Topic: War on Terror
The NYT reports that the government of Pakistan has signed a peace deal with tribal leaders of North Waziristan. Apparently, representatives of the local Taliban council agreed to "halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan," according to the Times story. (Yeah right, as if anyone is buying that.)
The Times reports:
"The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area..." An AP story says: "The agreement which one official said offers 'implicit amnesty' to foreign and local militants highlights the Pakistani military's inability to crush a violent pro-Taliban insurgency on its own soil."
As if they'd really want to anyway: ever since 9/11 -- when Pervez Musharrif became our good buddy instead of the international pariah he had been-- the central government of Pakistan has made a good show of trying to do something about the massive problem they have in the Warziristans. Unfortunately, there are elements within the military and the secret ISI that have been doing business with the Taliban and al-Qaeda for decades. They can't really go after them at this point; they're joined at the hip. It's just a practical matter; they have to keep their home-grown fanatics focused on Kashmir and Afghanistan. Otherwise these lunatics might turn on them. (I'm assuming, of course, that the lunatics within the Pakistani military haven't got the upper hand yet.)
Maybe they have. Asia Times Online reports that beyond the shock of the truce, "a more significant development is an underhand deal between pro-al-Qaeda elements and Pakistan in which key al-Qaeda figures will either not be arrested or those already in custody will be set free. This has the potential to sour Islamabad's relations with Washington beyond the point of no return...it has now been agreed between militants and Islamabad that Pakistan will not arrest two high-profile men on the "most wanted" list that includes Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar."
Well, isn't that special? You could perhaps understand why Mussharrif wants to get al-Qaeda off his back, when you consider the problems he's having in Baluchitan and with the Baluchistan Liberation Army (Which Pakistan claims is supported by, you quessed it: India) . All Waziristan offers is lots of rocks and headaches, Baluchistan on the other hand provides lots of oikl and gas. There has been a nascent insurgency going on there for quite a while and it's really coming to a head right now. The killing by Pakistani forces of the revered leader Nawab Akbar Bugti two weeks ago has really roiled the whole already bad situation in Baluchistan and there have been violent protests in the capital city Quetta, which also happens to be the main staging area for the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan. The government claims it's got everything under control, but when you're claiming that you've made 600 arrests in what is supposedly a civil disturbance; inquiring minds start to wonder what's really going on. Police actions don't usually require the use of Apache helicopters.
W. is making a lot of noise about his successes against al-Qaeda this week and saying things like we're fighting Hitler and Stalin all over again (although 'Uncle Joe" was our best friend for about 3 years during WWII) but he's not saying anything about Musharrif making peace deals with the "Islamo-fascists" who have killed 106 US troops so far this year. Very odd.
On the heels of this back-down to his domestic terrorists, Musharrif has again pulled another one of his patented showy attempts to placate his US backers. A few months ago Musharrif staged an attack on a terrorist base at Danda Saidgai, which wound up blowing up in his face just as W. arrived. This time around he's really upping the ante by making his way to Kabul to make nice with the beleaguered Afghan president Hamid Karzai -- who he hates. The two of them are declaring a common front against the terrorists, the same terrorists Musharrif just made a deal with.
The cynicism of the Pakistanis is truly astounding. Surely, the Bush administration isn't falling for this crap, right? Oh, you betcha'. This administration is so over their heads in South Asia, it's scary. Far be it for me to try and figure out the Byzantine intricacies of the Pakistan/India dispute, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out a nuclear Pakistan under a very shaky military dictatorship is probably a bigger problem at the moment than a loud mouth Iranian president with no nukes.