Pakistan signals willingness to negotiate with the Taliban

Senior Pakistani leaders have signaled a willingness to conduct talks with the Taliban, and on the same day the prime minister announced that military operations may be considered in a Taliban-controlled tribal agency.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the government will talk to the Taliban before it considers launching an operation in the Arakzai tribal agency, while Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he would discuss Taliban offers with political parties that are sympathetic to or support the Taliban.

Gilani indicated that negotiations are on the table and that the government would consider discussing proposals made by Imran Khan, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Insaaf, and the pro-Taliban Jamaat-e-Islami.

“We will first try to convince elements in Arakzai to accept a peaceful resolution,” Gilani said, according to Dawn.

Gilani made the statement after he said that the military operation “has finished in South Waziristan, now there is a discussion of taking it to Arakzai agency.” Gilani later withdrew his remarks about the South Waziristan operation being completed, and claimed his statement was taken out of context.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik also said the government would consider the proposals made by the Tehrik-i-Insaaf and the Jamaat-e-Islami after he claimed that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, had approached the government four times to offer peace talks. Malik said the government rejected the talks and maintained that negotiations could take place only after a Taliban surrender, Daily Times reported. Malik said “the Taliban initiative was a good omen” and he had approached clerics to consider the peace offers.

In the past, the Pakistani government has negotiated with the Taliban under the guise of intermediaries. These arrangements have allowed the government to deny it directly negotiates with the Taliban. The peace agreements in Swat were negotiated with the pro-Taliban front group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law]. Similarly, a multitude of peace agreements in North and South Waziristan were negotiated with “tribal elders.”

Small-scale operations against the Taliban and allied groups are currently underway by the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the tribal agencies of Arakzai, Khyber, and Kurram. Senior Taliban leaders and fighters under the command of Hakeemullah Mehsud have decamped from South Waziristan to these regions, as well as in North Waziristan, to avoid the current operation.

The military and the government have signaled they are unwilling to enter North Waziristan, where the Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar maintain control, and the western areas of South Waziristan under the control of Mullah Nazir. These three Taliban groups all shelter al Qaeda and a host of Pakistani jihadi groups conducting attacks against Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • ayamo says:

    It’s 2006 before the Waziristan Accord all over again …
    with the same results.
    So the Pakistani government says that has failed to defeat the Taliban.
    Because why shoudl they talk to seomeone who isn’t a threat any longer?
    Bad news, indeed.

  • naresh says:

    Pakistani military is negotiating from a position of extreme weakness. Their stage managed offensive (without reporters) may not have gone well. Will taliban get Swat valley back? What about Buner?

  • Swede says:

    I find it hard to interpret Pakistani political rhetoric. Could this be more of a way to generate legitimacy for further military operations? To be able to say “we gave them a chance to negotiate but they refused” before going in guns a blazin?

  • Minnor says:

    That is how an empire grows – defeat one kingdom (S.Waziristan) and many more will surrender and pay tribute by themselves. Orakzai is relatively small area, but military should carry out a search op of that area to clear bunkers, which it will offer without any resistance, and similar search op required in N.Waziristan.

  • Spooky says:

    The official line from Pakistan is that India is responsible for most of the attacks, so they think the operation against the Tribal areas is just to disrupt RAW operations. Its nonsense, but there you go.

  • steve m says:

    I just read an article about foreigners attending islamic schools in pakistan and found it pretty scary. I would like to hear other peoples thoughts on it, especially yours Bill.

  • Neo says:

    Actually, I don’t see this as a repeat of 2006. In 2006 the Pakistani government was in full retreat and had no will to fight the Taliban in any capacity. Up until the Swat offensive, it looked as though the Pakistani political establishment either wouldn’t or couldn’t resist the push of the Taliban.
    Now the Pakistani government is no longer retreating and has at least a limited capacity to fight back. The Pakistani military has had some success this year as well. Add to that, a majority of Pakistani’s no longer support the Taliban.
    The problem is though, a sizable percentage of the Pakistani population still support or at least sympathize with the Taliban. An even larger percentage would like the old relationship back. Even more important, many conservatives within the Pakistani military establishment wish for the old days when the Islamists restricted themselves to India and Afghanistan, instead of drawing Pakistan into a world wide conflict.
    I am tempted to say that the conflict has gone too far for the Pakistani government to bring back its old relationship with the Taliban, even if they are inclined to try. Like in Iraq, appeasement serves a domestic agenda rather than any practical purpose. You could say the same about the US and Europe, appeasement serves the purposes of satisfying the demands of domestic political blocks. This sort of political dance can be fatal, or it can be merely annoying, depending on the underlying direction of events.

  • Bungo says:

    Here’s my read :
    Firstly – It looks more and more like there’s really no one in charge of Pakistan, meaning there is no one voice of policy. Ever since Musharref stepped down it seems like anyone in the government or military or ISI just blurts our anything they want whenever they want without any heed of what anybody had said before. This makes it VERY difficult for outsiders like me to figure out whats going on from month to month. Complete dissarray.
    Secondly – If one is to take this latest report at face value it seems obvious that the military (or whoever is making these decisions) has NO intention of taking on the Good Taliban in any other tribal areas. That should be no big suprise to anyone paying attention but it certainly seems like a HUGE slap to the face of the Obama administration while, at the same time, holding out their other hand for billions of dollars of financial aid. I really don’t see how this can go on.
    Thirdly – The Pak military will let the Good Taliban do what they want as far as Afghanistan is concerned and at the same time they will not allow Coalition troops go into these areas. They will, however, allow the US to shoot missiles at most AQ targets in these tribal areas all day long.
    It’s gonna be a LONG , LOOONNNG WAR.

  • Charles says:

    Neville Chamberlain would be very pleased.

  • Cordell says:

    It’s no small coincidence that Pakistan’s first effective offensive against the Taliban began shortly after President Zardari assumed office. Pakistan’s military now appears to have reverted back to its former feckless self following Zardari’s de facto loss of power in the wake of formal corruption charges against him. (Symbolizing his reduced authority with respect to the military command, Zardari recently turned over control of Pakistan’s nukes to PM Gilani.) Without Zardari’s pressure on the military to pursue the Taliban, Pakistan appears unwilling to take the fight to them. And without Pakistan’s efforts against the Taliban on its side of the border, NATO’s Afghan “surge” will amount to nothing more than the sound of one hand clapping. The Taliban will largely lie low in their Pakistani sanctuaries until the US begins its pre-announced withdrawal. Unless we get Pakistan back into the fight, we are wasting the lives of our soldiers with this strategy.

  • Render says:

    Pakistan, and its leadership, has drawn the appropriate conclusions from President Obama’s speech at West Point. How could they not?
    Billions spent forming and maintaining a military bent on confrontation with the colossus to the East, a military that has lost every war it’s started and started almost every war it’s ever been in. A Pakistani military that is being defeated at every turn by an army of thugs, child molesters, drug dealers, woman haters, and evil religious freaks that was created and maintained by the Pakistani military to use against India.
    Billions spent on jet fighters, main battle tanks, submarines, and nuclear weapons, and Pakistan will fall to not to Nemesis in the Vale of Kashmir and the Rann of Kutch but to a self inflicted and carefully nurtured cancer of its own collective soul. Pakistan is being eaten alive from the inside, by itself.
    America and NATO will go home. India, (and Israel too), will still stand. Pakistan as we know it will die and only India will really notice or pay the slightest attention to its passing from the stage of history.
    Because we are chosen, and you are not.

  • Abheek says:

    Render – If America leaves the war midway, the score is going to be 3-1 in the US v/s China showdown . In 1950 Korea war, it was 1-1. Vietnam brought it to 2-1 in favour of China. With Pakistan being China’s client state, any pre-mature withdrawal will mean Pak’s & obviously China have won.

  • Render says:

    Abheek – Without disagreeing with the general premise of your comment (and at the risk of violating LWJ posting rules), I don’t think the current US Commander-in-Chief really cares about any such potential geo-political domino effects, especially with regards to China.
    Ultimately, America and NATO will go home sooner or later, regardless of who is Commander-in-Chief at the time.
    We only have one sole overriding interest in the entire region – that is the death and destruction of al-Qaeda and any and all who ally with them.
    If we leave Afghanistan before that is accomplished then the war will go on and decades will be probably added to its length.
    If we stay in Afghanistan under the current circumstances we run the risk of having to undertake a massive aerial evacuation or worse suffer an epic size Stalingrad, within the next two to three years.
    A strategic retreat from an untenable battlefield is not always a defeat. See Gettysburg/Kasserine Pass/Chosin Reservoir.
    Korea was a draw, and we’re still there.
    The China-North Vietnam axis lasted only as long as we were there. By ’79 the “dominos” were falling on each other.


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