Army retakes fort in South Waziristan


The Pakistani military said it has retaken control of the Ladha Fort in South Waziristan after heavy fighting in the region.

The Ladha Fort, which has been under Taliban control since August 2008, was retaken today, the military said. Back in July 2008, the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for security in Pakistan’s tribal areas, abandoned the Ladha Fort and all of the outposts in the Saam region in South Waziristan. The Frontier Corps claimed the Ladha Fort was vacated at the wishes of local tribal leaders and would be converted into a hospital, but local reports indicated the Taliban had strangled the supply lines in the region. The Frontier Corps also abandoned other forts in the area, including one at Sararogha.

Ladha is one of five major Taliban towns in South Waziristan. The military has already taken control of Kotkai and Kanigoram, is currently clearing Sararogha, and has surrounded Makeen.

Twenty-eight Taliban fighters and five Pakistani soldiers were killed during fighting over the past day. In all, the military has claimed that more than 420 Taliban fighters and only 40 soldiers have been killed since the Army launched an operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan on Oct. 17.

The Taliban have denied taking such heavy casualties, and its spokesman, Tariq Azam, said only 11 of their fighters have been killed while their forces have inflicted scores of casualties on the Pakistani military. The claims from either side cannot be confirmed as the military has barred all reporters from the combat zone, save for closely scripted tours.

The Taliban have claimed that their forces have been withdrawn, save for a small rearguard to bleed Pakistani forces during the advance. Tariq Azam said Taliban forces are luring the Army into a trap and will wage a bitter guerrilla campaign against troops and security forces left behind. According to a report at the BBC, the Taliban leadership cadre, including Hakeemullah Mehsud, have fled to a region on the border with North Waziristan to wait out the military offensive. No senior Taliban leaders have been reported killed or captured during the fighting.

The Pakistani military claims it has achieved great success in the operation by taking the high ground in the Mehsud tribal lands, then cutting off the Taliban before advancing into the towns and villages. The military hopes to complete the operation before the winter snows set in and travel is restricted.

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



  • Mr T says:

    We have run away from the Army. But it is a trap!
    Well, where have they run to? 10-15 thousand Taliban and the military has killed 350. Thats a lot of men running away. Maybe they fled to Nuristan in Afghanistan since they ran NATO out and control that area.
    I just have a hard time envisioning 10 thousand Taliban murderers leaving towns they have lived the good life in beheading enemies and stealing food from the locals and going on the road. Anyplace they go would likely be crowded and already have local murderers that run the place.
    Would they be camping out in caves? If 10 thousand men move to other areas, they would also begin to congregate and make bigger targets for the drones.
    If they tried to melt into the local population, there would have to be locals that would point them out. If there was ever a time to do it, now would be it. Perhaps the Army is actually persuading military age local Taliban men to abandon the fight.
    In any case, until Hakeemullah is killed, they will still have a problem there.

  • Cordell says:

    From Reuters:
    The leader of the Pakistani Taliban urged his fighters to stand fast against a military offensive in tribal South Waziristan, warning them in an intercepted message obtained Thursday that cowards will go to hell.
    “Remember this is the commandment of God that once fighting starts with the enemy, you cannot leave the battlefield without permission from your commander, and don’t look for excuses to run away from the fighting,” Hakimullah Mehsud told his followers in a speech Tuesday broadcast over a wireless radio network. Of those who do run away, he warned, “Such people will go to hell.”
    Pakistani intelligence officials shared a recording of the speech with The Associated Press, possibly to promote the idea that the militant leader is concerned about desertions in the ranks.
    “We are in jihad and we should not pay heed to the whispers of Satan. We should sacrifice our lives for Islam so that we can feel pride on the day of judgment,” Mehsud said.
    The military says hundreds of militants have been killed in the offensive – including 28 in just the past day – and that hundreds more have been wounded. While the speech could indicate the militants are on the defensive, a Taliban spokesman insisted earlier this week that the group had not lost even a dozen fighters.

    Apparently, desertions are besetting the Taliban’s ranks. This might account for why relatively few Taliban deaths have been reported by the Pakistani Army despite capturing major Taliban strongholds. It will be interesting to see if the Taliban will be able to get their deserters back and regroup.

  • John ryan says:

    The Taliban have local support and Mr T you apparently know next to nothing about that area ANYONE who asks for sanctuary is given it. and Cordell losing 350 men out of 10,000 is nothing, they can easily be replaced.

  • Spooky says:

    Seeing as they have yet to get a member of the senior leadership, its likely that they will be able to rally the troops yet again eventually.

  • Neo says:

    I agree, the locals in Northern Waziristan will be generous hosts to their southern neighbors. Many will do so enthusiastically, others will do so out of obligation, still others who are not so happy will keep their feelings to themselves.

  • Civy says:

    It will be interesting to see how many of those “hardened Taliban” are actually going along under duress or are fair-weather friends. When people keep putting guns in your face you have a tendency to say yes, when you’d like to say no.
    Those that flee would likely go back to their Uzbek and Chechen homelands than pick a fight with NATO. We should be so lucky to have 10k – or however many are the core devout – give us a stand-up fight inside the borders of Afghanistan. SBC. Game Over.

  • Cordell says:

    Considering press reports dating back to 2007, the majority of Taliban deserters are likely to be conscripts from the local South Waziristan population, most of them no more than boys taken from their families under duress. So long as the Pakistani Army maintains firm control over the area, they will remain out of the fight. Given the desperate pleas of Hakimullah Mehsud, the deserters probably number over 10% and could reach as high as 50% if the majority of their ranks were conscripts. In actual numbers, this represents a loss of 1000 to 6000 “militants”.
    In general, desertion saps an army’s morale more than anything. Troops generally fight harder to avenge the deaths of friends and compatriots. Seeing members of one’s ranks flee the battle, one naturally begins to question how worthwhile the cause is for which one fights and wonder whether self-preservation might be a better course. Quite understandably, the US military strongly prefers an all volunteer force; they are far more committed to the fight and are therefore less likely to sap the morale of fellow soldiers by their words and actions.
    Overall, the Taliban spokesmen are increasingly sounding like “Baghdad Bob” in their denials of casualties or desertions and attempts to explain away the loss of strategic positions following this Pakistani offensive.

  • What happenned to the claim by ex President Musharaff that this area was never under control of pakistan state? Was he fooling the USA all along?If 28,000 Pakistani troops could take back this area in 3 weeks with casualties of 40 to themselves, then there is something seriously wrong in assessment of Musharaff or USA>

  • Neo says:

    The Old Ladha Fort is at (32.565 N, 69.83 E). The Baddar river is just to the east of the fort, and runs north-east toward Dwa Toi. The village of Ladha is a little to the north of the old fort. There are two rivulets that run west from the Baddar river, the first is at the Ladha Fort and runs due west for 6 km until it runs into the high mountains to the west. The second rivulet (Maidan) is situated about 1.5 km to the north and runs due west for 11 km. The two rivulets form inhabited valleys that run east-west with a high ridge that also runs east-west between the two. There is a road that runs on the south side of the first rivulet until it turns north to connect with the next valley. There are several back roads leading west along north side of the Maidan rivulet as well. To the immediate west of this area is a strategic ridge that overlooks the interconnecting valleys at (32.589 N, 69.777 E). If the Pakistani army can control the area just to the west of the Ladha fort than they can box in the rugged area on the west side of Kaniguram. They can also control the back routes leading toward Makin from the southwest.
    Makin is only 6 km north of the Ladha Fort but the terrain between the two is difficult. A series of parallel east-west ridges causes the road to zigzag between the two. The army will need to control the surrounding ridges before attempting to use this stretch of road.
    The Pakistani army might move north from Ladha directly toward Makin but don’t be too surprised if they spend a little time occupying the area that I described to the west of the Ladha fort.

  • Ahmad Tariq says:

    captainjohann, currently I personally feel, Pakistan does not trust the U.S. and its motives in the region, which is why Musharraf kept playing the double-game and kept the U.S. in a doubt about controlling this region.
    Undoubtedly, the terrain is very difficult and at the same time, these Mehsud fighters are hard to defeat, since they have been good at ‘hit-and-run’ tactics, which am 110% sure they will adopt even in this operation (as they did with the British in the 19th and 20th century).
    Plus one more point that prevented Musharraf from dealing with South Waziristan with an iron hand was rallying the public and the armed forces, which he could not do, since he was not an elected personality. Now the situation is different. Pakistan feels the need to eliminate these safe havens being a headache for Pakistan and the elected government has effectively rallied the people of Pakistan to support the armed forces to eliminate safe havens in north-west.
    So there are various factors which can be taken into account to see why Musharraf was slow to take on action in there.

  • DANNY says:

    It’s all the BEHEADING that has brought about public support to rid Pakistan of these monsters. Evil has no logic. Look at the effect BEHEADING had on Iraq. Usually these monsters learn lessons from the other fights. But not so much anymore, EVIL has them in it’s grip. They are putting evil a head of logic, no pun intended.

  • neozaa says:

    So there are various factors which can be taken into account to see why Musharraf was slow to take on action in there.


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