Taliban Changing Terror Strategy In Pakistan?

May 27, 2011

Tayyeb Afridi is visiting KUT from the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan, a region that borders Afghanistan. He is on a US Pakistan Journalism Exchange through the International Center for Journalists.

It looks like the Taliban in Pakistan has changed its strategy after the killing of Osama bin Laden. The group used to target civilian places like Mosques and public places for bombing to punish the government for supporting the so-called War on Terror. 

But that’s changing. Look at the most recent spillover of terrorism into Pakistan. The recent May 25 car bomb blast targeted a police station in Peshawar and killed eight security personnel. Among the seven were police commandos and a Special Services Group (SSG) Commando with the Pakistan Army.

The place chosen for the attack was a Criminal Investigation Department working on crimes and militancy, and next to that police station, there was an SSG training Centre. The car blast was carried out at 4:35 am local time, when civilians were asleep or at the mosque offering prayers.  The timing of the attack meant no civilians were killed – only security personnel. If the attack had happened after dawn, there would have been many people on that road.

The same thing happened on the May 22 attack on the Pakistan Naval Base in Karachi. The brazen attack was carried out on Sunday night when everybody was off the road and no one was at the market. Reports say that ten to 20 militants entered the Pakistan Naval base in Karachi and the fighting went on for 17 hours. Militants and security personnel were killed. But no civilian causalities were reported.

On May 20, a U.S. Consulate vehicle in Peshawar, the northwestern capital of Pakhtunkhwa Province, was attacked by a remotely detonated bomb. Two Consulate officials were injured. One  passerby was killed and eight more civilians injured. The attack took place in a posh area called University Town at the morning rush hour when everybody was going to their offices. Many international organizations have offices in University Town of Peshawar.  But the casualties were low compared with other attacks where the Taliban chose heavily populated civilian targets.

There were no civilian casualties when the Taliban gunned down a Saudi diplomat in Karachi on May 16.

On May 12, in the first big retaliation of the Taliban to avenge the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals, two suicide attacks were staged against recruits in the Shabqadar Fort, located in District Charsada of Pakistan Northwestern province. Eighty people were killed. Sixty-six of those killed were paramilitary personnel who had just completed training and were on their way home for ten days. Fourteen civilians were killed in those attacks.

So you can see a change in the Taliban’s strategy in these attacks. The fact that the Taliban is aiming more for military targets suggests that they are now realizing they are losing popularity among Pakistan’s civilians – especially if you consider that there were no large public protests against the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.