as with the Pakistani Army. “We are in coordination on a daily basis with the Frontier Corps,” said Spiszer.

Operation Lionheart was launched just as a report of increased cooperation between the US and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, according to a report in the Asia Times.

“High-level meetings between US intelligence and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have already been held at different levels to devise plans to cripple the support systems of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan,” the Asia Times reported. “Two prominent names came under discussion at these meetings: retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul and a former ISI official, retired Squadron Leader Khalid Khawaja.” Both Gul and Khawaja have a long history of supporting the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

A senior US military intelligence official confirmed to The Long War Journal that talks are underway, and described the concept as “nothing short of a huge mistake.” ISI agents trained by Gul and Khawaja would sniff out such plans, and retaliate.

The pro-Taliban elements of the ISI have an extensive network inside Pakistan, and are believed to have aided in the numerous attacks on high-security Pakistani military installations, such as a triple suicide attack on the Wah weapons factory, multiple attacks inside the so-called military garrison city of Rawalpindi, several attacks on military bases housing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and a suicide strike at officer’s dinner on a base operated by the Special Services Group, Pakistan’s elite counterterrorism unit.

As the news broke of increase US and ISI cooperation, Major General Amir Faisal Alvi, the former commander of Special Services Group was assassinated while driving to Islamabad. Alvi had eight bullet wounds, including three fatal shots to the head. His driver was struck with seven bullets and also was killed.

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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  • JusCruzn says:

    It would be great to see operations like this continue. This probably is the only way to eliminate both the t-ban and aq! Thanks to the troops on both sides. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI’S!!!

  • C. Jordan says:

    Is there any way to determine the effectiveness of these strikes?
    Could this just be a show of force to cool political pressures?

  • GME says:

    Let’s hope that AQ/Taliban influence in ISI is drying up. The near-simultaneous assassination of Major General Faisal Alvi shows how terrified the Talban are of cooperation between US-Pak forces. If ISI-Taliban collaborators could be removed from service and arrested as traitors, perhaps the Pak high command could be counted upon.
    In this time of Pakistan’s weak central government and the unique geopolitical nature of the sanctuary regions, I would hope everyone in Pakistan could appreciate how powerful a true alliance could be for peace in the world.
    Thanks LWJ for telling these stories. You guys are the only source out there for the public, and I’m sure the news is appreciated by many.

  • Marlin says:

    Speaking of Hafiz Gul Bahadar he is promising revenge attacks on Afghanistan for the drone attacks on Pakistan. I wonder what he considers the current attacks he promulgates on Pakistan?

    Top Pakistani Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur warned he would mount revenge attacks if the US carried out further strikes in tribal territory after missiles fired from a drone Wednesday killed six people, including a major Al-Qaeda operative.
    “We will start revenge attacks across other districts if the US drone attacks do not stop after November 20,” Taliban spokesman Ahmadullah Ahmadi said in a statement.

    AFP: Taliban warns of reprisals as Pakistan protests US drone attacks

  • Render says:

    May I predict drone strikes against Hafiz Gul Bahadur on or about November 20th-21st? Or anytime thereafter…

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/21/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Rhyno327/lrs says:

    I wonder if the P-stani’s gave coordinates that were correct. Did we hit them? Or did we kill a bunch of trees on a mountainside? GME has a good point. Maybe the crux of the problem concerning INTEL. The ISI sleeps with AQ/T-ban. The Army Corps commanders are probably sympathysers too. They would take an envelope full of Euro’s in a heartbeat. If you want something done, you better do it urself. I have no problems with US Spec. Ops going across that border. P-stan is on the edge of the cliff, they may go over no matter wat we do.

  • Marlin says:

    A little more perspective on Operation Lionheart.

    Despite stalled progress on security near Kabul, Schloesser said there has been an approximately 15 percent decline in violent clashes with insurgents in the east near the border with Pakistan within the past few weeks. Schloesser, who commands an estimated 19,000 of the 33,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, attributed some of the decline to the onset of winter. But he also cited improved coordination between Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. forces near the border. He said the coordinated effort, which has been dubbed Operation Lionheart, will continue along with other operations as part of a winter offensive.
    “None of these things are the thing that’s going to be the tipping point. But each and every one of them, as you add them, they are important in terms of adding to overall security,” Schloesser said. “Just the ability to work on both sides of this very tough border, to talk to each other, to have complementary operations — it’s encouraging.”

    Washington Post: U.S. to Boost Presence Near Kabul


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