By: Morgan Clasgens, Analyst, Asia Section
Analytical Question: Current and projected state of the Pakistani Taliban
The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on March 20, 2019, which killed six Pakistani police officers in the Balochistan region of Pakistan. This attack, along with the multiple other attacks carried out by the Pakistani Taliban this year, indicates a steady increase in organization and coordination among the Pakistani Taliban in recent months.
In 2018, the Pakistani Taliban appointed a new chief, Noor Wali Mehsud, following the death of Mullah Fazlullah[i]. During Fazlullah’s lead, the Pakistani Taliban lost support due to tribal infighting. Mehsud’s appointment brought the leadership back to the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, its home base[ii]. In September Noor Wali issued a new “code of conduct” as a way to reorganize and coordinate among the group. The new code of conduct outlines the targets of the Pakistani Taliban, which includes all state institutions, notably military, police, judiciary and civilian government installations[iii].
On March 20, 2019, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a checkpoint in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. This assault was in the Sanjawi area of the Ziarat district. Multiple Taliban militants rode motorcycles to the checkpoint, armed with automatic weapons and killed all six Pakistani police officers on duty. After the assault, the assailants fled the scene and a search operation was launched in the area. At the time of the attack it was unknown who was responsible, then the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility in an email that was sent to the media[iv].
This report of the attack indicates a steady increase of attacks claimed by the Pakistani Taliban in 2019. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for several attacks in 2019, an attack at a security base[v], another at an exam center for those wishing to join the security forces[vi], a police vehicle[vii], and finally the recent attack that occurred on March 20, 2019 at the checkpoint[viii]. This is important because it shows the Pakistani Taliban have coordinated a number of attacks in places that should have been secured by the state and have caused many causalities, which was outlined as a goal in the new code of conduct[ix]. This steady series of attacks indicates better coordination and cooperation among the Pakistani Taliban.
Noor Wali Mehsud has brought power back to the Mehsud tribe and has aimed his new leadership at reorganizing the group and bringing coordination among the different factions of the Pakistani Taliban[x]. It can be stated with moderate confidence that the Pakistani Taliban will regain control of the South Waziristan area of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the near term and try to regain control in the other regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
[i]Asia News International (2019) “Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud Appointed as New Chief”, ANI, 24 June. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[ii] Anonymous (2018). “TTP Appoints Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud as Chief After Fazlullah’s Killing”, Dawn, 23 June. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[iii] Jadoon, A. and Mahmood, S. (2018) “Fixing the Cracks in the Pakistani Taliban’s Foundation: TTP’s Leadership Returns to the Mehsud Tribe”, CTC Sentinel, 11(11), pp21-23.
[iv] Anonymous.(2019) “Taliban Kills 6 Pakistan Police in Balochistan Checkpoint Attack”, The Defense Post, 20 March. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[v] Mackenzie, J. (2019) “Gunmen attack security base in Pakistan’s Balochistan province”, Reuters, 1 January. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[vi] Schuettler, D., Osmond, E. (2019) “Gunmen kill nine in attack on Pakistan police station”, Reuters, 29 January. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[vii] Mehsud, S. (2019) “Four Police Killed in Pakistan Ambush Claimed by Taliban Splinter Group”, U.S News and World Report, 12 February. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[viii] Anonymous (2019) “Six Pakistani Security Officers Die in Terror Attack in Balochistan”, Sputnik, 20 March. Accessed 20 March 2019.
[ix] Jadoon, A. and Mahmood, S. (2018) “Fixing the Cracks in the Pakistani Taliban’s Foundation: TTP’s Leadership Returns to the Mehsud Tribe”, CTC Sentinel, 11(11), pp21-23.
[x] Jadoon, A. and Mahmood, S. (2018) “Fixing the Cracks in the Pakistani Taliban’s Foundation: TTP’s Leadership Returns to the Mehsud Tribe”, CTC Sentinel, 11(11), pp21-23.