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Daily Times op-ed hits the mark on Pakistani Taliban



It isn't often that I read an op-ed and say to myself "I wish I wrote that," especially when the op-ed addresses the complicated issues of the Long War in general, and the Pakistani Taliban. The op-ed below, from Pakistan's Daily Times, is remarkable for its clarity and the astuteness of its observations, particularly on the Taliban's gaming of the Pakistani political class, and the relations between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. I feel as if the writers picked my brain for this one. Kudos to Daily Times; I can honestly say I agree with 100% of what is written below. Emphasis is mine:

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seems to be on a political-strategic offensive these days. Through well timed approaches to the media, first through a letter written by a senior Punjabi Taliban leader Asmatullah Muawiya some days ago, and now a video showing TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud sitting with reportedly estranged deputy Waliur Rehman, the TTP has sought to dispel any notion of differences or splits within the movement as speculated in the media in recent days. Also, the purpose of these initiatives appears to be to pose as an organisation prepared for talks with the government for peace. However, closer examination of the conditionalities attached by the TTP to any proposed talks indicate that the whole exercise is a non-starter and probably only aimed at exploiting the divisions in the polity and society at large on the approach to be taken to the Taliban menace. Hakeemullah Mehsud has said yes to talks, no to laying down their arms unless and until Pakistan's laws and constitution are recast on what the TTP considers correct Islamic lines, i.e., according to their own narrow interpretation of Sharia. Not only that, in a flip on what he considers US diktat that the military and government follow, for which he cites so-called broken deals with the TTP in the past, his own diktat centres on breaking ties with the US, stopping 'interference' in Afghanistan, and concentrating (waging war against?) India instead. The craziness of this diatribe can be demonstrated by reference to the fact that it was the Taliban who consistently violated deals struck with the government and military in the past, using the breathing space provided by these abortive agreements for consolidating and extending their strength. The timing of the release of the video is also something to contemplate. It follows three major actions by the Taliban in recent days: the attack on the Peshawar airport, the assassination of Bashir Bilour, and the kidnapping of 22 paramilitary soldiers after an assault on check posts. These attacks demonstrated the capability of the Taliban to strike high profile well guarded targets even as the territory they control has shrunk over time because of the military and security forces' campaigns. Hakeemullah goes on in the video to say that they assassinated Bashir Bilour because he had made himself a legitimate target by his consistent resistance to the Taliban and all they stood for. He said their struggle was however not against any individuals but the democratic system and all who support it since they consider it is un-Islamic. But the most chilling message in the video is when Hakeemullah asserts that they would follow the lead of the Afghan Taliban after the withdrawal of the US/NATO from Afghanistan by 2014 because the TTP, Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda are one. Then comes the ultimate feather in the terrorist cap. Hakeemullah proudly claims he and his comrades in the TTP are prepared to have their heads cut off for al Qaeda.

We owe a vote of thanks to Hakeemullah Mehsud for vindicating our long held position that the nexus amongst the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda and its affiliated groups is an undeniable fact of life that can only be ignored at our own peril. Now having been offered this incontrovertible proof of the Taliban on both sides of the western border and al Qaeda being one and the same thing, one hopes the foolishness about 'good' and 'bad' Taliban can be relegated where it belongs: in the dustbin. Unfortunately though, the TTP is playing cleverly on the divisions within our polity and society, proof of which can be found in the divergent reactions to the TTP conditional and unacceptable offer of talks on their dictated terms. Without falling for these diversionary and divisive tactics, it would be in the fitness of things if the elected and other political forces were to unite on a consensus to take definitive action against this existential threat to the state and society. For this purpose, the expected meeting between ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and President Asif Ali Zardari to try to achieve such a consensus will be closely and anxiously watched by all those who want to see the back of the terrorists.



READER COMMENTS: "Daily Times op-ed hits the mark on Pakistani Taliban"

Posted by ayamo at December 30, 2012 3:49 PM ET:

The good/bad Taliban is a foolish Washingtonian expression for hiding in plain sight of truth ... all these "we can get the good Taliban to make this really great" rubbish is a way to sell the 2014 withdrawal.

Once the NATO/USA withdraw the bulk of their forces, god only knows what will happen there ...

Posted by ER at December 30, 2012 10:13 PM ET:

eh, they r barely starting - almost, at that - to catch on about the TTP, who has been entirely consistent & straightforward all along. As they have repeatedly professed allegiance to Mullah Omar & oneness w/Al Qaeda, he only thing new (& yet old - as his bro Beitullah has done it before re: Mumbai attack) in their message here is a suggestion to unite on India. Sadly, the average Pakistani will take forever to realize that same goal (even if, a big if, military gets stoked again about India) does not mean same motivation, as we all know from Saleem Shahzad, that TTP's India interest in 2008 was primarily for distraction - to get military away fr FATA.

Posted by David at December 31, 2012 12:34 AM ET:

A breath of fresh air from that tiny sliver of Pakistani society which is sane.

Posted by Vyom at December 31, 2012 3:51 AM ET:

Not only AQ and Taliban but LeT, Hizbul Mujahiddin, Jaish-e-Muhammad avery one is same and their goal is some what same....This article is written with very good clarity and confidence.....

Posted by Lakshmanan at December 31, 2012 10:39 AM ET:

The Good and bad Taliban is the discovery of the Obama Adminiatration so that they can say we clinched a deal with the Afghans and handed over their country in safer hands before we leave thieir country. These kinds of `adjustments' is also a way to pacify Pakistan from time to time and snub india to keep the Pakis happy. The U.S will keep talking about Good and Bad types as that kind of excuse only could give them a fine excuse to leave Afghanistan in the most `responsible way' that befits a great nation.

Posted by blert at December 31, 2012 6:10 PM ET:

Their reference towards India needs 'translation' -- it really means: "Please look the other way." (East)

=======

All of this is a super-strategic dodge to keep Pakistani society in the thrall of an entirely over-sized Pakistani Army -- and its ISI.

Pakistan has a brutally over expanded army -- which has crippled the nation -- not unlike the Red Army during the Soviet Era.

It's a vicious circle: the PA is creating an environment that aggregates power and resources towards itself. This has reached the threshold at which the rest of Pakistani society can't do better than merely hang on for the trip.

Military expenditures are so (relatively) vast that national development is on a starvation diet -- and Islamabad can only balance its books by dint of massive Western aid.

The statistics are in orbit. Domestic taxation produces only a trivial fraction of their national budget. Effectively, the entire apparatus is living on the Western dole.

This reality is hidden from the Western MSM, who is utterly blind as to the economic fix Pakistan has created for itself.

As the USSR shows, the end game means revolution, when the money runs out.

It's this dynamic that has the West -- America in particular -- feeding the beast -- since roaming nukes are the stuff nightmares are made of.

Our politicians have kicked the can down the road so long that the can has grown enormous.

Posted by mike merlo at December 31, 2012 7:04 PM ET:

after decades of malfeasance & Machiavellian schemes among Pakistan's residents by Pakistani's, in spite of "The Daily Times" openness, I'm sure the gov't & military of Pakistan will continue with their tweedledum and tweedledee approach to dealing with that which is "identified" in the opinion piece

Posted by irebukeu at January 1, 2013 10:30 AM ET:

Is it just me? I always thought that the terms "good and bad Taliban' only referred to the way they were treated by the Pakistani ISI-Military-government (Haqqani=good Meshud=bad) and was a layman's term so that we could understand their relationship to the Pakistani ISI.

I realize from the comments that people are attributing this binary term "good and bad" to the Obama administration.

Is this the case?

I have only heard them refer to the Taliban as basicly reconcilable and irreconcilable, willing to negotiate and not willing to negotiate (I have always assumed that "Taliban' willing to negotiate were not really Taliban).

I have not heard the Bush administration use this term either.
Are people just having a go at Obama or am I off base here?

Posted by Alan Hawk at January 1, 2013 1:18 PM ET:

At the tail end of my tour in Afghanistan in 2009, I began receiving intelligence reports from a CONUS-based intelligence agency of a rift between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I could not find any reporting that supported the contention. I did not find that contention believable, nor a similar between the 'good' and 'bad' Taliban. I suspect that such reports were based on denial rather than intelligence.

Posted by mike merlo at January 1, 2013 5:24 PM ET:

@Alan Hawk
I'm sure the intelligence was correct in identifying a "rift," but where 'these clowns' routinely screw up is nature of "the rift" & the context by which 'they're' playing out. Most likely these disagreements were the result of C&C issues & the allocation of 'resources' & personnel. Tribal's customarily adjudicate these issues with violence if they are unable to reach a satisfactory consensus. These same scenario's are easily exacerbated by the presence of foreign interlopers. Further complicating the intel analysis is that oft times the collected intel of this nature is 2 or more people removed from the actual incident.

During the Soviet occupation & the conducting of operations by the Mujahideen friction & tension most always accompanied the relationships between the Field Commanders & those responsible for managing the C&C affairs in "The Rear Areas." Economics, personnel & C&C issues will continue to plague the insurgents efforts. These will become ever more acute as available resources & funding dwindle resulting in heightened control. Which in turn will witness the experiencing of "rifts" tempered by a deepening of suspicions, antagonism's, & customary animosities.

During the Mujahideen era Field Commanders oft times were reluctant to share resources & manpower. In many cases these differences resulted in violent opposition to orders or directives. There is no reason to believe that the same frictions & tensions will not surface in the present insurgency

Posted by Viv at January 2, 2013 1:30 AM ET:

Excellent article indeed.Compared to most of the other commanders, Hakeemullah Mehsud does seem to have an aura of invincibility and dynamism in him. He is like the cat with 9 lives and continues to play traunt with the Pakistan army. The question of how the Pakistan Taliban itself came into existence itself is a big mystery. Either the ISI were funelling the arms initially and then the Taliban went out of their control or else they were being funded by the RAW/Mossad (still hard to believe). With the new video, hopefully it will put to rest the perennial wrong information by Reuters about the rift between hakeemullah and Wali ur rahman. These 2 are in a vantage position at the moment and can call their shots through Ehsanullah Ehsan. Another recet development is that the leader of the ANP-Asfandyar Khan has mellowed on the anti TTP rhetoric and has suddenly decided to make peace with them. Obviously, the killing of Bilour has made its impact. A few more of such selective high profile killings in other major parties will silence the entire polity who would be forced to make peace with them.We should not be surprised to see such high profile targets being taken out in the next couple of days.

Posted by ER at January 3, 2013 8:18 AM ET:

@irebukeu, the expressions "good taliban" and "bad taliban" are not about Obama, but are used in 2 totally different ways depending on one of 2 contexts - unfortunately, many are unaware of this & so end up confounding groups & individuals who might fall in a different category depending on the context.
The 2 contexts:
(1) In the context of the US, Westerners, non-Muslims, & generally, non-Pakistanis, the "good taliban" would be those perceived as willing to limit their "jihad" to be about national or regional aspirations rather than a global caliphate (thus not a threat to us)
(2) In context of Pakistanis - fr their viewpoint, the "good taliban" are those not against Pakistan govt or military.

Posted by Charu at January 3, 2013 7:22 PM ET:

Blert hits the nail on the head. The good cop.. err.. Taliban, bad Taliban show essentially boils down to who is willing to be directly controlled by the PA/ISI. The root cause of the Afghan mess is the bloated PA/ISI that sees Afghanistan as their fiefdom. All the unaccounted millions being poured into the PA only goes to fund the fight against us. It is a self-perpetuating shakedown cycle; we pay the PA to clamp down on AQ and to keep the Talibs from attacking us and to mind their nukes, they pay their "good" Talibs to attack us and they keep building up their stockpile. Even the Mafia don't have it this good!

Posted by Sindhudesh at January 6, 2013 9:06 PM ET:

The TTP and the world should offer support and assistance to Sindhudesh and Balochistan freedom fighters to disintegrate Pakistan in order to bring long-lasting peace in world. The only solution to bring peace in the world is to disintegrate Pakistan into four separate states. The world must help TTP to weaken Pakistan. The freedom fight is already going on in Balochistan where recently pak army carried out air strike in mashkay, balochistan against the baloch freedom fighters. and armed struggle has been started in Sindh some 10 years ago, though nascent yet. But with the world support birth of independent sindhudesh and balochistan can take place.