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Endless Whack-A-Mole On The NorthWest Frontier
Posted by on February 7th, 2010

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By Steve Hynd

Ahead of the well-publicized new massive offensive about to take place in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Afghan Taliban fighters are flocking to the region and digging in. Helman has already been declared “cleared” four times since 2001 so one has to wonder why this time the “clear, hold and build” pony is any more likely to make an appearance.

In fact, the Afghan security forces, which are meant to do the bulk of the “holding” part, are in such dire straits that President Karzai is thinking about instituting conscription – facing inadequate recruitment and attrition rates perhaps as high as 24% annually. Conscription is something even the Taliban didn’t do. Sounds like a propaganda win for Mullah Omar to me.

And over the border in Pakistan, the Pakistani military are doing their own version of whack-a-mole.

Pakistan’s army says its forces have recaptured a key Taliban stronghold in a region near the Afghan border.

A year ago, Pakistani forces had declared the group of villages called Damadola free of militants following a 2008 offensive.  But officials say Taliban and al-Qaida militants recently returned to defend the strategically-located stronghold north of Khar, the main town in the Bajaur tribal agency.

Pakistan’s military says its troops and a tribal militia, backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships, killed some 60 militants in the new offensive.  The military’s account has not been independently verified because aid workers and journalists are largely barred from the region.

Lastly, not to be left out, the CIA are getting into the whack-a-mole act at the leadership level – and keep digging up nastier leaders by their process of un-natural selection. A guy called Maulvi Noor Jamal may be the new de facto head of the Pakistani Taliban after rumors of Hakimullah Mehsud’s death by drone attack last week. Hakimullah replaced his own brother Baitullah, also killed by a drone, and was quickly accepted as even nastier than the original.

Mr. Noor Jamal rose to power as leader of the Taliban in the Kurram tribal area. He was given the additional responsibilities for the adjoining area of Orakzai when the Pakistani military began an offensive against the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan in October.

As overall commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Mr. Mehsud held sway over Orakzai, wielding as much power there as in his native South Waziristan, or even more.

Since his disappearance from the scene, the local militant commanders in Orakzai may now be seeking to exert their own identity and independence.

Mr. Noor Jamal had been close to Mr. Mehsud, one factor that might be in his favor if he does seek to replace him. He also maintains an intimidating reputation for brutality, something the video appears to support.

“He kills humans like one will kill chickens,” said one resident who left Kurram last year because he was wanted by Mr. Noor Jamal’s forces. He and another resident spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.

Drones “for the win”, eh?

Isn’t there a definition of insanity which involves keeping banging your head against the same wall to no effect?

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