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February 20, 2007


Expanding Miramshah And The Resurgent Enemy

Musharraf May Seek to Combine NWFP and FATA, Including Waziristan

By Steve Schippert | February 20, 2007

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have continued their resurgence in Pakistan, particularly since the signing of the Miramshah agreement between the Pakistani government and the tribal leaders of North Waziristan. The result has been the effective creation of a safe haven for training, planning and launching operations. A recent New York Times article cites intelligence officials who indicate that, not only have the Taliban and al-Qaeda built new training camps in Pakistan, but at least one of the camps is suspected of being used for and/or capable of training for al-Qaeda attacks beyond the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. As the article cites, several of the would-be attackers in the foiled plot to blow up airliners over US cities in-bound from London had “clear linkages” with “core al-Qaeda” terrorists in Pakistan.

In January’s analysis, Urgency In Pakistan, it was noted that the estimated strength of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance has reached a level of over 200,000 fighters, principally located in North and South Waziristan and the rest of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as well as in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). While this has provided a steady stream of available bodies for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan – which have decidedly increased since the agreement effectively ceding North Waziristan to the Taliban and al-Qaeda – it also has served to bolster the internal opposition to Musharraf. The ongoing Pakistani opposition seeking to overthrow Musharraf currently remains at a relatively low-level (or low-intensity) effort but active nonetheless. For this reason, the United States walks a thin line between demanding the current Pakistani government do more to uproot and combat the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and pressing Musharraf to take actions beyond the means his government can attain. The US is challenged to prevent the failure of the Musharraf government, whether at the hands of al-Qaeda and aligned movements or by internal opposition active in the military or the ISI, if for no other reason than the Pakistani nuclear arsenal.

While a Pakistani Army commander for the North Waziristan region, Major General Azhar Ali Shah, says that Pakistan has done more than Afghanistan and coalition troops to secure the Waziristan-Afghan border, the fact remains that attacks from the Waziristan region into Afghanistan immediately tripled after the Miramshah agreement in September 2006. Major General Azhar said recently, “We have established 90 border posts while the coalition forces and Afghan Army have jointly setup only 27 which indicates Pakistan’s keen interest and desire to stop cross border movement.” Pakistan’s desire to directly confront the Taliban or al-Qaeda in North Waziristan remains questionable at best and its professed measures to prevent movement into Afghanistan have proven wholly ineffective to date - if not factually inaccurate.

Pakistan Tribal BeltEqually troubling is Musharraf's plan to incorporate the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – of which both North and South Waziristan are a part - into the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) "after Taliban and al-Qaeda elements are eliminated from the region." Here, again, we note that Musharraf has not eliminated Taliban and al-Qaeda elements from any region within Pakistan to date and in practice, if not more directly, has ceded control of the Waziristan (and likely Bajaur) areas of the FATA to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Passing the batan along to the NWFP would likely result in an increased safe haven. The NWFP is nearly three times the size of the FATA and combined would be larger than all but the largest 23 states in the US.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have long been pressing for an agreement similar to the North Waziristan deal for the NWFP, which includes Peshawar. The question remains: Is there wisdom to discussions of further expansion of the Miramshah agreement, the NWFP or provisions for greater tribal autonomy while Pakistan remains ineffectual in its defense against the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

Reasoned analysis would determine that the Waziristan regions of the FATA, and other areas with unabated Taliban and al-Qaeda influence would have to be cleared before any such agreement could take place, just as Musharraf stated. Alternatively, the agreements which have enabled the resurgence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban thus far would either have to be broken by Pakistan or expanded to cover the whole of the FATA and potentially the entire NWFP.

Understanding that the 'tribal leaders' who took part in the original deal owed no obligation or duty to Pakistan and likely all their loyalty to the Taliban, some were active Talibani, should cast enough doubt about Musharraf's latest offer. We can be relatively assured in the conclusion that Musharraf understands the implausibility of his latest offer - at least so far as the elimination of the Taliban or al-Qaeda prior to any such agreement, so long as Pakistan continues its current course in feigning the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Why then make such a statement?

Musharraf faces internal opposition from elements of his military, the ISI and a significant number of Pakistani citizens. He is likely at this point seeking to quiet the thunder of the opposition and buy additional time before the challenge to his authority becomes more overt and deadly - at least for his administration.

The manner in which the incorporation of the FATA – and its Waziristan safe haven - into the vast NWFP proceeds in real terms may well become a defining indicator for the state of the war in Pakistan and beyond.

February 2, 2007


NIE on Iraq: A Turning Point

Contrary to popular opinion, all is not quite lost

By Michael Tanji | February 2, 2007

Today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the Key Judgments of the updated National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Contrary to the early interpretation of the report from some quarters it does not close the door on success. To wit:

… Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006. …

In other words a successful surge – or the broader idea that a political solution can only take root if there is a clamp-down on violence – will not be a waste of time or effort. Of course combat-related caveats to the viability of the best laid plans still apply.

Addressing the political issues in Iraq the Key Judgments are more news than intelligence: Shi'a are suspicious of the Sunni and of us; Sunni don't like their change in status and worry that Iranian influence will only make their situation worse; the absence of mini-Titos makes progress difficult as factions-of-factions tend to complicate the political process; and the Kurds are about the only ones who have their act together enough to make something substantial happen for them and theirs.

On the security front we get no great revelations: Sectarian divisions hamper effective military and police activities (we want them to think federal, they continue to act local); jihadists and insurgents still operate with entirely too much effectiveness; violence drives the refugee problem, which in turn complicates reconstruction (no rebuilding without a skilled domestic workforce).

Is Iraq in a civil war? The intelligence community says "yes and no." While "civil war" applies to aspects of the conflict in Iraq, things are much more complicated than blue on gray. That's not necessarily a good thing, but one thing is for certain:

Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi Government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation.

In other words if you want to guarantee failure in the near term, by all means engage in "redeployment" or any variation on that theme. Viewed from another angle they are reiterating that forward progress depends on the surge being a success.

Assuming a crack-down on violence works, solving the myriad problems in Iraq will require the soft-power solutions that many have called for but to date have been lacking. Stresses and tensions need to be eased, trust needs to be built, and all sides need to see sufficient progress in order to be convinced that federalism is the ideal way forward. This means not just working with political parties – a relatively new concept in formerly Ba'ath dominated Iraq – but with the tribal system as well.

The Key Judgments also assess that external players like Iran and Syria are a factor in internal violence, but not a major part, which is where we at ThreatsWatch would have placed a marker of dissent. The violence in Iraq is not quite the self-licking ice cream cone some make it out to be. Assume for a minute that other analyst's statements about the sheer volume of Iranian agents in Iraq is true, it is hard to argue that 10-divisions of spies, killers and provocateurs is not "major" in any way, shape or form. Assuming the size of the interfering force is much more modest, the level of effort and the amount of materiel those agents are employing is still substantial, as the recent kidnapping and execution of US troops by suspected Qods agents and the discovery of Iranian-made equipment indicates.

As both professional analysts and interested citizens prepare to assess the progress of the surge, it is important to take note of some key indicators the NIC notes will require monitoring: sustained mass sectarian killings, assassination of major religious and political leaders, and a complete Sunni defection from the government. Should the surge fail, there are a number of paths down which events may unfold:

• Chaos Leading to Partition. With a rapid deterioration in the capacity of Iraq's central government to function, security services and other aspects of sovereignty would collapse. Resulting widespread fighting could produce de facto partition, dividing Iraq into three mutually antagonistic parts. Collapse of this magnitude would generate fierce violence for at least several years, ranging well beyond the time frame of this Estimate, before settling into a partially stable end-state.

• Emergence of a Shia Strongman. Instead of a disintegrating central government producing partition, a security implosion could lead Iraq's potentially most powerful group, the Shia, to assert its latent strength.

• Anarchic Fragmentation of Power. The emergence of a checkered pattern of local control would present the greatest potential for instability, mixing extreme ethno-sectarian violence with debilitating intra-group clashes.

Readers of CTA's Achieving Victory in Iraq report could have read the same thing last month.

We have not reached the point of no return, but make no mistake: absent an abandonment of the Pentagon's ideal force posture and the deployment of a massive occupation force, the surge is the last best military-oriented hope for stability in Iraq.

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