The AfPak Reader

September 8, 2009

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 9 – Volume 1

Filed under: Defense News,Enemy Profiles,Journalist Chronicles,Summer 2009 — huntingnasrallah @ 11:25 pm

Mainlining Bill Roggio – Summer 2009 – Week 9 – Volume 1

Pakistani Taliban regroup in Malakand
By Bill Roggio
August 16, 2009 1:04 AM

The Taliban have regrouped in the district of Malakand in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province as an operation to drive out the extremist from Swat is winding down.

Taliban fighters are reported to have taken control of the Palai region in Malakand, a district that borders Swat. Over the past three days, the Taliban beheaded two policemen and kidnapped a local politician. The Taliban are also attempting to recruit in the region.

The policemen were captured by the Taliban as they visited the region, and were promptly beheaded. The politician was kidnapped after he refused to purchase weapons for the Taliban and provide young men to train and fight with them.

“The Taliban are strengthening their position in some parts of Malakand,” a resident told Daily Times. Policemen and government officials no longer enter the Taliban-controlled regions, fearing being kidnapped and murdered.

The Taliban have been active in the Malakand district since late April, when the military began an operation to clear the Taliban from Swat, Dir, and Buner, after the Taliban violated a peace agreement and moved forces into Buner.

Taliban forces attacked military convoys and police checkpoints in Malakand. In one of the most brazen attacks, the Taliban ambushed a convoy transporting detained shura members of the pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law]. The TNSM’s deputy emir, the group’s spokesman, and a soldier were killed during the ambush.

Taliban Fighters began sheltering in Malakand and other districts to avoid the military advance in Swat, Dir, and Buner (Malakand borders all three districts).

Since April, the Taliban have established bases in the districts of Shangla, Mansehra, Haripur, Battagram, Mardan, and Swabi. Taliban units ranging from 50 to 150 fighters fanned out through the districts with no resistance from the military, which claimed it established blocking positions to prevent the Taliban from retreating from the battlefield and bleeding into bordering districts.

The reorganization of the Taliban in the various districts threatens to set back the modest gains made in Swat, Dir, and Buner. The Taliban have claimed their forces have gone to ground and will return to the areas they’ve lost during the winter months, when military movement is restricted due to weather conditions.

The Taliban leadership remains intact to lead a new offensive in Swat. The military and police have killed only one of the 21 most-wanted Taliban leaders in Swat.

The Taliban continue to make their presence known in the region. On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed security personnel and two civilians in a suicide attack on a police checkpoint in Swat. The suicide attack was the first in Swat since July.

Extended Notes (Roggio’s Links)

Sunday, August 16, 2009
Taliban consolidating in Malakand

* Nazim kidnapped for refusing to allow local youth to train with Taliban

By Akhtar Amin

PESHAWAR: The Taliban are strengthening their positions in Malakand Agency again and have abducted a union council nazim from the Palai area and beheaded two policemen in the past three days, residents told Daily Times.

“The Taliban are strengthening their position in some parts of Malakand. They beheaded two plainclothesmen who visited Palai three days ago,” said Muhammad Ayaz, a resident of the area. He said the Taliban had also kidnapped Zormandai Union Council Nazim Sher Muhammad on Wednesday and were demanding Rs 5 million as ransom.

Money or men: One of the nazim’s relatives, Amanullah, said the Taliban had initially demanded that Muhammad buy arms for them and allow 10-15 youths from the union council to train with them. He said that when the nazim refused to comply, the Taliban picked him up and were now demanding Rs 5 million as ransom.

Muhammad Fayyaz, another resident of Palai, said that government officials and policemen of the area had stopped visiting their houses for fear of being captured and beheaded by the Taliban. He claimed the Taliban had taken refuge in Palai due to the military operation in Swat and Buner districts.

Earlier, in May 2009, the Taliban blew up a checkpost in Palai, killing one Levies personnel and abducting three others.



Pakistani government signals fighting limited to Swat region
By Bill Roggio
May 8, 2009 9:39 PM

The Pakistani military continues to rely on helicopter gunships, attack aircraft, and artillery against dug in Taliban forces in the Swat valley as heavy fighting has been reported over the past 24 hours. The military claimed 143 Taliban fighters were killed in Swat and another 15 were killed in Dir, but the casualties could not be confirmed.
“So far, 143 militants have been killed in last twenty four hours while security forces have suffered seven shaheed (killed or martyred) and twelve injured,” Major General Athar Abbas, the senior military spokesman said at a press conference at military headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Fighting was reported in the Kabal, Kanju, Khawazakhela Chamtalai, and Mingora regions in Swat. The military claimed a Taliban commander named Akbar Ali was killed during strikes in Kanju.

The Taliban are reportedly holding more than 100 security personnel in Mingora. Abbas said regular Army soldiers and paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers were killed in the fighting.

In Dir, the military claimed it is in control of the Madain region, the home town of pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammed, and killed 15 Taliban, including two commanders and 13 fighters during an engagement there. But local residents said the Taliban are still patrolling the region and are preaching and recruiting at mosques. The Taliban denied taking high casualties in Dir, saying only one fighter was killed along with a Pakistani soldier who was killed in an ambush.

The Taliban are blocking military deployments into Dir and Swat by attacking convoys in the town of Chakdara in Dir. Chakdara is strategically located at the entrance to both Dir and Swat. Troops are moved from the Malakand district through Chakdara. The military declared a curfew in Malakand as Taliban fighters are attacking in the district as well.

In Buner, the military claimed it is close to victory after taking control of the main town of Daggar and the Ambela region. The Taliban are still in control of the towns of Sultanwas and Pir Baba, and are said to control the main roads around Daggar. Residents are fleeing Ambela despite the military’s claims the region is under control.

Government talks tough on Taliban

The Pakistani government claimed it is serious about tackling the Taliban threat in the northwest. The statements were made as President Asif Ali Zardari was visiting the US in an effort to obtain aid for his country.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani addressed the nation on television and said the Taliban would be defeated. “The army has been called in to eliminate the militants,” Gilani said. “Nobody can be allowed to challenge the writ of the government.”

Zardari claimed the operation in Swat “will go on till the situation returns to normal” and said the problem is not limited to Pakistan.

“There’s a realization in the world that it’s a regional problem, a worldwide problem,” Zardari said. “It is not an Afghan or a Tora Bora problem. It is not a problem secluded in the mountains of Pakhtoonkhwa [the Pashtun region straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan]. This realization brings strength to the fight.”

But Pakistani politicians have talked tough against the Taliban in the past and have let the Taliban off the hook. After the massive suicide bombing at the Islamabad Marriott, the government described the incident as Pakistan’s September 11 and launched offensives in Swat and Bajaur. The operations ended without conclusion after several months of fighting by the poorly armed and trained police and Frontier Corps.

Pakistani political and military leaders are signaling that the current offensive may be limited to the Swat region. Zardari only discussed the ongoing operation in the Swat, Buner, and Dir region and made no mention of the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, Kurram, Mohmand, Arakzai, Khyber, and Bajaur, and the districts of Tank, Bannu, Hangu, and other districts under Taliban control or influence.

Zardari also signaled that there is little in the way of regular Army reinforcements to aid in any offensive. Only three brigades of Pakistani regular troops, an estimated 9,000 troops, are being moved into the region from the Northern Areas, a sparsely populated region bordering India-held Kashmir. Zardari said there are no more troops available to be moved from the Indian border.

“Half of our army is deployed on Indo-Pak Eastern boarder and we cannot move army from there for their deployment on Western border,” Zardari said, according to Geo News. When asked why more troops wouldn’t be deployed from the Indian border, he replied: “We have already done so.”

Last December the Pakistani Army withdrew an estimated 30,000 troops from the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas to counter a perceived threat from India after Lashkar-e-Taiba launched a deadly military assault on Mumbai.

The Pakistani military leadership has loathed to commit to fighting the Taliban out of fear that the Army will split apart and leave Pakistan open to an Indian assault. The Pakistani military establishment views India, and not the Taliban, as the real threat to security, despite the Taliban’s bloody insurgency that has hit in every major city.

“The Army leadership and General Kiyani [the Chief of Army Staff] in particular fear that battling the Taliban will split the officer corps and the rank and file,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “There is significant support or sympathizers in the military for the Taliban and other Pakistani jihadi organizations. A full on fight [with the Taliban] might force them to take sides.”

Minister for Interior Rehman Malik has already declared the Swat, Dir, and Buner operations a success and said the military has performed well in the tribal areas, even though there currently is no activity there.

Abbas has claimed the Taliban have suffered a stinging political defeat as the people know they stand neither for Islamic law nor the people after rejecting the latest peace agreement. Past and similar Pakistani governments have made this same argument after peace
agreements have failed, yet more deals were reached and the Taliban have moved closer to Islamabad and Peshawar.

Background on the Malakand Accord and fighting in Swat

The government signed the Malakand Accord with Taliban front man Sufi Mohammed, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, on February 16 after two years of fighting that put the Taliban in control of the district. During those two years, the military was defeated three separate times while attempting to wrest control from the Taliban. Each defeat put the Taliban in greater control of the district.

The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat, the end of Taliban operations, and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.

But the Taliban violated the agreement immediately after signing it, and proceeded to attack security forces and conduct armed patrols. The military remained silent while the government approved the Taliban’s demand for sharia throughout Malakand.

The government ordered a military offensive in Dir and Buner after enormous pressure from the US and other Western governments to stem the Taliban tide pushing toward central Pakistan. The Taliban advanced from Swat into Buner in early April and took over the district in eight days. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. The Taliban also have moved into Mansehra and established bases and a training camp in the region.

Pakistani government and military officials have dismissed the Taliban threat to Islamabad and the country’s nuclear facilities, but at the end of April, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance, while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam.



TNSM deputy and spokesman killed in Taliban ambush
By Bill Roggio
June 6, 2009 10:59 AM

Two senior leaders of a Taliban front group were killed during an ambush as they were being transported to Peshawar.

The Taliban conducted an ambush on a military convoy near the town of Sakhakot in the Malakand district as it was transporting senior leaders of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law].

Muhammad Alam, the deputy leader of the TNSM, and spokesman Ameer Izzat Khan were killed along with a Pakistani soldier; five soldiers were reported wounded. No Taliban were reported killed in the ambush.

The Taliban appear to have laid the ambush in an effort to free Alam and Izzat, as well as Maulana Said Wahab, a member of the group’s ruling shura, or council, a Pakistani security official told The Long War Journal. There is no word on the status of Wahab.
The three senior leaders were detained in Lower Dir on June 4. The government flatly denied reports that TNSM leader Sufi Mohammed and two of his sons were also detained.
“Clearly they [the Taliban] knew when and where to attack, and carefully sprung their trap to free the men,” the official said. “I have no doubt they have insider information on our movements.”

Sufi Mohammed and the TNSM are responsible for the failed peace agreement under which the Pakistani government ceded control of a large swath of northwestern Pakistan to the Taliban, but which resulted ultimately in the ongoing military operation that has displaced more than 2 million people.

The Taliban are still capable of conducting organized attacks outside of the battle zone of Swat, Dir and Buner, where the military is conducting an operation to flush out the Taliban and restore its writ.

The military has failed to block the Taliban retreat from Swat, as too few security forces have been assigned to that aspect of the operation. Some Taliban units have eluded the military operation and established bases in the neighboring districts of Malakand, Mardan, Haripur, Mansehra, Shangla, Swabi, and Battagram. Others have melted away with the more than 2.4 million internally displaced persons who have fled the battlefield.

Sakhakot is on highway N45, just south of the district headquarters of Malakand, and south of Swat and Dir. The attack took place in a region where the mountainous Hindu Kush gives way to the plains of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The ambush is the second against a police convoy outside the war zone in two days. Yesterday the Taliban ambushed a police convoy in the neighboring district of Mardan. The Taliban lured police into a kill zone after false reports of an attack in the district.

Six policemen and a Frontier Corps trooper were killed after the Taliban set up a complex ambush in a mountainous region of the district. The Taliban opened fire on the security forces patrol from the hilltops. During the three-hour gunfight, one Taliban fighter was killed and another was captured.

Taliban keep up attacks on security forces in major Pakistani cities

The Taliban continue to target Pakistan’s security forces despite the operation in Swat. In Islamabad, a Taliban suicide bomber failed in an attempt to strike at the Rescue 15 police building in the city. The bomber detonated his vest after being stopped at the back entrance to the building. Two policemen and the suicide bomber were killed and four people were wounded in the attack.

The Rescue 15 building in Lahore was also a target of an attack on May 27. The building was leveled and 16 policemen and seven intelligence officials from the Inter-Service Intelligence agency were killed in the coordinated, complex assault that included gunmen and a suicide car bomb.

Last month, security forces captured a senior Taliban commander thought to be coordinating suicide attacks in Islamabad. The leader, known as Fidaullah, was arrested on May 27 along with Shah Abdul Aziz, a former member of parliament. The arrests took place outside the home of Maulana Abdullah Aziz, the former leader of the Red Mosque who was released from prison in mid-April on $2,500 bail.

Fidaullah is a senior leader of the Ghazi Force, which operates in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Ghazi Force is commanded by a leader known as Hilal. It is based in Arakzai and runs a terror training camp in Guljo in Hangu.

The Ghazi Force is named after Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the brother of Maulana Abdullah Aziz. Ghazi was killed when Pakistani troops assaulted the Red Mosque in July 2007. The group is thought to be behind the two recent suicide attacks against security forces in the capital of Islamabad: the April 4 suicide attack at Frontier Constabulary camp that killed eight paramilitary policemen, and the March 23 suicide attack outside a police Special Branch office that killed one officer.

Taliban also continue to target security forces in tribal areas

In South Waziristan, five paramilitary Frontier Corps troopers and two others were killed in two separate IED attacks. The Taliban have been attacking military personnel in North and South Waziristan. The two largest incidents occurred on May 21 and June 1.

The May 31 assault on a Frontier Corps camp by forces loyal to Baitullah Mehsud resulted in the deaths of dozens of Taliban and seven troopers. The next day, the three senior Taliban leaders in North and South Waziristan conspired to kidnap scores of cadets and staff from the Ramzak Cadet College. The cadets and staff were later released after negotiations.

The military and the government quickly squashed reports of a military operation against the Taliban in Waziristan, despite repeated attacks from the Taliban in the region.
***Compiler’s Note***Map of Sakhahot Region available at LWJ

Taliban arrival in Chakesar alarms Shangla villagers   

Elders seek militants’ expulsion

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
By our correspondent

PESHAWAR: Taliban militants have become so unwelcome that elders in Shangla are seeking their expulsion as their presence was threatening the peace of the area and could invite military action. Some of the elders from Chakesar in Shangla contacted The News to express concern over the intrusion of about 70 Taliban into their area and sought help in pushing them out.

They said 60-70 militants had set up a roadside checkpoint in Chidam near the mountain peak of Chakesar four days ago. The village elders said the heavily-armed militants had come from the Yakh Tangi area where they had been operating. They pointed out that the Taliban checkpoint in Chidam was around five kilometres from the security forces’ check-post in Karora, also in the Shangla district.

According to the elders, they had constituted a Jirga and met the Taliban militants to request them not to operate in their area. They said the Taliban were told that their presence would destroy the peace of the area and bring suffering to the people. “We told the Taliban that the local people would have to fight them if they intruded into the Chakesar area. We made it clear that the people of Chakesar don’t want security forces in their area and would have to deal with the militants on their own,” one of the elders said.

According to sources in Shangla, the militants used to often come to the Kabulgram area in Puran to meet a local cleric, Waliullah. But they never had much presence or support in that area. Also, the militants who had occupied the emerald mine in Gujjar Killay in Shangla fled after a while when they realised it was risky staying there.

Also, there wasn’t much of a Taliban presence in Shangla’s Alpurai and Bisham areas. In fact, politicians and social workers in Shangla claimed that most Taliban militants there had come from other districts. In their view, the number of the local Taliban was insignificant.

It is pertinent to mention that the Taliban from Swat had overrun Alpurai, the headquarters of the Shangla district, in 2007 and occupied all the government buildings. The government officials and the police had fled at the time. Later, a military operation forced the militants to give up their control of Alpurai and other towns and escape to Swat.

Presently, Shangla residents are facing problems in getting in and out of the district due to the closure of roads that link Shangla to Swat via Khwazakhela and to the Buner and Kohistan districts.

The only route they can use is through Kala Dhaka to reach Thakot in the Battagram district after crossing the River Indus in boats. The closure of roads leading out of Shangla has led to food and other shortages, causing a rise in prices. And now the fear of the Taliban’s presence and a likely military action against them has compounded the worries of the people.


Taliban advance on Mansehra
By Bill Roggio
April 29, 2009 2:05 AM

As the government is conducting military operations against the Taliban in Dir and Buner in the insurgency-plagued Northwest Frontier Province, Taliban fighters have moved into the district of Mansehra and established a base and a training camp.

More than 100 heavily armed Taliban fighters have established a base of operations in the Kala Dhaka region of Mansehra and set up training camp in Loniyian, Dawn reported. Only 100 poorly armed and trained Levies personnel are said to be on hand to halt a Taliban incursion.

Loniyian “once used to be a training camp of militants that was closed after the government launched a crackdown on such camps,” security officials told Dawn. “The official sources claimed that the camp had again been made functional where new recruits were being trained.” Last summer, US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that 157 terror training camps were in operation in Pakistan’s northwest.

The Mansehra Taliban are said to be led by Moman Khan, who claimed to have been commander of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi but said he no longer works with the group. Khan is said to have been behind recent threats and attacks against non-governmental organizations in neighboring Abbottabad. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has been co-opted by al Qaeda and has conducted numerous attacks inside Pakistan.

The tribes have expressed displeasure with the Taliban encroachment and have ordered the Taliban to leave. Khan claimed he has not conducted any acts of violence.

The Taliban expansion eastward from the tribal areas has put Pakistani and Western leaders into a panic. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. Last week, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam. Last week, an Islamist government official claimed the Taliban was advancing into Haripur and Mansehra.

The Taliban move into Mansehra puts them along the strategic Karakoram Highway, a road that links Pakistan to China in the north. A Taliban takeover of Mansehra would also open up a direct route into Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-held Kashmir. Kashmiri terrorists, reportedly backed by the Pakistani military and intelligence services, have surged into India-held Kashmir and have stepped up attacks to destabilize the region.

The military has taken notice of the Taliban’s eastward advance. The military leadership is reportedly preparing to utilize two regular Army brigades against the Taliban in neighboring Buner. The deployment is designed to “defeat the militants and secure control of the area to block their possible advances to other areas, particularly Hazara,” according to a report in The News.

The Hazara Division is made up of the districts of Abbottabad, Battagram, Haripur, Kohistan and Mansehra. This region has been relatively free of Taliban attacks until recently when the Taliban took full control of Swat and forced the government to implement Islamic law in the Malakand Division and Kohistan. The Taliban have used this time and space to attack neighboring districts in Hazara.

The Taliban have advanced deep into Pakistani territory since their initial takeover of North and South Waziristan in 2003-2004. The Taliban have since taken over the tribal areas and much of the Northwest Frontier Province. Peshawar, the provincial capital, is under siege as the Taliban regularly target NATO convoys moving through the area, while the Taliban have made inroads into Punjab province and control several districts in Baluchistan.


Taliban move forces eastward into Battagram
By Bill Roggio
May 17, 2009 5:17 PM

As the fighting between the Pakistani military and the Taliban heats up in the war-torn district of Swat, the Taliban has moved a small force eastward into the district of Battagram.

More than 150 Taliban fighters advanced into the northern district on May 14, linked up with local supporters, and attacked a police checkpoint in Batta Mori. The Taliban force quickly captured the four policemen on duty, took control of the checkpoint, and seized the policemen’s rifles and ammunition.

The Taliban then threatened to torture and behead the policemen, according to a report in The News. The police were released after they promised to quit their jobs. The Taliban then torched the checkpoint.

The checkpoint was established to block a Taliban advance into the district after fighting broke out in the neighboring districts of Shangla and Buner, as well as in nearby Swat and Dir.

Unnamed Pakistani sources close to President Zardari claimed the Army was moving six brigades of troops from the border with India to help halt the Taliban movement from the combat zone. But President Zardari himself contradicted these reports and said there were no more troops available for the fighting in Swat. General Pervez Kiyani, the Chief of Army Staff, confirmed Zardari’s statement when he told parliament that no troops would be moved from the Indian border despite guarantees by the international community that India would not attack Pakistan.

US military and intelligence officials said the Taliban attack in Battagram highlights the disorganization and lack of planning behind the Swat operation.

“Clearly the military launched the Swat operation due to international pressure a need to show progress against the Taliban as President Zardari visited the US, and not out fear of the Taliban’s advance,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

“If they were serious, they would have deployed the forces to block any potential Taliban retreat or redeployment prior to kicking off the operation,” the official continued. “Instead they talked of moving forces after the fighting began, but then again we’re not even convinced they are moving significant forces.”

Other officials said the Battagram incident shows the military isn’t serious about the operation. “They put four police officers at an outpost when its well known the Taliban are attacking in large formations?,” a military officer who is tracking the situation in Pakistan said in disbelief. “Have they been paying attention to what has happened in their own country over the past few years?”

The Taliban have expanded eastward from Swat since the government agreed to a peace agreement with the Taliban that would impose an end to the fighting and impose sharia, or Islamic law, last February. Hundreds of Taliban fighters poured into Buner and Shangla and took over the districts, while advance parties have moved into Haripur and Mansehra, just on the outskirts of Islamabad. Unconfirmed reports indicate the Taliban have established a presence in Swabi as well.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military said it is advancing toward the main town of Mingora in Swat, where the Taliban are said to have dug in for a siege. Between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians are said to be trapped in Mingora. Previously the military claimed it had surrounded Mingora.

The Pakistani military currently has an estimated 15,000 troops in Swat, while the Taliban forces are numbered at between 5,000 to 7,000 fighters. The military claims that more than 1,000 Taliban fighters have been killed since the fighting began in late April, but US officials are highly skeptical of these reports. Today, the military claimed 47 Taliban fighters were killed during fighting over the past 24 hours.


Taliban moving on Mardan
By Bill Roggio
April 17, 2009 1:46 AM

The Taliban continue their advance in northwestern Pakistan. The district of Mardan in the Northwest Frontier Province may be the next region to fall to the Taliban as the terror group has stepped up its attacks in the area.

The Taliban murdered two women in Mardan yesterday, signaling the district is marked for takeover. A female aid worker for the non-governmental organization National Rural Support Program was killed in a bombing at her office. A local Taliban commander named Habibur Rehman claimed credit for the attack. “He accused NGOs of propagating obscenity and vulgarity and threatened further attacks,” Dawn reported. The Taliban also gunned down a female councilor for a local union.

The murders were the latest in a series of attacks in Mardan that signal the Taliban is setting its sights on the district.

Since early March, in Mardan the Taliban have bombed two girls’ schools, dozens of CD and video shops, and an electrical tower. The Taliban have forced the closure of more than a hundred CD shops after issuing threatening night letters and ordered barbers to stop shaving men’s beards. The Taliban conducts attacks like these to intimidate the local population while setting the precedent for the establishment and enforcement of its brutal version of sharia, or Islamic law.

Attacks such as these preceded the Taliban takeover of Tank, Bannu, Hangu, Lakki Marwat, Swat, Shangla, Arakzai, and Bajaur.

Mardan was also one of the districts chosen by the Swat Taliban to parade through after its near-effortless takeover of Buner, a district just 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. Earlier this week, a Taliban convoy of 10 trucks filled with fighters brandishing heavy weapons drove from Buner, through the district center in Swabi, and through Mardan before passing into Malakand, Dawn reported.

The Taliban convoy was untouched by Pakistani security forces. “They drove through a district HQ of a district they have not yet occupied … on the federally policed motorway; through an army cantonment – as a matter of fact right past the Punjab Regimental Centre’s shopping plaza containing the usual bakery and pastry-shop run by serving soldiers – and thence through the rest of the crowded city of Mardan which is also the home of the chief minister of the province,” Dawn reported.

Taliban nearing encirclement of Peshawar

The takeover of Mardan would put the Taliban one step closer to completing an encirclement of Peshawar, the provincial capital of the Northwest Frontier Province.
The Taliban have taken control of vast swaths of tribal agencies Arakzai, Khyber, and Mohmand, and maintain a strong presence in Charsadda and neighboring Mardan.

Charsadda is still contested, but the Taliban have launched some of the largest suicide strikes in this district in an effort to break the security forces. In the latest suicide attack on April 15, nine policemen were among 18 Pakistanis killed in a suicide attack on a police checkpoint.

The district of Nowshera to the east of Peshawar has been spared some of the heavier violence that has plagued the Northwest Frontier Province, but the Taliban are showing signs of advancing there as well. Over the past month, the Taliban assaulted two police checkpoints and bombed 20 CD shops.

Peshawar itself is under Taliban siege. The city has been described as a fortress as the Taliban maraud through the countryside. The Taliban have conducted dozens of assaults on trucking terminals that handle supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Since late 2008, the Taliban have destroyed more than 500 trucks and containers destined for Kabul in an effort to strangle NATO’s primary supply route.

The military has launched multiple offensives to clear the Taliban from Peshawar, Khyber, Arakazai, Mohmand, and Charsadda. The Taliban typically lay low during the operations and return after the government calls them off and withdraws troops.

The Taliban are nearing their takeover of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Pakistani government recently ceded the northern third of the province to the Taliban after agreeing to implement sharia in a large region known as the Malakand Division. The seven western tribal agencies and most of the bordering districts are under Taliban control or under strong Taliban influence.

***Compiler’s Note***Map of Taliban Influence & Control of NWFP & FATA as of Spring 2009 can be found at LWJ.

Taliban flex muscles in Malakand Division
By Bill Roggio
April 22, 2009 12:20 AM

Just one week after the Pakistani government agreed to implement sharia, or Islamic law, in the vast Malakand Division, the Taliban are flaunting the peace agreement with the government and pushing into neighboring regions.

President Zardari signed the sharia legislation into law on April 13 as part of an effort to quell the brutal Taliban insurgency in Swat, which has been ongoing since the summer of 2007. The Pakistani military was defeated in its three offensives designed to oust the Taliban, led by Mullah Fazlullah, which prompted the government to promise the implementation of sharia and an end to military operations in exchange for peace.

But the Taliban have violated the peace agreement multiple times since the initial ceasefire was instituted in mid-February, and have continued to do so since Zardari signed the sharia legislation into law. And the Taliban are forcefully expanding their influence in neighboring regions.

The Taliban have reestablished checkpoints in Swat and have started to conduct patrols. Yesterday, the Taliban kidnapped six soldiers and a driver in Swat. Today four civilians were kidnapped while four of the captured soldiers were placed in front of the hastily established sharia courts.

In the neighboring district of Buner, a region the Taliban overran in just eight short days with minimal resistance, the Taliban are sending in more troops. The Taliban are patrolling and manning checkpoints in Buner, while their followers are preaching in mosques and openly recruiting young men to fight. Local courts have closed and judges have gone ‘on leave,’ while a local TNSM official said his group fully backs the Taliban.

In Shangla, more than 70 Taliban fighters occupied a hospital while others fanned out and took over control of government buildings. In Swat, Buner, and Shangla, the local administration and the police did not protest the Taliban moves.

The Taliban are also signaling their intent to moving into the districts of Swabi, Malakand, and Mardan. Last week, the Taliban conducted a victory road march through the three districts after conquering Buner. The Taliban have now begun to establish armed checkpoints in Swat and Buner along the roads that border Swabi, Malakand, and Mardan.

The Swat Taliban are also flaunting their control of the region. Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Fazlullah, hit the media circuit and bragged that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other associates were welcome to shelter in Swat.

“Osama can come here,” Khan told The Associated Press on April 20. “Sure, like a brother they can stay anywhere they want. Yes, we will help them and protect them.”

Khan also said the Taliban would not lay down their weapons, nor would they stop fighting until sharia was enforced throughout all of Pakistan. Jihad “will continue till the Day of Judgment,” Khan told Dawn. He demanded Pakistan shut down traditional courts and threatened lawyers that they would be punished if they tried to practice law in Swat.

Khan’s statements echoed those of Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the banned pro-Taliban movement that negotiated the peace agreement with the government. During a rally in Swat on April 19, Sufi said has followers would not rest until sharia is enforced through all of Pakistan.

Sufi demanded the Pakistani government halt all activities by the secular courts in Swat and decreed that decisions made by his Islamic courts cannot be challenged by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Sufi said that if his demands were not met within four days, “The government will be responsible for all the consequences if our demands are not implemented.” Sufi also described Pakistan’s democracy as a “system of infidels.”

Pakistan’s government has been virtually silent on the Taliban’s flaunting of the peace agreement and the Taliban’s promises to shelter international terrorist leaders. Other than the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the MQM or the United National Movement, no political party has raised an objection to the Taliban’s actions.

The MQM walked out of the parliament session that voted in favor of the sharia law. Pakistan’s remaining members of parliament unanimously voted in favor of the legislation after Sufi said anyone who voted against the bill was a “non-Muslim.”

Political leaders such as President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and opposition party leader Nawaz Sharif have expressed “concerns” over the situation in Swat, but have continued to support the agreement with the Taliban. Gilani even went so far as to say recently that the situation in Swat is “returning to normal.”

GEO Pakistan
Three troops killed as militants ambush checkpost in Swat
Updated at: 0703 PST, Sunday, August 16, 2009

MINGORA: At least five persons were killed including three forces’ personnel as militants ambushed security forces’ checkpost located in tahsil Khwaz Khela of Swat on Saturday night, Geo news reported.

According to sources, a suicide bomber exploded a car laden with explosives near police checkpost which resulted in the deaths of five people including three security personnel.


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