Taliban are 'patriots,' says Pakistani Army official


A senior Pakistani military official called two senior Taliban leaders "patriots," signaling a shift in posture against the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Mumbai terror siege and India's reaction may lead the Pakistani Army to negotiate peace agreements with the Taliban to free up troops for the eastern border with India.

The official, who was not named, called Taliban leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah "patriots" during a briefing with senior Pakistani journalists, The News reported. He said the military and the Taliban are clashing due to "some misunderstandings."

"We have no big issues with the militants in Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas]," the official said. "We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue."

Baitullah is the head of the Pakistani Taliban and a warlord in South Waziristan. Baitullah has defeated the Pakistani military in multiple battles the past several years. Fazlullah is the head of the Taliban in Swat, where the government has been fighting to gain control of the region for more than a year.

Taliban groups throughout the tribal areas and the greater Northwest Frontier Province "offered a ceasefire if the Pakistan Army also stops its operations," The News reported. "The Indian allegations against Pakistan have suddenly forced the military establishment in Pakistan to finally accept that they are not fighting an American war inside the Pakistani territory."

"Tribesmen" in Taliban-controlled North Waziristan contacted the government last weekend to offer their support to defend Pakistan's border with India. The North Waziristan leaders said they could raise 3 million tribesmen to fight the Indians. The leaders also "urged the government to move the armed forces to its eastern border in the wake of the aggressive Indian intensions."

The removal of Pakistani forces from the insurgency-plagued northwest would ease the pressure on the Taliban in Bajaur and Swat, where military operations have been ongoing in months. This would also allow the Taliban to consolidate its power throughout the Northwest Frontier Province.

Indian police and intelligence officials have implicated the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and the criminal network of Dawood Ibrahim, who is based in Karachi, as being behind the 62-hour terror siege of Mumbai last week. Elements of Pakistan's military and intelligence service have also been fingered in the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani defense officials threatened to withdraw the 100,000 troops from the northwest last weekend in response to what it perceived as Indian "threats." The next day, another senior defense official denied the Army was redeploying to the Indian frontier. The Indian Army also denied it was mobilizing its forces on the Pakistani border.

As the rhetoric between the Taliban and the Army cools, a senior Taliban leader threatened to "annex" northwestern Pakistan if the government continues to support the US and NATO. Hakeemullah Mehsud, a senior deputy of Baitullah, demanded the government halt the movement of NATO supplies destined for Afghanistan through Pakistani territory. He also wants the government to end military operations in the northwest.

"His group will capture Pakistan if Islamabad continues to support NATO's operation in Afghanistan," Zee News reported. "In fact, Taliban will not hesitate in taking over Peshawar, Hangur, and eventually the whole Pakistan."

The Pakistani government has inked peace agreements with the Taliban in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province between 2004 and 2008. The agreements broke down as the Taliban violated the terms of the agreements and continued to consolidate more territory under their control. These agreements have ceded the tribal areas and large swaths of the Northwest Frontier Province to the Taliban.

Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other allied terror groups have established more than 150 training camps in Pakistan's northwest. More camps exist in Baluchistan and in other regions of Pakistan.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban are 'patriots,' says Pakistani Army official"

Posted by Cordell at December 1, 2008 3:02 PM ET:

If the Taliban could ever be trusted to keep their word and fight for Pakistan against India in a formal war, the Indians and Pakistanis might consider arranging a faux war on their behalf. Directing them to stage a mass assault on fortified Indian positions would be a quick way of killing tens of thousands of Taliban in short order and putting an end to their NWFP insurgency. Unfortunately, the Taliban's "patriotism" here is nothing more than political posturing designed to halt the government's campaign against them. Sadly, too many Pakistanis still are willing to trust them despite repeated failed peace treaties.

Posted by Rosario at December 1, 2008 4:05 PM ET:

One of the "patriots" Hakeem Ullah Mehsud in his own words:

http://broadband.indiatimes.com/toishowvideo/3780906.cms

Cut-off of supplies via the Kyber pass and control of WMD has to be NATO's red line for invasion of Pakistan. The incidents in Mumbai were probably timed to facilitate these actions coinciding with the US election cycle. Is this bravado by Hakeem or can the taliban "walk the walk?"

Posted by KW64 at December 1, 2008 5:48 PM ET:

So according to India, if Pakistan does not act against the Taliban, India will take stern measures. According to the Taliban, if the Pakistani government does not stop attacking the Taliban, they will capture Pakistan.

Well, if I had a choice between a war with the Taliban, 40,000 ragtag tribesmen with suicide belts and AK's with a recruiting base population of 25 million at most, or a war with India, which has a superior army and air force as well as nuclear weapons and a population recruiting base of 1 billion. I'd say its a no-brainer decision.

Posted by mike at December 1, 2008 6:59 PM ET:

I love to hear this nonsense from Pakistani officials. Three things to be taken from these comments;
1. Missile defense system asap, funded from cut-off of foreign aid to Pakistan
2. Triple the funding for Predator strikes in NWF
3. Manhattan-type project to develop alternate fuels asap, funded by a 25 billion head-start from non-support of the Big 3 and Big Oil, who have fed our dependency of fossil fuels by continuing to market only the obsolete internal combustion engine

All three of these render all of SW Asia and the Middle East irrelevant, and remove 99% of greviences aganst the US

Posted by Freedom Now at December 2, 2008 4:33 AM ET:

Pakistan needs a new counter-terrorism force. This force should eventually expand until it completely replaces the Pakistani security forces.

Otherwise, they will never be able to fully exert their authority in their own country, while coveting Indian-held Kashmir.

As it stands, this Pakistani brinksmanship only guarantees an escalation of terror attacks on India by Islamist terrorists who feel that their tactics are working.

Posted by JusCruzn at December 2, 2008 12:27 PM ET:

For any citizen of Pakistan or any other coutry that may think the Taliban are patriots. Look no further than when they were in control of Afghanistan. If that doesn't convince you that they are murdering thugs, then you deserve to suffer under them.

Posted by David M at December 2, 2008 2:18 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/02/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.