Pakistan’s Safe Haven

We are watching the slow-motion disintegration of Pakistan as a sovereign state

The federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Province. Click to enlrage.

Pakistani officials and government friendly news outlets continue to spin the Waziristan Accord as a successfully strategy in dealing the the Taliban. The Pak Tribune’s Akbar Jan Marwat echoes the government position. “The recent accord, which took place between the government authorities and the tribal militants is indeed, to be welcomed by all,” says Marwat. Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah has certainly welcomed the Waziristan Accord.

In the spring of this year, I warned that the North West Frontier Province agencies of Bajaur, Tank, Khyber, Peshawar and Dera Ishmal Khan were in danger of falling to the Taliban. After the Waziristan Accord was signed, I warned that Bajaur, Tank, Khyber, Peshawar and Dera Ishmal Khan are contested agencies, and now that the Taliban succeeded in North and South Waziristan, these agencies would become the target of the Taliban’s efforts to consolidate control of the region. Today, Peter Bergen is reporting “senior U.S. military officials believe deals are in the offing in more of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies.”

“This is the second of seven. Bajaur is next,” he said, referring to a third agency adjoining Waziristan where many believe al-Qaida number two Ayman al-Zawahiri is hiding, and where U.S. forces launched a missile strike earlier this year in an unsuccessful attempt to kill him.

[Pakistani spokesman Maj Gen Shauka] Sultan maintained that there was no security problem in Bajaur, but said that “wherever we do have problems,” they would look to resolve them through negotiation initially. “The use of force is only useful up to a certain point; after that it can become counter-productive.”

The four unnamed agencies are Tank, Khyber, Peshawar and Dera Ishmal Khan. The significance of Bajaur cannot be overstated. “We believe [Osama bin Laden] is somewhere between Bajaur, Pakistan, and the province of Kunar in Afghanistan,” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday. Yet Pakistan is willing to cede control of this region and further hamper the hunt for senior al Qaeda leaders.

It has been an open secret in military and intelligence circles that Pakistan is a refuge for the Taliban. Colonel Chris Vernon discussed the Taliban’s command structure in Quetta in May of 2006. Colonel Arie Vermeij, the senior Dutch officer in Afghanistan, recently noted Pakistan’s porous border and the problem a safe haven creates on the border. “Unfortunately, al Qaeda supports the Taliban, which gets help from Pakistan… We take a lot of Taliban prisoners or eliminate them, but more fighters continually come from Pakistan and other countries,” said Col. Vermeij. UPI reports the military is worried about the recent developments in western Pakistan.

Bergen said that privately, senior U.S. military officers were worried that the deal would create a more permissive environment for Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and allied forces across the border in Afghanistan — and risk providing a sanctuary for jihadi terrorists in Pakistan.

A staffer who recently returned from a congressional trip to the region confirmed that U.S. military officers on the ground were apprehensive about the impact of the new strategy. “They’re really worked up about it… Especially the ones looking for the high value targets,” who were already “frustrated” with the limits to their hot pursuit abilities across the border. “They clearly think (the deal) is going to make things worse,” the staffer said.

Pakistan is considering further cession of authority in the Northwest Frontier Province. A recent report indicates Pakistan is also considering a constitutional amendment for provincial autonomy, apparently for Baluchistan and the NWFP. More deals are in the offing, and al Qaeda and the Taliban’s power will only grow.

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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13 Comments

  • Wild Bill says:

    Maybe this is a plus. If Pakistan has ceded this area to the Taliban then they might not mind if we attack in the middle of the night or if we are hot pursuit come across the border. In fact the deal should have read we will not protect you from the Americans

  • ElamBend says:

    At what point does Musharrefs creditbility get low enough that we can make strikes on Waziristan?
    I understand the accord is making things harder right now, but at some point we’re going to have to say Waziristan is NOT Pakistan, and if Pakistan is not going to police it, particularly if Taliban is launching raids from there, we reserve the right to strike. At least, I hope.

  • The Nailgun says:

    Could not agree with the 2 posts above more. I initially thought overtly tell Pakistan and Musharraf this but now I think we just do whatever we want. Israel would already be conducting operations inside Waziristan if she neighboured it. I don’t think we need to hold territory, just strike where, when and often as we like. It’ll look like a pretty hollow victory then. Would be good to have some of Afghanistan’s best commandos on these missions too give some langauge and culture awareness too. Political risk is it undermines Musharraf but on the flip side the home base of the extremeists would be looking to undermine him would be coming under direct attack. They’ll be a lot more busy than they have in the past. Surely patrollng/attacking from the air must be a real possiblity now. Chase Taliban to the border and then pursue then from the air into Wazir’stan.

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  • Justin B says:

    One of the requirements to maintain sovereignty is to control one’s own country. The Palestinian Authority failed to control Hamas and Lebanon failed to control Hezbollah earlier this year and agents of these two terror organizations attacked military forces in Israel.
    Pakistan is bordering on turning into Lebanon. These areas, just like the south of Lebanon, are completely out of the control of the government and so the government is handing over control to a terror supporting organization.
    In Justin’s perfect world, there would be a world body that could assist with these type of situations and send in multi-national forces to assist the PA, Lebanon, and Pakistan with rooting out the evil doers in these chaotic and ungoverned areas that become staging grounds for terror activities. But alas, that body is too busy laughing at Bush being called the Devil by Hugo Chavez to actually take a real role in the War on Terror.
    Point is, without the UN, border disputes and these type of situations are going to end badly one way or another. Either Musharraf has to send in troops, we have to cross Pakistan’s borders with or without permission, or we allow Al Qaeda and the Taliban to regroup and reorganize for further attacks. I am not suggesting that we want to send in troops or do anything to destabilize the rest of Pakistan that is barely under Musharraf’s current control, but short of that, our only alternatives are human intel from known terror suspects. Hence why I believe that the Patriot Act, SWIFT, and coerced interrogations are critical components of our WoT strategy. Since we cannot go into Pakistan to get these folks unless something drastically changes, the best we can do it use our intel community to thwart attacks.
    It bothers me to have some suggest “we need to get Bin Laden”. That ignores the geopolitical reality of Pakistan and this disputed border region as well as the fact that Musharraf may not be our greatest ally, but his replacement is certainly going to be worse. And considering that any violation of a country’s borders is an act of war, we really don’t want to go to war with these guys. Pakistan is the same country that pardoned AQ Kahn of selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iraq, Iran, etc. Musharraf remaining in power may be more important to the WoT than capturing OBL. That is a tough position to hold and defend, but it is reality.

  • Armin says:

    Sorry to pick on details, but Bajaur and Khyber are FATA agencies, while Peshawar, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan are districts of NWFP province. Back when I lived in Peshawar for a year and worked near the border with Khyber Agency, it really made a difference, on the ground, whether you were in a FATA tribal area or in an NWFP district. The Pakistani Air Force used to do training runs against ground targets with live missiles along that border, and I was told it was partly a show of force for the tribals’ benefit.
    Great work Bill. I especially appreciated your PPCLI embed reporting.

  • Erin says:

    I believe as the first two posters do that this is a good thing and I believe we will attack that area. I also think it’s a good thing that terrorist’s are gathering in Somalia, so much easier to just wipe out an entire area from the air then trying to pick through who is “moderate” and who is not.

  • Pakistan’s Safe Haven

    Courtesy of The Fourth Rail:
    We are watching the slow-motion disintegration of Pakistan as a sovereign state
    Pakistani officials and government friendly news outlets continue to spin the Waziristan Accord as a successfully strategy in dealing the th…

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    Last week, I posted pessimistically on the situation in Waziristan, based on a recent trip by Alexis Debat, and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross posted on the State Department’s endorsement of the Pakistan-Waziristan deal. The UPI today issued part 2 of an anal…

  • tblubrd says:

    Not sure I understand the difference between a FATA agency and an NWFP district, Armin. But I will search and try to glean some info. Good points.
    Overall though, I suspect the loss of Pakistani control in these areas certainly leads one to assume that military involvement by UN and/or coalition forces will – or should – follow. We can also see that this may be consolodation of Mushi’s control over what’s left. He’s simply letting the crazies do what they want in the tribal areas. His management area is now the most populated and the military doesn’t need to take losses in unpopular battles.
    We will have to see if Mushi will support any combat operation by Afghan/UN forces beyond tracking Osama. At least we ought to be working on this diplomatically.

  • Oe says:

    Pakistan has fought for these areas for years and lost. No permissions is needed. He wants them bombed.

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  • VN says:

    According to a reliable source coalition forces go beyond the durrant line into Pakistan. My reliable source? a british soldier that I got aquainted with in an Amsterdam pub. He blurted it out, then got nervous seeing my brown skin.
    I explain my parents were from India not Pakistan so he ellaborated further. He was not happy about killing another human being even the Taleban. We were also with some Americans in the pub; one of the ladies used to work in the whitehouse and knows president Bush very well.
    Small world eh ?

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