HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

Miranshah II: Pakistani Deal With Tribes in FATA This Time?

Pakistan's Daily Times and Dawn newspapers reported earlier this week that a new 'peace accord' (Miranshah II) had been signed between the Pakistani government and the two major North Waziristan tribes in Miranshah.

A grand jirga of 286 tribal elders from Dawar and Wazir sub-tribes of Utmanzai gathered at the agency headquarters in Miramshah on Sunday morning to discuss the future line of action following the expiry of a unilateral ceasefire by militants.

The ceasefire, first announced on Dec 17, was extended five times. It was due to expire on Feb 17.

Witnesses said that the grand jirga reached an agreement to revive the Sept 5, 2006, peace deal with the government.

The controversial agreement had drawn criticism, particularly from Washington which believed that it had allowed Al Qaeda to regroup in the militant tribal region.

Critics of the agreement said the government had capitulated to the militants by granting them major concessions without getting anything in return, particularly on key demands relating to the expulsion of foreign militants, an end to cross-border infiltration into Afghanistan and a pledge not to form a parallel government.

It appears the Pakistani government is finally - now that it may have rectified the error - admitting that it did not sign the Miranshah I accord with tribal elders in 2006 but rather with the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance. And it appears there may be reason to believe that Miranshah II has a chance to at least enable the isolation of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance in North Waziristan. Whether this will actually be done is another question about the next steps - the agreement is not the endgame, but the enabler.

I added a bit more on this today at The Tank on National Review Online :

But there is reason to believe that it may in fact be so. Last month, several key tribal leaders that had been involved in government talks in the tribal areas were assassinated, clearly because such displeases Baitullah Mehsud and the rest of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance. And if this is so, and the agreement was made between the Pakistani government and leaders from the same lot as those killed, there may be a chance for this to actually have more traction than the last, which was nothing short of a mere exercise in procrastination.

One can hope that, like Musharraf's behavior and direction during and after the elections, there are lessons learned and modifications made in strategy and approach at play here.

Too many are quick to opine that we need to hammer the tribal regions. Unless you are going to kill them all in a genocidal sweep, this has no long-term path to resolution. Any victory over the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance inside the Pakistani tribal region (FATA) requires the tacit involvement and shared desire by the Pakistanis who call that place home.

At the end of the day, it is the basic model that is working in Iraq today: Iraqis standing up for their own neighborhoods and towns. We would not be talking of the successes in Iraq meted out in 2007 without the support of the Iraqi civilian population. Period.

Well, not exactly 'period.' What I failed to say there was that there needs to be a balance of smart, on the ground force against the enemy in either theater, one which is deadly yet close enough and precise enough to discern enemy from civilian.

An accord alone will not achieve anything if the local populations do not feel localized security and freedom of movement/activity. By the same token, force alone (or any agreement decidedly not with the local population but with the implacable Taliban-al-Qaeda enemy) will not achieve any resolution or semblance of victory, nor will the wide application of area weapons (artillery, aerial bombardment) that accumulate growing numbers of civilian collateral losses.

Here's hoping the Frontier Corps can be ramped up and properly equipped and trained in order to effectively carry out the back end of what Miranshah II may (may) be.

It at least deserves to be observed in implementation before being condemned to the waste bin that has long held the paper Miranshah I was written on.

See also: The Impact of Pashtun Tribal Differences on the Pakistani Taliban - Jamestown.org