It’s something of an open secret that Pakistan and Afghanistan are engaged in a low-level border conflict. But for many years militants have crossed the border to attack both militaries as well. Today has seen the largest such battle, now in its second day.
News agencies reported that up to 35 of the attackers had been killed. Three civilians, including two women, were also killed in the attack.
The fighting started on Wednesday morning after at least 200 militants crossed the border and attacked a police post in Barawal, a village surrounded by rugged mountains and forests in the Shaltalo area of Upper Dir, a district in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Shaltalo is near the border with Kunar Province of Afghanistan. The militants also destroyed at least two schools and torched several houses.
Interestingly, Dir has always kind of been a hotbed of militancy and hostility to the government in Islamabad (Lincoln Keiser wrote an excellent book about that very topic in 1994). But I don’t think Dir is all that strategic to the fighting that’s happening—rather, I suspect the police there were attacked because it was convenient to reach.
Either way, as the Taliban’s activities take on new forms this year it becomes increasingly clear that, in fact, their momentum wasn’t really “broken,” as ISAF steadfastly insisted the last six months. No, their momentum was shifted to other areas. And now we must scratch our heads about what to do about it.