Baitullah Mehsud, operating from Waziristan, is the ringmaster; Pakistan’s real intent in negotiating “peace” in South Waziristan
Pakistan’s insurgency in the tribal belt and suicide attacks nationwide have not abated. Attacks on Pakistani government forces have become a regular occurrence in the tribal region. Today, three government employees were killed when their car was attacked by the Taliban outside the town of Mir Ali, in North Waziristan. Two were killed and four wounded in an explosion in an arms bazaar in Khyber agency.
The string of four suicide attacks over the past week has been traced back to the Taliban, and to Waziristan. Six suspects were arrested in Dera Ismail Khan. “During the investigations, we have got good clues suggesting the bombings were by militants based in the Waziristan tribal region,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. The Daily Times reports an Uzbek named Umer “entered Pakistan from Afghanistan and [took] refuge in South Waziristan” prior to convincing a man from South Waziristan to carry out the suicide strike.
Baitullah Mahsud is believed to be the Taliban leader behind the suicide attacks. “[The six captured suspects] told interrogators that Baitullah was unhappy with (the) army’s killing of tribesmen in the name of action against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and he planned revenge attacks in other Pakistani cities,” reports the Daily Times.
Baitullah had openly threatened to conduct suicide strikes inside Pakistan in retaliation for the January 16th bombing of an al Qaeda and Taliban camp in the Zamazola region of South Waziristan. While much of the media reporting gives favor to the Taliban claims that the Zamazola strike killed only innocent loggers, Baitullah, in an interview with The Friday Times admitted the attack hit one of his camps. “Baitullah said he was using suicide attacks as a ‘response’ to Pakistani and American air strikes on his hideouts. “When they hits us, we hit back with the fidayeen,” he says.”
Meanwhile, Syed Saleem Shahzad, in an article discussing the Pakistani’s fears of further suicide bombings and attacks, quotes a Pakistani official on the real reason why the deal was cut with the Taliban in South Waziristan. Note that there never was any intention of rooting out al Qaeda and the Taliban, only to contain them.
“When Pakistan signed an accord with the Taliban in South Waziristan, it was agreed that all foreign militants would be confined to the country’s remote tribal areas and that they would not go to the tribal headquarter towns or Pakistan’s cities. This measure proved to be a great help containing terrorism, to the extent that it almost came to a halt in Pakistan. It also helped to thwart al Qaeda from pursuing its global agendas especially in European countries,” the official added. “However, there is evidence that Baitullah Mehsud has allowed foreign militants to launch attacks against Pakistan.”
The Musharraf government has treated the Taliban as an entity separate from al Qaeda, and assumed its grievances with the government were of a local nature. The fact is the Taliban and al Qaeda are intricately linked and share identical goals of establishing local and global Islamic Caliphates. The Musharraf government gave the Taliban and al Qaeda crucial breathing space to rest, rearm, recruit, train and establish training camps and infrastructure throughout the tribal belt. The Northwest Frontier Province is largely under Taliban and al Qaeda control, and the Pakistani government, Afghanistan and the West will pay for this.
See The Fall of Waziristan: An Online History for more information.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.