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January 12, 2007
NATO Scores Big Against Taliban In Ambush

NATO forces surprised Taliban remnants in an overnight raid, killing 150 and putting a major dent in an expected offensive from the Islamist forces. For the first time since Pervez Musharraf signed a peace deal with Waziristani tribal leaders, Pakistan took part in the attack:

Nato Forces in Afghanistan claimed yesterday to have thwarted a major Taliban border incursion from Pakistan by killing up to 150 insurgents in a night-time operation.

As part of what was thought to be a precursor to a Taliban spring offensive, Nato officials said that two columns totalling some 200 insurgents crossed into the Afghan border province of Paktika on Wednesday night.

Pakistani forces were informed of the movement of Taliban fighters and the Pakistani military claimed that it bombed and destroyed trucks used by the Taliban on its side of the border.

If so, it was the first military action by the Pakistani military since the government signed a peace deal with militants last year. US military commanders say border incursions have increased threefold since the deal.

That comes as no surprise. Many wondered whether Musharraf had decided to withdraw from the anti-terror coalition after his peace deal. Obviously, the Taliban and its allies took the deal to mean that Pakistan would give them a free hand to operate in the region, and now Afghanistan and NATO have a much harder task in securing the border. If Pakistan really did attack the retreating columns, one has to wonder how the Waziristani leaders will react.

Not that much exists of the two columns that attempted their own invasion. American spotters discovered the units while apparently still in Pakistan but heading towards the border. They waited until the columns had crossed over into Afghanistan and let rip with Apache gunships and bombers. The estimated strength of the columns was 200 men, and the US counted 130 dead on the scene. Blood trails pointed the way back across the border where the survivors fled, and supposedly Pakistan attacked the routed Taliban.

US and NATO officials insist that this cooperative attitude from the Pakistanis is not new. They point out that the numbers show a steep decline in Taliban activity since the summer and credit Pakistan for helping to make the difference. However, the Taliban does not usually expose itself during the early winter; since losing Afghanistan, they have usually waited for late winter and early spring to launch their new offensive campaigns. It hardly seems like the correct metric to use.

However, this demonstrates that Pakistan is still engaged in the region against the radical Islamists, even if a bit sporadically, and that's better than nothing at all. The Taliban should now understand that larger missions will get spotted before they start, and unless they enjoy taking 75% casualties on the march to their planned attacks, they don't really stand much of a chance as a military force.

UPDATE: John Negroponte says it's sporadic, too:

The head of US spying operations says the leaders of al-Qaeda have found a secure hideout in Pakistan from where they are rebuilding their strength.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said al-Qaeda was strengthening itself across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Pakistan rejected the comments, which are the most specific on the issue yet.

Negroponte also called Pakistan an ally in the global war on terrorism, but their deal in Waziristan has created a haven for the terrorists. Unfortunately, the US and NATO have little choice but to honor Musharraf's demands and not cross over themselves to chase down the Taliban to their hideouts, because if Musharraf either flipped or got deposed, the situation would get exponentially worse. In this case and for now, we have to take what we can get.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 12, 2007 5:26 AM

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