Western forces poised to halt Taliban tide - Asia - World - The Independent

Western forces poised to halt Taliban tide

Western special forces are poised to increase their clandestine military operations in Pakistan to stop the flood of Taliban fighters pouring into Afghanistan, amid concerns that the militants are "winning the war".

As fears grow that the Taliban's strength has been underestimated and not enough is being done to stop militants crossing Afghanistan's porous border, Western forces are considering taking the controversial step of carrying out more missions in Pakistan.

In recent weeks, increased attacks by Taliban fighters on Western and Afghan targets, including the killing of 10 French soldiers and the attempted storming of an American base, have been linked by Nato officials to peace deals struck between the militants and Pakistan's government and an unwillingness in some parts of the Islamabad establishment to |confront extremists.

At the same time, the widespread condemnation by Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, of a Nato-led air raid aimed at a Taliban commander which killed up to 90 civilians, including women and children, has added impetus to the need for more on-the-ground operations.

At the weekend, the de facto leader of Pakistan's government, Asif Ali Zardari, admitted: "The world is losing the war. I think at the moment, the Taliban definitely has the upper hand."

The resurgent Taliban has profited from the increased political turmoil in Pakistan, which saw Pervez Musharraf, considered by the West to be a stalwart ally, resign as president last week.

Earlier today, the chaos deepened as the former Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, withdrew from the coalition government in a row over the reinstatement of sacked judges. While his resignation will be unlikely to trigger a snap election, it adds to the confusion and the belief by some analysts that militants have seized on a perceived power vacuum in Islamabad since February's elections, which installed the civilian government.

Meanwhile, under pressure from Washington, which has provided it with millions of dollars, Pakistan's government announced yesterday it was outlawing the main Taliban organisation in the country, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, saying it would freeze its assets. Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, said: "This organisation is a terrorist organisation and has created mayhem against public life." The group has claimed responsibility for a wave of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds since the fragile civilian government took power.

American, British and Afghan officials claim there are up to 80 rudimentary Taliban and al-Qa'ida training camps in Pakistan, churning out insurgents often with the connivance of elements in the Pakistani military and the notorious ISI intelligence service. The cross-border flow of militants has resulted in a blurring of the distinction between Pakistan Taliban and the Taliban "proper". Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, is believed to be living in Pakistan's tribal areas, as is Osama bin Laden.

But increasing the number of clandestine operations inside Pakistan would be a major step, with huge potential for serious repercussions. While it is generally recognised that the CIA and special forces operate covertly in the country, the subject is sensitive and not publicly discussed. Previously, Pakistan forces have publicly taken responsibility for missile attacks and other military strikes probably carried out by US forces.

To enable the clandestine operations, it is understood the US has established bases just inside Afghanistan's border with Pakistan. They include Lowara Mundi, facing North Waziristan, Mughalgai, across the border from the training camp of the Taliban commander Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Gurbaz near Khost.

Yet the challenge presented is far from straightforward and, for all of the West's rhetoric about the so-called war on terror, there is no easy fix. Recent military operations in the tribal areas by Pakistani forces – carried out under pressure from the West – have caused a refugee crisis, with up to 300,000 civilians fleeing the Bajaur region alone.

Military operations have increasingly resulted in retaliatory suicide bomb attacks, the most recent at a weapons factory near Islamabad in which about 80 people were killed. While the West may criticise the civilian government's efforts to broker peace deals with the Taliban, Mr Musharraf – whom it supported for so long – did the same thing when it suited him.

Covert operations in Pakistan were curtailed after the country's election so as not to embarrass and antagonise the newly elected civilian government. But the exasperation felt at the seeming failure of the Pakistanis to control the Taliban was made clear to the new head of the Pakistani army General Ashfaq Kayani, during meetings in the Afghan capital with US General David McKiernan, head of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and General Bismillah Khan, Afghanistan's chief of general staff.

Meanwhile, the US has also provided Pakistan with what it says is clear evidence that elements of the ISI were involved in the recent bomb attack on India's embassy in Kabul, resulting in 54 deaths.

One senior Western commander involved in the Afghan operations said: "The facts are pretty plain, the deals across the border have led to a significant rise in insurgent activities here in Afghanistan. We know where these guys are being trained and armed to be sent to Afghanistan to kill civilians and Afghan and coalition troops. This is obviously a political hot potato, but we would be failing in our duty if we did not seek to counter this."

Asked why operations against the Taliban were not being left to the Pakistanis, he said: "I can only echo what President Bush told the visiting Pakistanis the other day – that, in effect, information we share with them seems to end up with the bad guys."

Anthony Cordesman, of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies said he believed a resurgent al-Qa'ida, harboured by the Taliban in the years before the suicide attacks of 11 September 2001, could be the result of failing to tackle the militants emanating from Pakistan's tribal areas. He added: "The US is now losing the war against the Taliban. Pakistan may officially be an ally but much of its conduct has made it a major threat to US strategic interests."

A number of Taliban leaders have been killed and captured in Pakistan by US-led forces engaged in a counter-terrorist operations. They are, however, formally considered a separate mission, which allows the Nato-led Isaf to say it is not involved.

In contrast to the Taliban, which has a steady source of recruits from Pakistan, Nato forces continue to be tightly stretched. The US is due to dispatch between 7,000 and 10,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, but other countries in the alliance have been less forthcoming.

Many of the member nations, including France, Canada and Germany, are already facing hostile public opinion by deploying soldiers in Afghanistan.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week