Pakistan Cedes North Waziristan to Taliban
Two years after signing a similar peace pact with the Taliban in South Waziristan, the Pakistani government signed another deal with the Taliban in North Waziristan, effectively ceding an entire region of Pakistani territory on the Afghanistan border to the Taliban and, therefore, al-Qaeda. This is an especially troubling development and a black day in the War on Terror, with more to follow as a result, as the similar arrangement with the Taliban in South Waziristan in 2003 was broken in short order. This fact is a sign that this deal is less a Peace Agreement than an acceptance of the terms of defeat on the part of Pakistan.
The known terms ceded to the Taliban – indeed most of the terms demanded by the Taliban - ceded by Pakistan are as follows:
• All captured fighters freed & returned to Waziristan.
• All captured weapons & vehicles returned to Waziristan.
• Restoration of ‘perks & privileges’ for tribesmen.
• Cessation of all air & ground assaults on the Taliban in Waziristan.
• Withdrawal of Pakistani troops, including checkpoints in Waziristan.
• Undisclosed monetary payment compensating for deaths/damage.
In fact, the Pakistani army had begun withdrawals from inside North Waziristan before the agreement was signed. And while the Taliban cash demand remains an unknown figure, a Pakistani government official “said the figure was enormous.”
In return for these material gains, Pakistan accepted Taliban promises to:
• Cease attacks on Pakistani assets in the area.
• Cease cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
• Ensure ‘no one else’ uses their border for attacks.
• Not to assassinate gov’t employees, elders or journalists.
• Force all foreign fighters in North Waziristan will leave.
There exists a huge caveat to the Taliban’s commitment to force ‘all foreign fighters to leave.’ It is reported in the PakTribune that “albeit those who are unable to do so for certain genuine reasons shall respect law of the land and abide by all conditions of the agreement. They shall not disturb the peace and tranquility of the area.”
There is truth to this caveat, though it is not reported in many places. As ABC’s Brian Ross details, its truth can be evidenced in a telephone interview with Pakistan’s Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan, where he said that even Usama bin Laden would not be taken into custody. [Video of Brian Ross’ ABC Nightly News Report] The general said, “No. As long as one is being like a peaceful citizen, one would not be taken into custody. One has to stay like a peaceful citizen.”
It is also worth noting that, according to an Asia Times article that has proven prescient in many ways, the already existing foreign fighters “including Uzbeks, Arabs and Chechens” had already “been asked to join the central mujahideen force of commander Gul Badar [North Waziristan’s Mullah Omar], or simply to scatter into ordinary tribal society.” Perhaps fighting a holy war with Badar’s mujahideen will be considered by the ruling Taliban to be a “certain genuine reason” not to be sent away. It is certainly a vague and troubling caveat that Pakistan is clearly in no position to enforce regardless.
It is also widely reported that there will be no ‘shadow government’ by the Taliban in North Waziristan. But a Pakistani government release openly stated that “a 10-member committee of tribal elders, clerics and administration officials was set up to monitor the progress and implementation of the agreement.” This committee is called the Mujahideen Shura Council.
Even before the signing, in the previously referenced September 2 Asia Times article on the situation in North Waziristan aptly named The knife at Pakistan’s throat, Syed Saleem Shahzad notes the Mujahideen Shura Council at a meeting that was designed to map out the “future setup in the Waziristans.” To the extent that they do or do not have the power to command the new Waziristan – shadow or no shadow – Shahzad remarks that “Pakistan has offered a general amnesty for all previously wanted people… The Taliban, meanwhile, call the shots everywhere.”
Let there be no doubt, al-Qaeda has carved a new safe haven from Pakistani territory. Similar negotiations are ongoing for more territory within Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) which neighbors North Waziristan. While there may be written agreements to cease cross border attacks into Afghanistan, heeded or not, a power shift of arms and men from the newly established safe haven into the North-West Frontier Province to bolster efforts there is only logical. Musharraf has clearly set the precedent for disengagement and concession.
On this day, if there is a shadow government in Waziristan, it is the long shadow cast by a distant Pakistani government. For today, the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan lives.