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 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.