Taliban Continue Fronts in Pakistan and Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

In U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns, we provided the analysis showing that there has been a split in the Taliban organization with Baitullah Mehsud (or By’atullah Mahsoud) the leader of the Pakistan wing and Mullah Mohammed Omar the leader of the Afghanistan wing.  Taliban insurgency is planned for Afghanistan, and an insurrection is planned for Pakistan.  This analysis, proven correct, was directly contrary to the analysis given by Army Major General David Rodriguez who claimed that the front in Pakistan would prevent the Taliban from conducting a “spring offensive” in Afghanistan in 2008.  But Mullah Mohammed Omar has recently said through a spokesman that the Taliban doesn’t align themselves with the fight in Pakistan.  Their’s is an Afghani struggle.

Mehsud’s reach extends far throughout Pakistan.  Only yesterday, the port city of Karachi saw combat that had its roots in Mehsud’s plans for Pakistan.  “At least three members of Jundullah (Army of God) were killed in the clash with police and paramilitary forces. Two policemen also died. One of the dead militants was the suspected leader of the cell, Qasim Toori, who was wanted in connection with previous deadly attacks in Pakistan.  Jundullah was founded in the South Waziristan tribal area in 2004 and is now led by Pakistani Taliban Baitullah Mehsud and Tahir Yuldashev, head of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. In recent weeks, Jundullah has become estranged from the main Taliban movement led by Mullah Omar, who insists that militant activities should be confined to Afghanistan, and not directed against Pakistan.  A senior police officer told Asia Times Online soon after the militants’ hideout in a residential area had been seized, “I was stunned watching so much weaponry [being used], ranging from RPGs [rocket propelled grenades] to light machine guns. It appeared they were preparing for a war.”

Preparing for war indeed.  Mehsud recently laid out his plans for Musharraf and Pakistan.  “We will teach him a lesson that will be recorded in the pages of history in letters of gold. The crimes of these murderers, who were acting at Bush’s command, are unforgivable. Soon, we will take vengeance upon them for destroying the mosques. The pure land of Pakistan does not tolerate traitors. They must flee to America and live there. Here, Musharraf will live to regret his injustice towards the students of the Red Mosque. Allah willing, Musharraf will suffer great pain, along with all his aides. The Muslims will never forgive Musharraf for the sin he committed.”  Just to make the global aspirations of the Taliban clear, he continues: “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”

In addition to cross-border operations, the connection between the Afghanistan and Pakistan goes deeper.  There is a symbiotic connection of the Pakistani ports to the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan in that Afghanistan is land-locked and dependent on supply routes through Pakistan.  Mehsud’s forces have begun to effectively target these supply routes.

Their latest target was a supply convoy outside the town of Dera Ismail Khan on the Indus Highway, one of Pakistan’s main arteries.

“They managed to single out the most important lorries, removed the drivers and then vanished the consignment lock stock and barrel,” said the official.

“Among the booty they discovered trucks carrying cargos of pristine 4×4 military vehicles, fitted with the most modern communications and listening technology,” he added.

The official added that Mehsud’s gunmen lacked the expertise to operate the equipment. So they enlisted the help of Uzbek and other foreign militants who are based in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas lining the north-west frontier.

In Afghanistan U.S. forces are both battling a Taliban insurgency and attempting to rebuild infrastructure and provide jobs.  But it is difficult in insurgent-held territory.  “This has been a Taliban area for years,” said Lt. Col. Dave Woods, who commands U.S. Forces in Paktia, one of the eastern provinces in Afghanistan which shares a small slice of border with Pakistan.  Roadside bombs in this area have killed two American soldiers, wounded more than 60, and destroyed as many as 30 military vehicles. They are often pressure plate devices made of anti-tank mines, sometimes stacked two or three high to create more force. They are planted on the very dirt roads the U.S. military hopes to rebuild, to improve the lives of the villagers here and turn them against the Taliban.

Already, 400 local men have been put to work. They line one main road, armed with shovels. U.S. commanders admit the work is labor intensive for a reason.  “We’re giving these men an opportunity to work this winter versus going to Pakistan or put in IEDs,” said Woods, seen at left talking to CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick. He believes his most powerful weapon is the ability to provide jobs. “It’s something the Taliban can’t do.” The workers are paid five dollars a day. The Taliban tried to stop the project, issuing threats over its radio station and through “night letters”, which appeared on residents’ doorsteps, warning that them and their families would be killed if they participated. But the men showed up for work anyway. In the months ahead, the road will be paved. It is an important trade route.

Contrary to the notion that the Taliban have stood down due to the winter weather, the tactics of intimidation and IEDs are being implemented by the Taliban in a winter so cold that as many as 300 Afghanis have recently died from exposure.  Taliban violence continues throughout Afghanistan.  Targets of the violence continue to be the Afghanis who work to construct infrastructure.

Taliban insurgents beheaded four Afghan road-workers in the northeast of the country after their families failed to pay a ransom for their release, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

Afghanistan has seen a sharp rise in violence over the past two years as Taliban insurgents have stepped up their fight to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign troops. Taliban insurgents have often targeted workers on government and foreign-backed infrastructure projects …

More than 6,000 people were killed last year in Afghanistan, many of them civilians, the worst year of violence since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 for failing to give up al Qaeda leaders in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The violence against NATO supplies is not limited to the Taliban in Pakistan; these routes are in danger in Afghanistan.

Roadside bombings and a suicide attack have killed three people and wounded nine others in southern Afghanistan.

Police say a suicide bomber in a vehicle tried to attack a NATO convoy in Kandahar province’s Zhari district Wednesday. But the bomber hit a private car instead, wounding four civilians inside. There were no casualties among NATO troops.

Separately, a newly planted mine exploded under another civilian vehicle in the same district Tuesday, killing two civilians and wounding four others.

Also Tuesday, a vehicle carrying an Afghan road-working crew hit a mine in Kandahar’s Panjwaii district, killing one labourer and wounding another.

Kandahar’s police chief, Sayed Agha Saqib, blamed Taliban insurgents for the attacks, which occurred on roads often used by Afghan and western military forces.

The Taliban are engaged on two fronts.  They have continued unabated, and will increase in intensity throughout 2008.  Jobs for workers and other assistance programs are a good plan and anthropologically sound ideas, especially since Afghanistan has the highest number of widows per capita of any country in the world.  But it will take more than jobs to counter the Taliban offensives.  The exercise of military power and force projection are the necessary pre-conditions for successful reconstruction.  3200 U.S. Marines are soon headed for Afghanistan.  More will be needed.

Prior:

U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns

Baitullah Mehsud: The Most Powerful Man in Waziristan

Taliban Campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Musharraf Chides U.S. for Lack of Force

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You are currently reading "Taliban Continue Fronts in Pakistan and Afghanistan", entry #918 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency,Force Projection,Pakistan and was published January 31st, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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