It’s worth noting an alarming development that is the latest indicator of an increasingly dangerous situation.
On his superb site, The Long War Journal, Bill Roggio reports that the Taliban has overrun Pakistani government forces and captured a fort in Sararogha, a South Waziristan town on the Afghan border. Bill notes:
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 breech to capture the fort.
The Sararogha region, which abuts the Afghan border, is a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah’s fighters captured a company-sized military convoy in South Waziristan during a complex military operation in early September 2007. The Taliban and al Qaeda operate 29 training camps in North and South Waziristan, and the Taliban have been organizing along the lines of military formations. A senior US intelligence official familiar with the Taliban resurgence in Pakistan who wishes to remain anonymous stated the Taliban have organized militarily at the brigade level, if not higher.
Regarding Baitullah, who is the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Bill adds that “Pakistani intelligence intercepted a communication where Baitullah took credit for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and stated he was in the town near the Afghan border.”
At an FPM syposium last year, Steve Schippert (of ThreatsWatch) reported that “the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance is believed to have amassed combined-forces strength of about 200,000 fighters throughout the FATA and NWFP region.” What’s more, they continue to churn out more and more at the 29 training camps Bill refers to above. By contrast, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, NATO has a force of about 54,000. Half are U.S. forces; of the remainder, many are restricted to non-combat roles — the Brits, Dutch and Canadians honorably excepted.
This is very serious stuff.