Pakistan deals with ‘good’ Taliban

South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. Click to view.

While it was clear more than a week ago that the Pakistani Army had sidelined South Taliban commander Mullah Nazir and was in the process of dealing with North Waziristan warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Pakistani intelligence officers and even the top military spokesman have confirmed that the Army has negotiated new truces with Taliban leaders to keep them out of the fight in South Waziristan. From The Associated Press:

Under the terms agreed to about three weeks ago, Taliban renegades Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadar will stay out of the current fight in parts of South Waziristan controlled by the Pakistani Taliban. They will also allow the army to move through their own lands unimpeded, giving the military additional fronts from which to attack the Taliban.

In exchange, the army will ease patrols and bombings in the lands controlled by Nazir and Bahadar, two Pakistani intelligence officials based in the region told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because revealing their identities would compromise their work.

An army spokesman described the deal as an “understanding” with the men that they would stay neutral. The agreements underscore Pakistan’s past practice of targeting only militant groups that attack the government or its forces inside Pakistan.

You didn’t need to be a prophet to see this coming. I noted in June that any offensive in Waziristan would exclude Nazir, Bahadar, and the often-ignored Haqqani family.

Remember, more al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed during US airstrikes in tribal areas under Nazir’s control than in those of any other Taliban commander. A whopping 27 percent of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed during the strikes were killed on Nazir’s turf. Another 18 percent were killed on Bahadar’s turf.

That makes for almost half (45 percent) of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the tribal areas operated by Nazir and Bahadar. Compare this to the 18 percent killed on Baitullah/Waliur Rehman Mehsud’s turf.

US officials are telling AP that Pakistan’s strategy “is not surprising or necessarily worrisome.”

“Because the faction loyal to Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud poses the most direct threat to the Pakistani government and army, it is the logical first target, U.S. officials briefed on the offensive said.”

One hopes the US government and intelligence officials aren’t holding their collective breath waiting for the logical second and third targets – Nazir and Bahadar. These two groups aren’t viewed by the Pakistani military as “targets” but as strategic depth. Nazir and Bahadar will be surging troops into Afghanistan for years to come.

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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  • Tyler says:

    I’d only point out that a similar bait and switch was pulled on Fazullah. They made a deal, he broke it in most violent fashion, and it gave Zardari the political capital and public support to launch a large-scale offensive that has inflicted serious defeat upon the Swat Taliban.
    It seems similar to what we saw with Musharraf, but this might be different. In Swat, Zardari followed through on his threat to hold the Taliban accountable for their end of the deal. Musharraf never did in Waziristan.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I disagree, that is a misreading of what happened in Swat, and also it assumes Zardari calls the shots (which I will not get into).
    The Malakand Accord was merely the recognition by the government that they no longer controlled the Swat Valley and wider Malakand Division.
    The military moved against Fazlullah only after they moved on Buner and conducted a victory parade from Buner, through Swabi, Mardan, and ended in Malakand. Before Buner, the military and government were content with the Taliban consolidating power, attacking security forces, murdering tribal leaders, issuing death notices, etc. Only when the media noticed that the Taliban was on the doorstep of Islamabad did the government/military act.
    The government claimed this was a bait and switch only after that fact. But if you need to let a large swath of your territory and allow millions of people to be subjugated to Taliban rule to build support for opposing the Taliban…..

  • T Ruth says:

    There is no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban, only the UGLY.
    There is no ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ Pakistan, only the MALIGNANT.


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