April 10, 2010
Pakistan is the headquarters of both al Qaeda and the Taliban, while Pakistani nuclear scientists have met with Osama bin Laden and proliferated nuclear technology to rogues states such as North Korea. Few countries in the world worry the Obama administration more. In past months the Taliban have moved deep into Pakistan, at one point taking up positions just 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad. The Pakistani military is pushing back with aggressive military operations in the Swat Valley, which the government effectively ceded to Taliban control earlier this year. The fighting has displaced more than 2 million Pakistanis.
Just how stable is this nuclear-armed state? Where are Pakistan’s nukes, and how large is the country’s nuclear program? Just how strong are Pakistan’s militants? And how has the United States or the Pakistani state dealt with them either through military action or peace agreements? These are some of the questions we hope to try to answer in these graphics.
As the violence rises in Pakistan, Americans are increasingly worried about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal; 87 percent in a poll this year said this issue concerned them. The locations of Pakistan’s dozen or so nuclear facilities are largely a secret, but what is known is that one of the main nuclear research facilities is in Kahuta, outside Islamabad. This is where uranium is enriched via gas centrifuges. The district of Khushab, in Punjab province, is home to two plutonium production reactors, which may have eclipsed the uranium enrichment at Kahuta as Pakistan’s primary source of fissile material.
One key fact: Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear weapons program in the world.
Locations and functions of the various parts of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure are available here (pdf) in a map from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Jihadi violence has grown exponentially in Pakistan over the last several years. Insurgent attacks have increased more than 700 percent since 2005, and suicide attacks have increased 20-fold. Suicide bombers managed, for instance, to strike in three places in Pakistan in just one 24-hour period in April.
*January to June 2009
The number of Pakistanis who say their country is heading in the wrong direction has tracked closely with the accelerating trend of jihadi violence.
|Pakistan headed in wrong direction (pdf)||45%||59%||86%||81%|
Suicide Attack Locations
One way to map the spread of violence in Pakistan is by tracking the locations of suicide attacks. By analyzing reliable media reports and data from the Pak Institute for Peace Studies in Islamabad, we were able to create the maps below for 2004 to 2008.
|Suicide attacks in Pakistan||6||3||9||60||63|
The trend is clear: From only six suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2004 to 63 in 2008, terrorist violence has risen exponentially. Click the highlighted areas for more details about each attack.
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Predator Strikes and al Qaeda
Just three days into his presidency, Obama authorized a near-simultaneous pair of drone strikes against targets in North and South Waziristan. Between when he took office and August 7, there have been 28 strikes, roughly one per week. Our analysis shows that these attacks have killed some 350 people, with the August 5 attack killing Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Only one other strike has killed another important al Qaeda or Taliban leader, presumably because many of them have decamped from the tribal areas following the 34 drone attacks there last year which killed at least 10 militant leaders. Today the drone program seems to have hit the point of diminishing returns.
The drone strikes have certainly put pressure on al Qaeda. In 2008, the terrorist group released less than half the number of audio- and videotapes that it did the year before. An organization which is concentrating on survival has little time to put out communiqués. This year al Qaeda is cranking out a relatively higher volume of tapes than it did last year, but still far less than it did at its peak in 2007.
|Al Qaeda tapes released||–||6||11||13||16||58||97||49||41*|
*as of August 5, 2009
Hearts and Minds
Since 2007, both Osama bin Laden and the Taliban have been losing some popularity in Pakistan, a drop that coincides with the dramatic increases in terrorist attacks there. But this has not translated into more support for the United States; fewer than one in four Pakistani respondents have a favorable view of America. And when asked to name the principal threat to their security, more than half chose the United States, while only 8 percent said al Qaeda.
|Favorable views of bin Laden||51%||–||46% (pdf, p. 41)||34% (pdf, p. 58)|
|Favorable views of the Taliban||–||–||38% (pdf, p. 35)||23% (pdf, p. 49)|
|Positive views of U.S.||23%||26% (pdf, p. 13)||19% (pdf, p. 21)||17% (pdf, p. 28)|
Pakistani Efforts to Stop the Violence
Military: Examples of Fighting Between Militants and Pakistani Security Forces
March to April 2009. Taliban militants began to impose sharia law in the Swat Valley as part of the conditions of the Malakand Accord, but their incursion into Buner sparked a more robust Pakistani military response than in the past. The fighting continues today between some 4,000 militants and 15,000 soldiers.
November 2007. Extremists loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, Taliban leader in Swat, seized territory in the Swat Valley and attempted to impose sharia law over the region. The Pakistani Army responded by sending a force of 20,000 soldiers to counter the radical cleric, and several weeks of fighting followed. By early December, the military claimed to have driven all the militants out, killing nearly 300 and capturing 140. The rest of Fazlullah’s estimated 5,000 fighters melt back into the population.
July 2007. The Red Mosque siege in Islamabad, a violent confrontation between militants campaigning for the imposition of sharia law and Pakistani security forces, left at least 87 people dead, including militant cleric leader Abdur Rashid Ghazi and 11 members of the Pakistani special forces. Although the Pakistani military pushed the militants out of the mosque after a week of fighting, suicide attacks drastically ratcheted up following the conflict; between January and June, there were 11, but between July and December there were 49.
March 2004. Heavy fighting between 500 Taliban militants and some 5,000 Pakistani soldiers broke out near Wana, South Waziristan. More than 100 militants and soldiers died in the conflict, which ended after nearly a week of back-and-forth hostilities. The next month, the Pakistani Army signed a peace agreement with the militants, viewed as a concession to the extremists.
Pakistan Army Deployments
There are 555,000 military personnel, of whom 360,000 are near the border with India.
As of May 10, President Asif Ali Zardari said 125,000 troops are on the border with Afghanistan. In April, the Pakistani military moved 6,000 troops from the border with India (that were moved there after the 2008 Mumbai attacks perpetrated by Pakistani militants).
More than 1,500 Pakistani soldiers have been killed fighting the militants since 2001.
In the past several months, Pakistan has moved 15,000 soldiers into the area around Swat and Buner following the collapse of the February peace agreement with the Taliban.
On Dec. 28, following the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which heighted tensions between India and Pakistan, the Pakistan Army moved 20,000 troops from the Afghan border to the Indian border.
Some 80,000 soldiers on the border with Afghanistan engaged with militants.
Some 70,000 troops were in tribal regions along Afghan border.
The Pakistani Army sent the first of 6,000 soldiers to the Afghan border, an area where it previously had no presence.
Diplomatic: ‘Peace’ Agreements
For the past five years, the Pakistani military and/or government has signed a number of “peace” deals with the Taliban. Generally these deals have been ratifications of military failure, and in any event, every deal has brought further Taliban advances, suggesting that appeasing the Taliban is invariably counterproductive.
–February 2009. Swat Valley truce, known as the Malakand Accord.
–September 2006. North Waziristan truce between Pakistani government and Taliban; after the truce, Pakistan’s Army pulled back “tens of thousands of troops.”
–February 2005. Sararogha peace agreement with the Pakistani Army and the Taliban and (Baitullah) Mehsud tribes.
–April 2004. Shakai peace agreement between South Waziristan militants and Pakistani Army.
Taliban Presence in Pakistan
Below is the best map we have found about the status of the Taliban presence today. It was based on a thorough and labor-intensive analysis by BBC’s Urdu service.
Source: Foreign Policy