Attacks on Pro-Taliban Politician Point Toward Intra-Jihadi Divide

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a leading Pakistani Islamist politician, was the target today of a second suicide bombing attack in as many days.  The attacks on Fazl, who heads his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam, a pro-Taliban Deobandi party, come days after State Department cables provided by WikiLeaks to The Hindu reveal that he wanted to mediate between the United States and the Taliban outside of Pakistan in 2007.

No group has claimed responsibility for the two atacks, but they are most likely unsuccessful assassination attempts by irreconcilable Pakistani jihadists who disapprove of his attempts to engage the United States and push for a political settlement for the war in Afghanistan.  Fazl, the bearded, burly son of a prominent Pakistani cleric and politician, is known to be a smooth political operator and has been on the Pakistani Taliban’s hit list since 2008.

This week’s attacks on Fazl are the latest in a series of violence that suggest a deepening intra-jihadi war inside Pakistan.  On one side are jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda and its borderless conflict; on the other are jihadists and their supporters who cooperate with the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment and see jihad as an instrument of state policy or believe that the Pakistani state is an effective agent of jihad.

This intra-jihadi conflict is best demonstrated by the recent execution of Colonel Imam,  a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer who worked with Afghan militants in the 1980s and 1990s but also spoke out against the Pakistani Taliban in recent years.  A Pakistani Taliban video showed the Afghan Taliban supporter being shot at point-blank range as the organization’s amir, Hakimullah Mehsud, watches approvingly.

While the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment (PakMIL) seeks the formal integration of its allies within the Afghan Taliban into the power structure in Afghanistan, it has no such plans inside its own country for the Pakistani Taliban.  A political settlement in Afghanistan could leave the Pakistani Taliban as the odd man out — hence their attacks on those who support the Afghan Taliban but oppose the Pakistani Taliban.

An alternative but far less probable explanation for the attacks on Fazl is that they are intentional near misses by the PakMIL designed to serve as deadly warnings to Fazl to not play his own game and unilaterally engage the United States on the Taliban. According to the State Department cable, Fazl wanted to serve as an intermediary between the United States and the Afghan Taliban — but outside of Pakistan.  This could cut the PakMIL out of the picture, if he was not covertly speaking on its behalf.  As the arrest of Mullah Baradar demonstrates, the PakMIL has reacted and will continue to react strongly when it is believes it is being excluded out of an Afghan settlement.

With that said, the cable is now outdated. Fazl’s outreach to the United States occured nearly five years ago, and in recent months, he appears to have re-aligned with the PakMIL to put pressure on the secular Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).  For the PakMIL, he and his party remain essential counterweights to the ANP in the Pashtun belt and inevitable players in talks with both the Afghan Taliban and reconcilable elements of the Pakistani Taliban.

Fazl has used the attacks as an opportunity to rally his base.  Playing the anti-American card, he blamed the United States and also held his political rivals, the ANP and PPP, responsible for the attacks.  In preparation for possible early parliamentary elections later this year or early next year, Fazl has held large rallies on contentious issues, such as the blasphemy law, and hosted a dinner party with representatives of a broad spectrum of opposition parties.

Ever the political machinator, Fazl is trying to leverage in this life two near-early trips to the next one. Despite his tough public face, the maulana is probably praying that his third strike won’t be coming anytime soon.

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Pakistan’s Army Heads into the Belly of the Beast

Here’s a link to my latest blog post at ForeignPolicy.com’s Af-Pak Channel. It’s on the Pakistan Army’s upcoming ground operations in South Waziristan.

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Hakimullah Mehsud Confirms Baitullah’s Death

Hakimullah Mehsud has told BBC Urdu that Baitullah Mehsud died two days ago.

The BBC also spoke with Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, who denied claims of rifts in the TTP. The report also states that Wali-ur-Rehman has been made TTP commander in the Mehsud areas of Waziristan.

So, we have a power sharing arrangement in which Hakimullah heads the TTP, but Wali-ur-Rehman runs the show in the TTP’s heartland. Given that it took the Taliban so long to acknowledge Baitullah’s death, it’s clear that there are some real internal sensitivities. The big question is: Can Hakimullah and Wali-ur-Rehman work together, or will they step on each other’s toes?

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Weekend at Baitullah’s

Check out my blog at ForeignPolicy.com’s Af-Pak Channel on the ‘selection’ of Hakimullah Mehsud as Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan chief and the organization’s internal divisions.

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Report: Faqir Muhammad Claims Position of “Acting” TTP Chief

 BBC Urdu.com’s Rifatullah Orakzai reports that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad has announced that he is the “acting” amir of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  Faqir, who spoke with the BBC via phone from an undisclosed location, claimed that Baitullah Mehsud is still alive.  He also added that the TTP-Swat spokesman, Muslim Khan, has replaced the recently arrested Maulvi Umar as the organization’s central spokesman.

Faqir, who has been the TTP’s naib amir (second-in-command) and head of its Bajaur Agency affiliate, said that the organization has not held a shura meeting recently.  So it’s unclear as to how he has become the group’s temporary leader if, as he claims, neither is its permanent leader dead nor has its leadership council met.  Also interesting is that Faqir chose to call the BBC himself, rather than delegating the task to Muslim Khan.

There is indication Faqir is concerned about others unilaterally seizing the mantle of TTP amir.  In response to a question, Faqir stated, “Neither Maulvi Wali-ur-Rehman, nor Hakimullah Mehsud has the power [that would permit them to] appoint themselves as amir without consulting other areas’ Talibans.  Neither can Waziristan’s Taliban do the same.”  But Faqir then went on to laud the Waziristan Taliban for its “sacrifices” and state that Hakimullah and Wali-ur-Rehman are both qualified to lead the central organization, if legitimately selected.

Factional and tribal differences could play a role in weakening the TTP’s cohesiveness.  Faqir is not a member of the Mehsud tribe; he’s a Mohmand from Bajaur (there are also Mohmand tribesmen in, you guessed it, the Mohmand Agency).

If Faqir continues to lay claim to the TTP’s amirship, will the Mehsud Taliban and tribesmen stay loyal or defect?  Can a non-Mehsud really run the show in Mehsud country?  And will other Taliban commanders remain content as subordinates?   Hakimullah, for example, appears to have a highly independent streak.  Last week, there were reports that he appointed a man by the name of Azam Tariq as TTP spokesman, which would contradict Faqir’s announcement of Muslim Khan’s promotion.  And North Waziristan’s Hafiz Gul Bahadur could also be interested in the top spot.  Ismail Khan, Dawn’s excellent Peshawar editor, suggested that Gul Bahadur’s continued aggresiveness against the Pakistan Army could be part of a power play to take over the TTP.

All this is plenty of reason for the Pakistani military-intelligence apparatus to continue its psy-ops campaign against the TTP and make these brutes weaken one another.

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Pakistan’s Counterinsurgency After Baitullah: Move Forward, But Not Too Fast

Almost two weeks after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan continues to have an upper hand over the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  But Rawalpindi-Islamabad’s gains over the TTP are unconsolidated.  The Pakistani Taliban network can rejuvenate itself.  Pakistan needs to sustain its vigilance against the militants, while at the same time not drag itself into a full-fledged conflict in South Waziristan it is not ready for.

Pakistan has managed to:

  • secure its major urban areas outside the Pashtun belt, and, to a large extent, Peshawar, from militant attacks.  There has been no equivalent of the Manawan police academy or ISI office attacks in Lahore or the Pearl Continental attack in Peshawar.
  • cleanse the Malakand division of militants (though not completely — see below) to the extent that much of the internally displaced population is returning home and willing to facilitate policing efforts to prevent a Taliban return.
  • increase approval of the Pakistan Army in the Malakand division, despite the fact that it hasn’t followed a COINdinista Network Approved Strategy (CNAS).
  • continue to penetrate terrorist cells and apprehend key facilitators, funders, and trained suicide bombers.
  • push the militant leadership into the North-South Waziristan corridor.
  • fracture the TTP leadership, or at least create the perception that it is in “disarray.”
  • put the Mehsud network — and anti-state takfiri terrorists, in general — on the defensive, both physically and ideologically.
  • maintain pressure on TTP remnants in Bajaur, Khyber, Mohmand, and Orakzai.  Note that there hasn’t been an attack on a NATO convoy in Pakistan recently.
  • transfer the Pashtun “hot potato” on to the United States.

This success is due to:

  • the use of air power against militants in the Malakand division and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that, while causing significant civilian casualties, neither turned the local population against the central government nor strained the manpower of the Pakistani security services.
  • a commitment to keep a large military presence in Swat for the next few years.
  • a sustained counterpropaganda campaign utilizing the private media and religious scholars, particularly Barelvis.
  • a clever psy-ops campaign against the TTP.
  • a whole-hearted embrace of its fallen soldiers, with public funerals made accessible to the media.
  • excellent investigative and police work done by the federal interior ministry down to the provincial police forces.
  • the decision by the Obama administration to focus drone attacks against the Baitullah Mehsud network.

The TTP has failed to:

  • prove that Baitullah Mehsud is alive.  Hakimullah Mehsud, who appears to be living, promised a Baitullah video by last Monday, but it never appeared.
  • demonstrate leadership continuity by appointing a successor to Baitullah.
  • counter Pakistan Army claims that there was a clash between Hakimullah and Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud by having the two agree on a Baitullah successor or, somehow, publicly prove they are on the same page.
  • show that it remains a force to be reckoned with by pulling off a major attack in Islamabad, Peshawar, or urban Punjab.
  • legitimize (or re-legitimize) its insurgency and campaign of terror in the eyes of the Pakistani public by linking it to Pakistan’s support for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Despite the Pakistan military’s gains against the TTP, the terrorist outfit’s senior leadership — aside from Baitullah — remains alive.  Commanders such as Faqir Muhammad and Hakimullah Mehsud are around.  But their continued existence does not preclude a disassembly of the TTP.  Afterall, it is an umbrella organization.  Disassembly would require the commanders to no longer share the same threat: the Pakistan military-intelligence establishment.  And that would require an undesirable return to a messy policy of Rawalpindi sorting out the bad guys from the less bad guys (i.e. “good” vs. “bad” Taliban).

For the Pakistan Army, South Waziristan remains the belly of the beast.  Its unforgiving land is the home of the Mehsud network as well as a host of Pakistani and foreign jihadi groups.

But, for many reasons, the Pakistan Army cannot afford a ground incursion into South Waziristan:

  • Its gains in the Malakand Division have yet to be consolidated and the troops there must remain.  Militant attacks in the North-West Frontier Province have risen in the past week.  Today, a suicide bomber struck a gas station in Charsadda, killing at least seven.  And in the past week, there have been two suicide bombings in Swat.  The most recent one occurred in Mingora, where Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to visit on today.  These events suggest the possibility that the Taliban could pop up again amidst a returning displaced population.  A recent Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) briefing with the New York Times indicated that the Pakistan Army won’t move any additional troops from the border with India.  So Swat will utilize the Pakistan Army’s only ‘extra’ manpower.
  • It lacks the public support necessary for a sustained and costly battle there. While more Pakistanis support the fight against militants now than ever, the supporters do not constitute a commanding majority; and even among the supporters for the war, there is a high preference for peace talks.  The fight in the Malakand division was a cakewalk compared to what the Pakistan Army would face in South Waziristan.  Public support for a prolonged South Waziristan ground campaign would collapse quickly.
  • It does not have the support of the Mehsud tribe.  A Mehsud tribal leader, while visiting Islamabad, referred to Baitullah as a “shaheed” or martyr.  His tribe has yet to revolt against the Mehsud terror network, despite the Pakistani security services’ prodding.  I sensed that the tribal leader lacked trust with the military-intelligence establishment.  If his tribe stood up against the Mehsud network, only to have the Pakistan Army make a peace deal with the group, the tribal leaders who had supported the army could be targeted by the terror group.  Presently, the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment has been playing a bit of hardball with the Mehsuds by using the rival South Waziristan Bhittani tribe against them.  But, according to some reports, the Bhittanis have killed regular Mehsud tribesmen.  And some fear a new problem, a Bhittani-Mehsud tribal war, could emerge.  While there is merit to the idea of converting the Mehsuds with a bit of hard power, overdoing it could harden their resolve.  The Mehsud tribe needs to know that the Pakistan Army will have its back if it turns against Baitullah’s network and that there are costs to supporting the TTP and rewards from opposing it.
  • It has hostile forces to the Mehsud country’s north, where the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group continues to engage in suicide attacks against Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan.  A jihadi video from this summer indicates that at least one suicide bomber was an Uzbek.  Was the Uzbek with Bahadur or borrowed from Baitullah?
  • It potentially also has hostile forces to the Mehsud country’s west.  A peace deal with Maulvi Nazir, an Ahmedzai Wazir in South Waziristan, was thought to have helped contain Baitullah Mehsud and challenge irredentist Uzbek militants.  But U.S. drone attacks and possibly the encouragement of al-Qaeda pushed the militant against the Pakistani establishment.  Nazir appeared on an al-Sahab (al-Qaeda’s media arm) video damning the Pakistani state (for, among other things, its Macaulay-originated education system).   A pro-government tribal leader was recently killed in his network’s vicinity.  However, Nazir’s conflagrations with the Pakistani security forces have been limited, as compared to Gul Bahadur’s.  And, in a curious press report, he is said to have been killed on Monday in a supposed clash with Baitullah’s network.  The Mehsud network denied taking part in the battle; it is certainly possible that the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment eliminated Nazir and, neither wanting conflict with the Ahmedzai Wazirs nor wishing Wazir-Mehsud unity, sought to blame the Mehsud network instead.   It also remains possible that Nazir’s group could have really been attacked by the Mehsuds, but I am skeptical.  And Nazir still could be alive.

So, rather than being triangulated by the Ahmedzai Wazirs, Utmanzai Wazirs, and the Mehsuds, the Pakistan Army seems to be making economical use of its resources by not heightening hostilities with each tribe’s militant network at once.  The Mehsud network is the declared public enemy, while Gul Bahadur can be countered under the pretenses of ‘reluctance’ and Nazir can, possibly, be targeted through covert methods that offer deniability.  Pakistani air power and local paramilitary and army forces can continue pressure on the Mehsud network and Gul Bahadur’s group (under the cover of “retaliation”), and American drone attacks can target all three groups.  This would soften up the rough terrain of South Waziristan, weaken its jihadi infrastructure, and increase coherence in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

But, in the end, all this talk of the various Pakistani Taliban groups begets the question: whither the Haqqani network?  Does going against any or all of the jihadi three in Waziristan mean a conflict between the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment and the Haqqani network is guaranteed, if it hasn’t begun already?

This is where things get the shadiest.  How can the Haqqani network have ties to the ISI, the Baitullah Mehsud network, and al-Qaeda at the same time?  The enemy of my enemy is, perhaps, my friend; the friend of my friend can be my friend; but can the friend of my enemy be my friend?  Perhaps if the friend of my enemy is also the enemy of another enemy of mine.  But is that enough glue to hold ‘friends’ together?   The puzzle would be easier to solve if it became clear that Maulvi Sangeen — presently, the major linkage between the Haqqani and Mehsud networks — is a bit of a renegade.  It also helps to remember that jihadi groups are prone to insubordination and splintering; in fact, there have been instances in which the elimination or arrest of Taliban commanders was ‘facilitated’ by the parent group.  So, there is always more than meets the eye.

If I were a betting man, I would put my money on Rawalpindi not parting ways with the Haqqanis and Mullah Omar.  Any future political resolution in Afghanistan will involve re-balancing the ethnic power distribution there, with a re-tilt toward the Pashtuns.  The Haqqanis, Mullah Omar, and to some extent, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are Pakistan’s only Pashtun cards to play.  And everyone — the Germans, the Turks, the Indians, the Brits, the Iranians, the Americans, and hell, probably even the Polish — all have, want, and need cards to play in Afghanistan.  Let’s not be naive about Afghan independence.  It is a penetrated state; its penetration is guaranteed by the fact that it is landlocked, surrounded by middle and emerging global powers, host to a north Atlantic alliance that has found itself in the middle of Central Asia (dangerously in Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani, and Russian strategic space), home to Pashtuns and Tajiks who will ally with a foreigner to mercilessly combat one another, and a possible transit route for a number of energy pipelines in a post-peak oil, post-Chinese riding bicycles to work world.

I think a quid pro quo in the form of Baitullah for the Haqqanis and/or Mullah Omar is not probable.  Washington took out Baitullah, but he was a bigger threat to Pakistan than he was to U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  Now that Rawalpindi got what it wanted, what will guarantee it reciprocating through giving up the Haqqanis and/or Mullah Omar?

Baitullah, in a loose sense, served as leverage over Pakistan.  But now he and that leverage are gone.  At the same time, the U.S.-led coalition is increasingly vulnerable as it faces an uphill battle in Afghanistan.  Days before national elections, the Afghan capital of Kabul was struck by a SVBIED with approximately 1,000 pounds of explosives.  The suicide bomber managed to penetrate the most secure area of Kabul.  The attack was a public relations coup for the Taliban, which managed to strike near the local seat of the world’s most powerful collective security alliance, led by world’s sole superpower, with a security blimp watching from the sky.

Assuming the elections turn out fine (reasonable turnout, especially among Pashtuns, no major claims of rigging, and a Karzai victory), Afghanistan remains a challenged country.  American operations in Helmand are moving slow.  Meanwhile, the Taliban are making major gains in Kandahar and areas outside the Pashtun provinces.  General Stanley McCrystal’s surrogates, i.e. those who served on his review committee, are hitting the airwaves and op-ed pages calling for a significant troop increase.  But the Obama administration remains conflicted.  National Security Advisor Jim Jones is dead against any new commitment of additional troops.  Vice President Joe Biden also seems to be extremely cold to the idea. A majority of Americans do not approve of the war in Afghanistan (though this can certainly change).  The “good war” isn’t as good as it once was.  Add to that the fact that COINdinista-style wars are expensive, while American tolerance for deficit spending has evaporated.

Washington has increasingly made clear that it is willing to negotiate with elements of the Afghan Taliban (save for the senior leadership), as long as they commit to some behavioral change (e.g. disarming and accepting the Afghan constitution).  Theoretically, it’s a perfect formula.  But in reality, it’s somewhat dangerous.  Negotiations, in the Washington consensus, are contingent upon the United States breaking the present stalemate and gaining an upper hand.  But what if the U.S.-led coalition never gains an upper hand?  Will it continue to walk into the quicksand?  This is a critical question that need to be addressed before it’s too late.

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The Malakand Division War Begins

The nation of Pakistan begins its greatest test in decades as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared war against takfiri terrorists in the Malakand Division in a national address this evening.

Gilani called on Pakistanis to unite behind their army and government in a war to “completely eliminate” militants who have reaped havoc and death in the once tranquil greater Swat area.

The prime minister’s speech is part of an aggressive public relations campaign by the Pakistani state to rally public support for a full-fledged war against the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan in Swat.  The campaign centers around using Islam to de-legitimize the militants.

Around a week ago, a news anchor close to the military-intelligence establishment read the following Qur’anic verses — unprecedented on his program — at the end of a segment on Swat:

And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”

Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.

(Surah al-Baqarah, Ayat 11 & 12)

Immediately, I realized that the verses were probably offered to him by elements of the state security apparatus and signaled the start of a campaign to take away the Islamic legitimacy of the takfiri terrorists.

Today, the Pakistani government began airing public service announcements on private and government television channels, broadcasting the same Qur’anic verses.  As the bullets and mortars fly and hundreds of thousands flee their homes, the war of ideas begins.

Islamic scholars from all backgrounds — Ahl-e Hadis, Barelvi, Deobandi, Jafri (Twelver Shia), modernist, and Islamist — including Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, and Khalid Masud, have come on television to speak out against the violent methodology of the militants and their campaign of terror against Pakistanis.

Generations ago, four young men told the Muslims of India: “The issue is now or never. Either we live [and establish Pakistan] or perish for ever.”

Pakistan faces the same choice today: to live or perish forever.

There is no question as to how the takfiri terrorists will respond.  The will begin hitting Pakistani cities tomorrow.  The battlefield will not be contained to the Malakand Division.

But as for the Pakistani people, we will learn of their decision — and fate — soon.

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What’s India Doing Inside Pakistan?

Christine Fair, Foreign Affairs Roundtable, “What’s the Problem With Pakistan?”

“Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur.”

Laura Rozen, ForeignPolicy.com, “Can the intel community defuse India-Pakistan tensions?”

While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former [U.S.] intelligence official said. “The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the former intelligence official who served in both countries said. “The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there.”

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Report: Baitullah Mehsud is Dead

GEO News reports that Baitullah Mehsud, the amir of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan is dead, apparently due to natural causes. Mehsud had been sick in recent days and reportedly slipped into a coma.

Pakistan’s commemorate Eid ul-Fitr today (Wednesday), marking the end of the month of Ramadan. The passing of this murderous terrorist, if true, is an Eid present of sorts for the violence plagued nation.

Expect the TTP shura council to elect a successor soon. It will, however, not be a smooth ride for the TTP, since the organization has continuously faced internal squabbling. It is possible that the TTP could elect a successor from the Mehsud tribe.

Mehsud’s death, however, will not mark the end of the TTP. Pakistan’s security forces should not take this as an opportunity to be complacent. The Pakistan military-intelligence establishment now has an opportunity to make use of potential divisions within the TTP. But while fragmenting the alliance weakens their existence as an ideological movement, it could also give birth to a wide assortment of criminal entities, further destabilizing the region.

There is no alternative to gaining the support of the local tribes, elders, wayward youth, and striking a fine balance between recognizing local autonomy and ensuring the writ of the government is present.

UPDATE: 6:12PM (New York) – BBCUrdu.com reports that a U.S. Predator drone fired two missiles at a home in North Waziristan, killing around four. Foreigners are among the dead.

UPDATE: 10:50PM (New York) – Renown Pakistani Pashtun journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai tells BBC Urdu that Mehsud’s death has not been confirmed with the Tehreek-e Taliban. Yusufzai did state that Mehsud was very ill recently, due to diabetes and heart-related afflictions.

Additionally, today’s missile strike took place in a village near Mir Ali. Yusufzai said that locals told him that the blasts were so strong they could be heard as far as Bannu and Miranshah.

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Islamabad Reaches Deal with the Mehsuds?

Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has called on the Taliban to stop their militant activities against the Pakistani government. His announcement states that those who violate the accord will be hung upside down in bazaars.

This indicates that Islamabad has possibly concluded a deal with the tribal elders of the Mehsuds, the dominant tribe of South Waziristan (one of the seven tribal areas), which counts Baitullah as one of their tribesmen. A previous failed accord in 2005 was between Islamabad and the militants.

Dawn provides details of the 15-point draft agreement with the Mehsud elders.

The apparent agreement with the Mehsuds coincides with the release of Maulana Sufi Muhammad of Swat. He, however, has little control over the main insurgents in that area, including his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah.Earlier in the day, White House spokesperson Dana Perino expressed misgivings about negotiations with militants:

“We are concerned about it and what we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any security or military operations that are ongoing in order to help prevent a safe haven for terrorists there….But in general, yes, we have been concerned about these types of approaches because we don’t think that they work.”

But Pakistan and Afghanistan are fooling themselves if they think that their respective insurgencies can be solved without bilateral–indeed, multilateral–coordination. In a sign of how much that is lacking, today, a Pakistani Frontier Corps officer was killed by Afghan security forces in a clash with militants. And U.S. forces on the ground contend that there is collusion between low-mid level Pakistan intelligence and Frontier Corps officers. It’s a recipe for continued conflict, albeit with a shift in alliances.

Pakistan will continue as a party to the conflict as long as militants from its territory attack U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan and it provides a supply route and other assistance to coalition forces.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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