Hangu is the latest district to fall under Taliban control. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts; purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.
The Pakistani government has signed yet another peace accord with the Taliban in a settled district of the Northwest Frontier Province. Just one day after the military canceled an operation in Hangu, the provincial government cut a deal with the Taliban.
The peace agreement in Hangu largely mirrors the accords signed throughout the tribal areas, according to details published in Dawn. The Taliban are required to recognize the government’s writ, stop attacks on government security forces, and refrain from running a parallel government and legal system. In exchange, the government will withdraw the Army from Hangu and “pay compensation to people who were affected during the operation.” In the past the Taliban received direct payments from the government.
Both sides are required to release prisoners. The government detained seven Taliban, including three “high profile” leaders in mid-July, including Rafiuddin, a Taliban leader in Hangu and a deputy of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The release of Rafiuddin is high on the list of the Taliban’s demands. An additional 30 Taliban fighters were detained during a one week operation in the district. The Taliban are currently holding 29 government officials and security officers.
The Hangu tribal jirga, which represented the Taliban during talks with the government, is said to be heading to the Tirah Valley in Khyber Agency to conduct talks with a Taliban commander named Mohammad Karim Khan. The government cut a deal with the Taliban in Khyber on July 9, and the extremist now control wide swaths of the tribal agency.
The military launched the Hangu offensive on July 16 after the Taliban conducted numerous attacks, including an ambush that killed 15 soldiers and a siege of a police station by more than 400 fighters. Peace negotiations were initiated in Hangu just five days after the military launched an operation purportedly to uproot the Taliban. Yesterday the military called off the offensive after claiming the objectives have been met and the Taliban have been cleared from Hangu.
Hangu is the fourth settled district of the Northwest Frontier Province where the government has negotiated a peace agreement with the Taliban this year. The government has also signed deals with the Taliban in six of the seven tribal agencies that border Afghanistan.
Background on recent peace agreements between the government and the Taliban
The security situation in northwestern Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan has rapidly deteriorated since the government initiated its latest round of peace accords with the Taliban and allied extremists in the tribal areas and settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province. Peace agreements have been signed with the Taliban in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, Mohmand, Khyber, and Orakzai.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established more than 100 terror camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.
On July 23, Prime Minister Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.