Pakistan: Negotiating with the Taliban, again

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.

Representatives sent to negotiate with the Taliban in North Waziristan as suicide attacks are ongoing

As the attacks against the Pakistani military are ongoing in North Waziristan, the government continues to press for a “peace deal” with the Taliban. Today, the government of the Northwest Frontier Province dispatched a helicopter filled with local tribal representatives to negotiate with the Taliban. “We are going to Miranshah to discuss the peace accord with Taliban leaders,” Malik Waris Khan, a member of the “peace” jirga told the Daily Times. “The jirga left after a meeting with NWFP Governor Ali Jan Aurakzai. Sources said the jirga members were driven to a secret location to meet Maulana Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander.”

Maulana Gul Bahadar, a senior Taliban commander in North Waziristan, was a party to signing the Waziristan Accord in September 2006. Jalaluddin Haqqani, military commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Tahir Yuldashev, the commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were also present at the signing. A host of senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders backed the compact known as the Waziristan Accord.

The Waziristan Accord demanded that the Taliban refrain from setting up camps in the tribal agency and setting up a parallel government, eject foreign fighters from the region, and stop cross border attacks into Afghanistan. In exchange, the Pakistani government would pay reparations to the Taliban, return their weapons, refrain from attacking the Taliban, and pull its troops back from the region.

The negotiations in North Waziristan occur against the backdrop of a concerted suicide and military campaign against the Pakistani military. Today, a suicide bomber killed four, including one soldier and three civilians, during a strike on a checkpoint in Miranshah. Three soldiers were wounded. The Taliban also destroyed two more checkpoints in Miranshah.

Over the past week, the Taliban killed 17 troops in an ambush on a Pakistani military convoy, and another 24 paramilitary soldiers were killed and wounded 29 during a suicide attack on a different convoy. North Waziristan has seen a host of suicide bombings, roadside bombings, and mortar, rocket, and small-arms attacks over the past week.

At least 149 Pakistanis have been killed and over 220 wounded in the major attacks nationwide since July 14. The vast majority of those killed are soldiers or police. Suicide attacks and ambushes have been carried out by the Taliban against Pakistani troops and police in Islamabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Hangu, Hub and Swat. While the Pakistani government has attempted to dissociate the spate of attacks with the military assault on the Taliban-supporting Red Mosque in Islamabad, the Taliban is clearly retaliating for the government’s actions in Islamabad.

The current negotiations in North Waziristan are frequently referred to as the Pakistani government applying both the carrot and the stick to deal with the Taliban. This depiction is inaccurate, as the current actions of the government can be better described as the carrot and the punching bag. The government sends in negotiators as the military continues to get pummeled by the Taliban and al Qaeda suicide bombers and commando teams.

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

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12 Comments

  • Don Bistrow says:

    Negotiating with the enemy is certainly not going to work; the Taliban and al-Qaeda don’t really negotiate and their past agreements, soon broken, should advise the government of Pakistan this is a dead end.
    Musharraf is in deep trouble and Pakistan is head for a major bloodbath, which has begun in earnest.
    Ultimately, this will work it’s way back into Afghanistan, as the Taliban and their ilk will never except the current government and Democratic climate there.
    The terrorist have been given territory and protection while they regroup and now the Musharraf government will reap what it sowed.

  • Jim says:

    I worry that we have been overly dependent on Musharraf to the extent that we have not made sufficient arrangements to prevent the Taliban from accessing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The fact that Musharraf continues to deny US forces any significant entry into Pakistan tells me that he too is overly confident.

  • madconductor says:

    I’ll give the Pakistani government two months. After that, it will become a free fire zone – for them and for us.

  • Fight4TheRight says:

    Well, the Pakistand Government and the Tribal Leaders would not even consider these “negotiations” with the Taliban unless they saw themselves at some sort of a disadvantage.
    Musharaff appears to be fairly competent militarily so my guess is that his intelligence is telling him that the Taliban is itching for a real battle and has the numbers and firepower to make it ugly.
    If I was a betting man, I’d say that the majority of Taliban forces that, at one time had been earmarked for the once heralded “Spring Offensive” in Afghanistan, probably ended back up in NW Pakistan and are in a quite foul mood. At the same time, the Taliban in NW Pakistan will find themselves now in a position of defending themselves and in a role they are more comfortable in with guerrilla type attacks and suicide missions. In Afghanistan, they had to resort to more of an offensive and were decimated in that role.
    I think they would relish being able to hide out in mountain passes and slaughter Pakistani military convoys – and I’d say these “peace talks” are the result of Musharaff and the tribes realizing the same thing.

  • the nailgun says:

    Is anyone willing to venture an opinion that if Pakistan was to fall to Islamists that the US military does know where Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is stored and can be destroyed? Indeed longer term it may be necessary to know where all their nuclear physicists are also. They are essentially innocent people but clearly they can not be allowed to fall into the hands of AQ or equivalent.
    The other question is why does Musharraf continue to persist with this angle? Is his control of the military so tenuous that he is not game to order a significant attack on Waziristan? He strikes me as a man that if he was in doubt about key members of his military he would have solved that problem by now yet this does not seem to have happened.

  • Jim Rockford says:

    Nailgun —
    Very likely Musharraf has no one to replace them with. And it’s not just the officers, it’s the non-coms and privates. Very embarrassing if he gives orders and they just walk over with their equipment and armament and declare the Islamic Republic.
    Dangerous indeed.

  • Doc says:

    I commented on another thread that the Karakoram Highway is the only lifeline in and out of the Northwest Frontier Province and that it is easily monitored (note: It was built by the Chinese). Therefore, moving significant quantities of Pakistani troops into the area cannot be done without the Taliban knowing. Away from the highway, traveling is done by pack animal and walking as there are areas that are too high for helicopters to operate. High technology is those areas is a trained goat. It seems that a more significant item is the attack on the Chinese engineers convoy. I think the Taliaban leaders might want to reconsider pissing off China. If they do it enough, Pakistan’s NWFP will become a Chinese province. Most of the nuclear facilities in Pakistan are in the south. We were not allowed to fly over them moving from the NWFP back and forth to Islamabad. The US certainly does know where they are, without question.

  • AMac says:

    Doc,

    Wikipedia’s map of the Karakoram highway shows it goes North from Islamabad into the mountains and then to China. It looks like the only paved-road access to Swat. However, most of the Frontier Provinces are to the West. Waziristan is to the Southwest.

  • crosspatch says:

    I sense some apparent confusion in people’s minds between the government of Pakistan and the government of the Northwest Territories. They aren’t the same thing as I understand it. Also note that the jurga that went to talk to the Taliban were basically a council of tribal chiefs, not representatives from the Islamabad government.
    Another way of viewing this is that the tribes have sent their representatives to attempt to “talk some sense” into the Taliban. While I wouldn’t give much chance of success to the tribes actually getting anything done, this does seem to me to be another indication that some kind of differentiation is appearing between the tribal leadership and the mullahs.
    I would imagine that the Taliban got much support from the tribes when they appeared to be establishing a “trans Durand line” government that would politically unite tribes that span the border and create a sort of de facto Pashtunistan. Now that the Afghan portion of that dream has been dashed and the Taliban seem to be focusing on the Islamabad government (and taking on less of a Pashto-centric image), there might be less enthusiasm among the tribal leaders to involve themselves in a war with the rest of Pakistan and possibly even the Chinese.
    I don’t have a lot of territory to defend as far as this analysis goes and so I am not going to be adamant in it but I haven’t yet seen anything really inconsistent with that angle either. The idea here being to keep a view of “the entire board” so to speak and look at many different possible motivations for events as they unfold.
    The “trans Druand line” support could just as easily swing the other way more toward us if we played our cards right on the Afghan side and started working closely in helping tribes that span the border. If the tribes saw a brighter future in working with us that resulted in less death and destruction and more food, access to markets and health care, then it might be possible to futher erode the support of the radical mullahs who preach nothing but kill and die.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    crosspatch,
    The confusion is yours.
    The provincial government of the NWFP sent the tribal leaders to talk to the Taliban, which makes them government representatives. In the past these representatives have included members of the provincial and national assemblies, and members of the military as well. The government of the NWFP isn’t doing this without the support of the central government. Musharraf defended these peace deals strongly because they were his policy.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    crosspatch,
    Just follow the Pakistani press. For instance, this article discusses “an official-sponsored jirga to negotiate with the tribesmen [a.k.a. Taliban].” Note the leanings of the president of the FATA Lawyers Forum.

  • Doc says:

    AMac, You are correct. The Karkoram goes north to China. We spent more time near Mansehra, Battagram, and Kohistan because the tribes in Waziristan and the other western and southwestern areas were suspect of the military (as they probably should be). It was during that period that the cruise missile attack about 50 miles from us took out a number of Al Zahawari’s lieutenants. You can read into that whatever you like. There is very poor access into both North and South Waziristan and anyone who is not a tribal member is easily recognized as such.

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