Sunday, August 10, 2008

Taliban Consolidates Control in FATA

In Lowi Sam (Loyesam), Pakistan, near the Afghan border 12 km west of the military base at Khaar in Bajaur Agency, the Pakistani military sent in 200 soldiers who were surrounded and besieged by several hundred Taliban. After fighting for three days, with the support of tanks, jets, and helicopters, most of the battered force succeeded in escaping. This is my interpretation, based on facts reported by Dawn.

It is noteworthy that this was not a trap sprung by surprise on troops who thought they were at peace. On the contrary, this was the result of a Pakistani offensive, and as such constitutes a stunning defeat. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Maulvi Umer had stated at the beginning of the battle that they would use “all resources” to regain control of the region, and they have, for the moment, achieved their goal.

Although the ultimate impact of this Taliban victory is anyone’s guess, it is important to keep in mind that this was a defensive victory for the Taliban; they were defending territory arguably already under their control and termed by Pakistani officials as the center of their territory
against a Pakistani government offensive.
As for the immediate consequence, one might expect that it would concentrate the minds of Pakistani politicians currently focused on political turmoil surrounding the on-going campaign to replace the military dictatorship with a stable democratic system. It also strengthens any argument the Taliban might care to make about being the legitimate governing authority of FATA.

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