Pakistan suspends Khyber operation, peace negotiations underway

Click to view images of the senior leaders of the extremist groups operating in the Khyber agency.

The Pakistani government has halted military operations in the tribal region of Khyber and has opened up negotiations with extremist groups in the region.

“The operation has been put on hold on the request of the tribal jirga [committee],” an unnamed official told Dawn. “They wanted a truce in accordance with tribal customs in order to hold talks with the other side. We have selected targets and the operation will resume if the jirga fails.”

The military has halted search operations and relaxed a curfew imposed in the Bara region, a stronghold of Lashkar-e-Islam, one of the two main extremist groups in the region. A government official said the cease-fire would last for 36 hours.

Negotiations began after tribal leaders met with Mangal Bagh, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Islam. Bagh ordered his forces not to resist at the onset of operation, but threatened to attack if operations against his supporters continued. The government demanded that Lashkar-e-Islam surrender its weapons and recognize the government’s rule in the tribal areas.

The operation in Khyber began after a chorus of government, military, and civilian officials warned of the growing Taliban pressure on the provincial capital of Peshawar.

The government claimed it launched its offensive to target the Taliban-linked extremists groups of Ansar-ul-Islam, Lashkar-e-Islam, and a faction led by Haji Namdar. But Namdar, the leader of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice who allied with Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-e-Islam, was seen riding along with the Frontier Corps, Pakistan’s paramilitary group assigned to conduct operations in Khyber. “He was taken along to ensure that encounters with militants were kept to a minimum,” the Asia Times reported.

The Pakistani government claimed it arrest 92 “criminals” in Khyber and 128 more in Peshawar. Sixteen “militant compounds” were destroyed in Khyber, and 14 more have been “identified.”

But none of the senior or mid-level leaders of the three extremist groups have been killed or captured since the operation began six days ago. The government and military have been clear from the beginning of the operation that it would be limited in scope and a “show of force.”

Negotiations with extremist groups in Khyber are the latest in a series of peace talks and deals in the tribal agencies and the Northwest Frontier Province.

This year, the government signed peace deals in North Waziristan, Swat, Dir, Bajaur, Malakand, and Mohmand. Negotiations are under way in South Waziristan, Kohat, and Mardan. The Taliban have violated the terms of these agreements in every region where accords have been inked.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered peace negotiations and agreements to be suspended after the Khyber operation. But reversed his decision two days ago, just as his spokesman began negotiations with Haji Namdar.

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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  • NS says:

    Here we go again – how long is it going to take for the present US Govt to realize that Pakistan is essentially complicit with terrorism in the region? An astounding 60% of the Pakistani public wants to have peaceful relations with the Taliban and the Govt seems to be doing just that.
    The next POTUS has his hands full – continuing the progress in Iraq, dealing with a soon to be nuclear armed Iran( in addition to their covert terrorism in Iraq), Pakistan, Afghanistan…. but the biggest concern right now for the American people is gas prices and home mortgages, seemingly oblivious to the real and clear dangers in the world.
    It is sobering to think of what lies ahead.

  • Marlin says:

    I wonder if any of the 16 men whose handover to the government is part of these negotiations represent the senior or mid-level leaders of the three extremist groups Bill speaks about in this blog post?

    Tariq Hayat, chief administrator for the Khyber tribal area, said local tribal leaders have agreed in principle to conditions including handing over 16 wanted men and respecting government authority in the region.

    Associated Press: Pakistan halts assault on militants

  • Marlin says:

    These jirgas always impress me as being charades. When Mangal speaks of bail money, is that for the 92 ‘criminals’ arrested in the Khyber agency as part of this operation?

    Political Agent of Khyber Agency, Tariq Hayat Khan has said that Amir Lashkar-i-Islam Mangal Bagh has accepted all the terms of the government.
    He said Mangal Bagh has agreed to submit bail money in exchange for his men.
    However, he said the final decision in this regard will be made in the Jirga to be held on Sunday.

    Geo TV: Amir Lahkar-i-Islam accepts govt’s terms: Political Agent

  • Jerjes Talpur says:

    Government is just making these tribal leaders fool, we can not leak internal intelligence policies here.
    Readers, just understand this, we being Pakistani are against all kind of terrorism.
    Peace talk with talibans is not the term we are agreeing with them, these talks are let them surrender and hand over terrorists, else we will continue operation.
    So you don’t have to worry , we are more worried because this all is happening in our territory and it is our problem and we have ability to face and deal with these sort of problems.

  • Marlin says:

    A little more detail is now available on what Mangal Bagh agreed to.

    “He (Bagh) has surrendered to all our demands and the operation shall now remain suspended,”

  • Marlin says:

    This makes more sense. It’s not bail money, but surety bonds against bad behavior.

    Sources in Bara said that the government had forwarded three demands to the jirga which included complete surrender of Mangal Bagh and his key commanders to the government, ban on display of arms and providing surety bonds for abiding by the terms and condition of the expected peace deal in the future.

    The Post: Assault eased, curfew relaxed | Lashkar accepts govt’s terms

  • Marlin says:

    If this is true, I am surprised that the Pakistani government would at this time authorize the Frontier Corps to undertake an operation in Dera Ismail Khan right next to South Waziristan (and Baitullah Mehsud). I do wonder if this mean Dera Ismail Khan the city or the province. The city would seem to be a more logical undertaking at this point.

    Preparations to launch a major operation in Tribal Areas surrounding Dera Ismail Khan have been completed. Contingents of paramilitary troops going towards South Waziristan show that dialogue between the government and militants has ended without culmination due to external pressure on the government. Sources in intelligence agencies also spoke about a major operation in the Tribal Areas. TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud’s announcement of ending dialogue with the government following an operation in Bara has created law and order woes for administrations of NWFP southern districts.

    Daily Times: Major operation likely in DI Khan

  • Zarin says:

    you do not know D.i Khan is city or province then how you post your suggestions. On the same way the US government is completely unaware of the ground realities. As jargis Talpur said that government of Pakistan is trying to foolTalibans similarly Pak government is trying to fool US and coallition. The ground reality is totally different. Being a native of FATA I assure that that Bara operation is mock and the arrested peoples has no link with with mangal bagh. They are fully paid by Tariq Hayat Political Agent of the area just for show. To prove this look at the pictures of those arrested.
    The reality is that Mangal Bagh is moving with full protocol along with more than hundred vehicles and the FATA administration is completely helpless in front of all these talibans groups.

  • Marlin says:

    Zarin –
    I appreciate your perspective as a native of the area. Not being a native it is extremely difficult for me (and I suspect most others) to figure out what is really going on over there. I do not trust the Pakistani government to be doing the right thing either, so I’m reduced to trying to decipher conflicting news reports. I would be very interested in seeing the pictures you speak about as I have not come across them. Could you provide a link?

  • RR says:

    Pakistan Government 3 major players are more focused on political control and the lawyers issue. Extremists are a much lower priority and long as they don’t cause that major a problem (ie stay out of our major cities, but you can do anything else).
    Pervez Musharraf is a lame duck whom focused more on India as a threat than the extremists. The other two major players him want out and seek autocratic control. I have been surprised at Asif Ali Zardari (Mr. 10%) not pushing for revenge against the Taliban/extremists for the killing of his wife, Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif does not want the lawyers put back since they might not recognize his pardon by Musharraf and also gets some support from the Islamic parties.

  • Marlin says:

    How much of this will the new Pakistani government tolerate before they feel compelled to take stronger action?

    A suicide blast near Melody Chowk area has left 19 people dead including 15 policemen and over 40 have been injured.
    The IG Islamabad has termed it a suicide attack, Police has cordoned off entire area, according to Geo News correspondent, the blast occurred in front of Aabpara police station after the Lal Masjid conference.

    The News: Suicide blast kills 19 including 15 policemen in Islamabad

  • Jerjes Talpur says:

    This all is happening here in pakistan, after launching operation against taliban.
    Conditions would get more worse, if we will completely use power.
    So thats why i am again and again saying just dont worry and let us deal in our own way.
    No matter how we are going to handle them but we promise you, they will not any more thread neighbouring countries.
    But still people saying Talibans having safe heaven in Pakistan, and military supporting them.
    For those who are spreading these kind of perceptions like cwDeici are out of life, and unfimiliar to ground realities.
    and trying to confuse this war on terror, This terror is not only present in afghanistan iraq or pakistani agencies.
    This is present where ever people like cwDeici are present because these people are the main factors who dont wants to peacefuly go towards the conclusion they just need to create confusion through their dull and bogus articles and reports.
    If we are supporting talibans than who are doing sucide bombing in pakistan? you ? or we ourselves? bombing at our forces ? why you can not understand this little thing?
    people living out of pakistan can not differentiate talibans al-Qaida and tribals people they even can not recognise them, because they are completely same, but their objectivies are different.
    we are dealing them according to their objectivies, we will not hurt those who are peaceful and not threading neighbouring countries,but still they carry guns, that doesnt mean they are thread to you,they have their own customes and we recognise them.
    but in same dress and style you would find talibans carrying guns but they are thread to the world and their objectives are different, even they are thread to Pakistan, and they are involved in sucide bombing Pakistan
    So we will not forgive them, so we are doing all this, negociating with peaceful people those who are not thread to west, and punishing who are and can be thread to west.
    Just understand this. and stop posting bogus reports here.
    1st find out who is who and what is what, this only we can find out because we are living here and understanding what is internally going on and where we have to break it.

  • KW64 says:

    Zarin and Jerges: I appreciate your input into these discussions and I have a question for you.
    The limited number of Pakistanis I meet here in the US generally express the following opinions:
    1. The attacks from Pakistan by Taliban or Al Queda into afghanistan may be a problem for Afghanistan, NATO or the USA (Coalition forces would be our term for them) but it is not a problem for Pakistan.
    2. The Afghans and Coalition forces can fight these groups in Afghanistan but should not strike into Pakistan by any means and should not send spies to see what Taliban or Al Queda forces are doing in Pakistan.
    3. The Taliban and other insurgents would not be a threat to Pakistan if the Pakistani government would just quit supporting the Coalition and allowing Coalition forces to move supplies and operate aircraft through Pakistan.
    4. If the US and NATO leave Afghanistan, the problems will resolve themselves.
    Are these common views in Pakistan? Do these views represent the majority opinion?
    I appreciate your input into these discussions.

  • NS says:

    All your protests about people like CWDeici trying to create confusion and giving bogus opinions is IN ITSELF BOGUS.
    I am from India and I am more than familiar with Pakistan’s support for terrorists starting from the early 80’s in Afghanistan to the terrorists in Kashmir.
    Let me ask you a few simple questions
    A. What does CWDeici have to gain by giving us “bogus opinions” ? Why should any want to create “confusion” ? Confusion over what ?
    B. 60% of the Pakistani public wants to talk with the terrorists – what do you have to say for that ?
    C. The Taliban is suicide bombing in Pakistan to remind the Govt of what the consequences are if you dont support them 100% – this is a comeuppance for Pakistan using terrorism as an instrument of state policy – remember the Indian Airlines hijacking episode in 1999 ? you reap what you sow.
    D. Your assurances of asking people “not to worry” are hollow to put it mildly. The Taliban terrorists are having this level of success only because of the fact that they have safe havens in NWFP – local people there are pro-terrorists. Trying to figure out who is not a terrorist sympathiser is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
    All that is happening right now in terms of “negotiations” is pure hogwash meant to be a show.
    With the way the pakistan govt is playing this devious double game, a time will come when the US loses patience, invades the NWFP and deals with the terrorists once and for all.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Just a friendly warning. lease be sure to read the comments policy. No personal attacks, debate the issues. No one has crossed the line here yet but I see the potential.
    This is a discussion we should have, just keep it civil.

  • Jerjes Talpur says:

    KW64 and NS you both have similar questions.
    That talibans are in pakistan no matter how and why, but they are threat to nieghbour and western countries.
    I accept this by including that talibans are even threat for Pakistan, and being Pakistani we must have to face all sort of threats to our country.
    and thats what we are doing we are dealing them not only for the sake of neighbour country (Afghanistan) but also for ourselves.
    it is wrong survey report that 60% Pakistanis wants to talk with Talibans , Al-Qaida ,Terrorists,but this is true 60% pakistani need to resolve this issue peacefully with peaceful people, because in NWFP all people living there are not talibans not terrorists not even extermists, so we have to deal with them differently. with little negociation and little operation. we are in war, and we are fighting.
    If State NY has largest crime ratio that doesnt mean you should get ready to kill every person living in Newyork you have to defeat them with low civilian casualities, thats what we have planed to do and we are doing.
    Mr Indian your country has even sharp crime ratio, so should War on terror wipe out your whole country?
    You are not stratedgy maker and master, so its not your problem how we have to deal with talibans, but we assuring they will not harm you and neither us.

  • NS says:

    Please see my response to some of your comments
    “It is wrong survey report that 60% Pakistanis wants to talk with Talibans , Al-Qaida ,Terrorists,but this is true 60% pakistani need to resolve this issue peacefully with peaceful people, because in NWFP all people living there are not talibans not terrorists not even extermists, so we have to deal with them differently”.
    All I can say is that I “hope” that this survey is wrong. but color me extremely skeptical. For me the Lal Masjid episode was the final turning point – even today there has been a blast in Islamabad on the one year anniversary of this event – how does this happen without overt sympathy for the Taliban ? And we are talking abt the capital city, not the NWFP – it is mind boggling to say the least.
    “Mr Indian your country has even sharp crime ratio, so should War on terror wipe out your whole country?”
    Again, no one is asking for any one to “wipe out” any thing. The question here is very simple – how exactly do these figure out who is the re-concilable and who isnt ? Why is it that the 2006 agreement that Musharaff signed fail so miserably ? Back then as it is now, we were given the same line – we know who the real terrorists are and we are negotiating with tribal elders who will not allow terrorist activity on their soil.
    It only helped Taliban to re-group – and look how menacing they are ?
    “You are not stratedgy maker and master, so its not your problem how we have to deal with talibans, but we assuring they will not harm you and neither us.”
    Jerjes, i hope you are not taking these comments as some personal attack – they are not. My observations are borne out of a deep sense of frustration of how your Govt is dealing with terrorism. No, I am not making the strategies and I agree that i may not have the same perspective as you do – but I get this sense of ” Here we go again” every time the words “negotiations” ” Taliban” and “Pakistan Govt” appear in the same sentence.
    I quite frankly doubt the sincerity of the pakistan Govt, the ISI , the Army in dealing with this situation – it looks like they are hoping that NATO finally leaves the place (with the impatience of the public forcing a drawdown) and the Taliban goes back to its old role of being a strategic ally for Pakistan against India. This may be a little blunt but this what i truly feel.
    And nothing that i have seen so far gives me any confidence or sense of trust when it comes to Pakistan tackling Talibani terror.
    How ever, please keep your opinions coming in. We need it – its better than hearing nothing at all from people who are closer to the action.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/07/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.


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