By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan attacked a prison in Dera Ismail Khan yesterday resulting in the escape of over 200 prisoners. Reports indicate that some of the attackers engaged the prison guards outside the prison walls, while other units took up positions designed to deny access by Pakistani military units responding to the attack. A TTP spokesman stated that the attackers included around 150 fighters using a mix of weaponry along with suicide bombers.
The attack appears to have been well executed and its success suggests that the TTP had excellent intelligence on the facility. Dera Ismail Khan is rather close to the TTP known areas of operation making it accessible for physical surveillance possibly augmented by supporters in the facility. Some reports on the attack state that the attackers, once inside, had a fairly good idea of where they were going further which again suggests superior intelligence.
Washington is looking to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in the very near future and the race is on for influence following the U.S. absence. The larger Taliban movement is planning on this withdrawal and is looking to improve its situation once the U.S. leaves, but to do that it must rally its allies and ensure that it has an effective fighting force. A prison break of this magnitude will go a long way in preparing for the future and the Taliban’s role in Afghanistan. This cannot be a lone act, however. The Pakistani state is likewise fighting for influence in Afghanistan and would much rather use the Taliban towards its own ends rather than competing with the movement. In other words, Islamabad wants the Taliban movement to play a role, but it doesn’t want the movement to be overly effective – just effective enough to balance other players. Pakistan will do what it can to keep the size and capabilities of the Taliban in check, and it will likely be spurred on by this recent prison break.