U.S. Strikes Making Taliban Angry
I must confess some amusement over the YahooNews headline “Officials say Taliban mad over alleged US strike.” The lede is also encouraging.
The Taliban are unusually angry about the latest suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan, a sign a top militant may have died in the attack, officials and residents said Sunday amid reports the death toll rose by two to 24.
Less amusing but interesting:
Elsewhere in Pakistan’s northwest, an official said some 15,000 Afghans had left a tribal region the military is trying to wrest from insurgents, but that tens of thousands more had yet to meet a government ultimatum to get out by Sunday.
The U.S. has ramped up cross-border strikes on alleged al-Qaida and Taliban targets along Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan, straining the two nations’ anti-terror alliance.
The U.S. says pockets of Pakistan’s border region, especially in its semi-autonomous tribal areas, are bases for militants attacking American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It has pushed nuclear-armed Pakistan to eliminate the safe havens. The frontier region is believed to be a possible hiding place for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, and several Arab militants were said to be among the dead in Friday’s strike in North Waziristan tribal region.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said that over the weekend two people wounded in the attack died at a hospital in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan. The officials sought anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. Based on information from informants and agents in the field, the intelligence officials said the Taliban appeared extra-perturbed over the latest strike. The anger was a signal that a senior militant may have been killed, but that has yet to be confirmed, the officials said.
The insurgents were moving aggressively in the area while using harsh language against locals, including calling them “saleable commodities” — a reference to people serving as government spies, the officials said. Two local residents said Taliban fighters had warned people not to discuss the strike, including with the media, or to try inspecting the rubble at the site. The residents asked not to be named for fear of Taliban retaliation.
We’re making legitimate progress, I think, about Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the border region but we may be doing it at too high a price. At a recent Atlantic Council event, retired General Barry McCaffrey argued that we’re making a mistake by focusing on Pakistan, which he considers a strong ally, and that we should concentrate our efforts inside Afghanistan. But, as I note in a New Atlanticist piece, a growing number of experts are asking Whose side is Pakistan really on?