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Farewell Optimism: Miranshah II = Miranshah I in North Waziristan

Tuesday, on learning there was a new 'peace accord' signed in North Waziristan, I wondered, Is Miranshah II a Pakistani Deal With Tribes in FATA This Time? The Pakistani news reports (only two available at the time) relying on government sources assured us that indeed this was the case, that the 2008 deal was with tribal leaders interested in peace and not supporters or members of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance seeking respite, as was the case in 2006. In 2006, Pakistan ceded North Waziristan to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in hopes of placating an implacable violent enemy to avoid direct conflict and procrastinate confrontation. And thus the safe haven was formed and al-Qaeda has since recovered to pre-9/11 levels and capabilities while anchored there.

It should have raises red flags immediately. In reality it did. However, in my own rush to find reason for optimism and to spell out once more the proper means of defeating an embedded insurgency, haste made waste. For Miranshah II of 2008 gives no evidence that it is any different than the Miranshah I lopsided deal beyond the word of the same government who assured us the last time that it had made no deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It had, in fact, maintained this incredulously until this past Monday, when it assured us this time was different.

And in that rush, I committed the cardinal sin of analyzing news: I failed to read attentively the whole report, skimming by the final graphs. I hope that readers did not make the same mistake. If you did, allow me to point out the final three paragraphs of this report from Dawn, which I cited Tuesday yet allowed myself to sail right past the real 'keys to the kingdom.'

Local residents said that while Khasadars, a ragtag tribal police, man the check-posts now in North Waziristan, militants continue to patrol the streets, though without challenging the government authority.

On Sunday, the authorities imposed a Rs50 million penalty on tribes living in Darpakhel, Miramshah village and Borakhel Wazirs for causing damage to government property during clashes.

The government, however, has agreed to release some of the tribesmen in its custody and pay compensation to those whose properties have also been damaged by security forces.

The first hint comes in the first graph above. Envision 'militants' patrolling the streets. Patrols in streets (of the North Waziristan capital, no less) are shows of force and the arms of enforcement.

Now ask yourself: What possible 'authority' can the 'government' actually possess if armed 'militants' are conducting patrols and enforcing their own security? It is no different than the Crips or Bloods on armed patrols of 42nd Street in New York City while the mayor claims there is peace because the gang is "not challenging government authority." What authority? The gangs - and in this instance, the 'militants' in Miranshah - are the authority. Clearly.

So what do we have just from this skeletal report?

• Don't create a government (ie. challenge gov't authority)
• Release of captured prisoners
• Cessation of attacks by Pakistani forces (that's the 'peace' part)
• Undisclosed monetary payment compensating for tribal deaths and damage

As we noted at the time regarding the September 2006 Miranshah I 'peace deal', Pakistan ceded to 'tribal leaders' nearly everything the Taliban had previously demanded. Have a good look at that list.

• 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.

Look familiar?

What it takes to defeat an embedded insurgency remains the same - as discussed in Tuesday's optimistic initial reaction. Unfortunately, so does the Pakistani approach to negotiating cease fires with an implacable enemy.

The absence of conflict ("they did not challenge government authority") is not peace. It is a breather. And the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance benefits exponentially more than the state of Pakistan and its forces. Over 30 terrorist training camps in North Waziristan did not appear out of thin air. They were built and operational after the 2006 'peace accord' that was Miranshah I.

And Miranshah II = Miranshah I.