Saturday, April 11, 2009

Roggio on the Taliban April 11 09

April 11, 2009

Bill Roggio [The Long War Journal] gets his information from personal sources as well as published ones and these days he seems to have the best news on what’s going on in tribal territory – now Taliban territory – in Pakistan. Today’s report is that the Taliban are moving on Buner. His last two reports tell us that the Taliban are expanding their influence in the Tribal Areas, today moving on Buner and yesterday announcing their renunciation of the Malakand Accords previously made with the army in Swat.

Here are the two articles:
“Taliban move on Buner despite promise to withdraw.” By Bill Roggio April 10, 2009 9:32 PM
The Taliban takeover of the district of Buner in Pakistan's insurgency-plagued Northwest Frontier Province has accelerated as forces are fanning out through the region unopposed.
Security forces and the tribal lashkars, or militias, have not resisted the Taliban advance. "They have taken control of vast areas in Buner," a witness told Dawn "They are freely moving around while police and other law-enforcement personnel remain confined to their posts."
Police were ordered not to fight the Taliban, an officer said. "We have been asked by our seniors not to interfere with the Taliban," an officer said, while claiming the Taliban carried advanced weapons.
The Taliban are patrolling the main roads in the district and are just outside the main town of Daggar, according to Dawn. Taliban fighters have taken control of the homes of tribal leaders who raised the lashkars and threatened to punish them for opposing the advance.
The local tribes in Buner raised lashkars earlier this week and clashed with the Taliban as they entered the district. Sixteen Taliban fighters, three policemen, and two tribal fighters were reported to have been killed.
Taliban fighters have begun to enforce their radical brand of sharia, or Islamic law, in Buner. "Militants set on fire TV sets, pictures and paintings and audio and video cassettes before the Friday prayers," Dawn reported. "They locked the [Pir Baba] shrine, stopping followers of Pir Baba from visiting the place." Pir Baba was a Sufi saint. The Taliban have targeted Sufi shrines during their takeover of Northwestern Pakistan.
The push to overtake Buner comes just one day after the Taliban agreed to withdraw from Buner. Yesterday, Syed Mohammad, the Malakand Division Commissioner, said the Taliban would pull out of Buner on April 10. Instead the Taliban used the negotiations as cover to finish their push into the defenseless district.
Pakistani tribes unable to resist the Taliban onslaught
Last fall, the Pakistani government and the military encouraged tribal leaders to raise lashkars to oppose the spread of the Taliban. Since the beginning of 2008, Pakistani tribes organized lashkars in regions in Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, Swat, Dir, Buner, and Lakki Marwat. The tribes have had some success in driving the Taliban from local areas by conducting patrols and burning down the homes of Taliban fighters and their supporters, but ultimately failed to halt the Taliban advance.
"The Taliban is more vicious, more motivated, and more capable than the tribes," a US military officer who closely follows the situation in northwestern Pakistan told The Long War Journal. "Time and time again, the Taliban has ruthlessly crushed any resistance. It doesn't matter if it is the tribes, the police, the Frontier Corps, or the Army, the Taliban continues to gain ground."
The Taliban have viciously responded to efforts by tribal leaders to oppose the spread of extremism. Tribal opposition has been violently attacked and defeated in Peshawar, Dir, Arakzai, Khyber, and Swat. Suicide bombers have struck at tribal meetings held at mosques, schools, hotels, and homes.
The Taliban have also made examples of local leaders who have dared to resist. In Swat, the Taliban executed a local tribal leader named Pir Samiullah, then returned to the village to dig up his body and hang it in the town square. The villagers were warned not to remove his body or they would face the same fate.
Samiullah's tribe was the showcase for Pakistan's "awakening," the indigenous tribal uprising against the Taliban modeled after Iraq's Sunni resistance to al Qaeda and allied jihadi groups. The Swat tribal resistance collapsed with Samiullah's death and desecration.
Problems with manpower, training, geography, coordination between the tribes, and support from the military and government plague the tribal efforts to oppose the Taliban.
The Pakistani tribes are operating as distinct, local fighting forces with no central coordination, while the Taliban can coordinate their activities across the northwest and even from inside eastern Afghanistan. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud's unified Taliban command, was established to share manpower and resources and to coordinate activities.
"The tribes are limited by geography, the TTP [Pakistani Taliban] is not," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in September 2008 [see LWJ report: Pakistan engages the tribes in effort to fight the Taliban]. "Moreover, the Taliban out-number and out-gun them by more than 20 to 1. The tribes may achieve tactics success in some areas, but likely will fail to achieve strategic success."
The problems are complicated by the tribes' unwillingness to cooperate with the government and the military. "We keep the government away," a senior tribal leader in Lakki Marwat told Geo News last fall.
The tribes fear cooperation with the government will further turn the Taliban and sympathetic tribes against them. "If we became part of the government they would become an excuse, a liability, a rallying cry against us," the Lakki Marwat tribal leader said. Similar sentiments were expressed by Buner tribal leaders earlier this week. This attitude prevents the military from providing the needed security to oppose massed Taliban attacks.

“Swat peace agreement collapses”
By Bill Roggio April 9, 2009 8:49 AM

The Swat Taliban have withdrawn from the two-month-old peace agreement, citing the central government's unwillingness to sign the legislation that will impose sharia courts in the Malakand Division.

The peace agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, put an end to military operations in Swat and the surrounding regions and established sharia, or Islamic courts. The Malakand Accord was imposed in Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, Chitral, and Kohistan, a region that encompasses more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.

Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the radical pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law], recently called off the peace agreement and ended all peace camps in the region. Sufi blamed President Asif Ali Zardari for failing to sign into federal law the legislation to establish sharia courts and blamed Zardari for any repercussions.

"From now on, President Zardari will be responsible for any situation in Swat," Sufi said, according to Dawn. "The provincial government is sincere and our agreement with the provincial government is intact, but we are ending our peace camp."

Sufi claimed to have eschewed violence after being released from prison in November 2007 as a condition of a similar failed peace agreement in Swat. Sufi led more than 10,000 Pakistanis into Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001. Mullah Fazlullah, the radical anti-government cleric behind the insurgency and terror attacks in Swat, is his son-in-law.

The Swat Taliban and Sufi's TNSM maintained very close links to the radical administration of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, the pro-Taliban mosque in the heart of Islamabad whose followers enforced sharia and kidnapped policemen just one mile from the seat of government. The Pakistani military stormed the Lal Masjid in July 2007 after a several-month standoff. More than a hundred followers and more than a dozen soldiers were killed in the battle.

In recent interviews, Sufi has declared his hatred for democracy and the West, and described Mullah Omar's regime in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 as "ideal."

Sufi is the father-in-law of Mullah Fazlullah, the Swat Taliban leader who is responsible for nearly two years of bloody violence in Swat that killed hundreds police and paramilitary troops and caused the exodus of more than 500,000 of Swat's estimated 1.5 million residents. During the fighting between the Swat Taliban and government forces, the Swat Taliban targeted police officers, tribal leaders, and politicians. Family members of government officials and tribal leaders were killed, and their homes were torched. Suicide attacks and beheadings were commonplace in Swat during the fighting.

The military ceased operations in Swat in February 2009 after it failed to dislodge the Taliban. Sufi brokered a peace agreement between the government and the Taliban. Under the agreement, the government has committed to implement sharia, end the military campaign, and release Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to end attacks. But the Taliban has violated the agreement several times: the Taliban kidnapped the district coordinating officer and his bodyguards, murdered two soldiers, and captured a Frontier Corps officer and several of his men. In addition, the Taliban never gave up its weapons and continues to conduct armed patrols and manage checkpoints in some regions of Swat. Yet the government has failed to respond to these violations of the accord and instead has released more than 50 Taliban leaders and fighters from custody.

The collapse of the Swat accord takes place as the Swat Taliban are working to take the neighboring district of Buner by force. More than 100 Taliban fighters entered Buner on April 5. Just two days later, the Taliban clashed with local militias and police who are attempting to halt the Taliban advance. Five police and tribal fighters and 16 Taliban were reported killed in the clash, but the Taliban have continued to move through Buner.

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