Excellent article from the BBC covers Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, Paktika, Khost, Paktia, Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces in Afghanistan. The Taliban are most prominent in the South, in Helmand, Kandahar, Oruzgan and Zabul. They also have a strong presence in the East, in Khost, Paktika and Paktia and to the north in Kunar.
They have a lesser presence in Nangarhar, Ghazni, Logar and Wardak, but I think this article unnecessarily played down their presence in Ghazni. In Ghazni, the Taliban rule the night.
Ghazni is way worse off than Logar and Wardak.
In Pakistan, the Taliban have a strong presence all along the border, especially in Chaghai, Quetta, Toba Kakar, North and South Waziristan, Mohmand, Bajaur and Swat. I think they have a very strong presence in Dir also. In fact, I have long suspected that Osama bin Laden is hiding in Dir. Ayman al-Zawahiri recently married a woman from the Mohmand tribe, the major group in the Mohmand region.
They have a lesser presence in the Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber Agencies.
The Pakistani Taliban are divided into groups that mostly fight in Afghanistan and others that mostly fight in Pakistan. The ones that mostly fight in Afghanistan are the ones that the Pakistani government would be most likely to cut a deal with.
I think the article is correct that the Taliban leadership is in Quetta. It would not surprise me.
There are 24,000 militants in South Waziristan, including many foreign fighters who for all intents and purposes are part of Al Qaeda. The foreign jihadis, including Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and Uighurs, have married deeply into the local tribes and are now part of the neighborhood. In the West, a Taliban group fights mostly in Afghanistan, while in East, another group fights in Pakistan.
There are 10,000 militants in North Waziristan. Jalaluddin Haqqani is a powerful force here. The militants mostly use this area as a base for operations in Afghanistan, and Haqqani brokered a peace deal with the Pakistan government in 2006. Haqqani has an excellent force, and it was his forces who blew up the CIA base in Khost a while back, killing 8 CIA officers, including the CIA chief of Khost. That’s some darned good counterintelligence.
Orakzai and Kurram have a lesser Taliban factor due to many Shia living there. Shia want nothing to do with the hyper-Sunni Taliban. However, there are 2,000 militants in Orakzai controlled by Hakimullah Mehsud of the Mehsud tribe. He is also one of the big shots in South Waziristan. His forces are present in Orakzai and in Lower Kurram where there are few Shia.
They have filtered up to the Khyber Agency where they are behind a lot of the attacks around Peshawar. Peshawar is no longer a safe city. There is a strong Taliban presence in the slums on the outskirts of the city in particular.
The Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is present in the Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber Agencies. This group has been fighting Pakistani forces from the very start. The Pakistani government is currently in the midst of a large operation against militants in Mohmand and Khyber.
Maulvi Faqir Mohammad is the head of the Taliban in Bajaur, and he is a dangerous fellow. I’ve long suspected him of harboring top Al Qaeda figures. He has about 10,000 militants under his command. A truce ended hostilities here in 2009, and the TTP was supposed to dissolve itself and yield to the state. That has not happened, and they are back in charge of much of the Agency.
There are 5,000 militants in Mohmand Agency who are currently fighting the Pakistani government. The government is making good progress against them.
There was a large militant network of unknown size until recently in the Swat Valley. Swat had always been governed under archaic British colonial law which was ended in the early 1990s’s. This resulted in a campaign to impose Sharia Law. Finally, Sharia Law was imposed in 2009 as part of a deal with the government, but the fighting continued. Militants here were vicious, attacking anything and anyone having anything to do with the Pakistani state.
After a savage counterinsurgency by Pakistani forces, things are pretty calm. But there was a price to be paid for this, as many militants were murdered by state death squads who abducted them, tortured them horribly until their deaths and then left their mangled and mutilated bodies in the open for everyone to see. This was the Salvadorization of Swat Valley. It worked, but I don’t support such tactics.
All in all, the article lists 51,000 Pakistani Taliban forces in Pakistan, but I am afraid there are a lot more than that, since the forces in rear bases of Quetta and Chaghai are not included.