5 years, 6 months ago
Pakistan on Monday banned the main Taliban militant group behind a wave of suicide attacks in the country that has killed hundreds of people since last year, the interior ministry said.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — an umbrella group for the Taliban Islamist militants who have threatened more suicide attacks — will have its bank accounts and assets frozen.
“We have banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan because of their involvement in a series of suicide attacks,” interior ministry chief Rehman Malik told AFP.
“They themselves have claimed responsibility of several suicide attacks and the government cannot engage in a dialogue with such people,” he said.
The TTP is headed by Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, based in the lawless South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan.
The outfit has been blamed for most of the attacks in which nearly 1,200 people have been killed since July last year.
The Pakistani Army is currently engaged in heavy operations against the TTP in the Bajaur region, and on Wednesday killed 49 insurgents. The Captain’s Journal has been slow to discuss the current operations because we have seen this for several years, with a stand down in operations accompanied by “deals” and “negotiations” with the TTP. Time will tell if the current pace of operations is sustainable, especially with the approaching winter.
Approximately 50 Taliban were recently killed in air strikes in Khost, Afghanistan, by NATO air strikes, but Hamid Karzai, who is steering a course of probable negotiations with the Taliban like Musharraf, has demanded an end to the air strikes because of collateral damage.
The Afghan Taliban are still intent on isolating Kabul as a one prong of their strategy.
The Taliban were very clear about their strategy this year, declaring it for all to see on their Web site in March; more suicide bombs, isolating Kabul and hitting troop supply lines. So far they have not disappointed.
Given the firepower behind 70,000 foreign troops and 130,000 Afghan forces, long-haired bands of Taliban militants cannot be expected on the streets of the capital anytime soon. But the Taliban do not have to win, only wait for their enemies to lose.
“For besieging the Afghan and foreign forces in Kabul, we have begun the initial work on the main roads leading to Kabul from four directions,” senior Taliban leader Mullah Brother said in an interview posted on the militant Web site.
Three of the four main roads out of Kabul are no longer safe for government employees, aid workers and foreigners to travel.
The Taliban even declared they would launch large attacks in the area where 10 French troops were killed last week after one French general admitted “we were guilty of overconfidence”.
The Taliban may not be able to control territory in the face of better armed and trained NATO troops, but neither does NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have enough soldiers to hold all the ground and deny it to the insurgents.
The Taliban bomber calmly parked a white fuel tanker near the prison gates of this city one evening in June, then jumped down from the cab and let out a laugh. Prison guards fired on the bomber as he ran off, but they missed, instead killing the son of a local shopkeeper, Muhammad Daoud, who watched the scene unfold from across the street.
Seconds later, the Taliban fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the tanker, setting off an explosion that killed the prison guards, destroyed nearby buildings, and opened a breach in the prison walls as wide as a highway. Nearly 900 prisoners escaped, 350 of them members of the Taliban, in one of the worst security lapses in Afghanistan in the six years since the United States intervention here.
The prison break, on June 13, was a spectacular propaganda coup for the Taliban not only in freeing their comrades and flaunting their strength, but also in exposing the catastrophic weakness of the Afghan government, its army and the police, as well as the international forces trying to secure Kandahar.
In the weeks since the prison break, security has further deteriorated in this southern Afghan city, once the de facto capital of the Taliban, that has become a renewed front line in the battle against the radical Islamist movement. The failure of the American-backed Afghan government to protect Kandahar has rippled across the rest of the country and complicated the task of NATO forces, which have suffered more deaths here this year than at any time since the 2001 invasion.
“We don’t have a system here, the government does not have a solution,” said Abdul Aleem, who fought the Taliban and helped to put some of its members in the prison. They are on the loose again, and he now faces death threats and sits in his garden with a Kalashnikov rifle on the chair beside him.
He said that without the presence of international forces in the city, the situation would be even worse. “If we did not have foreigners here, I don’t think the Afghan National Army or police would come out of their bases,” he said.
A rising chorus of complaints equally scathing about the failings of the government can be heard around the country. The collapsing confidence in the government of President Hamid Karzai is so serious that if the Taliban had wanted to, they could have seized control of the city of Kandahar on the night of the prison break, one Western diplomat in Kabul said.
The only reason they did not was they did not expect the government and the NATO reaction to be so weak, he said.
Without security, the population will not side with NATO or the Karzai government. The same can be said of the situation in Waziristan and to the South in and around Quetta. The population might hate the Taliban, but will learn to live with them if they are seen to be the probable victors. It happened once before.
Taliban, NATO and Pakistani operations are in full swing, and it is imperative that force projection be applied to gain and hold as much terrain as possible – including human terrain – before winter sets in.