Within the past three weeks, the United States was dealt one of its greatest defeats to date in the war on terror. This defeat, however, was not courtesy of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or any other terrorist organization. Rather, this setback was delivered by one of our allies in this fight, Pakistan.
In order to understand why Pakistan has done this, it’s important to have an understanding of its past record in combating terrorism. Additionally, this insight might shed some light on the likely future of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and determine whether Pakistan can save itself.
In the Counterterrorism Blog, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has provided a continuing analysis of the current situation in Pakistan (see here and here). As he indicates, the Taliban and al-Qaeda won a significant victory recently when the Pakistani government yielded North Waziristan to the Taliban and their militant allies. According to Pakistan’s English newspaper Dawn, the 3 page agreement calls for the Pakistani government to pledge not to undertake any ground or air operations against the militants in the region.
For their part, the militants have pledged to halt cross-border raids into Afghanistan. This is unlikely, however, for two reasons. Under the agreement, foreign militants are allowed to reside in the region, so long as they “keep the peace.” Allegedly, Osama bin Laden and many of his lieutenants are among those militants living in the Waziristan region. Furthermore, the recent assassination of the governor of the Paktika province on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, perpetrated by Taliban members, only amplifies fears that cross-border incursions will likely continue.
This most recent peace deal parallels a similar agreement signed earlier in the year between the Pakistani government and militants in South Waziristan. Not much is known about the actual agreement, said to have been signed in secret. Military affairs analyst Bill Roggio writes that South Waziristan was handed over at some point in the spring of 2006. Shortly after, shariah law was established and the Taliban began to exercise control over the region. As a result, the region formally known as Waziristan, covering some 4,473 square miles along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, is now being referred to as the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.
For the United States, this is a devastating blow. For Musharraf and the Pakistani government, in order to have any chance of regaining and solidifying their power over the country, they must understand that the potential ramifications of continuing to bow down before the Taliban could spell their demise a lot quicker than aggressively taking measures to halt terrorism.
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