Ominous news from Pakistan

Very bad news from the tribal regions of Pakistan, as reported by Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal:

The Taliban in South Waziristan have overrun a fort manned by the Frontier Corps in the town of Sararogha. During a massed assault, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the military post manned by 42 paramilitary soldiers of the Frontier Corps. The military claimed seven soldiers and up to 50 Taliban were killed. Reports indicate 20 paramilitaries may have been captured by the Taliban.

The Pakistani military confirmed the assault.

* * * * *

The Taliban conducted a well-planned military operation. Reports indicate a force sized from 400 to 1,000 Taliban fighters, indicating a battalion- to brigade-sized assault force. Organizing such a large assault force for a night operation requires planning and training. The Taliban breached the wall of the Sararogha fort using explosives, then rushed through the breach to capture the fort.

Read the entire post at the above link. Roggio also supplies a map of the region in question.

Why is this such terrible news, given the fort attacked was a lightly manned garrison? For several reasons: first, most of the Pakistani government outposts in these remote tribal regions are manned with minimal forces. These are rough, sparsely-populated areas with little commerce and no amenities. So, who is assigned to them? If troops from the more civilized areas of the country are deployed, they quickly become demoralized from the isolation, and frequently desert their posts. If those with ties to the region are assigned, they often have tribal loyalties which compete with their national duties, and may defect or collaborate.

That the Taliban felt confident enough to take the fort is also disturbing. While they amassed an overwhelmingly superior force, they had to know such an action invites retribution from the central government – but they apparently do not fear that response. They are growing bold and confident. Musharraf’s negotiated armistice with the radicals has enabled them to recruit and train significant forces undisturbed, and the results are only beginning to be seen.

Finally, in military campaigns, nothing breeds success like victory. This applies equally to conventional warfare and to rebel movements. If not immediately suppressed, the Taliban will add followers and sympathizers by winning the battle, and not just in the untamed tribal areas, but among the growing pockets of radicalism in the more populated provinces. Waziristan is the petrie dish for Islamic terrorism, awash in growth medium now.

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