The Taliban and drug gangs have, after two years of strenuous efforts come to control six percent of Afghan territory and about two percent of the population. The gangs and Islamic terrorists are a growing presence in another 14 percent of the territory (containing about nine percent of the population).
All this presence and control is in rural areas important to the production and movement of heroin and opium. Thus most of the enemy controlled or influenced areas are in the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin is produced), the east (where many Pakistan/ISI supported Islamic terrorist groups operate) and the ancient northern trade routes (that go through Kunduz).
The problem for the government is that the drug gangs and their Taliban partners are expanding areas and populations they control or influence. So far in 2017 that means over half a million more Afghans now live under Taliban control or influence. Most Afghans understand that the Taliban cannot win. Most of the population has always been hostile to the Taliban in particular and Pushtuns (who run most of the drug operations) in general. Even most Pustuns (who comprise 40 percent of the population) oppose the drug gangs and the Taliban. As past experience (since World War II) has demonstrated drug gangs and their mercenary allies (often ethnic or political rebels) in places like Southeast Asia and South America can control rural drug producing areas and smuggling routes if they have enough cash and locals willing die for a good job. But not forever, which worries the Taliban and encourages Afghans suffering the side effects of drug addiction and drug gang violence.
Although the Islamic terrorists and drug gangs say they consider the government their primary target most of the casualties continue to be civilians. Most of this violence is about intimidation and terrorizing the civilian population and security forces into submission, or at least not interfering with the drug trade. Civilian deaths were up four percent in 2016; with 3,500 killed and showing similar growth in 2017. As in the past some 80 percent of the deaths were attributed to the Taliban, drug gangs and sundry other organized outlaws. While ISIL accounts for less than ten percent of the deaths, the ISIL activity was up in 2016 but has declined in 2017.
Various Islamic terror groups account for about 68 percent of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan and the Taliban are responsible for about two-thirds of that.
The security forces account for about 20 percent of the civilian deaths, nearly all are accidental. Most of the civilian deaths occur in just ten of the 34 provinces and four of those provinces (Kabul, Helmand, Kandahar and Nangarhar) account for most of that. Normally the Taliban and the drug gangs have a lot of cooperation from civilians in Helmand and Kandahar because so many families profit from the drug trade. The drug gangs don’t have to coerce farmers to grow poppies and harvest the opium. If the price paid for the opium is high enough and the Taliban can keep the government from interfering the locals see it as an opportunity. Despite that the majority of the population in these two provinces benefit little from the drug trade and often suffer because of it and the constant fighting that goes along with it.
One problem no one wants to dwell on is that there is no one Afghanistan. Instead there are dozens of ancient entities that agreed several centuries ago to join a loose coalition called Afghanistan. This was mainly to deal with foreigners from outside the territory that encompassed Afghanistan. There were dozens of local traditions on how all the tribes within Afghanistan handled each other because someone from a different tribe was a foreigner and often considered a hostile one as well. The cities developed new cultures, influenced by foreign visitors and ideas. But even now most Afghans live in rural areas where local rules are more important than any decree issued by a provincial or national government. This reality explains a lot of things, like why the Taliban never controlled all of Afghanistan and none of the neighboring nations wanted to take control of Afghanistan either. With all the cultural and political divisions and not much of an internal transportation network there are better places to invest your money. Places like Afghanistan are where illegal activities tend to gravitate, which is why the heroin trade eventually found Afghanistan after spending four decades moving west from Southeast Asia.
Most Afghans just want to be left alone, but many young ones see another opportunity outside Afghanistan. Make some money (being a hired gun or outlaw is acceptable in most Afghan cultures) and leave Afghanistan. That is risky and dangerous, but so is trying to live long and prosper in a place like Afghanistan. Many of the educated and skilled Afghans prefer to get out and let their less ambitious kin continue on with the old ways.
ISIL is not seeking to establish a new main base in Afghanistan. That possibility often comes up, especially now that the original 2014 ISIL “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq has lost 98 percent of the territory it once controlled. Three years ago ISIL controlled over ten million people in Syria and Iraq and a few other outposts. But now they control less than 50,000 in Syria/Iraq and not much more combined in several other areas worldwide. All the ISIL branches are scrambling just to survive. Even suicidal religious zealots need some cash and that means more ISIL members are spending a lot of time obtaining cash and essential supplies (weapons, food, equipment). That stuff is one essential, but the second one is visibility. Groups like ISIL have found that the more media attention they can attract the easier it is to recruit, raise money or intimidate. So in places like Afghanistan the attacks now are largely carried out against high-profile targets.
Libya is seen as the likely new ISIL base area mainly because large parts of that country are desert or semi-desert and currently controlled by no government (national, regional or even tribal). There are a lot of negatives in Libya in that there are few foreign aid groups to plunder or extort and most every other group with something worth having is heavily armed and dangerous. To make matters worse if there is one thing most Libyans can agree on is the need to keep ISIL out. With their headquarters in Syria gone, along with most of the territory ISIL had controlled until about a year ago, Libya still has to deal with more than a thousand ISIL members seeking to establish base areas (for training and planning operations worldwide). Yet the Libyan ISIL branch is doing better than any of the others, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As happened in Syria, Iraq Afghanistan and elsewhere harsh ISIL rule eventually enraged many of the locals and drove them to flee, resist or armed rebellion. ISIL still punishes or executes people for minor infractions of what ISIL considers proper Islamic lifestyle and that eventually backfires. ISIL definitely believes that if you can’t be loved by your subjects than fear is an acceptable substitute. That approach works both ways and ISIL persists in this “more Islamic than thou” policy even though it eventually fails everywhere. One thing ISIL has going for it is a reputation as seriously badass killers and the most effective hired guns drug or smuggling gangs can get. But even ISIL cannot stand up to the Western troops or determined local militias on a regular basis.
Pakistani Promises And The Haqqani Hustle
The United States sent senior diplomatic officials to Pakistan in October to review the situation and make the usual promises and demands. The U.S. said it would not allow any group, including Indian agents, to make attacks on Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan. Pakistan assured the United States that if provided with accurate information Pakistani forces would deal with any hostile (to the United States, Afghanistan or India) organization inside Pakistan. In the past this has meant that Pakistan would act on targets identified by the Americans (or Indians or Afghans) only if the results would not be embarrassing for Pakistan. That made it possible for Pakistan to continue blaming the U.S., India and Afghanistan for making possible Islamic terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. This vicious circle resists being broken, despite the 2011 American raid on the bin Laden hideout in Pakistan and numerous instances of India providing very precise evidence about Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan and the mayhem these groups have carried out in India. There is no end to this sort of thing. Except this time the U.S. has promised direct action if it detects another “bin Laden is not in Pakistan” deception.
A current example involves a similar situation, except Pakistan acted but the United States is still trying to get Pakistan to admit what the Americans now know was going on. Thus for nearly a month now the American CIA and their Pakistani counterpart (ISI) have been arguing over what exactly happened to the kidnapped American-Canadian family Pakistani troops freed from the Haqqani Network on October 12th. Everyone agrees that the family was held captive for five years but the ISI insists they were held in Afghanistan while the CIA says it has evidence that the family was held in Pakistan nearly all that time. Pakistan has long denied any connection with Haqqani, much less control of the group, but there is much evidence that ISI works closely with Haqqani. This entire incident is suspect and as more details leak out it becomes stranger still.
American Caitlan Coleman, her husband Canadian Joshua Boyle were captured by the Taliban in 2012 while hiking in eastern Afghanistan. Coleman was pregnant at the time and when rescued had three young children. Boyle considered himself a humanitarian and was friendly with some Islamic terrorists before taken. In any event the couple ended up with the Haqqani Network, which often bought foreign captives to use in efforts to get Haqqani Network leaders freed from Afghan jails. Normally Islamic terrorists could use bribes to get such men freed but the Haqqani Network was particularly unpopular in Afghanistan because the group had gone from being Afghan warriors fighting Russian occupation in the 1980s to mercenaries who have long worked for Pakistan to carry out horrific bombings in Afghanistan, with more of the victims being innocent civilians. This has always been denied by the Pakistani military and ISI but Afghans, Indians and Americans have plenty of evidence to prove otherwise.
Boyle and his wife appeared in some “proof of life” videos as Haqqani continued to try and use the couple (and their growing family) to get Haqqani prisoners out of Afghan jails. That failed and when rescued the couple and their children did not appear to have been mistreated. As the Pakistanis no doubt feared the couple are not maintaining the cover story they were apparently told to use.
A new (since early 2017) American government apparently ordered the couple to be found and freed no matter where they were and who held them. The family were soon tracked to a Haqqani hideout in Pakistan and Pakistan was told to either get the family freed or the U.S. would send in commandos to do it and the Pakistani generals did not want that. The 2011 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani sanctuary (that ISI long denied existed) was an embarrassment the Pakistani military has still not recovered from. Another incident like that would be much worse. So Pakistan staged their own “commando operation” near the Afghan border and got the captives (at least the Canadian Boyle) to go along with the cover story (that the family were locked in a car trunk when the rescue took place) and all the kidnappers were killed and only Boyle received a minor injury. Since then it appears that the kidnappers “ran away” and that none were identified (dead or alive) and not all the captives were stashed in a car trunk. The U.S. offered to fly that family home via a stopover in Afghanistan but Boyle refused. He did not want to enter any area where the U.S. might detain and question him. So the family flew back to Canada where Canadian intelligence is also curious about exactly what went on with this long captivity. So are a lot of Canadians.
Meanwhile Pakistan insists the family was held most of the time in Afghanistan, not Pakistan and whatever other information Pakistan was willing to share was apparently not being made public. In an effort to placate the Americans Pakistan did announce its security forces were in daily contact with American forces in Afghanistan about counter-terror operations along the border. This assurance is more promise than performance and is really aimed more at discouraging more American airstrikes or commando raids inside Pakistan. There appear to have been at least five American UAV missile strikes near or just across the border in Pakistan during 2017. That’s up from three for all of 2016 and down from 14 in 2015 and over 300 between 2008 and 2014. Pakistan also insists that there will be no joint operations along the Afghan border and is, as far as the U.S., Afghanistan and India are concerned, being as non-committal and evasive as ever.
One difference this time around is the U.S. has promised more unilateral operations, like the 2011 raid to get bin Laden. India recently tried that approach, when it send commandos across the border in Kashmir to attack Pakistani supported Islamic terrorist camps. Pakistan denied the attacks took place, despite the ample evidence the Indian commandos brought back. Pakistan threatened nuclear retaliation if India ever tried that sort of thing. This was another way to saying “do that again and we go nuclear”. India has still not responded to that Pakistan threat, preferring to wait and see what an equally decisive policy being used by a new American government.
Meanwhile one very tangible Pakistani achievement along its Afghan border was the recent completion of the first 43 kilometers of its new security fence along the Afghan border. The fence consists of two three-meter (nine foot) high chain link fences running parallel, two meters apart, with three rolls of barbed wire in that two meter gap. Construction began in South Waziristan (which borders Afghanistan’s Paktika province and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, where the Afghan Taliban still maintain a sanctuary). The fence construction was announced in March 2017 and will eventually extend along the entire 2,600 kilometer border with Afghanistan. This is part of an effort to hinder the Pakistani Taliban, and other illegal groups (terrorists and smugglers) from easily moving back and forth. After the Paktika portion of the fence is completed construction will continue along the border with the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. These provinces are where there has always been a lot of lawless activity and these days it is full of Islamic terrorists hostile to either Pakistan or working for Pakistan (against Afghanistan). The new plan will continue giving priority to areas where there are the most problems but will not stop there and eventually (by the early 2020s) have a fence along the entire Afghan border.
Even without the fence the Pakistani military has been successful in reducing terrorist violence within Pakistan substantially since 2014, when it went after Islamic terror groups that made attacks inside Pakistan. There was a catch as the counter-terrorism effort left alone the Afghan Taliban sanctuary in in the southwest (Baluchistan) and several other groups that operated openly in various parts of Pakistan but always carried out attacks elsewhere (usually Afghanistan or India).
Since early 2017 there have been an increasing number of incidents of former members of Afghan Hezb I Islami openly feuding with each other and security forces. This was the result of a peace deal worked out with Islamic terror group Hezb I Islami (also known as the Hekmatyar organization) in late 2016 (after three months of negotiations) allowing the members of the group to keep their weapons after they surrendered and accepted amnesty. Many Afghans insisted this was going to cause problems. What the group was allowed to do was disband its “military wing” while allowing individual members to keep their weapons. This is justified by the fact that Hezb I Islami made a lot of enemies since the 1990s and members require their weapons for self-defense. The group has not yet disclosed how many armed men it has and where they are. It is feared that the Taliban or even the drug gangs will cite the Hezb I Islami deal in any future negotiations as justifications to keep their weapons. The government insists that these are only “personal weapons” and not artillery and rocket launchers but no one is sure and many Afghans see the “demilitatized” Hezb I Islami members becoming part of another warlord army.
Hezb I Islami had survived since the 1990s civil war but had not been a major military presence in Afghanistan since the late 1990s because of factionalism, hostility towards any foreigners (Moslem or otherwise) and losses suffered fighting rival Islamic terror groups (including al Qaeda). A representative of leader (and founder) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar signed the agreement in Kabul. Terms include amnesty for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the release of some imprisoned Hezb I Islami members as well as a ceasefire. The UN recently took Hekmatyar off its list of international terrorists. Hekmatyar created and led an Islamic radical group that lost out to the Taliban in the late 1990s and has been trying to make a comeback ever since. As a result Hezb I Islami spent most of its time fighting other Islamic terrorists, mainly Pakistan sponsored groups like the Taliban and Haqqani network. The Hekmatyar organization has been surviving as bandits in various areas of eastern and central Afghanistan. This peace deal was mostly symbolic for the government and recognizing the fact that Hekmatyar and the government had some common enemies; drug gangs and Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorists.
The Perils of Polio Prevention
There is another major effort this year to vaccinate vulnerable Afghan and Pakistani children against polio. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan and 13 in Afghanistan. There were four in Nigeria, a country that is expected to be free of polio this year or next. In Pakistan and Afghanistan there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban have openly supported the vaccination program but there still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers continue to denounce the vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups will still try and kill members of the vaccination teams. Despite this continued resistance polio cases in both nations continues to decline. For Afghanistan there have been at least six cases so far in 2017. In Pakistan the situation is similar with about the same number of cases in 2017.
In one obvious example of cooperation several vaccination teams are stationed at the Khyber Pass (the Torkham border crossing), which is the busiest crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There the vaccination teams operate 24 hours a day to offer polio vaccinations for all children under age ten. This not only catches children who missed the regular vaccination teams in either country but prevents infected children from carrying polio from one country to another.
Despite problems like this in Pakistan and Afghanistan the global vaccination effort has worked. In the 1980s, when the polio elimination effort began there were 350,000 cases in 125 countries. For the last several years there have been fewer than a hundred cases worldwide. In the last decade the main obstacle has been Islamic terror groups who ban polio vaccinations and attack anyone trying to deliver the vaccine to vulnerable children. Islamic terrorists in general tend to believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government and that the vaccinations are a plot to sterilize Moslems. Once there are no more active cases of polio the disease, like smallpox before it, will be extinct.
November 7, 2017: In Kabul an ISIL suicide team (disguised as policemen) attacked a Shamshad TV using a suicide bomber and gunmen, all of whom died. One security guard and one station employee died and over twenty were wounded. The Pushtun language TV station was back on the air later in the day, broadcasting its usual news and current affairs programs. These attacks are usually efforts to force the media to censor what it broadcasts, as part of an extortion effort or both. It is a common tactic in the region.
In the southwest (Kandahar province) police, acting on a tip, seized a car entering Kandahar city and found the it had been equipped as a suicide bomb vehicle. The police get a lot of tips like this because most of the casualties from suicide bomber attacks, especially in cities, are civilians. Cell phones make it easy to deliver a tip and the computerized intelligence system enables the tip to be quickly analyzed (for accuracy, veracity and importance). Most Afghans don’t want the drug gangs or their hired guns (mainly the Taliban) and the cell phone has proved a practical way to fight back.
In central Afghanistan (Wardak Province) at least fifteen gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a National Police Training Center. The attack was repulsed with fifteen attackers known dead. The police suffered some casualties but apparently no dead.
While the Taliban and drug gangs suffer more casualties than the security forces, the army and police continue to suffer several hundred dead a month through most of the year.
November 6, 2017:
In the east (Nangarhar province) ISIL gunmen shot dead an employee of the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. This city has long been the scene of this kind of violence because it is close to the Pakistan border. It is 140 kilometers east of Kabul and Islamic terrorists have long operated here because it is the first major city encountered when entering Afghanistan via one of the two major border crossing. The city of 250,000 has long been a base area for American and Afghan troops. Many of the bases are around the airport.
November 1, 2017: The U.S. has forced Pakistan to return nine helicopters they had provided Pakistan in 2002 to patrol the Afghan border. The U.S. provided ample evidence that the helicopters were rarely used for their intended purpose and were instead used for police operations inside Pakistan, usually in the southwest (Baluchistan). This move is apparently the first of many to document Pakistani misuse of massive amounts of American aid to Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations. If this new American policy continues it could prove very costly and embarrassing for the Pakistani military and intelligence agency.
October 31, 2017: In Kabul a suicide bomber got into the heavily guarded Green Zone and killed nine people. Successful Green Zone attack are rare and investigators quickly discovered how this one worked. The bomber was a 13 year old boy who used a gate that had been left unlocked so security personnel could use it as a short cut. This was a supervision failure. Those who manage the security personnel and access via rarely used gates are supposed to prevent this sort of thing and do so often in similar situations. But you rarely hear about that sort of thing. Senior security personnel do have access to that sort of data but unless they act on it attacks will succeed. In this case the government fired several senior security officials for not doing their job. Some of these officials, and their families, live in the Green Zone.
October 30, 2017:
In southeast Iran the first major cargo for Afghanistan arrived at the port of Chabahar. It was 130,000 tons of wheat, the first (of seven) shiploads of the 1.1 million tons of wheat India is shipping to Afghanistan. Without Chabahar there was no way India could economically ship bulk food to Afghanistan. The port is part of the Indo-Iranian project (largely financed by India) that enables cargo shipped by sea to Chabahar to complete its journey to Afghanistan by rail or road. This wheat cargo is the first major test of the Chabahar link to Afghanistan. A recent agreement between Iran and Afghanistan allows that to happen with any additional tax problems or other restrictions. Iran and India are building the 1,300 kilometer long rail line from the port to the Afghan border (near Herat) in the north. Indians are providing over two billions dollars to upgrade the port and build new roads and railroads to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
For Iran the Central Asia link is the most valuable one. But for Afghanistan having another way to move most of their imports and exports is a major achievement because Pakistan and Iran will have to complete and that will keep costs down for Afghans and reduce the use of closing the border (which Pakistan has done frequently to coerce the Afghans) because that will just drive more trade permanently to the Iran link. At the same time Iran will have as much economic leverage on Afghanistan as Pakistan has long exercised (and often abused).
India has concentrated on trade with Afghanistan and avoided security matters, except when it comes to Indians working in Afghanistan on aid projects. There are actually few Indians in Afghanistan but a lot more Indian money and trade goods. Not only is this safer for Indians but it also deprives Pakistan of another excuse for accusing India of trying to “surround Pakistan” by forging military ties with Afghanistan. Pakistan makes those accusations anyway but with little in the way of physical proof such claims are largely ignored.
October 29, 2017: The United States and Pakistan exchanged lists of “most wanted terrorists” The American list had 75 names and many of those at the top were Haqqani Network leaders. The Pakistani list had a hundred names, many of them ardent Islamic terrorists who once worked for Pakistan but then turned on their benefactor and continue to operate, often from bases in eastern Afghanistan.
October 25, 2017: In the west (Herat province) fighting between rival Taliban factions continued and has left over fifty dead in the last few days. The new head of the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada is unpopular with many Taliban leaders, in part because Akhundzada is seen as a figurehead because one of his deputies, the head of the Haqqani Network, is believed to be in charge. The most active dissident faction is led by the Rasool clan and its current leader Mullah Mohammad Rasool.
Earlier in 2017 an American UAV missile attack in eastern Afghanistan kiled six Taliban men belonging the Rasool clan. Two of the dead a nephew and son-in-law Mullah Muhammad Rasool. During the late 1990s Mullah Rasool was the Taliban strongman in the southwest as governor of Nimroz province until 2001. The Rasool clan made a fortune by controlling the drug smuggling down there. Rasool had lots of contacts in Iran and saw himself as a potential supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban civil war is the result of disagreement over who should take over as Taliban leader after founder Mullah Omar was revealed in 2015 to have died in 2013 (in a Pakistani hospital). The information was kept to a few key Omar associates who were accused of doing this as part of a plot to install an Omar successor (Mullah Mansour ) who was second-rate but backed by the Pakistan military (which provided sanctuary for Taliban leaders in southwest Pakistan since 2002). From late 2015 to mid-2016 Rasool fought other Taliban factions for control of the organization. Heavy fighting began in late November 2015 when Mullah Mansour ordered attacks against the forces loyal to rival Mullah Rasool. This marked a major defeat for the Taliban as they lost a major asset; unity. Most of the fighting took place in Herat, Zabul and Farah provinces. There were apparently several thousand casualties and the heavy fighting did not cease until July 2016. Meanwhile Pakistan sided with Mansour, who was then killed in May 2016 by an American air strike. Pakistan then used its considerable control over the Afghan Taliban to get the head of the Pakistan backed Haqqani Network appointed as one of the three senior Taliban leaders. Rasool apparently backed down in the face of all this and was thought to have fled left the country. That was not the case.
October 24, 2017: The Afghan Air Force will receive another six A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft in addition to the twenty the U.S. has already agreed to provide. Eighteen A-29s will be service by the end of 2018 with the additional six taking a year or so to be in service. The first A-29s entered service in Afghanistan during early 2016. These aircraft are armed with 12.7mm machine-guns and can use laser guided bombs as well as unguided ones.
October 23, 2017: The government had decided not to renew the APTTA (Afghanistan–Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement), which has expired without Afghanistan showing much interest in renewing it. This means that Afghan and Pakistani cargo trucks will have to stop at the two main border crossings and transfer their cargo to a vehicle operated by a company from the country where the cargo is going. This will make it more expensive to ship goods between Afghanistan and Pakistan and make it more difficult for smugglers to operate. Afghanistan is mainly concerned with Pakistan allowing free passage of Pakistani trucks into Afghanistan to become a convenient way to smuggle weapons and bomb components to Islamic terrorists as well as key chemicals required to convert opium into heroin. The drug gangs can pay larger bribes to avoid problems, as well as intimidating Afghan security personnel (by threatening to kidnap or murder family members). But with all the cargo transfer activity it will be easier to inspect cargoes and get a more accurate sense of what is coming in. This decision was made possible by the opening of the Iranian road-rail link from Afghanistan to a new port on the Iranian coast. Pakistan does not like this kind of competition but does not want to antagonize Iran. Pakistan is blaming the Afghan decision on the Pakistani refusal to renew APTTA unless it was amended to allow Indian cargo in and out. India was not really interested in such access because India has renewed some trade with Pakistan but it is frequently cancelled by Pakistan for no real reason and later allowed to resume. Afghanistan has had a similar experience with Afghan trucks seeking to cross into Pakistan to make deliveries (often of perishable goods).
October 20, 2017: Two suicide bomb bombers carried out separate attacks against Shia Mosques in Kabul and further west in central Afghanistan (Ghor province). The two attacks, during weekly prayers, killed about 80 and wounded even more.
In the east, near the Pakistan border Islamic terrorist leader Omar Khalid Khorasani was killed by an American UAV missile strike. This was revealed later in the day when, across the border in
northwest Pakistan JuA (Jamaat ul Ahrar), a Pakistani Taliban faction that once belonged to ISIL, selected Asad Afridi to be their new leader, to replace
Omar Khalid Khorasani. Most of the JuA men are Pushtuns from the Khyber and Mohmand districts on the Afghan border. Since the Pakistani army attacked North Waziristan (south of Khyber and also on the border) in 2014 and shut down what had been an Islamic terrorists sanctuary, the Pakistani Taliban and especially groups like JuA (which regularly carries out bloody attacks in Pakistan) have based most of their personnel in Afghanistan. They are attacked there, especially by the American UAVs and manned aircraft. But it is still considered safer than Pakistan. The JuA confirmed the success of the UAV attack before the Americans could because it was considered more important to admit the loss and install a new leader, rather than force the Americans to dig up all the evidence needed to prove Khorasani was indeed dead.