Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Lashkar Hero needed

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    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Lashkar Hero needed

    Pakistan claims victory after battle for key Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold

    Published Date: 26 October 2008
    PAKISTAN'S army yesterday captured a key militant stronghold near the Afghan border, a breakthrough in an offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda that has sent nearly 200,000 civilians fleeing for safety.
    Major General Tariq Khan said government forces captured Loi Sam, a strategic town in the Bajur tribal region, this week "and killed the militants who were hiding there".

    Qaeda fighters waging an intensifying insurgency on both sides of the frontier. Pakistan's army launched an offensive in Bajur in early August, saying the region had become a "mega-sanctuary" for militants who had set up a virtual mini-state.

    Khan said his troops overran the area and were now in "complete control" of the town. Eleven tribal militias had joined the government side in the region, he said. Still, he forecast that it could take up to a year before authorities could gain complete control of Bajur. 

    Although government restrictions make it impossible to verify accounts of the fighting, Khan said 1,500 suspected militants and 73 troops died in the operation. Residential areas have been badly damaged, but no figures were given for civilian casualties. 

    The operations in Bajur are one arm of the Pakistan military's plans to confront the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but the other is to enlist the help of 

    tribal militias, known as lashkars, who have become a crucial tool of Pakistan's strategy in the tribal belt, where the army has been fighting the Taliban for more than two months in a more protracted slog than anticipated. 

    The emergence of the lashkars is a sign of the tribesmen's rising frustration with the ruthlessness of the Taliban, but also of their traditional desire to run their own affairs. 

    The tribesmen, armed with weaponry from the 1980s Afghan war, are facing better-equipped, highly motivated Taliban fighters who have burned homes of tribal leaders and assassinated others who have dared to participate in the resistance. 

    In the past four years, the Taliban has killed as many as 500 pro-government tribal elders and has attracted uneducated youth with the lure of money and stature. They have pulled tribesmen suspected of backing the militia out of buses and cars and used suicide bombers against them. In Orakzai, where 

    1,000 tribesmen were meeting on October 10 and had just decided to form a lashkar, a suicide bomber killed more than 100 tribesmen and wounded many more. 

    The next day, government forces struck back in Orakzai, but helicopter gunships hit more civilians than militants, forcing a large number of people to leave the area and providing space for the militants to occupy, residents of the area said. 

    The Pakistani army and government have not been able to inculcate the lashkars with the needed confidence, said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province. "You put these people upfront and you will get them chewed up," Aziz said. 

    Yet if the lashkars' fragility is a problem for the Pakistan army, so too is the army's unreliability when the lashkars try to oppose the Taliban. In the Charmang area of Bajaur, a Taliban stronghold in the foothills of the mountains that border Afghanistan, elders formed a lashkar in the village of Hilal Khel. 

    Immediately, the Taliban brought in 600 reinforcements from Afghanistan under the command of Zia ur-Rehman, a well-known leader. 

    The Taliban kidnapped and killed four tribal leaders of the lashkar, leaving their bodies on the roadside, their throats slit. Then there was fighting between the lashkar armed with aged Kalashnikovs and Taliban fighters wielding rocket launchers and heavy guns. 

    After they had prevailed, the Taliban burned houses in several villages, an act that is considered a particular humiliation. 

    A request by the lashkar for help from the military went unanswered. 


    Who will be the hero of Lashkars, and lead then against the Taliban.
    Paki military is trying to prove its self to the Lashkars.

    Our readers know any canidates, discuss in comments.




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