Pakistan Presses On

The military operations in Malakand against the Taliban continue, with a critical stage, the occupation of Mingora, likely to take place in the next few days, as reported after the briefing of parliamentarians from Pakistan's leading parties on Friday:

The leaders were briefed in camera by the COAS and the Director General of Operations, Maj-Gen Javed Iqbal, at PM's House and reassured that special care was being taken to avoid collateral damage and that a decisive advance had been made in Mingora and its suburbs.

The army officers said the city had been encircled from all sides and it would be cleared of militants very soon. The leaders were informed that militants were on the run after army's penetration into areas where troops had no access earlier.

They were also told that Fazlullah, believed to be the head of militant Taliban, was not in control of all the groups fighting in Malakand and that the militant groups were receiving money and arms through Waziristan and Afghanistan.  

Ahmad Hassan - `Mingora besieged, to be secured soon' Dawn Media 16 May 09

As far as military strategies go it would appear that this is a sound one, given the numeric superiority but unwieldy nature of the army.  Occupying the surrounding countryside before descending on Mingora is effective and a significant departure from the half-hearted efforts of years past.

But as we know the real challenge of 'complex wars' is political, not military, and in that respect the Pakistani civilian government seems to be achieving some success, both in uniting political factions behind this operation, at least for now, and mobilising public opinion against the Taliban as a matter of national sovereignty and security:

COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's in-camera briefing to the parliamentarians on the situation in Swat elicited a unanimous stand in favour of the military operation. This unity among the leadership on an issue of such great importance augurs well for the federation. The Taliban were using Swat as a base to spread their network to other parts of the country and carry out suicide attacks across the country. They were also advocating a way of life that was neither in accordance with the spirit of Islam nor the vision of the founding fathers of the country. The government's attempts to hammer out a negotiated settlement of the conflict had met with little success because the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan could not reconcile itself to the idea of accepting the writ of the state.

Editorial - In both camps The Nation (Pakistan) 16 May 09

It seems pretty clear that the task of wresting control of the NWFP and FATA from the Taliban is going to be a long and difficult one for Pakistan and any expectations of a sudden and dramatic improvement there is likely to be disappointed, especially considering that in Bajaur, apparently, the Taliban have reasserted their presence shortly after the winding down of the operations of the Frontier Corps in February.  According to a disputed BBC analysis only 38% of this region is under the control of the Pakistani government and the very nature of the Taliban insurgency makes it difficult for the unwieldy Pakistani Army to effectively bring them to a decisive action, a tactical reality understood by British colonial generals well over a century ago.  

However public opinion seems to be hardening against the Taliban's excesses in recent months and the military continues to loyally discharge it's constitutional role.  Politically, everything hinges on the All-Parties Conference of the National Assembly, scheduled to be held in Islamabad on Monday.  If the coalition factions, at least, remain united behind their leadership, such as it is, the recent geopolitical gamble by the Obama administration should perhaps be seen as a qualified success in response to a very difficult situation.

Having said that, about the only 'accomplishment' so far has been to persuade the civilian government to direct their undivided attention to the threat posed to Pakistani sovereignty by the Taliban and see them mobilise significant resources to counter it.  This seems a promising development with the coalition parties voicing support for this shift in emphasis, more or less, and public opinion awakening to the importance of reasserting the secular 'writ of government' rather than letting events take their course.  Even the military seems content to let the government stake it's reputation on a successful outcome, with apparent confidence:

GUJRAT: Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar has said that the ongoing operation in parts of Malakand division will be completed in 8 weeks.

Talking to media here on Saturday, the Defence Minister said no high-value target has so far been hit in the operation.

"The Swat operation will continue till the achievement of the desired objectives and it could take 6 to 8 weeks," he said.

Swat operation to be completed in 6 to 8 weeks: Defence Minister The News (Pakistan) 16 May 09

The handling of the refugee crisis is a critical component of the ability of the government to manage this dramatic shift in policy and the sheer magnitude of the displaced is daunting, the largest since Pakistan's founding in 1947, with estimates reaching as high as two milion:

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned of a humanitarian crisis if the international community does not come up with a massive and speedy assistance to the affected people of troubled areas in Pakistan.

'Since May 2 until yesterday we have registered 1.171682 million refugees who have come down from Sawat, Buner and Lower Dir after military launched operation against militants in these areas,' António Guterres said at a press conference on Saturday.

'Of these 1.171682 million refugees, 1.30 million are living in camps and rest of 1.04 million is still without camps,' he said, adding, 'majority of uprooted people were living with families in adjoining areas and rented buildings''. He said the commission did not have information on the number of people who were still trapped in troubled areas.

Khawar Ghumman - UNHCR warns of humanitarian crisis Dawn Media 16 May 09

Criticism from political opponents is focused on this aspect of the government's actions, and Pakistan is desperately seeking international aid to deal with the crisis, though there is evidence that a small trickle of refugees are returning to their homes as military operations are completed in some areas:

During last couple of days the number of previously registered IDPs in camps have reduced from 91,017 individuals to 71,957 as large number of IDPs from Bajaur have left the camps in Lower Dir and returned back to their respective areas.

Waseem Ahmad Shah - Off-camp IDPs cross one million Dawn Media 16 May 09

BUNER: Curfew remained relaxed in Buner from 11 am to 6 pm as many families began returning to their homes.

A number of buildings were damaged in Buner during operation against militants by the security forces. Many shops and petrol pumps were also destroyed.

People who migrated from Ambela, a village of Buner, have started coming back to their homes.

Curfew relaxed in Buner; families returning home The News (Pakistan) 16 May 09

Indications of broad 'support' for the governemnt, or more accurately impatience with their previous inaction regarding the rising influence of the Taliban, are encouraging.  This report, on a national convention of Pakistan's ulema, Muslim clergy, is an example of the surrealistic context of public opinion reported daily in the Pakistani media:

Addressing the convention, the speakers said the current situation in the country was created by anti-Pakistan elements. They said the US, India and Israel were funding the Taliban and providing them with arms and ammunition, something that had been proven through tangible evidence.

They said, on the one hand, the US was condemning terrorism and fighting a war on terror across the globe while, on the other hand, it was funding and facilitating terrorists to create unrest in the world so that it could achieve its political and economic goals.

The speakers termed the Taliban misguided extremists, who had been trained in more than 50 training camps set up by India and America in Afghanistan just for the purpose of destroying the economy of Pakistan, its international image and stability. They alleged that Sufi Mohammad was a pseudo Maulana and did not deserve to hold the title as he was misleading the people through his self-created philosophies and dogmas. They said the nation did not need radicals like Sufi Mohammad rather it needed people like Hazrat Ali Hajveri, Sultan Bahu, and Bulleh Shah, who preached the religion through peace and love.

The Mashaikh condemned the demolition of 10 mausoleums of the Ulema-e-Deen in the NWFP, saying the terrorists would not succeed in their evil designs as the will of God could never be with brutes and killers. They termed the Taliban traitors of Islam, violators of the Constitution and enemies of humanity.

Ulema resolve to resist Taliban The News (Pakistan) 17 May 09

Good news or an indication of the mind-numbing obstacles we face in Pakistan?  A little bit of both, it seems.  And the challenges will continue, there is every indication that the government is still capable of hedging it's bets on negotiations with the Taliban, that Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party is preparing to play 'ducks and drakes' before supporting the Malakand operation and that anti-US opinion is going to be with us for some time to come.  But assuming that civilian government successfully prosecutes these operations and navigates the difficult political landscape, there are some signs of other opportunities:

TANK: The government is mulling over a plan to establish camps for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the wake of looming military operation against militants in troubled spots of the North and South Waziristan agencies, while the media reports about possible army offensive have scared the local residents.

Sources told `The News' Thursday the unusual movement of army and paramilitary troops in the militancy-infested areas of the both agencies strengthened the tribesmen's view about the possible military assault on militants.

A large number of people from the Mahsud-dominated areas, including Chagmalai, Mundana, Spinkai, Aghzai and several other places, had started migration to safer areas. Official sources said local administration had initiated work on a plan to establish temporary camps on a piece of 625 acres of land at Dabara area, some 10 kilometres away from Tank city, to accommodate impending IDPs.

Looming operation in Waziristan The News (Pakistan) 16 May 09

These are the regions which we have long known al-Qaeda has used to conduct operations in Afghanistan and worldwide.  If the Pakistanis are capable of winkling them out of there it may have some significant impact on the 'stalemate' we are facing in Afghanistan.  Note the proximity to Kabul and one can well understand the necessity of having our policies in Pakistan and Afghanistan aligned.

The prospective cost to the US of continuing to support Pakistan is enormous and it is sobering to note that the Pakistani claim, in response to our vexation over the presumed misuse of the $10B of counter-terrorism funding spent there in the past decade, is that the actual cost to Pakistan has been $35B in the same period.  As potential black holes go it's a stunner.  The House recently approved an additional $900M to Pakistan and the Kerry-Lugar bill, backed by the administration, proposes $7.5B over the next five years.  Whether this is money well spent or should come with 'strings attached' is a matter of some heated debate in Congress.  It seems clear that we need to make some expedient choices in the dynamic situation emerging in Pakistan.

As for our policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan the resolution of these conflicts will be slow and incremental requiring a continued military presence in Afghanistan and continued funding of Pakistan until political and developmental improvements take hold.  Whether we have a strategy for success or not remains to be seen, though there is every evidence we are attempting, at least in Afghanistan, the infrastructure-oriented approach which has been lacking.  In the meantime we are at a crossroads.  Public opinion will expect significant signs of improvement, and soon.  In many respects our financial resources are limited, if not nearly exhausted.  And the outcome of many of our global diplomatic initiatives may depend on successfully negotiating this difficult transition in Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia generally.

Looking at this through the domestic prism, however, one thing seems clear, to abdicate this challenge in Afghanistan and Pakistan would do the one thing Republicans seem incapable of themselves; unite them around an issue which could very well bring them electoral success on grounds of national security and responsible management of US foreign policy.

Tags: malakand, pakistan, SWAT, Taliban, US Foreign Policy, Waziristan (all tags)



You have made a strong case

However, I have a few issues:

(a) I do not believe that the Pakistanis have an etxtra $35B to spare, much less that they spent it on the war.

(b) I agree that there is some support for the military operations, as you mentioned.  But there is also some hesitation at fighting fellow muslims... and there is quite a bit of anger at being forced to do what the US wants, and some anger at the plight of the refugees.

(c) There does not seem to have been any planning for the number of refugees.  I wonder if you have any access to the Pashtun press... the papers you cited were mainstream (read Punjabi or Sindhi) press.  I dont have any access there, and I wonder if the Pashtuns feel differently today.

I do agree that there is a renewed emphasis on infrastructure, and that is a good thing.

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-17 07:54AM | 0 recs
Re: You have made a strong case

Fistly, I tend to agree this claim is overstated:

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks -- which led the United States to invade Afghanistan and make Pakistan its regional strategic ally -- Islamabad has spent about 35 billion dollars on fighting extremists, Zardari wrote.

Pakistan aid meet aims to raise 4-6 bln dlrs The News (Pakistan) 16 Apr 09

In matters of accounting I would be inclined to believe Al Capone before Zardari, but there it is.  As for the military operations the support seems to be considerable, and increasing, according to a recent IRI poll:

On the issue of terrorism, although only 10 percent of respondents cited terrorism as the most important issue, the March 2009 poll registered rising concern over terrorism in general. When asked if they felt that religious extremism was a serious problem in Pakistan, 74 percent replied yes, the highest percentage since September 2007. The highest percentage yet, 69 percent, agreed that the Taliban and al-Qaeda operating in Pakistan was a serious problem, while 45 percent said that they supported the Pakistani Army fighting the extremists in the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, another all time high.

The March 2009 poll saw an increase in the willingness of Pakistanis to cooperate with the United States against extremism, with the number supporting such cooperation climbing to 37 percent. There was also an increase in the number saying that they would support American military incursions in the tribal areas, nearly doubling to 24 percent.

45pc Back Military Operation The Nation (Pakistan) 12 May 09

There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that the Pashtun are pretty sick of the Taliban, and equally disgruntled about their villages and farms being flattened by the Army.  At this point it is probably the opinion in the general population that matters most.  As for the IDP crisis the government must have known, they seem to have prepositioned the refugee camps, but with typical cunning felt that financing this aspect of the operation would be easier with international aid when the crisis emerged.  I wouldn't know, though there is plenty of inter-party criticism on this point.  I would welcome any links to the Pastun press, as you noted I am reading the mainstream Pakistani media.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 01:17PM | 0 recs
US Special Forces to Train Pakistani Paramilitary

As part of a push to accelerate the training of Pakistani military, the US is sending Special Forces teams into the border province of Baluchistan.

Senior U.S. officials said 25 to 50 Special Forces personnel are deploying to two new training camps in Baluchistan, a Taliban stronghold on the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. The deployment brings U.S. personnel deeper than before into tribal regions of Pakistan, which the Obama administration views as among the world's most-dangerous flashpoints.

The Special Forces personnel will focus on training Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force responsible for battling the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who cross freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said. The U.S. trainers aren't meant to fight alongside the Pakistanis or accompany them into battle, in part because there will be so few Special Forces personnel in the two training camps.

A senior American military officer said he hoped Islamabad would gradually allow the U.S. to expand its training footprint inside Pakistan's borders. A former U.S. official familiar with the plans said the deployments would "get more American eyes and ears" into the strategically important region.

by IndepEnergy 2009-05-17 06:47PM | 0 recs

Somebody better tell Kayani:

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that Pakistani Army does not require any generalised foreign training for countering insurgency, except for very specialised weapons, equipment and high technology.

In a press release issued by ISPR on Saturday, the COAS said, "Pakistan Army has developed a full range of counter insurgency training facilities, tailored to train troops for such operations."

He was commenting on remarks from various quarters on the level of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) training of the Pakistani troops and about their shifting from eastern borders.

No counter-insurgency training needed: Kayani The News (Pakistan) 17 May 09

I'm not disputing the WSJ claim, mind you, but this looks like a Pakistani policy disagreement by dueling press release, nothing new really.  Personally I have mixed feelings about a US ground presence anywhere within Pakistan outside of a very low-key training establishment somewhere.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 08:24PM | 0 recs
And who is going to make sure that none of our

dollars are not going to be used for sponsoring terrorism and adding nuclear arms to Pakistan's kitty? NYTimes is reporting that Pakistan is rapidly adding nuclear weapons. At this moment, I support aid to Pakistan for civilian infrastructure development but do not support any military aid to Pakistan's Army. Pakistan's military had gone rogue. asia/18nuke.html?hp

by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 07:26PM | 0 recs
I saw that

NYT piece and it's not new news though it is in the nation's paper of record so it is BIG that it is getting attention. The rush to nuclearize is how Pakistan intends to keep us hostage. I've alluded this in some of my posts.

Shaun's post ably makes the case for aiding Pakistan though Shaun injects US domestic political concerns that I think are best ignored. I understand Shaun concerns (Obama will be accused of "losing" Pakistan) and I think it a fair point because if (really more when) Pakistan goes down, there will be political fallout in the US. I just think it is too late to save Pakistan in its current step up. We'll see.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-17 07:45PM | 0 recs
I'm tired of this game played by Pakistan.

I don't think Pakistan's leadership (either civilian or military) and the elites are trustworthy. I think by continuing to ignore this duplicitious game by Pakistan, while trying to ensure that they are supporting our immediate objectives in the region, by sending them billions of dollars with no accountability, is not a policy that should be pursued any further. We chose to ignore Pakistani military's role in nuclear proliferation to North Korea, Iran and other countries. We signed onto the lame theory propagated by Pakistan that it was merely an one man's (A Q Khan) operation. It didn't really got us anywhere...

by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm tired of this game played by Pakistan.

A Jane Harman bill links aid to Pakistan conditionally to having US intelligence being allowed to question AQ Khan. The Pakistanis have never agreed to this. Not sure that they will now.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-17 08:37PM | 0 recs
It is not Pakistan's choice when it comes to

decide that we would like to see some accountability to our money. Frankly every month hundreds of thousands folks here are losing their livelihood here. They badly need any support we can provide. I find it nauseating that we are continuing providing our scarce dollars to a nation which hardly have any good thoughts for us.

What's the worse, if Taliban really takes over Pakistan? Would it be that difficult to neutralize the Taliban then?

by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 08:54PM | 0 recs
Re: It is not Pakistan's choice when it comes to

Well it would certainly lead to a review of the US nuclear posture and targeting list, if that's what you mean.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 09:03PM | 0 recs
Maybe....I was just thinking aloud..

I don't know ...this is such a mess, there's no easy way out.

by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 09:13PM | 0 recs
And none of the solutions are going to

be a good clean solution. It would be messy...

by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: I saw that

The shocker is I really think we should be hanging in there with Pakistan, especially considering Obama's managed to get them doing something proactive that would have been considered miraculous six months ago.  And the domestic political angle, though worthy of consideration, is just a sweetener for progressives and Obama loyalists, I reckon four-fifths of what has been wrong with US policy has been domestic considerations trumping sane policy time and again.

As for the nuclear issue, Pakistan is a problem, with a bad history of proliferation but I don't really see how a hundred and ten warheads are any different from a hundred in geopolitical terms.  We've already given them $100M to 'secure' their arsenal in the last year, Lord knows where that went.  It's interesting to note that Zardari's quid pro quo deal with the French actually brings them one little step closer to the NPT whether they like it or not.

If it really is too late to save Pakistan we are in deep doo-doo, I can't see the virtue on pulling the pin now when we finally have a civilian government willing to stake it's reputation on confronting the Taliban and a military prepared to fight.  Zardari confirmend their intentions to go into Waziristan this morning.  Better late than never.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 08:44PM | 0 recs
Re: I saw that

I think the $100 million given to secure the nuclear arsenal was over the course of the Bush Administration.

What concerns me about the nuclear issue is why now? I am sure that they have an on-going programme to develop more weapons but it seems out of step given their current situation. More nuclear weapons at this point do not enhance Pakistan's security. If I am India or even the US, this act just puzzles me. It reinforces the perception of a state within a state.  

I do think you're right about the deal with France. It moves Pakistan towards the NPT.

I think that there are limits to how far the Army is willing to go in pacifying the FATA. The worry I have is that these scenes are being watched across Pakistan and they are politicizing the Pakistani Street. Dead Pakistanis will present a growing problem for the govt and the Army.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-17 09:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I saw that

Surely there are issues to be considered from a protracted conflict but from a close reading of the Pakistani media this week it would seem that this confrontation has brought as much relief as consternation, especially with a civilian government setting the agenda.  It is hard to qualify Zardari's comments about Waziristan in any other context, he is a cautious player.  And the generals are busy, idle military hands are always a concern.  I'm more worried about grandstanding from Sharif and the PML-N.

My reading of Pakistan's nuclear ambitions, beyond populist nationalism, which is a strong driver, is it reflects an unwillingness to accept second-class power status vis-à-vis India.  They have been in denial over this since partition and the causes and outcomes of the loss of East Pakistan in 1971 have never been conceded.  It is puzzling.  I don't see, as I said, that a change in quantity or quality of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal really changes much of anything.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 10:09PM | 0 recs
Actually it is Pakistan choice how they would like
to fight Taliban. And let their neighbors and friends like China and Saudi Arabia chip in with their funds with no strings attached, if Pakistan requires it.
From a strictly military strategy POV, I don't think it is going to be that difficult to remove Taliban if they gain power in Pakistan. As they proved in Afghanistan after 9/11 that Taliban is very weak when they are the occupying state power and defending territories in a conventional warfare.
by louisprandtl 2009-05-17 09:07PM | 0 recs

Actually I think that it is a fight Pakistan is now apparently capable of taking on and winning, but there's a number of risks from our disengagement.  What would be the consequences of abandoning our objectives in Afghanistan as well?  It seems we would surely not achieve much there in the scenario you describe.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-17 09:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm...

You have done a very good job of highlighting the risks of inaction and disengagement.  But what about the risks (or indeed, even the certain consequences) of the action being undertaken.  And what about the rewards of engagement and action ?

What, exactly, is our objective in Afghanistan.. or in Pakistan ?  What are the metrics and milestones for gauging success ?

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-18 08:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm...

What a very good question because that is really the issue.  Why don't you write a diary addressing those concerns?

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-18 12:42PM | 0 recs
It would be a very good diary

It would also be a very short diary...if I wrote it =)

Because I have no clue!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-05-18 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Pakistan Presses On

Damn my eyes, if that military deployment diagram doesn't look like something the French would have done way back in 1950 and 1951 in French Indo-China against the Viet Minh.  That little maneuver in the upper left hand corner of the diagram also causes me some mirth.  That "force" is supposed to moving down away from the border with Afghanistan in heavily mountainous terrain.  I'm sure the Pakistani Army will be able to seal the route against the Taliban infiltrating into the Afghan border area while pulling the bulk of their forces away from the border.  Just like the French were able to cut the transit routes for the Viet Minh in the northern border region with China in 1950-1951.  Anyone remember the action around Lang Son?  The Taliban ain't the Viet Minh, but, then again, the Pakistani Army ain't the French Foreign Legion either.

by VizierVic 2009-05-18 08:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Pakistan Presses On

Far be it from me to defend the Pakistan Army on the basis of a slide they made for a parliamentary briefing.  On the other hand they did take the trouble to insert that heliborne force in Peochar early in the campaign so it appears they are trying to contain the Taliban, not just shoo them away as they have in the past.  We'll see.  As you say the Taliban aren't the Viet Minh and they seem to have made some unforced tactical errors recently.  The outcome in Mingora remains to be seen.  I remain concerned for the non-combatants who apparently remain there, in any case.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-18 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Pakistan Presses On

I agree that someone needs to be speaking with the Pakistani Army to reinforce the idea that a conventional assault on Mingora will produce the exact opposite result from the one the Pakistani government seeks.  However, taking down an insurgency generally requires close-in fighting which almost invariably produces unwanted casualties among the forces involved, in addition to the civilians who get lumped under the "collateral damage" sobriquet.  The last thing any of us needs is for the Pakistani Army to decide to just barrage the city with artillery in preparation for their entry.

by VizierVic 2009-05-19 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Pakistan Presses On

Apologies, my response inadvertantly posted below.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-19 12:57PM | 0 recs

Unfolding pretty much as you described:

PESHAWAR: Pakistan's military said Tuesday they were locked in fierce street battles with Taliban fighters in the Malakand region, where a rights group accused both sides of killing civilians, AFP reports.

Military officials said government forces were advancing on several fronts towards Mingora, the Taliban-held main town in the Swat valley.

The blistering offensive against militants has concentrated increasingly on the valley in what the government calls a mission to `eliminate' militants.

The military said there were fierce clashes in the Taliban-held town of Matta as well as in Kanju, which is a short distance from Mingora, with four soldiers and 14 insurgents killed in the two towns.

Footage broadcast on a private Pakistani television channel showed armed soldiers standing outside locked shops in the main bazaar in Matta, a bastion of Mullah Fazlullah who has led a two-year uprising to enforce Islamic law.

`Troops continue to close in on Mingora, from where Taliban are trying to escape but our strategy is not to let them flee,' a security official said.

He said the chief objective in coming days was `to take over the Taliban's main headquarters in Peochar,' where commandos opened a new front last week.

Intense battles were also reported in Takhta Bund, described as the main Taliban supply route.

Hameedullah Khan Troops attack Taliban supply lines, encircle Mingora Dawn Media 19 May 09

And it seems like the Pakistan Army is following the game plan, right down to the house-to-house fighting:

But Pakistani commentators praised the military for moving into towns, warning operations would be deadly but were vital for the military to really flush out Taliban strongholds.

`This is the first time the army is doing something like this against Taliban militants,' defence and political analyst Talat Masood told AFP.

`Even US troops never engaged in street battles in Afghanistan... Obviously there will be more casualties when you face the enemy frontally. Here you are very close to the enemy and directly in their firing range.'

`The militants do not want to abandon their strongholds.'

Hameedullah Khan Troops attack Taliban supply lines, encircle Mingora Dawn Media 19 May 09

I fail to understand why the Taliban have chosen to make a stand, martyrdom in jihad bis saif seems overrated as a tactical doctrine.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-19 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Pakistan Presses On

Agreed but that's probably exactly what it says to do in their equivalent of FM-20.  The Pakistan Army isn't built or trained for this but I'm guessing it has taken the Taliban on a journey they weren't prepared for either.  Why on Earth would they stand and fight?  Aren't they supposed to be melting away into the countryside about now?  

Sketchy recent reports have 100,000 non-combatants still in Mingora with the Taliban prowling the streets, 'cordon and search' operations in Matta and more incidents of civilian casualties from helicopter gunships and artillery.  Let's hope the Pakistani brigadiers know how to improvise.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-19 12:38PM | 0 recs
Why no melting is a good question

But if the Taliban really are not liked by enough people, then they may not meet the minimum level of local support in which to melt.

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-05-20 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Why no melting is a good question

Then as insurgents they have failed.  There seems plenty of anecdotal evidence that they had alienated Pashtuns, generally.  I'm guessing that they weren't expecting this response from the Pakistani government either.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-20 02:07PM | 0 recs


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