Pakistan Security Brief
During the week, the Pakistani military reportedly targeted militant hideouts, training bases, and key Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership in South Waziristan using aircraft and gunship artillery. Additionally, a series of drone strikes continued to target Waziristan, killing a group of militants in a first strike on Tuesday followed by a subsequent strike at the funeral of a slain militant commander. The Pakistani military’s primary target, TTP leader Beitullah Mehsud, responded to operations in Waziristan over the course of the week by targeting an Islamabad-supported rival and reportedly dispatching a suicide bomber in Kashmir.
An outspoken rival commander of Beitullah Mehsud, Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, was targeted and killed by the TTP after recently aligning himself with the Pakistani government and military. TTP spokesmen threatened a similar fate for any other leaders taking an anti-TTP position. Following the targeted killing, militants loyal to the opposing commanders clashed in Tank district. In another retaliatory projection of violence, the TTP claimed, through militant commander Hakimullah Mehsud, to have ordered a suicide bombing late in the week that targeted and killed two soldiers in Muzaffarabad, Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Turkistan Bhittani, another Beitullah Mehsud rival who has sided with the Pakistani government, continued to publicly denounce the TTP leader and vowed to continue the fight to eliminate Mehsud’s network.
Though the Pakistani military initially restricted aerial operations to South Waziristan, a militant attack over the weekend on a Pakistani military convoy in North Waziristan may broaden the target areas. The militant attacked killed two dozen soldiers in what marks the end of a ‘peace deal’ between the military and fighters loyal to militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Beyond Waziristan, large-scale military operations in the Swat valley appeared to wind down; incursions were restricted mostly to “search and sweep” operations.
As the Pakistani military continued its operations over the past week, the ongoing refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) crises continued to swell. Adding to the health and humanitarian crises prevalent in the refugee camps, one aid group, Refugees International, indicated that militant groups were starting to operate within the camps. The shortage of relief supplies has created a vacuum being filled by militant groups, including affiliates of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group. Although LeT, remains a banned group, it reportedly operates and recruits freely in Kashmir.
The military operations in Swat initially spurred a refugee crisis and now, as operations increase in FATA, a new wave of refugees is emanating from Waziristan agency. The military estimates that 45,000 people have already fled from Waziristan, while those who remain face limited electricity and food and water shortages. The force of Pakistani military air strikes, drone strikes, and road blockades has contributed to the initial economic shortages and exodus of refugees.