Taliban kill 8 Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan attack

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has regrouped in the tribal agency of South Waziristan. Today, a heavily armed Taliban force estimated at 150 fighters attacked a military post in the town of Makeen and killed eight Pakistani troops. Twelve Taliban fighters were reported killed in the counterattack. From Reuters:

Around 150 militants armed with rockets attacked a security checkpost in Pakistan’s Waziristan on Thursday, killing eight soldiers, intelligence officials said, as tensions rise in the border region. Twelve militants were killed in retaliatory firing by security forces.

The attack came on the heels of stepped-up missile strikes by U.S. drone aircraft in the tribal region along the Afghan border regarded as a hub of militants from around the world.

“The militants were carrying rockets and heavy weapons and attacked the checkpost shortly after midnight,” an intelligence official in the region told Reuters.

“Eight soldiers were killed and twelve were wounded,” he added. Security forces hit back at the militants, killing at least 12 of them and wounding five, another official said.

Makeen was once a stronghold of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. This area is not under the control of Mullah Nazir, who has been the focus of five Predator airstrikes this month. Hakeemullah and Nazir are rivals of sorts (although Nazir has allowed Hakeemullah’s forces to shelter in his tribal areas after the Pakistani Army launched an offensive against the Mehsuds in October 2009).

The Pakistani military has claimed it defeated Hakeemullah’s forces, but the group preserved the bulk of its fighting forces and all of its leaders by conducting a tactical withdrawal and leaving a rearguard force behind to battle the government troops. Meanwhile, the Pakistani military fought a halfhearted campaign. The military “largely stayed close to the roads and did not engage against those [Pakistani Taliban] militants who returned after fleeing into North Waziristan,” according to a US government report that was leaked in October 2010.

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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7 Comments

  • naresh c. says:

    It appears that the army post was attacked in North Waziristan (not South Waziristan), according to other reports. Is the peace deal over in North Waziristan?

  • AMac says:

    These sorts of reports don’t make any (obvious) sense.
    “Around 150 militants armed with rockets attacked a security checkpost…, killing eight soldiers… Twelve militants were killed in retaliatory firing by security forces.”
    So the Taliban assemble a fighting force of 150 and attack a “checkpoint” of their choosing, at a time of their choosing.
    How many soldiers/frontier troops/militia/police are present on duty at the checkpoint when combat begins? A dozen? 50?
    So the narrative runs that 150 heavily-armed Taliban assault an outpost, presumably with the advantage of surprise. The outnumbered defenders suffer 8 dead while inflicting 12 dead on their enemies. They aren’t overrun, and the Taliban withdraw.
    These amazing defensive-warfare feats seem to be repeated with great regularity.
    There seem to be some misplaced decimal points, somewhere. Or, are the Taliban known for incredible tactical stupidity?

  • kp says:

    Makeen (or Makin … that transliteration problem again) is in South Waziristan south of Razmak division of North Waziristan. It’s close to the NW/SW border. About halfway between Miramshah and Wana.

    //www.geonames.org/maps/wikipedia_32.6208_69.8392.html

    Both are on a forested 6000 foot high plateau surrounded by mountains up to 11,000 feet (and gets a lot of cloud cover too in summer … to evade the drones perhaps?). I think we’ll be hearing more of this region as time goes on until it clouds up in July. It’s closer to the “head for the hills and hide in a cave” environment than the valley bottoms of Mir Ali and Dhatta Khel.

    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makeen

    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razmak

    Razmak is 10km to the north and is where the cadet college was very recently reopened (after the evacuation and kidnapping in 2009) as “the security situation improved”. I wonder if removing the checkpoints has helped the local Taliban? And I wonder if they’re making a point about the recent drone attacks.

    //www.dawn.com/2011/05/30/cadet-college-razmak-reopens-after-two-years.html

  • Max says:

    Some of the real victims in this war are the Pakistani soldiers, who on the one hand are fighting with Taliban and Al-quaeda and dying by the score, while on the other hand, their own government is helping arm, supply, and advise the Taliban and Al-quaeda. Many of the Pakistani soldiers seem bewildered that their own government could be feeding the same people that they are fighting. They’re just using them as cannon fodder for their strategic geo-political games against India and Afghanistan. Pathetic.

  • davidp says:

    AMac, you make some good points, although a key phrase is “estimated at” which probably means three of the survivors each said “there were dozens on my side” (=48) – how well trained were the soldiers at estimating enemy numbers by gun flashes in the dark, and how much self restraint did they use ?
    I also distrust the Pakistan Army’s “killing at least 12 of them” – in past operations, they fired artillery at hillsides and villages and declared that every corpse was a dead militant, never a local civilian. In reality I expect they killed far more locals than militants.
    My armchair re-phrasing: At least a dozen militants fired RPG’s and automatic weapons at a checkpoint, killing 8 soldiers and wounding 12.
    Bill, how solid will the data behind “killing at least 12 of them and wounding five, another official said” be ? Are they likely to have custody of the bodies, or is this more estimating ?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    davidp,
    We have no way of knowing (and you are correct about the historical PakMil response & claims to Taliban casualties in situations like these), but if the facts are as they are reported, it still reflects poorly on the PakMil.

  • davidp says:

    Thanks Bill. I see your point – even if we take the army’s numbers as true, this incident shows the falsity of their “defeat” of Hakeemullah’s forces, and claimed control of South Waziristan.

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