Pakistani Intel, Army, backing the Taliban in Bajaur


Farhat Taj says Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency and the Army are backing the Taliban against the Salarzai tribe in the Bajaur tribal agency. From The News:

The tribe have collectively decided that there won’t be any Taliban on their soil. The Taliban have been driven out of the Salarzai area. The Salarzai lashkar, mostly made up of labourers and peasants, has successfully kept the Salazai area free of the Taliban.

Tens of Salarzail lashkar leaders have been target-killed. The Salarzai leaders informed me they hold the ISI responsible for the targeted killings. “The Taliban are just a facade. The real force is the ISI punishing us for our anti-Taliban struggle,” said one of the leaders.

The leaders said that Mamond Taliban headquarters used to be in Damadola, which is a few kilometres from the FC fort in Bajaur. The Mamond Taliban used to bomb Salarzai villages. The Salarzai tribal elders requested the Political Agent, the authorities of the FC [Frontier Corps] and the Pakistani army to stop the Mamond Taliban. None of these offered any help. Finally the Salarzai lashkar took positions on the mountains and for two hours heavily bombarded the surrounding villages of the Mamond Taliban. At that point the political agent and a colonel of the army asked the Salarzai lashkar to stop the bombing. They gave the same old logic: who will fight the NATO forces from across the Afghan border if you eliminate the Taliban? [emphasis added]

Following such encounters with the state authorities, the Salarzais decided to fire at any forces entering their area: be it the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the army or the US or NATO.

According to the tribal leaders, the military was ordered to shell anti-Taliban villages:

The Salarzai leaders also informed me that last year the army deliberately fired at those villages in Bajaur that were known to be staunchly anti-Taliban. They said one of their colleagues called Maj Gen Alam Khattak to ask him to stop the bombing of his village. “Major General Sahib! I will start a vendetta with you if you did not halt the bombing of my village immediately. I will make sure to kill you and your family at the first available opportunity,” they quoted one of their colleagues as saying. The major general asked him to meet Col Sajjad who was bombing the anti-Taliban villages from his base in Timergara. That colleague saw a big Bajaur map affixed on the wall in the office of Col Sajjad. The map had several encircled villages. Col Sajjad informed him that the map had been handed over to him by his commanders with the order to bomb all the encircled villages. “Our colleague’s blood boiled with anger: none of the villages had Taliban in them,” said the Salarzai leaders…

On the other hand, those Salarzai villages that had Taliban were not marked on the map or bombed by the army.

This does not appear to be an isolated incident. Back in the spring of this year, a lashkar in Upper Dir battled the Taliban after a suicide attack leveled a mosque. The members of the lashkar were infuriated when the military targeted the villages with artillery, and they demanded that the military stop the shelling. The lashkar then refused help from the military.

Couple this report with yesterday’s report that more jihadi terror camps focusing on the fight against India have opened, and it is clear that Pakistan’s military and intelligence services remain compromised and that they have refused to abandon the notion of keeping the Taliban and other terror groups in reserve against India as well as a hedge against a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. And not only that, elements in Pakistan’s military and the ISI are also actively aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan: “Who will fight the NATO forces from across the Afghan border if you eliminate the Taliban?” the colonel and the political agent in Bajaur asked.

The report also shows that some of the more rosy analyses of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency prowess are flawed. If you assume that the military merely made a mistake and shelled the wrong towns, the act of indiscriminately shelling towns is just what a military should not do when fighting an insurgency.

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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  • Spooky says:

    Very curious…
    So if the Salarzai are fighting both sides now and can manage to hold their territory, they effectively declared outright independance, as opposed to remaining under the convoluted system of autonomy within Pakistan’s framework. Could be dangerous, could be an opportunity, for either side of this war.
    By any chance, does anyone know how much area the Salarzai cover?

  • Cass says:

    Spooky, they have 10-12 tribal villages, and are roughly allied and descended from tribes from India, so that explains Pakistan’s targeting of them. They’re among the more advanced open minded of the tribes there, but will kill enemies with radically unleashed vengeance when challenged. Like most close-knit tribes.

  • rational enquirer says:

    So — the Pakistani government and military are supporting terrorist organizations on their own soil, and fighting on the same side as the Taliban — and we are giving them a continuing stream of billions of dollars???
    Any money given to Pakistan at this point should be conditional on allowing US advisers and troops in the country to supervise how it is spent.

  • Spooky says:

    There is no way diplomatically that America could get troops in because of cash. Spies and CIA maybe, but not troops.
    You have to remember that the Pakistani population as a whole does not like or trust America. Zardari’s government is not well liked partly because of his foolishness but also because he is still doing what Musharraf was doing, and that was being America’s “puppet”.
    If Zardari allows American troops into his country, he’ll be overthrown by the Army by end of the week. And if by some miracle the Army was able to keep its self-control, PML-N would have a field day and would sweep Parliament, thus forcing the entire government out of power with a more Islamist friendly regime in its place.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    Its obvious, AGAIN, that the PAK gov is protecting our enemies in case of a clash w/ INDIA. IF there is another Mumbai, i hope the Indians roll right over the border. We have made it clear our intentions to strike first, well, wats good for the goose is good for the gander. INDIA should retaliate. The Chi-coms should stay at home by the way.

  • Zar Khan says:

    To put the record straight, the Salarzai tribes certainly provided the military with a secure flank to successfully launch a bold offensive against the Taliban strong holds in Bajaur Agency in August 2008. Since the beginning of this year, isolated pockets of Taliban resistance have been systematically removed denying them the initative and freedom of movement in the entire agency. As for the military capability of the Salarzais I seriously doubt that they would have been been able to holdout against a Taliban for so long without the continuous military support from the Government.
    The article by Ms Taj has no relevance to the ground situation and therefore raises serious questions about her credibility as a professional research scholar


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