Dawn continues to release the US State Department cables related to Pakistan that were received by WikiLeaks. One cable, titled “ANP on NWFP and FATA Developments,” from July 9, 2009, includes some stunning comments from a senior Pakistani political leader. The cable recounts a meeting between Lynne Tracy, the principal officer of the US Consulate in Peshawar; and Afrasiab Khattak, a senator and the deputy leader of the Awami National Party, which now runs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province, or NWFP).
Khattak describes the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, as seeking to preserve the Taliban after the spring offensive to oust the group from the northwestern district of Swat. Tracy quotes Khattak as saying that the “ISI’s strategy is to save the Taliban from defeat.” Khattak also confirms that the military plays favorites with the Haqqani Network, has sought to preserve Taliban leaders Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, as well as the Haqqanis, and pushed for the February 2009 “peace deal” in Swat that brought the Taliban to power in the Malakand Division.
This is nothing that longtime readers of The Long War Journal wouldn’t already know, but it is always interesting to hear it come from Pakistani officials on the front lines. Below are excerpts from the cable:
5. (S) Khattak described a recent Apex Committee meeting where Waziristan plans were discussed. (Note: The Apex Committee consists of the NWFP Governor, NWFP Chief Minister, NWFP Chief Secretary, 11th Corps Commander, and Frontier Corps Commander. Khattak frequently represents the Chief Minister.) The military, Khattak said, was still working to separate Baitullah Mehsud from other Waziristan-based commanders, particularly Mullah Nazir, Gul Bahadur, and the Haqqanis. Following a July 2 jirga of Wazir elders, Khattak noted, Mullah Nazir had declared his “neutrality.”
6. (S) Khattak described the Pakistani military as treating the Haqqanis “separately” (NFI) from other militants. The Haqqani family, he observed, has already moved out of North Waziristan. Part of the family, he said, is living in a rented house on the Kohat Road on the southern side of Peshawar. The other half is living in a house owned by the Haqqani family in the Rawalpindi cantonment.
9. (S/NF) The relationship between ISI, TNSM leader Sufi Mohammad, and TTP-Swat leadership is a tangled one. Provincial government leaders have not forgotten that the military, and particularly ISI, pushed hard and facilitated the failed February peace deal in Swat. While Khattak and other ANP leaders continue to voice respect for senior military leaders in Islamabad and Peshawar, there is tremendous suspicion of ISI and the role it is playing in the NWFP and FATA. Khattak commented at one point that “ISI’s strategy is to save the taliban from defeat.” ISI’s motives and activities are more complicated than that statement suggests. However, the ISI-brokered deal now being described would likely undermine any progress the military has made in reversing the public perception that the military and local taliban are essentially the same entity.
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