Waziristan Update

The recent release of several Al Qaeda prisoners, as detailed by Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail looks very ominous for Waziristan if the truce is a sham. It appears to the knowledgable as if it might be, but something is still not adding up here.

There’s information missing, and the changes we are seeing in the recent pact and release are more than what we hear in the agitprop from both the goverment and respective mouth-pieces of the Taliban and Al Qaida. Regardless of which way the chips fall, this is a change to the status quo in Pakistan that will force all issues eventually, whether to good or ill in the long term is what hangs in balance.

One thing noted in the last round of tapes from Al Qaida was the mention of the Gulf, and it appears to me that they are refocusing there as recent events in Yemen demonstrate.

If Al Qaida is refocusing on the Gulf and moving from Waziristan (let’s pretend there’s a five to ten percent chance,) then would they be in Oman, Yemen, Karachi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Khartoum, or all of the above? Where would the leadership base? Is the Islamic court protesting too much, and are they hosting Al Qaeda?

Many of the people released in Pakistan are Al Qaeda, and I don’t think anyone knows what that will mean in six months. Will they be forced from Pakistan? Have some of those released been turned? Will their movements be tracked? Will the foreign Al Qaida stay in Pak, and create a new Al Qaida base in Waziristan, or has the real leadership migrated and they will follow? Is this a large Machievellian trap, or something Musharraf had to do to survive, or is it perhaps both?

From various quarters we have news that is both conflicting and confusing: We have mass migration of Afghan Taliban refugees leftover from the original Russian invasion out of Pakistan back to Afghanistan (70 families from the Chitral area alone.) Pakistan will also start a registration of foreigners, legal and illegal in October. According to the news, the Illegal variant will be deported. The Pakistanis also raided a hospital in Quetta Thursday and captured 14 Afghani Taliban fighters there to be treated for wounds received in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

We also see conflicting reports on how foreigner fighters will be handled, including some that state “surgical strikes” in Waziristan will continue.

The Pakistan Army can still carry out surgical strikes whenever it sees militant activity in North Waziristan, a senior official said yesterday after a pact signed last week to end fighting with pro-Taleban tribesmen.

Critics of the accord say the government had virtually caved in to the militants’ demands and the strategy risked creating a safe haven for the Taleban and Al-Qaeda in the semi-autonomous tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

“This agreement does not debar us from taking surgical action,” a senior government official told Western journalists in a briefing on Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy.

Under the terms of the treaty some foreign militants, who were unable to return to their homelands, would be allowed to stay in North Waziristan provided they honored the law.

But the official said the treaty did not stop Pakistani security forces from arresting anyone on a wanted list compiled by the Afghan, Pakistani and US governments.

“It’s a very long list,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

To me it seems that a few things are afoot, the outcome right now is that unity and direction among the Taliban forces appears splintered. Parts of the Talib groups are even changing names. There is the “new Taliban” in Afghanistan, the Wazir Taliban, and remnants of Al Qaida. The native Pashtun in some cases are upset with being identified with Taliban, which is largely Shia/Hezara. I suspect this signals that the true leaders are either laying low and biding their time, or they are on to other things now.

There are also reports that the army won’t be fully out of Waziristan as orginally reported:

PESHAWAR, Provincial Governor of North West Frontier Province Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai said that Pakistan government will not withdraw its troops from the restless and tension griped North Waziristan Tribal region despite a peace agreement with pro-Taliban leader.

Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai talking to a private TV channel said that we have not deployed our eighty thousand troops for nothing. They are there for a purpose.

“If Osama bin Laden’s presence is confirmed in any party of area adjoining Afghanistan border, or for that matter anywhere in Pakistan we have these troops stationed there to carry out that job” he told.

There would not be any requirement for the US troops or Special Task Forces to come and enter our area and take action against Osama bin Laden. We are capable of doing that, he held.

What is clear is that in-country Pak insurgents are falling, starting with Nawab Bugti, and going to singular events like this one happening regularly. We also have fresh promises of development and funds from the government to the tribal areas, and that’s to the tune of billions of Rupees. With the Iran-Pak-India pipeline now on the rocks again, it appears that some form of development will be needed with unemployment among the young high. This situation bears watching, but it’s too early to tell it seems to me, I am waiting to see what happens in October when foreign registrations start.

Two things though for those with forces in Afghanistan: There is a large influx of refugees coming back, some will be peaceful but others are guaranteed to be fighters. If Musharaf has managed to buy off the local Pak Talib, and forced the Afghan Talib back across the border, then you better prepare for highly increased forces. The second thing would be to watch for exiles among the returnees, there could be a favorite son among them.