October 19, 2009

Pakistan invades Waziristan

POLITICS - It should be noted that South Waziristan is actually a province of Pakistan, but it has become a lawless province in recent years because it has become overrun with an army of approx. 10,000 fighters including about 7,000 - 8,000 of Afghanistan's Taliban fighters, a few remnants from Al Qaeda (according to the CIA, but we know how inaccurate their info is), 1,500 hardened fighters from Uzbekistan, and mercenaries working for various local war lords.

30,000 Pakistani soldiers invaded Waziristan on Saturday and so far they claim to have killed 60 militants by Sunday evening, losing 6 soldiers in the process. There is currently a ban on journalists in the region to prevent the Taliban from garnering info about troop movements and locations.

The Pakistani army has tried three times previously to seize control of Waziristan since 2004, an area of approx. 3,300 square km, which has been under Taliban control for about 5 years now and serving as a base of operations for attacks across the Afghanistan border. Previous attempts to invade Waziristan called upon approx. 7,000 Pakistani soldiers, which proved to be an inadequate number.

American, Canadian and allied troops are not allowed to cross the border in pursuit of Taliban fighters, and the United States and other countries have been pressuring Pakistan to remove the threat from their side of the border.

The Taliban has also been staging attacks on the Pakistani government, killing 175 Pakistanis this month alone.

Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq said Sunday the militants had inflicted "heavy casualties" on troops and boasted "We will defend our land till our last man and our last drop of our blood. - This is a war bound to end in the defeat of the Pakistan army."

The Taliban has been seeking some sort of negotiation process wherein they could eventually return to their homes in Afghanistan peacefully, but are largely opposed to the social and political changes that have taken place in their homeland since 2001. The United States and current Afghan government is unwilling to turn a blind eye to militants who pose a potential threat if they are allowed to reintegrate into Afghan society.

According to fleeing residents waving white flags the Taliban are offering very little resistance and are simply migrating to safer regions. Some of the Taliban are leaving behind arms and ammunition, perhaps a sign they've given up on violence or simply had too much to carry.

Last week approx. 24,000 people fled from South Waziristan to neighbouring districts. 150,000 civilians have left in recent months after learning the Pakistan army was planning a huge offensive. Its believed 350,000 civilians are still living in the region.

Pakistan's military and security forces are currently on high alert, fearing counter attacks by fleeing militants. Militants are also expected to stick to guerrilla warfare, sniping at entrenched army positions and supply lines, creating road side bombs and settling in for the harsh winter.

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