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Taliban Militants Striking Pakistan from Afghan Territory

Counterterrorism Center at West Point, US Military Academy

Sep 26, 2012

Author: Zia Ur Rehman

Since the start of the current Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government have blamed much of the violence on militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Insurgents from groups such as the Haqqani network are able to plan operations from their bases located in Pakistan’s tribal areas, cross the border into Afghanistan, execute attacks, and then retreat back into the relative safety of Pakistan.


Yet in the last two years, the issue of cross-border attacks has become even more complicated. Pakistan itself is now victim to Pakistani Taliban militants who are sheltering in Afghanistan, crossing the border into Pakistan to conduct attacks, and then retreating back across the Afghan border.[1] Pakistani officials assert that these militants are part of the Pakistani Taliban factions that once pressed for power in the Swat Valley, but were forced to flee into Afghanistan during a successful Pakistani military operation in 2009. Pakistan believes that these militants have regrouped in the border region and are now confident enough to carry out large-scale, cross-border attacks on Pakistani targets.

Seventeen large-scale, cross-border incursions of militants from Afghanistan to Pakistan have occurred in the last six months.[2] Most of the attacks were carried out in Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), an important agency for the Taliban and al-Qa`ida because it shares a border with Kunar Province in Afghanistan—a strategic province from which NATO forces have largely withdrawn.

This article examines the trend of Pakistani Taliban militants using Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks in Pakistan. It reviews a few key cross-border attacks and speculates whether these operations are part of a larger Taliban strategy.

Cross-Border Attacks
In 2011, security in the border areas remained volatile, with 69 reported clashes and cross-border attacks that killed 225 people.[3] Pakistani military commander Major General Ghulam Qamar asserted that since February 2012, there have been 17 major cross-border incursions where Pakistani Taliban fighters entered Pakistan from Afghanistan to attack Pakistani interests.[4] The incursions have mainly occurred in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies in FATA and Dir and Chitral districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

On June 24, 2012, for example, an estimated 100 militants belonging to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) entered Pakistan’s Upper Dir District from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province and killed 17 Pakistani soldiers.[5] A few days later, the militants released a video showing the severed heads of the 17 soldiers.[6] The video included a statement from Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP’s leader, and Maulana Fazlullah, head of the TTP’s Swat chapter.

On July 12, dozens of Pakistani Taliban militants crossed from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province into Pakistan and took scores of villagers hostage, including members of an anti-Taliban militia in the Katkot area of Bajaur Agency.[7] Pakistani forces quickly surrounded the village, killing eight militants.[8]

More recently, Pakistani Taliban militants sheltering in Afghanistan attacked security checkpoints at Inkle Sar and Miskini Darra areas of Samar Bagh Tehsil in Lower Dir District on August 24.[9] The militants were reportedly members of the TTP’s Dir chapter led by Hafizullah.[10]

Also on August 24, hundreds of Pakistani Taliban militants crossed into Pakistan from Kunar Province and attacked security personnel as well as a local tribal militia known as the Salarzai Qaumi lashkar in the Batwar area of Bajaur Agency.[11] Security forces responded, which led to heavy fighting that resulted in the deaths of 30 militants and an estimated six members of the security forces.[12] Fifteen members of the security forces, however, went missing.[13] On August 31, TTP militants released a video showing the severed heads of the 15 soldiers.[14]

Taliban Hideouts in Afghanistan
Pakistani security officials and local tribal elders assert that these cross-border attacks into Pakistani territory have been executed by militants belonging to the Bajaur, Swat and Dir chapters of the TTP, with help from Afghan Taliban militants. Following the Pakistan military’s operations in Swat, Dir and Bajaur in 2009, militants led by Maulana Fazlullah were pushed out of Pakistani territory, and they reportedly fled into Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan. From Afghanistan, they prepared for cross-border attacks on Pakistani security forces.[15] With NATO troops largely withdrawing from Kunar and Nuristan throughout 2011, Pakistani analysts suspect that the operating environment has become more conducive to Pakistani Taliban fighters.

The TTP itself has admitted that they use Afghan soil as a springboard to launch attacks on Pakistani security forces—even though the Afghan Taliban deny it.[16] Sirajuddin, a spokesperson for the TTP’s Malakand chapter, said that Maulana Fazlullah is leading militant attacks and remains in contact with Pakistani Taliban fighters based in Pakistan’s Malakand division. Sirajuddin claimed that Fazlullah commands more than 1,000 fighters who move regularly across the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.[17] The exact number of TTP militants in Afghanistan is not known, but Pakistani Major General Athar Abbas said that 200 to 300 militants have been mounting cross-border attacks in Dir, Chitral and Bajaur.[18]

Firm evidence of the TTP’s use of Kunar Province came to light when the head of the TTP’s Bajaur chapter, Mullah Dadullah, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Shigal district of Kunar Province on August 24, 2012.[19] Dadullah, whose real name was Jamal Said, had a close association with senior members of al-Qa`ida from 2003 to 2007, according to tribal sources. He was the chief of the TTP’s moral police and head of the Taliban’s treasury.[20]

Media reports suggest that Qari Ziaur Rehman, a key al-Qa`ida commander who is from Kunar, as well as Shaykh Dost Muhammad, a Nuristan-based Afghan Taliban leader, are hosting the Pakistani Taliban militants.[21] Rehman is thought to have once been a close confidante of Usama bin Ladin and hosted him temporarily after his escape from the Tora Bora Mountains in 2001.[22] Rehman was sheltered by the Pakistani Taliban in Bajaur Agency for years, and he is now reportedly returning the favor.[23]

Broader Strategic Plan?
Some analysts believe that violence on both sides of the border is a coordinated strategy of al-Qa`ida, the TTP and the Afghan Taliban to damage ties among Islamabad, Kabul and Washington by increasing mutual distrust. Former Afghan Defense Minister Shahnawaz Tanai explained that Taliban elements in both countries helped each other during the fight against the Soviet Union, and this same cooperation extends today.[24] The TTP’s use of so-called “safehavens” in Afghanistan mirrors the Afghan Taliban’s successful use of safehavens in Pakistan.

Other experts argue that the recent rise in cross-border attacks is part of a coordinated strategy to prevent a Pakistani military operation against the Haqqani network.[25] Karachi-based security expert Raees Ahmed believes that the TTP has escalated attacks in Bajaur in response to an impending army operation in North Waziristan, which would coincide with U.S. or Afghan military action against TTP bases in Afghanistan.[26] Militants may be seeking to carve out territory in Bajaur so that they can threaten violence in the settled areas of Malakand division in case Pakistan and the United States coordinate a military offensive.[27]

The recent cross-border incursions on both sides of the border clearly show that Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO have all failed to clear the strategically important border areas of militants, permitting previously dispersed extremist organizations to regroup and prepare new, large-scale attacks in both countries. Although security forces have begun operations to repel further attacks, they are unlikely to be successful until they deal collectively with the issue of cross-border militancy—a problem to which there are no easy solutions.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy in Pakistan. He has written for The Friday Times, The Jamestown Foundation, Herald and The News International, and contributed to the New York Times.

[1] “Pakistan Accuses Afghanistan of Backing Taliban Enemy,” Reuters, August 5, 2012.

[2] Daily Azadi [Swat], September 7, 2012.

[3] “Pakistan Security Report 2011,” Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, January 2012.

[4] Daily Azadi [Swat], September 7, 2012.

[5] “Taliban Release Video of Beheaded Pakistani Soldiers,” Agence France-Presse, June 27, 2012.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Militants Take Villagers Hostage in Bajaur,” Dawn, July 12, 2012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Taliban Attack Security Posts in Lower Dir,” Express Tribune, August 24, 2012.

[10] Ibid.

[11] BBC Urdu, August 27, 2012; personal interview, member of Salarzai Qaumi Lashkar, September 3, 2012; “At Least 28 Militants Killed in Bajaur Agency,” Dawn, August 25, 2012.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anwarullah Khan, “Militants Release Video of Beheaded Soldiers,” Dawn, September 1, 2012.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Personal interviews, elders of Salarzai Qaumi Lashkar, Khar town, Bajaur Agency, Pakistan, March 25, 2012.

[16] Tahir Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties That Bind Militants Persist,” Express Tribune, July 8, 2011.

[17] Tahir Khan, “TTP Admits to Having Safe Haven in Afghanistan,” Express Tribune, June 26, 2012.

[18] Zia Khan and Naveed Hussain, “Border Incursions: Suspicions Grow about Afghan Support for TTP,” Express Tribune, September 11, 2011.

[19] Declan Walsh, “Pakistani Militant Leader Dies in Airstrike, NATO Says,” New York Times, August 25, 2012; Javed Hamim Kakar and Khan Wali Salarzai, “Key Haqqani, TTP Leaders Killed in Drone Strikes,” Pajhwok Afghan News, August 25, 2012.

[20] Zia Ur Rehman, “On the Borderline,” Friday Times, September 7-13, 2012.

[21] Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties that Bind Militants Persist.”

[22] Khan and Hussain.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties that Bind Militants Persist.”

[25] “Understanding with US on Joint Action Against Haqqanis,” Dawn, August 6, 2012.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Personal interview, Raees Ahmed, security analyst, Karachi, Pakistan, September 4, 2012.


Taliban raid from Afghanistan kills 25 Pakistan troops


At least 200 Taliban fighters crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan and killed more than 25 soldiers and police, Pakistan’s military says.

The fighters launched an early morning attack on seven military checkpoints in north-west Chitral district.

The military said its troops fought off the attackers, killing 20 of them while the rest fled back into Afghanistan.

It is the latest in a series of cross-border raids that have raised tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In its statement, the Pakistani military blamed the attack on Pakistan and Afghan Taliban-linked fighters who have sought refuge in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan, from which the US largely pulled out of a year ago.

It said the “scanty presence” of Nato and Afghan forces in the border areas allow “terrorists” to use those areas as “safe havens”, from which they “have mounted repeated attacks against… security forces posts and isolated villages”.

The military said 25 paramilitary soldiers and police had been killed in Saturday’s attack, but a local officials put the death toll at around 36.



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INDO-AFGHAN TRAINED ROBOTIC TALIBAN MONSTERS: Taliban suicide attack on Pakistani church leaves dozens of Pakistanis dead

Taliban suicide attack on Pakistani church leaves dozens dead

Attack on congregation leaving service in Peshawar is most deadly in history of Pakistan’s Christian community

These a robots created by brain-washing techniques used by Indian and Israeli Intelligence Agents based in Kunar and Paktika Province of Afghanistan.  They operate right under the noses of ISAF Forces, who consider them as assets.

  • Peshawar bombing
A man cries at the death of his brother in the suicide attack on the church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photograph: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

Pakistan‘s embattled Christian community suffered the most deadly attack in its history on Sunday when a pair of Taliban suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a church in the troubled city of Peshawar, killing 81 and wounding about 140.

The midday attack on the historic church was one of the most lethal aimed at civilians in Peshawar, a city that has been repeatedly struck by militant groups who control swaths of the nearby tribal areas.

Explosions ripped through the congregation of 500 people, including many women and children, as the service at All Saints church was coming to an end and worshippers were about to receive a free meal of rice in the courtyard outside.

Witnesses said the interior of the 130-year-old building was turned into a bloodbath, with severed limbs scattered around and the walls pockmarked with ball bearings used as shrapnel by the bombers.

“I saw myself in the air and then on the ground inside a huge fire of ball,” said Sabir John, a worshipper who lost one of his arms in the blast.

An official from the provincial bomb squad said there was evidence of two suicide bombers, each carrying about 6kg of explosives. With a limited number of weekend staff, the city’s main hospital was overwhelmed by casualties. There were fears that some would die of their injuries as they lay unattended on stretchers outside the emergency ward.

Dr Arshad Javed, chief executive of the Lady Reading hospital, said: “I have never seen such piles of human bodies. The exact number of the blast victims cannot be ascertained as yet.”

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Sunday 78 confirmed dead included 34 women and seven children, Associated Press reported. Another 37 children were among the wounded, he said. A further three people died of their wounds overnight.

Distraught relatives were blocked from entering the hospital to look for family members by police. Some previous suicide bombings have been followed up with attacks on victims after they have been rushed to hospital.

Christians in Peshawar reacted with fury. Protesters outside the church chanted slogans attacking the provincial government for not providing security to worshippers. Some clashed with police, ripping off their uniforms and burning them in front of television cameras. Christians also came out to protest in cities around the country.

The Jundullah wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. A spokesman said: “They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”

The highly unusual attack on Christian worshippers was reminiscent of a series of brutal bombings against large gatherings of Shias, a minority Muslim sect reviled as heretics by some militant groups. Until now Pakistan’s Christian minority, thought to be about 2% of the near 200 million population, have been spared such attacks, though five people were killed by a grenade attack in 2002 on a church in Islamabad frequented by foreigners.

Christians, who tend to be among the poorest sections of society, have suffered prejudice and sporadic bouts of mob violence and church burnings, usually triggered by accusations of anti-Islam blasphemy.

Sunday’s attack is likely to be seen as yet another sign of the growing threat from Pakistan’s fast-evolving network of militant groups, which include sectarian terrorists, anti-India groups and a homegrown strain of the Taliban influenced by al-Qaida ideology. It could further undermine hopes of a negotiated peace settlement with militants.

An agreement struck earlier in September by leading political parties gave the green light to the government to hold talks with militants, but it did not lead to any reduction in attacks. Counter-terror analysts believe the peace initiative is doomed to fail because the violent fundamentalists ravaging the country reject Pakistan’s government and constitution as un-Islamic.

On Sunday three days of mourning were announced as politicians and religious leaders condemned the attack.

“Terrorists have no religion and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions,” said the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in a statement. “Cruel acts of terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists.”

Imran Khan, the politician whose party leads the provincial government in Peshawar, rushed to the city from the capital, Islamabad.

Talking to journalists outside the hospital he said the attack was a deliberate scheme to scupper peace talks. “Isn’t it strange that whenever peace talks are pursued, these attacks take place, and I want to point out that there was also a drone strike today,” he said in reference to a strike by an unmanned US aircraft that killed six suspected militants in North Waziristan on Sunday. Khan has long blamed the CIA’s drone campaign as the root cause of Pakistan’s current unrest, a position decried by his critics who say militancy and extremism long pre-date drones and the US-led intervention in Afghanistan.


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