January 29, 2009
Asia Times

Faceless Taliban Rule Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province

by Syed Saleem Shahzad

Welcome to Malakand Agency, where one can freely roam around and yet not see a single Taliban vigilante, even though they rule the roost.

In Pakistan, "Taliban" is the generic name for those groups that pledge their allegiance to Mullah Mohammad Omar and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but in different areas they have different manifestations.

In some places they aim to enforce strict sharia law. In others, the Taliban want to establish bases from which to work in support of the resistance against foreign forces in Afghanistan.

In yet other areas, the purpose is simply to create chaos and anarchy so that militants can engage the Pakistani armed forces and deter them from supporting the global "war on terror".

However, the ultimate mission of the groups is steadily harmonizing, that is, to support the regional war and then the global war against Western hegemony; this is the concept driving the neo-Taliban.

In Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and surrounding areas such as Muttani, Shabkadar, Darra Adam Khail and Khyber Agency, the Taliban have never tried to implement sharia. Their presence is more strategic and several groups operate independently under various commanders.

Their purpose is to sever North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply lines that pass through Pakistan and to eliminate the writ of the central government so that it will not be able to provide protection to the supply convoys.

In the South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur tribal agencies, the Taliban aim to establish strategic bases with al-Qaeda to provide support to the Afghan resistance. In Malakand Agency and the Swat Valley, the struggle is focussed on enforcing sharia and in cleansing society of unscrupulous elements.

Increasingly, though, as mentioned, these differing goals, as a result of Pakistan's military operations, are coming together as a broad struggle to defeat the Western powers in the region and their ally - Pakistan.

In much of the tribal areas and the Swat Valley, the state of Pakistan has lost its control, but the situation in Malakand Agency is somewhat more complex.

In early 2008, the Taliban flexed their muscles all around NWFP, especially in the the area between the Swat Valley and Peshawar, and Mardan became a hotbed of militancy.

However, the Taliban realized that without local support and only with fighters from different regions of the province, they would never be able to defeat the state forces. Therefore, they resolved to establish their influence over the urban centers in this area, hoping eventually to wrest NWFP completely from Islamabad's control. Similarly, Balochistan province, which also borders Afghanistan, is destined to become "Taliban territory".

The remaining two provinces of Pakistan, Punjab and Sindh, do not figure in this plan. Any attacks here would add additional pressure, but there is no urge for the Talibanization of these areas.

At present, in areas such as Malakand, the Taliban use radio to expose government incompetence and corruption and then ask the people to submit their complaints to the Taliban. Only then do they act.


Simon Tisdall, "Bush Secret Order Sends U.S. Into Pakistan," Guardian, September 12, 2008

Andrew Buncombe, Anne Penketh and Omar Waraich, "Pakistan Stares Into the Abyss," Independent, October 23, 2008

Tim Reid, "President Obama 'orders Pakistan drone attacks'," Times Online, January 23, 2009

[The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.--Greg Miller, "Predator drones flown from base in Pakistan, U.S. lawmaker says," Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2009]

[Pakistan is to impose Islamic law in a vast region of the north-west called Malakand in an attempt to placate extremists--Saeed Shah, "Pakistan imposes Islamic law in Taliban stronghold," Guardian, February 15, 2009]

[The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose co-ordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.--Jeremy Page, "Google Earth reveals secret history of US base in Pakistan," Times, February 19, 2009]

S. Amjad Hussain, "Pakistan's pact with militants sets stage for future retreats," Toledo Blade, February 23, 2009

Saeed Shah, "Militants' sudden unity threatens Obama's Afghanistan strategy," McClatchy Newspapers, March 2, 2009

[Pakistani politicians and officials described the idea of extending military operations into the vast, south-west province of Baluchistan as provocative and counterproductive, and warned of a severe backlash if the US went ahead.--Saeed Shah and Ewen MacAskill, "Anger in Pakistan at US plan to expand drone attacks," Guardian, March 19, 2009]

Carlotta Gall, "Pakistan and Afghan Taliban Unify Against U.S. Influx," New York Times, March 26, 2009

[The intelligence official said that Pakistan had twice given America intelligence about Baitullah Mehsud's whereabouts so that he could be targeted--Isambard Wilkinson, "AMERICA and Pakistan have begun a joint operation to kill the head of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud," Telegraph, April 3, 2009]

[In Pakistan, a war of machine assassins is visibly provoking terror (and terrorism), as well as anger and hatred among people who are by no means fundamentalists. It is part of a larger destabilization of the country.-- Tom Engelhardt, "Filling the Skies With Assassins,", April 8, 2009]

[Pakistani Taliban TTP leader Maulvi Nazir . . . dispels the manufactured myth that he has been working with the Pakistani Army to separate the "moderate Taliban" from the unreconcilable "al Qaida" types. He claims that the dispute within the Pakistani Taliban between himself and Baitullah Mehsud was brought about by the ISI to split the movement. He denies that the Taliban have attacked anyone other than military forces, or that they were part of the group that attacked Mumbai, alluding to another militant group at work in the area. . . .

Nazir also contends that the whole public uproar over the Predator attacks is a stage-managed production, since the ISI already controls the targeting of the drones by planting these SIM-card transmitters.-- Peter Chamberlin, "Paramilitary Pretense, Who Controls the Predators?,", April 8, 2009]

["Al Qaeda has very little to do with the militancy in the tribal areas of Pakistan," said Marvin Weinbaum, former Afghanistan and Pakistan analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence Research at the U.S. Department of State and now scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute.

John McCreary, a senior intelligence analyst for the Defence Intelligence Agency until his retirement in 2006, agrees with Weinbaum's assessment. "The drone programme is supposed to be all about al Qaeda," he told IPS in an interview, but in fact, "the threat is much larger."--Gareth Porter, "Predator Blowback,", April 16, 2009]

[ . . . although the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in the Pushtun areas and in some districts of Punjab is worrisome, the cosmic level of concern being expressed makes no sense to me.--Juan Cole, "Pakistan Crisis and Social Statistics,", April 26, 2009]

"Pakistan conflict map," BBC News, June 22, 2009

VIDEO: Sharmeen-Obaid Chinoy, "Children of the Taliban," PBS Frontline, 2009

[ . . . the defense department is seeking $3.5 billion for unmanned aerial vehicles. Funding is expected to increase to $55 billion by 2020. The air force is currently training more drone operators than fighter and bomber pilots.--Laura Flanders, "Right-Wing Mad Scientist and His Mindless Murdering Drones,", August 26, 2009]

[U.S. estimates Taliban strength in Afghanistan at around 25,000. I'm skeptical of that figure--Gilles Dorronsoro, "Who Are the Taliban?,", October 22, 2009]

[Blackwater's ties to the C.I.A. have emerged in recent months, beginning with disclosures in The New York Times that the agency had hired the company as part of a program to assassinate leaders of Al Qaeda and to assist in the C.I.A.'s Predator drone program in Afghanistan and Pakistan.--James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, "Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.," New York Times, December 11, 2009]

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