Taliban attacks spread to another Pakistan district

Bill Roggio:

As the government is conducting military operations against the Taliban in Dir and Buner in the insurgency-plagued Northwest Frontier Province, Taliban fighters have moved into the district of Mansehra and established a base and a training camp.

More than 100 heavily armed Taliban fighters have established a base of operations in the Kala Dhaka region of Mansehra and set up training camp in Loniyian, Dawn reported. Only 100 poorly armed and trained Levies personnel are said to be on hand to halt a Taliban incursion.

Loniyian "once used to be a training camp of militants that was closed after the government launched a crackdown on such camps," security officials told Dawn. "The official sources claimed that the camp had again been made functional where new recruits were being trained." Last summer, US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that 157 terror training camps were in operation in Pakistan’s northwest.

The Mansehra Taliban are said to be led by Moman Khan, who claimed to have been commander of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi but said he no longer works with the group. Khan is said to have been behind recent threats and attacks against non-governmental organizations in neighboring Abbottabad. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has been co-opted by al Qaeda and has conducted numerous attacks inside Pakistan.

The tribes have expressed displeasure with the Taliban encroachment and have ordered the Taliban to leave. Khan claimed he has not conducted any acts of violence.

The Taliban expansion eastward from the tribal areas has put Pakistani and Western leaders into a panic. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Peshawar and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. Last week, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam. Last week, an Islamist government official claimed the Taliban was advancing into Haripur and Mansehra.

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The Taliban disbursal strategy puts more pressure on the government to come up with an effective counterinsurgency strategy, which requires and increased force to space ratio that makes moves like this more difficult because it stops the insurgents ability to move to contact without detection. Clearly Pakistan has no such strategy at this point and its negotiations with the US are a further demonstration of a lack of strategy.

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