Pakistan cedes Hangu to the Taliban


Hangu is the latest district to fall under Taliban control. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts; purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.

The Pakistani government has signed yet another peace accord with the Taliban in a settled district of the Northwest Frontier Province. Just one day after the military canceled an operation in Hangu, the provincial government cut a deal with the Taliban.

The peace agreement in Hangu largely mirrors the accords signed throughout the tribal areas, according to details published in Dawn. The Taliban are required to recognize the government's writ, stop attacks on government security forces, and refrain from running a parallel government and legal system. In exchange, the government will withdraw the Army from Hangu and "pay compensation to people who were affected during the operation." In the past the Taliban received direct payments from the government.

Both sides are required to release prisoners. The government detained seven Taliban, including three "high profile" leaders in mid-July, including Rafiuddin, a Taliban leader in Hangu and a deputy of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The release of Rafiuddin is high on the list of the Taliban's demands. An additional 30 Taliban fighters were detained during a one week operation in the district. The Taliban are currently holding 29 government officials and security officers.

The Hangu tribal jirga, which represented the Taliban during talks with the government, is said to be heading to the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency to conduct talks with a Taliban commander named Mohammad Karim Khan. The government cut a deal with the Taliban in Khyber on July 9, and the extremist now control wide swaths of the tribal agency.

The military launched the Hangu offensive on July 16 after the Taliban conducted numerous attacks, including an ambush that killed 15 soldiers and a siege of a police station by more than 400 fighters. Peace negotiations were initiated in Hangu just five days after the military launched an operation purportedly to uproot the Taliban. Yesterday the military called off the offensive after claiming the objectives have been met and the Taliban have been cleared from Hangu.

Hangu is the fourth settled district of the Northwest Frontier Province where the government has negotiated a peace agreement with the Taliban this year. The government has also signed deals with the Taliban in six of the seven tribal agencies that border Afghanistan.

Background on recent peace agreements between the government and the Taliban

The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, Khyber, and Orakzai.

Negotiations are underway in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been signed.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

On July 23, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistan cedes Hangu to the Taliban"

Posted by Raj Kumar at July 25, 2008 4:29 AM ET:

Guess were the money to pay 'compensation' to the Taliban is coming from?

The good old US of A.

I have seen some major policy disasters in my time but I think this one comes pretty much close to the top!!!

Posted by valdez at July 25, 2008 7:31 AM ET:

These taliban guys have got the pakistan government in there pocket. Somebody is going to have to clean that mess up and its going to be ugly, but they can't be allowed to operate as long as they continue their attacks in Afganistan...

Posted by Solomon2 at July 25, 2008 1:04 PM ET:

Time to take Pershing's approach to the problem and launch a ground offensive against the bandits in support of Pakistani sovereignty. The Turks are solving their PKK problem in much the same way.

Posted by Paul at July 25, 2008 4:18 PM ET:

Hi Bill, I thought that Musharraf never failed to dissapoint! It is unsettling to see what the Gillani is now doing. It seems that he is buying off the Taliban in return for peace outside the tribal areas. I do not completely understand why he is doing this, save for the fact that they know they are powerless against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and are willing to throw the ball into our court in dealing with them.
It is clear that Pakistan does not have the stomach to fight after the last couple of trips to the woodshed. My question is where this leaves the US and NATO? With things essentially settled and ceded in the East and South of the triabl areas, the Taliban are free to concentrate on Afghanistan and the border region. Is Pakistan ready to accept NATO incursions into the border regions if not an entire invasion of the NWFP altogether? Do you happen to know what the US take is on all of this? This cannot sit well with Bush and the military, but I do not see what recourse they have right now. I do not see this as entriely a troop presence issue, as there is no doubt logistics and the dreaded legal issues surrounding any possible offensive operations. The key to success it now seems does not lie in Afghanistan or on the border, but rather in the tribal regions.
Thanks for your reporting and insight. ....pd

Posted by JusCruzn at July 25, 2008 5:45 PM ET:

Pakistan has publicly admitted before that there are certain areas that they just cannont control. Now they cede land to the Taliban. It is time for the entire freedom loving world to step up and put an end to this extremeism. Terrorism is a global problem and will require a global response. Now that the Taliban are in control of Hangu it's time to take the war right to them there. No letup no peace talks just eliminate them by any and every means possible.

Posted by Alex at July 25, 2008 9:16 PM ET:

JusCruzn,

If Pakistan wants to formally cede a Talibanistan, I say that's fine. Let them formally relinquish sovereignty over that area, since they already have de facto. Then, let the NATO and ANA forces roll in and implement the Petraeus Doctrine.

Posted by bard207 at July 25, 2008 9:46 PM ET:

Alex,

If Pakistan does the formal relinquishment as you suggest, then whatever nominal protection that they
currently provide to the supply chain into Afghanistan will be gone.

Posted by KW64 at July 25, 2008 10:13 PM ET:

hard207 is right, until we get another supply route, we cannot simply kiss off the Pakistani government. In the meantime we secure the border and Afghanistan as best we can and bring more resources in as they become available. Of course, if the supply lines get cut, that crisis would force change of one kind or another.

Posted by bard207 at July 26, 2008 1:36 PM ET:

Pakistani

Do you believe that the militants will be satisfied if FATA is formally ceded to them? My expectation is that they will continue to push Eastward beyond FATA until they are forcibly stopped. There doesn't appear to be the will in Pakistan to stop the militants in FATA, but the determination will suddenly be found as the militants approach Attock?

Posted by bard207 at July 27, 2008 7:26 AM ET:

I am not suggesting that the militants will approach Attock in 2008. It will take some time to convert the citizens along the way.

There were some citizens in the FATA that were opposed to the strictness of the militants. As the national government ceded control to the militants, the citizens were converted.

Not all Pakistani citizens living in the FATA favor the Taliban mindset and rules, but have to accept the since the Pakistani government abandoned them.

Since the Pukhtuns feel that the Durand Line on the Western border is meaningless, why should they respect map lines to the East that denote FATA, NWFP etc?

It is interesting that the Pakistani Army will fight the Baloch militants more than they will fight the Pukhtuns militants in FATA - NWFP. The Army was able to find and kill Nawab Bugti almost two years ago, but doesn't seem to be putting forth the same effort to find Baitullah Mehsud, Mangal Bagh, Mullah Fazlullah etc. It might be felt that killing the militant Pukhtun leaders will fail to solve the issues in FATA - NWFP, but killing Baloch leaders isn't going to solve the issues in Balochistan.

From what I have read, there seems to be much more negotiation & dealmaking with the Pukhtun militants with much less of that with the Baloch militants.

Fighting the Pukhtun militants in FATA - NWFP is not a good option for Pakistan, but fighting the Baloch militants is?