May 17 2009

A Surge Building In Pakistan Tribal Areas, First Attacks Begun

Updates Below

This year the US and Pakistan are definitely going to make a major push against al Qaeda and the Taliban. I have been wondering why al Qaeda had been slowly moving people from its sanctuary in Pakistan to Somalia (a dangerous migration since movement can be detected). It seems a new effort to purge the last sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan (see map above) is beginning.

First comes this news regarding the radical Taliban strongholds inside the two Waziristan Provinces:

Pakistan plans to escalate its military operations against the Taliban massively by opening a second front in the country’s lawless border areas.

The army, which is fighting in Swat Valley and two neighbouring districts in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), is planning to begin a new offensive in the badlands of the Waziristan tribal areas as early as next month, sources told The Daily Telegraph.

“The army is planning to go into Waziristan, possibly in June, which will involve huge numbers of troops in an attempt to establish some sort of state control over the area,” said a source close to the Pakistani military.

This could initiate a long awaited pincer movement with US and allied forces established north along the Afghanistan Border. Swat is east of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), inside the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The two Waziristan Provinces are on the far western side of FATA. Pak troops have been pushing in from the eastern edge of FATA, specifically in the Bahjur and Mohmand Agencies where they have been clearing out the radicals.

With Pak forces pushing from the south and US forces containing to the north, the trap is set. This Surge of forces could break the back of al Qaeda and the Taliban (there will always be some small remnant cells, just like there are still Nazi cells around).

Today more reporting came out on this summer’s offensive:

PAKISTAN is to extend its war on the Taliban beyond Swat into the fiercely independent tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda leadership are believed to be hiding.

“We’re going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations,” President Asif Ali Zardari told The Sunday Times in an interview. “Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight.”

He said Pakistan would need billions of pounds in military assistance and aid for up to 1.7m refugees, the biggest movement of people since the country’s split from India in 1947.

To help take on the militants, the Pakistan army is for the first time to accept counterinsurgency training from British and American troops on its own soil.

Training forces almost always include some actual forces working on the front lines to ‘guide’ the national forces. This report explains why it is time to move on FATA, because the NWFP is fairly cleared of major hot spots:

A military offensive to rid Pakistan’s northwest of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters has killed more than 1,000 militants since it began in full force earlier this month, the country’s interior ministry said Sunday.

Officials also said that only 2 percent of the North West Frontier Province remains under Taliban control as a result of the operation.

Both claims were difficult to verify independently.

This is good news all around, and another sign President Obama is planning to finish the work begun by President George Bush. We will finish this war on terror, by whatever name the people in DC want to call it. And for that I applaud our President and our fighting men and women bringing final justice to those who have been attacking us for years, culminating in the 9-11 attacks.

Also today we have news of a not so surprisingly timed attack on al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan:

Forty people, most of them militants, were killed and several others critically injured in two successive attacks by US spy planes at Khaisur village of Mirali subdivision of North Waziristan Agency on Saturday morning.

“It is the biggest-ever loss for the Mujahideen in the tribal areas so far,” militant sources claimed.

Tribal sources said two US spy planes were seen flying over Khaisur village, 20 kilometres south of the Mirali subdivision, the second major town of militancy-wrecked North Waziristan tribal region.

The drones fired two missiles at a double-cabin pick-up parked close to a mud-house allegedly used as a hideout by the Taliban militants.

According to sources, the militants had just sat in the vehicle and were due to travel to some undisclosed location when they came under attack around 8:00 am.

We are clearly going to try and decapitate the Islamist forces. With so many dead (lots of body guards?) one can hope this was a major target. Depending on the accuracy of the reporting (always suspect from this part of the world) it would seem it was a good strike:

“We lost very trained and sincere friends. Some of them were very senior Taliban commanders and had taken part in successful actions in Afghanistan. Bodies of most of them were beyond recognition,” the militant commander said in a choked voice.

He vowed they would take revenge on the American forces in Afghanistan for the killing of the Taliban.

He denied reports that senior al-Qaeda operatives were among the victims of the drone attacks. “It’s the biggest-ever loss of Mujahideen in any drone attack so far,” he claimed.

The militant commander admitted that US spies had entered their movement and that’s why the Taliban were now suffering heavy losses in drone attacks in North and South Waziristan tribal regions.

We won’t be spying forever, at some point we will go from information gathering to action.

Update: The Long War Journal is reporting this is the 3rd US strike this week in the region:

The US has struck at Taliban and al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agencies for the third time this week. Twenty-five Taliban and al Qaeda operatives are reported to have been killed and several more were wounded in an airstrike in North Waziristan.

The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in January 2007. He serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and the Taliban.

His responsibilities have expanded to assisting in facilitating al Qaeda’s external operations against the West, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2008.

Game on.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A Surge Building In Pakistan Tribal Areas, First Attacks Begun”

  1. Frogg says:

    I am a supporter of the drone attacks. However, David Kilcullen just wrote an op-ed piece calling for an end (atleast temporarily) of the drone attacks. Kilcullen, was an advisor to Petraeus on counterinsurgency from 2006-2008. If I remember correctly he helped form our counterinsurgency strategy along with Petraeus. So, he isn’t one to just write off. I can only assume Petraeus still supports the drone attacks.

    However, if interested, Kilcullen’s op-ed (explaining why he thinks drone attacks should be stopped for now) can be read here:

  2. combat18 says:

    The problem is that Obama is not moving enough troops to Afghanistan and most intel analysts are not convinced that the Pakistani offensive is real. Too many of the lower level officers in the Pakistani military are sympathetic to the Taliban. I will believe a real offensive in Wazistan will occur when I see it.