The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for today’s suicide car bombing at the Pakistani Rangers Headquarters in the southern port city of Karachi. From Dawn:
Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that they have more targets on their list and those who would raise voices against them, the Taliban would target them.
He said that the Pakistani Taliban have their network in the country and would operate from wherever they wanted from.
According to media reports, a truck slammed into one of the entrances of the Rangers compound killing one person and leaving more than a dozen, including civilians, injured.
The Taliban and allied terror groups have conducted numerous suicide bombings and attacks against military and civilian targets in Karachi over the years. The most high-profile attack took place in May 2011, when a suicide assault team stormed Pakistani Naval Station Mehran in a coordinated, complex attack. Two P-3C Orion aircraft were destroyed and another was damaged in the attack.
The violence in Karachi has spiked over the last two years, and Taiban and al Qaeda groups have established a key foothold in the city during that time. According to The News, 25 Taliban and al Qaeda-linked groups are operating in the city. The News has misclassified the allegiance some of the groups; for instance the Badr Mansoor Group is an al Qaeda “company,” according to one document seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound. The Qari Zafar Group is another such al Qaeda company [see LWJ report, Bin Laden docs hint at large al Qaeda presence in Pakistan]. Regardless, the report highlights the problem in Karachi:
The 25 key al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militant groups which have literally taken hostage the port city of Karachi include five factions of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) – Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Alami, Qari Zafar group, Qari Shakeel group, Akram Lahori group and Farooq Bengali group. Then there are three factions of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which are active in Karachi – Commander Waliur Rehman group (from South Waziristan), Badr Mansoor group (from North Waziristan) and Mullah Fazlullah group (from Swat). The remaining jehadi-cum sectarian groups in Karachi include Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), Sunni Tehrik (ST), Daawat-e-Islami (DeI), Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM), Harkatul Mujahideen Al Alami (HUMA), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Jamaatul Furqaan (JuF), Harkatul Jehadul Islami (HuJI), Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), Jundallah, Tehrik-e-Islami Lashkar-e-Muhammadi (TILM), Lashkar-e-Islami (LeI), Mehdi Militia (MM), Hezbollah, Kharooj, Tawheed Brigade (TB), Al Mukhtar Group, Punjabi Mujahideen etc.
According to The News, 11 areas of Karachi are currently under the control of these groups (this is accurate, according to several Pakistani sources and US intelligence officials):
Some of the known localities in Karachi which are under the control of the Taliban elements now include Sohrab Goth, Baldia Town, Quaid Abad, Shireen Jinnah Colony, New Karachi Industrial Area, Sultanabad, Mangho Peer, Sarjani Town, Qasba Colony, Shah Faisal Colony, Shah Latif Town and Peer Abad.
These groups are gaining control of areas of Karachi using methods tested and perfected in Pakistan’s tribal areas and settled districts in the northwest by the Taliban for years. The jihadist groups are assassinating rivals and political opposition, intimidating those in their areas, and infiltrating mosques, madrassas, and other institutions to spread their ideology.
This gets to the heart of a point we’ve made repeatedly here at The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix: Pakistan’s jihadist problem isn’t limited to the small kill boxes of North and South Waziristan, where the drones are essentially free to target and kill them at will. This excerpt from a Threat Matrix article published in November 2010, when US officials foolishly made noise about expanding drone strikes to Quetta (there was no serious possibility of the US expanding drone strikes into one of Pakistan’s provincial capitals), still applies today:
Northwestern Pakistan is what is called a target-rich environment. There are cells and camps for al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani Network, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Group, Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, and a host of other terror groups in Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Arakzai, and Mohmand (where no strikes have been recorded). This doesn’t include the settled areas of Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , such as Swat, Dir, Chitral, Nowshera, Peshawar, Bannu, and a host of other districts (Bannu is a settled district in this province; the three strikes there occurred in what are called the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas).
If the US is seeking to expand beyond the tribal areas, the city of Quetta wouldn’t be the main focus of the strikes. The US would want to strike Taliban forward command centers in Chaman and Gerdi Jangal, as well as camps in the districts of Zhob, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah, and others. And even if the US could hit targets in Baluchistan, Punjab province and Karachi in Sindh are rife with terror camps and safe houses. Pakistan is literally infested with terror groups, many of which are supported by the military and the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.
And this gets to the heart of the real problem with US strategy in Afghanistan as well as against al Qaeda. Pakistan remains the real problem in the region, while Afghanistan is a sideshow. As long as the Pakistani state shelters, supports, and covers for the Taliban and allied terror groups, and either refuses to act or refuses to allow the US to strike, Pakistan will remain the epicenter of terrorism.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.