The Waziristan Ceasefire

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies are openly controlled by the Taliban; yellow are under threat. Click map to view.

Uzbek, Taliban infighting halted by a delegation of senior Taliban commanders, including Mullah Dadullah and Baitullah Mehsud; Pakistani government manipulates results

The fighting between Uzbeks and Taliban in the tribal agency of South Waziristan has been halted after four days of fighting and over 135 reported deaths, including 100 Uzbeks and 25 Taliban fighters. The fighting ended after senior Taliban commanders from Afghanistan and Pakistan, backed by the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur (JUI-F) political party, conducted a jirga, or tribal meeting.” Baitullah Mehsud, Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of senior Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, and an unnamed Taliban commander from across the Afghan border reached undisclosed locations in South Waziristan to take part in the ceasefire negotiations,” according to the Daily Times.

“They are all monitoring the situation and discussing with key local militant commanders how things can be cooled down,” tribal sources told the newspaper. The Nation reports Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s senior military commander himself, attended the jirga. The Asia Times claims Baitullah Mehsud, the most powerful Taliban commander in South Waziristan, traveled from Helmand province. “He immediately rushed to South Waziristan on the orders of Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah. He put his foot down, and the fighting has now eased.”

Predictably, the Pakistani government used the fighting in Waziristan to make the claim the failed Waziristan Accord is actually working. The Pakistani media campaign was in high gear working to convince the West the fight was about pro-government tribes uprooting foreign Uzbeks. “Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said the battle proved the government’s policy of trying to get local tribesmen to expel foreign militants was working. A military spokesperson for the government of Pakistan called the local tribesmen ‘heros’.”

The Pakistani position on the fighting has bled through the reporting. Today’s Financial Times lays out the case for further ‘peace’ deals. “The claim [that fighting has destroyed the Uzbek’s training camps], if true, could mark not only a success in Pakistan’s war against militants hiding on its soil, but could also vindicate Pakistan’s position on two controversial agreements [the North and South Waziristan Accords] signed by the government with tribal elders in the region bordering Afghanistan.”

Syed Saleem Shahzad explains the fighting stems from a major policy disagreement between the Uzbeks and their Taliban allies, and the Taliban led by Mullah Dadullah. The Uzbeks and their Taliban backers believe the primary target in jihad should be the Pakistani government. Dadullah believes the current situation in the tribal areas is advantageous to the Taliban, and they should fight NATO and the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and al Qaeda have a vested interest in turning international attention away from the Pakistani tribal areas, hence the speed in which senior emissaries were sent in to diffuse the fighting. Mr. Shahzad predicted the Dadullah wing would win out. “The most likely outcome will be their surrender and agreement that from now on all fighting will be done in Afghanistan. Such unity of purpose would be a boon for the Taliban’s looming offensive against NATO.”

The fighting has the dual advantage of exposing the Taliban and al Qaeda’s utter dominance of the region and culling a few terrorists from the region, but the short term gains are fleeting. The Taliban and their allies have tens of thousands of fighters available (with the upward estimate at 200,000). One hundred plus Uzbeks and Taliban killed for the sake of the al Qaeda position being solidified in South Waziristan is a relatively small price to pay. The real identity of Mullah Nazir’s Taliban is being lost on all the media save the Pakistani press. The Musharraf regime is expertly navigating the media coverage and is succeeding in promoting the fighting as local, pro-government tribes versus foreign fighters. This will allow the government to push forward with further Waziristan-like deals, as is being done in Bajaur.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Those 200 000 fighters are, in fact, tribesmen that carry on with their daily jobs, while being ready to take weapons, if nesccessary, right ? A kind of reservists, or territorial defense ?
    If not, there would be much more heat on the Afghan side, I guess.
    DG

  • Jim Rockford says:

    Most likely case, Musharaff is deposed and an Al Qaeda leader takes over, makes “demands” on the US etc. including US out of Afghanistan and return of “Islamic” government i.e. Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
    Do we nuke em? Or surrender?

  • RTLM says:

    The Taliban and their allies have tens of thousands of fighters available

    we’ve long since figured out their massing points and their timing.
    The trick now is to develop the courage necessary to waste them all at once.
    Hello President Bush, over.

  • RJ says:

    What if we build for them some good wells, perhaps indoor plumbing, pass out some mirrors, combs, even a few cases of sparkling water every now and then? Could our overhead cameras pinpoint the volume of traffic so that later we might send in some munitions as an urban/rural reclamation exercise? How about starting a belief system where deep inside a mountain voices speak in spiritual ways, offsetting the constant need to procure virgins for those who fight and die? I’ve got it: Why not just kick the holy bejesus out of them with an after message to stay out of our world with their hatred? Oh yea, they think we are coming into their world due to the Pepsi signs tacked onto adobe walls. I’ve got a bad attitude now, and I’m somewhat confused.

  • RJ says:

    Whoops, I forgot: It was Pakistanis who provided nuclear help to a few other countries that want to kill Americans. It is Pakistan who has a few of these bombs laying around in some “secure” bunker. If Bin Laden or his boys can secure enough political power in Pakistan, they may be able to locate the keys to the nuclear bomb bunker. The Taliban tolerated Bin Laden in Afganistan…so if they get control of Pakistan…I see. Could this be a problem for us? I wonder. Still confused here.

  • Waziristan — Truce or Just Lull in the Fighting?

    The death toll in Waziristan has risen to 132 after the locals rose against the Uzbeks and Chechen foreigners, who have long outstayed their welcome and have crossed the lineĀ  by bringing the violence into Pakistan. By attempting assassinations and tu…

  • Thanos says:

    I’ve also been covering this, it’s going to be an interesting Spring. I don’t think the truce is going to hold for long.
    Once the Uzbeks started bombing in Pakistan and campaigning there, they crossed the line and violated “melmastia” and the peace accords. On top of that they now have Tribal blood feuds, nationalism, broken honor and broken agreements all working against them.
    The fact that the Uzbek/Chechen AQAM contingents lost badly doesn’t aid them either.
    The foreign contingents will either all pull out, or the fighting will continue in my estimation, if not tomorrow or next week, then next month. It’s as predictable as the Talib offensive and Afghan Talib migration we will see this Spring.
    On another note has anyone heard how Bolingbroke is doing? He hasn’t posted anythings since this: http://crumblingspires.blogspot.com/2007/03/another-enforced-break.html

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Once again, I’m forced to shut down the comments on this thread due to an individual who refuses to accept he is unwelcome on this site.
    Matt Dubuque continues to comment despite repeated warnings not to do so. He has repeatedly violated the comments policy and sends me insulting emails as well, yet he still thinks he has the right to comment. He doesn’t. Matt refuses to accept the fact he is not welcome here.
    If you wish to let Matt know how you feel about having the comments shut down because of his actions, you can contact him here:
    mdubuque@yahoo.com

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