Jan 20 2009
There appear to be two general areas in Pakistan where al Qaeda and radical Taliban elements have a strong hold. The primary power base for these radical Islamo Fascist groups is Norther and Southern Waziristan Provinces in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). The map above can be clicked on to go to a larger version, but these two provinces are on the far right (southeast) end of FATA.
While Waziristan is home base, the militants have tried to control two other provinces on the other side (western side) of the Khyber Pass in Khyber Province. These are Bajaur and Mohmand Province, which are on the far right (northwest) end of FATA. It is from these launching points that the militants began to over run the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where there are resorts and tourist centers. NWFP was under siege a couple of years ago, but the Pakistani forces under Musharraf began beating the militants back into Mohmand and Bajaur where they established bases.
Now the Pakistani forces are attempting to push the militant forces in Mohmand and Bajaur north, no doubt into the waiting teeth of US and UN forces ready and able to decimate them. It is a classic pincher moveÂ meant to destroy the western forces of the Taliban and al Qaeda:
The offensive in Mohmand was launched as U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus arrived in Pakistan for talks with government and military leaders.
“Troops are moving forward from two opposite directions in a bid to squeeze the militants and not let them flee,” a senior government official in the region, Syed Ahmed Jan, told Reuters by telephone.
Security forces have recently stepped up their operations in Mohmand, which is to the north of the city of Peshawar, to fight al Qaeda and Taliban militants fleeing a military offensive in the Bajaur region, to the north.
A spokesman for paramilitary Mohmand Rifles said the assault was focused on five border villages where al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban militants were putting up resistance in hideouts.
It sounds to me, looking at a distance with only sketchy news reports to track, that the Pak forces are homing in on the command and control centers for the region. In fact, the pattern seems to indicate a last ditch effort by the militants to stop the effort, as seen in the unusual attack by 600 militants last week to thwart the push:
Last week, more than 600 militants, many from Afghanistan, attacked a military camp and two nearby checkposts in Mohmand and six soldiers and 40 militants were killed, the military said.
Intensified Pakistani efforts against the militants has led to what some officials call reverse infiltration, with some Taliban coming back into Pakistan to protect their rear bases from the Pakistani military.
Petraeus is in the region to help coordinate any US support. It would not surprise me in the least if one or two high valued targets are also in the area. The only reason to openly move that many fighters across a border monitored to the meter by US surveillance forces is to protect something of value. What it may be is still unclear, but clearly exposing where these fighters came from and fled to was considered a worthy price to pay.