Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taliban Blocks Pakistani Army Supply Convoy, Holds Its Ground

The Taliban may have partially pulled out of Buner,but they show no signs of giving up any further ground. Today, a convoy with supplies for the Pakistani army was blocked and turned around by armed Taliban at a roadblock on the main highway linking Swat with Peshawar at Qambar area close to Mingora city to stop the convoy coming from Barikot.

“Yes, we have stopped the convoy from entering Mingora as it was a violation of the deal with us,” Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told Daily Times.

“A convoy of eight army trucks transporting supplies to the soldiers in Swat was not allowed to reach its destination,” officials said. “A major collision between the Taliban and the security forces was averted after the provincial government’s intervention, urging the military to call back the convoy.”

The army pulled out even though the convoy was reportedly accompanied by helicopter gunships.

The back story behind the Taliban pull out from Buner itself is interesting. According to a number of sources, the Pakistani government only worked out an agreement with the Taliban after US threats to invade Pakistani territory if the government was unwilling to confront the Taliban:

A senior Pakistani official said the Obama administration intervened after Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 60 miles from the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban’s inroads raised international concern, particularly in Washington, where officials feared that the nuclear-armed country, which is pivotal to the US war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda, was rapidly succumbing to Islamist extremists.

“The implicit threat - if you don’t do it, we may have to - was always there,” said the Pakistani official. He said that under American pressure, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency told the Taliban to withdraw from Buner on Friday.

Notice if you will the way this unnamed source delicately put the matter - the ISI told the Taliban to withdraw...which implies that the lines of communication are open between elements of the Pakistani government and the Taliban, and not necessarily in an unfriendly way.

The Taliban pull out from Buner itself was not exactly a total one. They left behind a skeleton force to see that sharia law was implemented in the district as per their agreement with the Pakistani government, and to recruit and train new followers.

The government reportedly has launched an offensive to try and clear those troops out of the area..but they're staying strictly away from the Taliban controlled areas in Swat and as the blocking of the military convoy shows, the offensive is not exactly whole hearted and is still confined to paramilitary Frontier Constabulary forces rather than the army.

As I feared, it looks like the Obama administration is mulling over sending US forces to confront the Taliban on its home ground in Swat.

This would be a huge error in my view, a major expenditure of blood and treasure to no purpose. There's no doubt that we would 'defeat' the Taliban, but we'd be left to deal with an ongoing insurgency as they melted into the back country, an occupation and another exercise in nation building that would tie us up for years in an ungovernable basket case of a country where they really, really hate America as it is.

Far better to destroy Pakistan's nukes in a protracted strike and to pull out, I think.And perhaps to kidnap a few key scientists like AQ Kahn and get them in US custody while we're at it. I doubt Obama is anything like that sensible, unfortunately.


B.Poster said...

FF, I agree with you that sending in US forces into Pakistan to confront TAliban forces in Swat is a bad idea for much of the same reasons that you list. In fact, I almost feel as though I could have written this part of the post myself!!

You suggest destroying Pakistan's nukes in a protracted military strike and kidnapping a few key scientists like AQ Kahn. I think this a good idea, at least it is better than the idea of sending in troops the way Obama and his allies seem to want to do, however, I have some problems with what you suggest.

First of all in order to destroy the nukes you have to have a good idea of where these things are. Given the past failures of US intellegence, I have pretty near zero confidence that they know with any degree of certainty where these nukes are. Second, in order to kidnap the scientists, you have to have a good idea of where they are as well. Again, I don't trust US intellegence enough to have any faith that they know where these people are. You can't kidnap them if you can't find them. Third, assuming you know where the nukes are and where the nuke scientists are, they will both be VERY well guarded. Given the worn down nature of America's military forces, I think it is questionable whether or not they would be able to carry out this mission right now. While I have more confidence in the military than I do in the intellegence agencies, the undersized military can only do so much. It is nearing the breaking point.

Perhaps my assessment of this situation is wrong. You have claimed to have sources on the ground in the region. Given your knowledge of this situation and the sources you have on the ground, I have the following questions for you: 1.) How likely do you think it is that our people know where the nukes are? 2.)How likely do you think it is that our people know where the nuke scientists are? 3.) Even if our people know with 100% certainty where the nukes and the nuke scientists are, how likely do you think it is that our people would be able to carry out a mission of eliminating the nukes and kidnapping the nuke scientists?

Personally I would say the answers to 1 and 2 are that our people really have no clue where the weapons are and where the scientists are. It might be possible to make an educated guess based on what outside of the CIA or the American government has. So based on our own knowledge the chances of our people knowing where the nukes or the scientists are is about zero. Maybe working off of information that others have there might be a 10% chance of us knowing where the weapons and the scientists are. Even if we knew the answers to one and two, I think the military would have at best a 50% chance of carrying out a mission to eliminate the weapons and neutralize the scientists. Givent he worn down nature of the military right now, there is a shortage of the properly trained military forces.

As an aside, I would add that I think India probably knows where the nukes are and where the nuke scientists are but I don't see them being willing to share that with us. America is a country that cannot be trusted right now. We have a president who is willing to stab his own CIA in the back by releasing the interrogation memos. I certainly would not trust Obaam right now.

Sorry about the length of the post. Given your knowledge of the situation combined with your sources on the ground how would answer the three questions I pose. Yout patience to address this is much appreciated.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi poster,
Th elocation of Pakistan's nukes is pretty well known, if nothing else because Musharraf and Zardari were required to assure us that they were secure to get th eaid we send them.

I have no doubt that we could take them out if we wanted to.

As for AQ Kahn and the other scientists, I doubt they're so well guarded that they couldn't be kidnapped or taken out as well.

My personal assessment is that the probability of taking out th enukes an dmissile sites is at least 90% or better. The scientists? 75% or better.

Th eodds on Obama signing off on something like that? Maybe 10
5 if not less.


B.Poster said...


Thanks for the reply to my post. I checked out the link you gave on the Pakistani nuclear sites. Your assumption seems to assume we can trust what Musharraf and Zardari told us. I would tend to agree with you that the chances of Obama signing off on something like this are pretty slim. If he orders US troops into areas in Pakistan controlled by the Taliban, we simply don't seem to have the available troops to eradicate the Taliban and to secure the area once this is done. The military commanders on the ground are likely aware of this problem. At some point, the military commanders may refuse to follow bone headed orders, such as this would be.

If we are not going to eliminate the nuclear weapons and the facilities and neutralize the nuclear scientists, then our only choice would seem to be to withdraw entirely from Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere in the Middle East, and probably from every where on earth that we have military forces and take up defensible positions along the United States borders.