Battle in Pakistan

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. Pakistan says militants launched a large scale coordinated assault on a military outpost last night. The outpost is I the Orakzai tribal area in the northwest of the country. The Pakistani Army says the militants were beaten back and suffered heavy losses. The Army's statement can't be independently verified as the region is under military control. The BBC's Aleem Maqbool is in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. How unusual is this kind of attack Aleem?

ALEEM MAQBOOL: Well attacks are not so unusual and we've seen all levels of sophistication shown by Taliban militants, particularly over the last six to eight months. But this was something that did look very coordinated, indeed. What the Army is saying is that during the night dozens of Taliban militants attacked a military check post in Orakzai, as you say. They took control of that checkpoint at least temporarily, and in doing that they killed several soldiers. The Army then carried out an operation and they subsequently regained the checkpoint and they say that at least 25 militants died in that recapturing of the military post. But as you rightly say, it's very difficult to get there, to get independent verification of all of that. But attacks are going on very regularly in this little agency just on the border of Afghanistan. It's an agency where there have been skirmishes for a while, but it seems to be building just in recent weeks.

WERMAN: One report said many of the dead militants in the Orakzai were foreign; Arabs and Uzbeks. What have you heard?

MAQBOOL: We've heard that too. But again, we can't verify these things, but it's not, again, unusual. There are militants that cross, backwards and forwards from Afghanistan. There are militants, there have been militants for 30 years or so that have Arab origin. You know we're now talking about potentially sons of those people and other generations. A lot of these Arabs have married into local communities and so we have a mixture there. So it's not unusual to hear that. Certainly in South Waziristan where there was this major operation and where the Taliban had a real stronghold for a long time, there were large groups of Uzbeks, of foreign fighters of Saudi origin, all kinds of foreign nationals there. The feeling is that perhaps all that his happening with these subsequent operations is that these militants are being shifted around because really a lot of the major players are not being captured or killed.

WERMAN: There is a senior Pakistani delegation winding up a visit to the U.S. right now. Do you know what the U.S view is of these actions in Orakzai?

MAQBOOL: Well certainly they have praised the Pakistani Army's operations across the northwest, that is one aspect of Pakistani policy that the White House is pleased with. The feeling is, though, from the White House is that while Pakistan is getting much better at tackling the threat to themselves, it still hasn't quite got there in terms of tackling the other threats and perhaps even supporting the other threats like the Afghan Taliban who have been provided to all intents and purposes, safe haven in Pakistan for some time and other threats to coalition troops across the border and American interests.

WERMAN: Interestingly Aleem, it now seems that every tribal area has seen significant action by the Pakistani security forces except for North Waziristan and that area is cited as one of the possible refuges for Osama Bin Laden, why has it been left alone?

MAQBOOL: Well that is precisely what we're talking about here. The fact that not just Osama Bin Laden, but the Afghan Taliban and all kinds of other figures are reputed to be in that area. Of course the Pakistani authorities say that's not true, if he was there they'd know about it. They say it's simply an issue of resources. They can't carry out a major operation in South Waziristan and North Waziristan as well and that's why they want to prepare the ground for a big operation in North Waziristan by taking control of South Waziristan. But now they say they don't have the manpower. They have a relatively small, professional Army. They don't have the resources to deal with it.

WERMAN: The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad. Aleem, thank you very much.

MAQBOOL: No problem.