The death of the TTP–chagrin in Delhi


Significant leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have been killed or captured in an onslaught of frontier ground and air attacks. “The militant command and control centres and their caches have been dismantled or captured,” said Major-General Tariq Khan, one of the country’s most experienced commanders in the frontier war with the Taliban. “The kind of hits the leadership has taken, the casualties they have taken, the TTP [Pakistani Taliban] is no longer significant,” he said. “It has ended as a cohesive force. It doesn’t exist any more as an umbrella organisation that can influence militancy anywhere.”

The claims come at a time of improved military co-operation between America and Pakistan, in which US drones have killed a number of key Pakistani Taliban commanders, and Pakistani security agents have arrested at least four senior Afghan Taliban leaders over the past month.

It was no coincidence that two US special forces soldiers waited in a courtyard near the general’s office in the Bala Hisar fortress in Peshawar. “The [US] Socom Special Ops Group has a few liaison officers with me,” General Khan said. “They iron out the issues on the border during combat.”

The general commands 45,000 troops from the Frontier Corps, the locally recruited federal paramilitary force based in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

He is a central figure in Operation Rah-e-Nijat (“Path to Deliverance”) which began in the South Waziristan tribal agency in October, and has been killing or clearing the Taliban of the Mehsud tribe with a speed that British forces fighting there during the last century would have envied. The TTP have found themselves attacked by drones or harried by ground forces throughout all but one of Pakistan’s seven tribal border agencies, known collectively as the FATA.

“The military was keen to smash the myth of the Mehsud invincibility in Waziristan and to be fair it has done so,” said one Western diplomat. “And since, they have gone on to hit the Taliban throughout FATA with a shifting set of operations combining air power, artillery and assault.”

The TTP commander Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in August. His successor, Hakimullah, is thought to have died of wounds received in a US drone attack in January.
Whereas Baitullah’s death was followed by a dramatic upsurge in retaliatory terrorist attacks across Pakistan, violence has sharply subsided since the death of Hakimullah and the displacement of his forces from South Waziristan, suggests disarray in the TTP.

Hakimullah’s deputy and cousin, Qari Hussain, a central figure in the TTP suicide bomber campaign, was also probably dead, General Khan said. The Taleban leadership in five of the six remaining agencies was claimed to be either dead, on the run, or in captivity. More than 730 Taliban fighters have been killed since October, according to Pakistani officers, with the loss of 79 soldiers.

Of al-Qaeda, however, there seemed suspiciously little evidence.

General Khan said: “There was some Arab influence in terms of resources and money. We haven’t found a dedicated al-Qaeda command-and- control centre. My commandant in Bajaur . . . says it’s like a pinch of flour in a bag of salt — you get the flavour but can’t catch the individuals.”(The Times)

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