Pakistan attempts to revive the Waziristan Accord

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts openly controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat. Click map to view.

Negotiations are underway with the Taliban as the government said it will increase forces in the Northwest Frontier Province

The situation in Pakistan’s volatile Northwest Frontier Province is coming to a head. After a weekend of suicide bombings targeting government security forces in North Waziristan, Swat and Dera Ismail Khan that killed over 70 Pakistani troops, the Taliban has decided to call off the Waziristan Accord. This “peace agreement” between the government and the Taliban has contributed to the Talibanization of large swaths of the Northwest Frontier Province. The Taliban repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement, but the Pakistani government is still working to keep it alive.

Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakazi, the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, is actively negotiating with the Taliban in North Waziristan in an effort to revive the accord. “We are trying to engage them in a bid to keep the accord intact,” Aurakazi told Geo News. Aurakazi claimed the Taliban acted in haste to dissolve the agreement, while they “have complaints about establishment of new checkposts and delay in payment of compensation.” The government is working to speed up payments to the Taliban, and that “Rs 130 million [$2.2 million] out of total 310 million [$5.1 million] amount has been distributed among local Taliban as financial

assistance.”

The Waziristan Accord demanded that the Taliban refrain from setting up camps in the tribal agency and setting up a parallel government, eject foreign fighters from the region, and stop cross border attacks into Afghanistan. In exchange, the Pakistani government would pay reparations to the Taliban, return their weapons, refrain from attacking the Taliban, and pull its troops back from the region.

In canceling the Waziristan Accord, the Taliban have threatened the tribes and their members if they worked or negotiated with the government. “The Taliban warned Khasadar and levies personnel not to perform official duties with army and paramilitary troops, otherwise they would also be attacked,” the Daily Times reported. “The Taliban also announced amnesty for pro-government tribal elders, but warned that they should not conduct any jirgas with the government.”

The Pakistani military has sent an additional brigade of troops to Tank, while patrols have been stepped up in Swat and Battagram. Today, President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz conducted a “high-level meeting” to discuss the security situation in the Northwest Frontier Province. Musharraf and Aziz “decided to deploy additional forces in NWFP and tribal areas” to stem the Talibanization of the region.

President Musharraf’s next move in the Northwest Frontier Province may decide the fate of his government. There is intense political pressure over his dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. This has united the opposition against Musharraf. The Islamist political parties have attacked the government over the assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad, and only a few ministers have defended the government’s actions while the rest have been silent. The Taliban-supporting Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal political party has called for a trial over the Lal Masjid “massacre.”

The military has yet to deploy in the red zones of Bajaur and North and South Waziristan, where the Taliban is strongest. The military appears to be working to contain the threat at the moment.

When the military launched operations in Waziristan in 2004 and 2005, the Taliban and al Qaeda bloodied the nose of the Pakistani military, While the military claimed it lost 700 troops in the attacks, American military and intelligence sources have informed The Fourth Rail the number of killed is closer to 3,000. The Taliban and al Qaeda are far stronger today than in 2005. Musharraf is weakened politically and there are very real questions about the will of the military and intelligence communities to fight their countrymen.

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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23 Comments

  • Tim says:

    Sounds like the Taliban is borrowing a page from Stalin’s book: “Promises are like pie crusts: They are made to be broken”.

  • crosspatch says:

    Is it possible that something akin to what we are doing in Iraq is taking place there? Could the government be attempting to identify the more moderate tribes/groups and split them off from the more hardcore groups?

  • C-Low says:

    If Musharaf doesn’t retake Warizistan the Taliban/AQ will again push into Pakistan Proper. Not to mention at some point Musharaf’s luck is going to run out and from what I have seen read their is no one in the wings that could take his place at least not anyone who is pro-western.
    I cannot help but remember a interview I read with a Taliban leader were he joked “who knows maybe one day we will even have our own F-16’s”. I think that day will come the same day Musharaf is put in the dirt.

  • Andrew says:

    If this is true, Pakistan is doing a very, very stupid thing. Taliban, Al-Qaeda, etc. must be stopped at all costs. Don’t negotiate with them, kill them all, kill their children, wives, everyone.

  • GK says:

    “If Musharaf doesn’t retake Warizistan the Taliban/AQ will again push into Pakistan Proper. ”
    Won’t happen. The 80% of Pakistan’s population that is Punjabi and Sindhi is just too Indian-like to become interested in Taliban rule. Plus, they are the majority.
    That does not preclude nukes getting into Al-Qaeda’s hands, however. It just precludes the Taliban taking over the whole country.

  • templar knight says:

    Musharraf doesn’t have the stomach to fight AQ and the Taliban in the tribal regions. Frankly, his forces can’t, or perhaps more accurately, won’t fight them. And it’s doubtful to me that Paki forces could, in fact, beat AQ and the Taliban in the north. There are too many AQ sympathizers who are high ranking members of the military, people who could and would advise AQ on the activities of the Paki armed forces.
    I look for the slow-motion jihad to continue in the north of Pakistan, with more territories falling to AQ and the Taliban. Unless there is a major effort on the part of the US(doubtful), or Europe(unbelievable), I look for Pakistan to continue to be marginalized, and sooner or later, to fall to the Taliban and its sympathizers. Scary stuff.

  • Jim Rockford says:

    My guess is that Pakistan falls more or less into AQ/Taliban hands within six months or less. Including their nukes. Of course we will do nothing, because we suffer from paralysis here at home. We don’t have a Red Mosque but we do have Dems doing their best to inflict defeat/surrender as “good for us” and also keeping the Military and it’s supporters out of any power sharing.
    We will have to lose cities before we do anything appreciable.
    Good points on Pakistan’s military and intelligence services being unwilling to take on the Taliban and being part of the Taliban.

  • mxpwr03 says:

    President Musharraf needs to call some form of elections, elections that will generate a legitimate outcome, and if he wins than make his move. If he looses, it is hard to imagine Benazir Bhutto (she is necessary for the election to be legitimate) taking a tough or even tougher stance then the President currently is taking, however with enough international pressure perhaps she, if she is to be the next President, will cooperate (mind you that is a big if). Whatever the outcome, it seems to me that the major obstacle Pakistan faces in dealing with the NWFP is not a lack of hard power, but political in nature. The lack of political capital stops the Pakistani government from launching and sustaining the necessary campaign against the destabilizing Taliban/AQ elements.

  • Glenmore says:

    A couple of effective suicide bomb attacks against the Pakistani forces and Musharraf surrenders. Again.

  • davidp says:

    Amazing. As I see it, extremists murder 70 soldiers in unprovoked attacks and the provincial governor Aurakazi seems to say ‘that’s OK, lets do some more negotiating.’ What kind of government lets its employees be murdered ? A very weak and ineffective one.

    Killing soldiers during active operations is combat. Killing them, when you have a peace treaty and they are moving peacefully, is murder. What kind of army says it’s OK for their troops to be murdered – they’d rather not try to attack the murderers ?

  • The fall of Pakistan, one in a series

    Bill Roggio reports that the Taliban and their allied tribes in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province have called off their peace accords with the government of President Musharraf. In reality, these were little more than surrenders of sovereignty by …

  • templar knight says:

    “The lack of political capital stops the Pakistani government from launching and sustaining the neccessary campaign against the destablizing Taliban/AQ elements”.
    Really, it seems doubtful to me that Musharraf could even win an election. It would be much too dangerous for him to campaign in any meaningful way, and he is not assured of winning even if he did.
    Yes, the political capital of Musharraf is close to zero, therefore be cajols and begs rather than taking the harsh actions that would be necessary to beat the AQ/Taliban forces. And his perceived weakness does nothing but encourage more attacks. I am very pessimistic.

  • crosspatch says:

    It might be a little more complex politically than what it seems on the surface. By remaining open to talks, it would tend to defuse the rhetoric of political opponents who would paint him as being “spring loaded” to go on the offensive. At the same time it gives more rope to the extremists who would continue attacking government forces in the face of these overtures. If the government appears willing to talk and the extremists continue to attack, then when the government finally does act, it will be seen has having bent over backwards to avoid it and giving the Taliban basically what they deserve.
    Musharraf’s political opponents like to portray his as dictatorial and unwilling to engage in dialog and quick to use military force. This would tend to deflate that rhetoric.
    If Musharraf succeeds in appearing to be the voice of reason in all of this, he will be able to act with much greater popular support and less risk of a general uprising. He is walking a political tightrope and even if he did command the unfailing loyalty of the military and could pull out all the stops and order a full-on offensive, it isn’t clear right not to what degree the people would support such an action. And it could play into the hand of his opponents who portray him as someone who would do just that.
    This is more than just military, it is very much about Pakistani domestic politics.

  • RTLM says:

    From Link:

    The government is working to speed up payments to the Taliban, and that “Rs 130 million [$2.2 million] out of total 310 million [$5.1 million] amount has been distributed among local Taliban as financial assistance.”

    I thought we learned a long tome ago not to “throw money at problems”. Especially this one.

  • templar knight says:

    “This is more than just military, it is very much about Pakistani domestic politics.”
    Exactly, I couldn’t agree more. And Musharraf’s weak response to the killing of 70 or more of his troops is telling. He knows his position is weak, therefore he is reduced to more talk. I promise you, AQ and the Taliban will perceive the proposals of Musharraf as weakness, and will act accordingly.
    Look for a major attack in Afghanistan as a result, as AQ can now relax with respect to Paki forces taking the offensive against them. Kabul will be on their radar now, I guarantee it. The US and its allies had better be ready.

  • RHYNO327 says:

    a little late for talking. when the Gov. backed off, they took full advantage. only his military will keep him in power. the US could strike with impunity now. Pervez days breathing are numbered, better make some arrangements with India, coz they will be a nuclear target also.

  • crosspatch says:

    I am seeing more validation for a hunch I have had for some time coming out of Pakistani reporting. For example, this article contains what I think is a key passage:

    The governor said the peace deal was not struck with the `local Taliban’. Instead, it was signed with the tribal elders and only they can scrap it. The participants asked the governor to contact the elders to defuse the tense situation.

    What I see going on is a struggle for power and influence where on one hand you have the traditional tribal structure with the elders and their various alliances. On the other hand you have the clerics with their students (Taliban basically translates to religious students) who are attempting to usurp the traditional power structure and take control of their regions. This might be equated to a criminal mob using intimidation and “protection” rackets in order to control areas or even entire regions as was starting to happen in the US in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
    The government appears to be attempting to validate the traditional power structure by talking to and striking deals with the tribal leaders and not the extremist mullahs and their Taliban minions. The notion apparently being, in my view, to illuminate the mullah’s in a light of gangsters and thugs and give the people a opportunity to choose a third path that is neither support for the Taliban nor support for the central government. He is attempting to give the people an opportunity to support their traditional power structure that has been in place for centuries and give the leaders of those tribes legitimacy by striking deals with them. The problem comes in when the taliban begin to slaughter the tribal leaders.
    So the deals aren’t with the Taliban per se, but with the various tribal leaderships. The extent to which these tribes are aligned with the Taliban will likely vary from tribe to tribe but the government seems to me to clearly provide a mechanism for placing a wedge between the traditional structure and the mullahs who would want to wrest control of those regions from the traditional tribal structures.
    What is basically happening in the region is a fairly slow-motion war between the mullahs and the tribal chiefs with the government giving the Taliban every opportunity to screw up. I still say there needs to be a major information campaign in the region probably via FM broadcast radio transmitting even from aircraft if land based transmitters are not possible.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    crosspatch, my apologies for being so direct, but you couldn’t be more wrong. These deals were with the Taliban. I documented this last fall. Read the Pakistani press, they all talk about the Taliban Shura having to sign off on this. The government’s claims of negotiations with ‘tribal leaders’ was a smokescreen.

  • crosspatch says:

    Okay, Bill, but it becomes hard for me to know who to believe as there is someone in Pakistan reporting just about any scenario one would want to hear. Again I probably fall back to not believing anything I hear out of the region and simply watching to see what happens.
    That said, I have no doubt that Taliban Shura may have “signed off” on these deals, but I am not sure they were directly involved in the negotiation of them. It might be the Taliban posturing in various press releases. So a tribe strikes an agreement and the Taliban issues a statement saying they “sign off” on it to portray themselves as the primary power broker in the region. I don’t know and honestly, I don’t think anyone aside from the various tribal leaders knows and I think that varies from tribe to tribe.
    I guess I am back to watching and seeing and not believing much I read in the press about anything concerning Pakistan.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Crosspatch,
    Hereare some rules that have done me well: anything that Governor Aurakzai says should be treated as a lie. If an ISPR spokesman says something about the NWFP, odds are good it is a lie. Be sure to cross check sources there. The Taliban have nuggets of truth in their propaganda.
    The Pakistani press has been exceptionally good. We would be so lucky to have a press like this. They have reported accurately on the situation in the NWFP. They’ve quoted Taliban leaders and government officials that stated the Taliban were indeed present at the signing of the various accords. My sources tell me the same.
    The government didn’t want to admit to negotiating with the Taliban for very obvious reasons.

  • templar knight says:

    Mr. Roggio, my thoughts exactly. If you look at the leadership in the tribal regions, it is obvious that they have signed on with the AQ/Taliban alliance. Several of the tribal territories are now a de facto Taliban state, with these councils meeting representatives of Zawahiri and OBL, and probably taking direct orders from them.
    Right now, today, I feel very much like my mother said people felt in the weeks preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. That’s not to say I’m expecting an attack of that magnitude on the US, it’s that I can see the potential for disaster, and I feel absolutely helpless to do anything about it.
    An AQ/Taliban takeover of a large part of Pakistan, nuclear weapons falling into the hands of AQ, an Iranian attack in the Straits of Hormuz on our naval forces, or on the islands controlled by Bahrain, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, and I could go on, but you get the point. We seem to be on a precipice, and one misstep could light the ME up like a Roman candle. I can’t even imagine the effect on the world econmy, but I have a few ideas which don’t bare repeating.

  • Suicide attack in Islamabad

    Perhaps Al Qaeda is running a suicide bombing campaign to take the pressure off them in the tribal areas, and to keep Musharraf’s focus on handling the unrest, and the political fallout.

  • RHYNO327 says:

    the time for talking about the NWFP has been over for a long time. Pervez should have just run a white flag up the pole. the U.S. had plans for a Spec. Ops strike, but Rummy nixed it. he was an inept Sec. Def., who should have let the Soldiers of JSOC off the leash. does it matter that the Pak gov. would have screamed and yelled? they gave up that right when they ceded those territories. they ceded them to the TALIBAN. those tribes are married to the t-ban. soon, the t-ban will assasinate pervez, take power, and have everything they need to start a war of unspeakable carnage. we better get close to India, as they are arch enemies of p-stan, and are a target for nuclear tipped missles. TALKING IS OVER.

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