Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to get control of South Waziristan -- so they say

A summary by Walter Pincus (Washington Post, 10.27/09) of a paper presented by Frederick Kagan, Reza Jan and Charlie Szrom on how Pakistani military have proceeded in South Waziristan reveals how fluid relations are among the Pashtuns of the Tribal Areas. Pincus presents it as a "Lesson for Afghanistan?" as if the methods used in this case could be used in Afghanistan. What he describes as the new Pakistani methods don't sound very new, but this time it appears to have been done with more resolve and more care in preparation.
My guess is that buying off various parties on the scene, as Pincus describes it here, can work among the Afghanistan folks as well, so long as it is understood that the deal is situational and temporary. Louie Dupree used to say the Afghans can be rented but they can't be bought.
So, if it works that's great, but it cannot be a long term solution to the problem in the Tribal Areas without a continuous and concerted commitment to the enforcement of law and order and the provision of necessary public services. This is another way of saying that if this Pakistani invasion into the Tribal areas is to be effective -- that is, lasting -- the Tribal Areas have to be more closely absorbed into the rest of the country. For that to take place the government must make a large financial commitment: building roads, introducing power lines and air service, and establishing medical care and education for the residents. It would be great if that would happen but it's hard to picture where the money will come from. And anyway there is the problem of whether the tribal leaders would be willing to give up their relative autonomy. Actually, after all they have been going through they just might consent to it, especially if the new arrangement would bring in the beneficial changes I listed above. We hear at least that some are pretty fed up with the intrusive and destructive presence of the Taliban/Al Qaeda fighters in their homelands.
Anyway, Pincus's article is revealing. [Selections from it are below] RLC

A lesson for Afghanistan?
By WALTER PINCUS The Washington Post Tuesday, October 27, 2009

…. The 37-page analysis of the Waziristan operation provides important background for those following Pakistan's long-awaited move against the Taliban, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) .
… Some preparatory activities were already underway, according to the analysis by Kagan and his associates. With the paramilitary Frontier Corps in support, the Pakistani military gained control of some major road segments in the area, setting up blockades intended to separate Mehsud's Taliban in South Waziristan from its allies in North Waziristan and to block transfer of arms into the south. Aided by U.S. intelligence and Predator drones, air and ground artillery attacks also began on Taliban targets. ….

Negotiations with surrounding tribal groups went on for months. Efforts were aimed at either getting support for the move against the traditional Mehsud area, where the TTP was strongest, or having groups agree to refrain from joining the fight on the Taliban side. …. In the southeast, the Pakistanis worked with Turkistan Bhittani, a pro-government leader whose tribal fighters at least a year before had driven Mehsud Taliban elements from their territory.

Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, once considered the second-most popular militant leader in South Waziristan to Mehsud, was concerned in the past about U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Early last year, he had formed an alliance with Mehsud, according to the Kagan analysis. Since then, U.S. drones had attacked his area at least nine times this year, according to the analysis.

However, over the summer, Pakistani officers, who had years earlier formed an alliance with Nazir Ahmad, bought off his support by guaranteeing that the U.S. drone attacks on his territory would halt, the analysis said. The result: Pakistani army forces gained use of the town of Wana in Nazir Ahmad's territory for their forces moving up from the southwest.

In the north, the deal was struck with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, considered the supreme commander of the North Waziristan Taliban, who has had an on-again, off-again peace deal with the Pakistani government. He agreed to remain neutral, allowing Razmak to be the supply point for troops coming down from the north. The agreement with him was that Pakistani army units could "transit his territory in exchange for fewer bombings and patrols" in his area, according to the analysis.

The Pakistani military's invasion of the Mehsud tribal heartland -- about 40,000 soldiers supported by helicopters and fighter bombers coming from three areas -- has progressed deliberately. Kotkai, the home town of Beitullah Mehsud's successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, and his top lieutenant, Qari Hussain, has been taken and their respective homes destroyed. ….

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