Archive for the ‘North West Frontier Province’ Category

Taliban Lack the Will

April 30, 2009

Bottom line: The Taliban lack the will to carry out an effective and sustained close-quarters guerilla campaign against U.S., and even NATO, forces.

They certainly are capable: They have the manpower, the munitions and the TERRAIN to do so.

Sure, they’ll hit Afghan police-manned checkpoints and kill them, or send a suicide bomber into a throng of civilians, or detonate an IED as a NATO convey passes, but these are all peripheral aspects of an asymmetrical war.

In order to be viable, these things must be nitched together within the framework of an overall, comprehensive asymmetrical approach that uses an effective engage and displace policy for their front-line fighters as its crux.

Terrain-features of the Afghan-Pakistan border make up a PARADISE for ambushing operations; and through this terrain U.S. forces patrol daily, and yet, until recently (As outlined below), rarely, if ever, come into any kind of close-quarter ambush combat scenario.

Talibani code of guerilla fighting seems to be to engage American outposts with indirect fire and then flee; just like the tactics favored by their ancestors in ancient times (One reason why the soldiers of the Persian Empire were so disturbed when fighting the Greeks; the Greeks fought face-to-face, whereas the Persians, with their Arab contingents, preferred fighting from a distance via arrows and closing only when a victory seemed certain).

The Taliban as of late, and in very isolated incidents, have been ambushing NATO/U.S. patrols (Not many, but they are starting to walk their talk, or at least trying to give that impression).

One confirmed American patrol was caught in an interesting revenge ambush, which I related in a recent post (Came a week after the same unit devastated a Taliban contingent via setting up their own ambush).

A few others confirmed against NATO forces operating with the Afghan Army.

The Talibani ambushes failed.

The encounters were relatively brief and left the Taliban fleeing amidst the bodies of their fallen comrades, while Coalition/Afghan forces sustained little to no casualties.

But the Taliban are least beginning to actually engage in close-quarters combat again.

When first invaded they tried a somewhat conventional approach, in the form of pitched battles in open areas, in which they were obviously wrecked by overwhelming U.S. military prowess.

After that they withdrew to the mountain areas and would ambush U.S. patrols here and there, but the high level of casualties they would sustain, as compared to the small number on behalf of U.S. and Coalition forces, caused them to back away from the face-to-face ambush scenarios and move more toward the lobbing-mortars-from-a-mile-or-two-away-and-then-fleeing tactic.

More of these real ambushes, and by “real” I mean close-quarters, will come with the influx of U.S. combat troops into the South and Eastern portions of Afghanistan this summer, and especially once said forces begin encroaching upon their opium fields.

<For a related post, see “Cowardice of the Enemy”>

juice

Response to Mr. Head in Stars

April 28, 2009

The following is my response to Masood Sharif Khan Khattak’s report, the link to which is:

 http://pakistanpal.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/faltering-us-strategy-pii/

My response:

Alright;

“Replacing military activity with developmental activity.”

Bullshit.

The two go hand in hand. First route the Islamo-Fascists that are the core of the Taliban, and then civilian workers move in and create viable institutions.

Peace deals with the Taliban? Are you reading about the SWAT Peace Accord?
You cannot deal with the Taliban, because they are strongarms.

In the accord, the Taliban agreed to disarm, and to cease all violent/military activities, and in return the Pakistani government would allow them to implement their variant of Sharia law in SWAT and neighboring districts. That was the core of the agreement.

What happened?

Within days, hundreds of heavily armed Taliban marched into Buner, raided civilian-based instituations, routed government officials and occupied their houses.

Yes, they listen to peace deals.

As far as the U.S. withdrawing after said “peace deals” are in place, this is completely absurd.

This is the whole reason why the ISI continues to support the Taliban, because they fear another abandonment by the United States similiar to that which occured when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.

Because of this, the ISI uses certain elements of the Taliban, along with other non-state militant entities, as a hedge against both India in Kashmir and Afghanistan (A long-standing border dispute exists between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Pakistan sees the Taliban as a viable bulwark against potential Afghani trespasses made against the border).

So, we have “peace talks,” and disengage from operations against the Taliban, who claim so strongly they wish to kill every westerner. That would be great wouldn’t it, because then the Taliban will be able to lay down their arms, large swaths will go back to their home countries, and the natives can tend their fields and flocks, right?

No, they will see the weakness of this American approach, and will begin preparations for further advances.

TALIBAN, and fanatical Arab militant groups in general, at the core level, LISTEN AND RESPOND TO VIOLENCE, not talking.

Your point about Indian influence in Afghanistan is certainly valid, and steps do need to be made to curb that.

And large elements of the ISI DO SUPPORT non-state entities such as certain elements of the Taliban as a hedge against India and Afghanistan, this is in Pakistan’s own strategic interest.

The Obama administration is putting forth a huge increase in diplomatic and civilian activity so as to facilitate a stabilizing of Afghanistan.

But you say we should sit back and let the Taliban spread out eh?

Disrupt Taliban/Al Qaida infrastructure via military strikes and covert activities, then install civilian institutions.

We were building a highway in Afghanistan, something the locals in that area had long wanted. The Taliban came in and told them they’d be killed if they continued to support and work on the project; so out of fear they withdrew from the highway development project.

Had we had a military outpost in or near the village, the Taliban’s access would have been severely limited, and the civilian infrastructure program would have proceeded unchecked.

https://juiceempire.wordpress.com/

juice

Pakistan Continues Offensive (2)

April 28, 2009

Now in the third day of fighting, the Pakistani offensive against Taliban positions in the districts bordering the SWAT Valley has expanded into Buner, a newly established Taliban stronghold a mere 60 miles from Islamabad.

Initial operations targeted militants based in Lower Dir – an estimated 70-75 Taliban were killed, along with 10 Pakistani “security personnel,” according to chief Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

The fighting in Lower Dir, he said, was coming to a close, as operations in Buner have now commenced.

Warplanes, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and Pakistani army troops, along with elements of the Frontier Corps, are said to be involved in the Buner offensive (with ground units maneuvering into positions while aerial and artillery strikes marked the opening barrage).

In a Guardian report, written by Declan Walsh, a resident of Buner is quoted as saying:

“‘I saw the jet planes earlier and now I can see two helicopters. They are hitting targets in the mountains close to the town,’ resident Jaffar Shah told the Guardian by telephone, shortly after the attack started.”

So, it appears to me, the Taliban are getting wrecked.

Some contributing factors leading to this offensive:

1) Taliban leadership, in recent weeks, called for Sharia law to be implemented across Pakistan, and that the Pakistani constitution should be done away with.

This struck an intense chord with a myriad of political factions within Pakistan who objected to such a claim (Some of whom had actually supported the Taliban initially). The constitution was meticulously drawn up by a group of some 60-plus Islamic scholars and politicians to ensure that it did adhere to Islamic law.

The underlying tone of the Talibani assertion, whether they realized it at the time or not, also made it obvious to Pakistan, if not the world, of their intentions to gain eventual control of the country. They threw that card at the wrong time.

2) They moved, in force and brandishing an array of weaponry, into Buner, just days after signing the SWAT Peace Accord which called for them to disarm and in return they would receive their demand of having Sharia law implemented in SWAT and neighboring districts.

And Buner, about 60 miles from the capital, would be a nice jumping-off point for a surprise infiltration/offensive against the heart of the country, in coordination with other fanatical Islamic groups not directly connected to the Taliban already lying dormant across Punjab Province, in which the federal area of Islamabad is located.

3) Western, namely American, pressure to act. The portrait was painted by Mullen, Holbrooke, Clinton, etc. (See Pakistan Launches Taliban Offensive [1]).

We’ll see what comes of this.

juice

Pakistani launches Taliban Offensive (1)

April 27, 2009

It seems that, while denied by top Pakistani officials, we, the Americans, have successfully persuaded Pakistan to act.

An offensive has been launched yesterday, Sunday, against Taliban elements in the Lower Dir district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) – a neighbor of the SWAT Valley.

Said offensive is now in its second day, and scattered reports seem to imply it has carried over into other limited areas of the NWFP – although details regarding the expansion of operations are slim at this point.

It seems elements of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a smattering of tribal entities pulled together into a cohesive unit numbering about 80,000, are the spearhead of this offensive, and are being supported by air forces and ground-based artillery/armor.

Now, the Pakistanis, to save face of course, and to try to deconstruct the image of them as puppets of Western, namely American, influence, deny that this offensive is a cave-in to American pressure to act.

And yet it’s quite obvious, given the near-perpetual string of high-level talks between America and Pakistan in the past number of weeks (Namely between Admiral Mullen [the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and therefore the highest ranked military officer in America] and what is essentially his counter-part in the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff) that this offensive is a direct response to candid advice given to the Pakistani government/military by the American military and affiliated agencies.

Perhaps our top commanders (Military, CIA, and diplomatic [the pitbull Richard Holbrooke]) have finally painted a more holistic, sweeping picture of Pakistan’s fate if they fail to deal with the newly embolded Taliban (After having the SWAT Peace Accord officially recognized and signed recently) as they methodically sweep from district to district in the NWFP.

And this picture painted by the U.S. would not simply encompass the strategic failure of having more and more of Pakistan under the thumb of Talibani elements, but also would bring into focus other, more indirect matters, such as economic aid given to Pakistan, which President Obama has made clear will from this point on be determined by “benchmarks” of progress (not officially defined as of now) regarding Pakistan’s commitment to fighting radical elements within their country; namely within the NWFP.

I certainly put forth the notion that we are supplying them intelligence and logistal support regarding these most recent strikes against Taliban strongholds in Lower Dir and, most likely, other areas of the NWFP.

One of many questions that come to my mind regarding this most recent offensive: How serious is it?

In scope and expected level of intensity, is this just a show of potential strength by Pakistan to get America to shut up?

I will say it comes at an excellent annual juncture, as the traditional Afghan-Pakistan tribal “fighting season” is about to commence, as crops are harvested and the weather improves. This Pakistani offensive will at the very least disrupt Taliban preparations for the incoming influx of 17,000 American combat troops who are scheduled to arrive, within the coming month or two, in the very Afghani provinces in which Taliban activity has spiked in recent months.

The New York Times is reporting that this offensive is a ” prelude to a larger one against the Taliban in Buner in the coming days, according to a government official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/27/world/asia/27pstan.html?_r=1&ref=world

Buner, a neighbor of SWAT, was infiltrated by large numbers of Taliban fighters last week. After “talks” with the Council of Elders for the region, the Taliban agreed to withdraw. That withdrawal is dubious, as reports are still coming in of armed Taliban fighters roaming in at least one border village of Buner.

Other reports from the New York Times claim that, while the initial Taliban forces that invaded and consolidated control over Buner have withdrawn, elements of “local” Taliban entities still maintain control over strategic areas of Buner, and are looting supplies.

Some analysts are saying this Pakistani offensive jeopardizes the SWAT Peace Accord.

Bullshit.

The Accord called for the Taliban to lay down their arms and in return Sharia law would be implemented in the SWAT Valley and neighboring districts.

And then, within days of this being officially signed by the Pakistani president, heavily armed Taliban forces enter Buner. Ha.

Hopefully Pakistan is beginning to see the absurdity in trying to deal with the Taliban.

Time will tell.

 

juice

 

One news outlet detailing the initial progress of the offensive is:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8019518.stm

In this report, the BBC reports:

“A militant commander was among a number of militants killed in gun battles in the Lower Dir district of North West Frontier Province, the military said.”

And also:

“Helicopter gunships and tanks were reportedly used in the fighting.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the Taleban and independent sources have not been able to verify the army’s claims.

Pakistani interior ministry chief Rehman Malik has repeated his call for the Taleban to disarm.

‘Enough is enough,’ told a TV channel on Sunday.

‘We have decided to flush them out. The peace accord was linked to peace. When there is no peace, there is no use for that accord.’

The clashes seem to suggest that the government has finally decided to try to stop the spread of the Taleban across northern Pakistan, the BBC’s Mark Dummett reports from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.”