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'There Can Be No Deal' With Pakistan for Mehsud, Either

There is a pretty good profile of South Waziristan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in the New York Times and it is worth the reading time to digest. In reading, early on in the article a paragraph seemed to leap from the pages for all it told about the prospect of 'peace' in the assorted 'truces' made between the new Pakistani government and various Taliban factions in various agencies throughout the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and pieces of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) that lie between the rest of Pakistan and the Afghanistan border.

“Islam does not recognize boundaries,” he [Mehsud] told the journalists, in accounts published in Pakistani newspapers and reported by the BBC. “There can be no deal with the United States."

This comment is far less significant for what it means regarding the US conflict with the Taliban, be they on the Afghan or Pakistani side of the unrecognized border, and far more significance for what it means for the Pakistanis and the future and paths of the various peace accords that continue to be reached. For, if in the eyes of violent and powerful leaders like Baitullah Mehsud, his brand of "Islam does not recognize borders," this includes ultimately internal Pakistani borders as well. The 'truce' agreements reached will be manipulated by men such as Mehsud for the convenience they offer now and eventually, as they see their religious duty, swept aside when conditions are ripe for the spread of their radically envisioned Islamic rule is applied within what is now Pakistan enroute to the greater caliphate restoration.

Rest assured, if the United States and the whole of NATO vacated Afghanistan, the surge direction would ultimately turn more quickly toward Islamabad vice Kabul. Surrendering Afghanistan, as a hypothetical, would not quell the conflict Mehsud, other Taliban leaders and the largely Arab al-Qaeda terrorist organization there is currently prosecuting. Always remember that the ultimate goal is the restoration of the caliphate, and the state most at risk is the one within closest proximity to what must be seen as a cooperative (though not at all homogeneous) power core, and that is Pakistan. If al-Qaeda had chosen or in the future moves significant power structures to Yemen, the discussion would thus become Saudi Arabia as the envisioned first block.

Mehsud is significantly powerful within his operating environment, and the next passage should be considered soberly.

In South Waziristan, they run training camps for suicide bombers, some of them children, according to the former Taliban member. Their realm is so secure that in April Mr. Mehsud’s umbrella group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, held a conference of thousands of fighters that culminated in a public execution, according to a local resident.

Local Pakistani authorities say they are helpless to deal with Mr. Mehsud’s group. In a measure of their despair, on Wednesday the authorities in the Mohmand district, where the conference and public execution were held, announced a truce with the Taliban.

Mehsud and others are significantly powerful, dangerous and capable within their respective areas of dominance. As well, they are clearly capable of projecting terror attacks against its enemies in relatively near-proximity. The challenge for them is to be able to project that power in a manner that manifests itself in gained territory or political capitulation outside their finite strongholds. Sufficient space afforded by ceasefires and peace accords can be expected to be used by them as time and space for solidification, growth and building.