Pakistan Security Brief – December 17, 2010

Pakistan Security Brief: December 17, 2010

U.S. plans to further intensify military campaign in FATA; U.S. drones continue to pound militant targets in Khyber; Haqqani network using madrassas in North Waziristan to shelter fighters and plan insurgent attacks; Militants target Ashura processions in Hangu and Shikarpur.

 

FATA

  • The Obama Administration plans to “further step up” its campaign against al Qaeda and Haqqani militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), according to a new report by the New York Times.  The new campaign is intended to “offset the Pakistani government’s continued refusal to move against al Qaeda leadership and their extremist allies, especially the Haqqani network.”  Unnamed administration officials told the Times that the U.S. will continue to ramp up its drone campaign and possibly utilize Special Forces operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.  The same U.S. officials also told the Times that the Obama Administration expects that the “Pakistani military [will] finally enter North Waziristan in 2011.”[1]

  • The Haqqani network continues to shelter militants in madrassas in North Waziristan to escape the fire of U.S. drones according to a new report by the Washington Post.  U.S. officials quoted in the article report that Manba Ulom and other madrassas in North Waziristan currently serve as “a focal point for Haqqani operations.” Haqqani fighters allegedly use these madrassas for protection and as “operational hubs,” where they can plan and coordinate insurgent activities in relatively safety.  The Post article reveals that the U.S. understands that these madrassas are being utilized by the Haqqani Network, but has opted not to target the facilities with drone strikes for fear that “targeting a religious compound might trigger a violent backlash.” Additionally, the Post explains that the Pakistani military has been made aware of the situation, but that it has “failed to clear militants from the school…even though it maintains a fort less than two miles away.”[2] 

  • Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, told reporters today that he believes that Pakistan’s failure to go after militant sanctuaries in FATA was a matter of capacity and not will.  According to Munter, at present the Pakistani military is using “a great amount of capacity… holding the ground [it] has won at great cost.”  Asked about the United States’  desire to see a Pakistani military operation in North Waziristan, Munter responded, “We would like them to move tomorrow, we would like them to take out these people tomorrow…But we understand they’re telling us honestly about the capacity of their military, and when they are able, we are convinced they will move in.”[3]

 

Drone Campaign

  • Reports indicate that as many as 26 militants have been killed in the last 24 hours as a result of four U.S. drone strikes in the rarely hit Khyber tribal agency. U.S. drones carried out three separate strikes on Friday in addition to a strike on Thursday that killed seven militants in the tribal agency. Pakistani and other news media outlets report that Friday’s intended targets may have been members of the Lashkar-e-Islam, a Pakistani militant group that is a known affiliate of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  Security officials report that Friday’s drone strikes hit targets in the villages of Spin Drang and Shandana in the agency’s Tirah Valley.   Local security officials are working to establish the identities of those militants killed in the last 24 hours in order to determine if any high-value targets were among the dead.[4] 

 

Ashura Attacks

  • Six people were killed and another eight were wounded on Friday when militants fired a mortar into a crowd of Shia worshipers in Hangu.  According to Pakistani officials, militants in Orakzai agency fired a mortar shell that landed in a crowd of Shia worshipers across the border in Hangu district.  Police report that women and children were among the dead.[5]

  • A militant was shot dead in Shikarpur on Friday after throwing a grenade into an Ashura procession in the city.  Four people, including a Pakistani police officer, were injured when the assailant’s grenade exploded.[6] 

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

  • Militants destroyed a school for girls late Wednesday night in Peshawar.   Security officials report that the school was located in the Adezai area of Peshawar’s Matani suburb. Although the no one was reported injured in the blast, the school was completely destroyed in the attack.[7] 

  • The Pakistani military has announced its intention to build cantonments in the Swat Valley.  The military contends that the fortified military installations will strengthen security and order in Swat and protect against any possible militant resurgence.  Pakistani Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, the commander of the 37th infantry division in-charge of operations in lower Swat, told reporters that the cantonments will be built in Matta, Kabal and Shangla areas of Swat.[8] 

 



[1] Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger, "Obama Cites Afghan Gains as Report Says Exit Is on Track," The New York Times, December 16, 2010.  Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/17/world/asia/17afghan.html.
[2] Greg Miller, "U.S. struggles to root out militants in Pakistani madrassa," The Washington Post, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/16/AR2010121606637.html.
[3] US wants North Waziristan operation, but will wait,” Dawn, December 17, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/17/us-wants-north-waziristan-operation-but-will-wait.html.
[4] “Three drone strikes in one day kill 26,” The Express Tribune, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/91352/us-drone-kills-six-in-khyber-agency/.  Rasool Dawar, "Pakistani officials say IS missiles kill 7 in NW," Associated Press, December 16, 2010.  Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101216/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan. “US drone missiles kill 25 in Pakistan,” AFP, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101217/wl_asia_afp/pakistanunrest.  “US drones attack Pakistan's Khyber area for second day,” BCC News South Asia, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12015959.
[5] Mortar attack kills six in Hangu on Ashura,” AFP, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/91362/mortars-kills-six-in-hangu-on-ashura/.
[6] Muharram procession attack foiled,” The Express Tribune, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/91440/muharram-procession-attack-foiled/.
[7] “Taliban blow up girls’ school in Peshawar,” The Daily Times, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\12\17\story_17-12-2010_pg7_4
[8] Fazal Khaliq, "Curbing militancy: Mixed reaction over setting up cantonments in Swat," The Express Tribune, December 17, 2010.  Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/91206/curbing-militancy-mixed-reaction-over-setting-up-of-cantonments-in-swat/.