Sunday, December 6, 2009

Taliban Attacks Pakistani Army in South Waziristan While Under Agreement

Via The Long War Journal -

A platoon of Taliban fighters attacked a Pakistani Army checkpoint in South Waziristan in a region where a peace agreement with the Taliban is in effect.

Upwards of 40 Taliban fighters opened fire on checkpoint at a bridge in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, killing one soldier and suffering six of their own in a counterattack.

"There were 30 to 40 militants who first fired rocket- propelled grenades at our post and then opened fire with AK-47 rifles which killed one of our soldiers,"a Pakistan security official told Reuters. "But we retaliated and killed six militants."

The attack against the Army in Wana is a major violation of an agreement between the military and a Taliban faction that agreed to remain neutral during the Army's offensive in South Waziristan. It is also further proof that Taliban forces are sheltering in areas under the control of Taliban leaders considered to be "pro-government."

Wana is under the control of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Taliban forces in the western Wazir tribal areas of the agency. Pakistan's military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers "good Taliban" as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state. However, Nazir openly supports Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan; more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir's tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan.

Earlier this year, just prior to launching a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the Mehsud tribal areas in South Waziristan, the military agreed to a peace deal with Nazir as well as with North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nazir and Bahadar are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The peace agreement allows for the Pakistani military to move through Nazir and Bahadar's tribal areas without being attacked. Another condition of the agreement prohibits Bahadar and Nazir from providing shelter to fleeing members of the Mehsud branch of the Taliban.

But Taliban fighters from the Mehsud tribal areas have sought shelter with Mullah Nazir in the Wazir tribal areas, and the rearguard fighters still opposing the Army's advance are receiving support from Nazir's forces, US military and intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Bahadar, too, is providing shelter to fleeing Taliban fighters and covert support to the Mehsud Taliban.

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