3 years, 2 months ago
From The New York Times:
At least 28 Pakistani soldiers have been killed after two days of intense fighting with militants who crossed the border from Afghanistan into northwestern Pakistan, local police officials said Thursday.
As many as 45 militants were killed, the officials said. The figures could not be independently verified.
Three civilians, including two women, were also killed in the clashes, and three Pakistani soldiers were missing. It was unclear whether they had been killed or had been abducted by the attackers.
At least 200 militants crossed the border on Wednesday morning and attacked a police post in Barawal, a village surrounded by rugged mountains and forests in the Shaltalo area of Upper Dir, a district in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Shaltalo is near the border with Kunar Province of Afghanistan.
The fighters took up positions in the surrounding mountains and also attacked troops from hide-outs in the thick forest outside the village. They destroyed at least two schools and set several houses on fire. By Thursday afternoon, the intensity of the fighting was diminishing, and by the evening the troops had regained the advantage, the police said.
“The situation is under control,” said Jawahir Ali, a junior police official in Barawal.
Pakistani officials lodged a protest with the Afghan government late Thursday. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir conveyed “strong concern” about the matter, according to a statement from the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The statement said that as many as 400 Afghan militants had been involved in the attack. Mr. Bashir demanded a strong response from the Afghan Army and United States and NATO forces against militants in Afghanistan, the statement said.
The border with Afghanistan in Dir district is porous and unguarded at most of the crossings, making infiltration easier. An army border checkpoint is located at Shahi, about 19 miles from Barawal.
But wait. I thought that there were only a few al Qaeda affiliated fighters left in Afghanistan, and that the Afghan Taliban were interested only in an independent Islamic state in Afghanistan and were completely uninterested in anything but Afghanistan. An Islamic version of the noble savage, as it were. This incident doesn’t seem to fit the current narrative.
Furthermore, the Taliban have taken credit for the raid.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Friday for a cross-border attack on a security post that appeared to signal the group was adopting a new strategy of large-scale attacks on government and army targets.
In the pre-dawn raid on Wednesday in the village of Shaltalo in Dir region, up to 400 militants crossed from Afghanistan. More than 24 hours of clashes ensued, the government said.
Twenty-seven Pakistani servicemen were killed and 45 militants died in the clashes in the northwest, security officials said. There were contradictory accounts of casualties and how many militants fought.
“Up to 40 to 50 of our fighters took part in the operation,” Ehsanullah Ashen, spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan), told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. “None of our fighters were killed.”
The TTP has previously brought fighters from across the porous border with Afghanistan — where it has allies — to attack Pakistani security forces, but none were on the same scale as the Dir operation.
Deputy TTP leader Fakir Mohammed said the group with close ties to al Qaeda had changed strategy and would now focus on large-scale attacks only on state targets like the one in Dir.
Huh. Hmmm … doesn’t comport with the narrative.