The deal between Pervez Musharraf and the tribal leaders of Waziristan looks more and more like a surrender rather than a partnership against terror. The British newspaper The Guardian reports that American military sources indicate that attacks from Islamists in the border regions have more than doubled since the deal was announced:
Taliban attacks along Afghanistan’s southeastern border have more than doubled in the three weeks since a controversial deal between Pakistan and pro-Taliban militants, the US military said yesterday.
Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, had promised the agreement with militants in North Waziristan would help to bring peace to Afghanistan. But early indications suggest the pact is having the opposite effect, creating a safe haven for the Taliban to regroup and launch fresh cross-border offensives against western and Afghan troops.
A US military spokesman, Colonel John Paradis, said US soldiers had reported a “twofold, in some cases threefold” increase in attacks along the border since the deal was signed on September 5, “especially in the south-east areas across from North Waziristan”.
This is the result of Musharraf’s deal with the tribal leaders, a deal that he probably couldn’t avoid in any case. He had tried for years to use the Pakistani military to bring the Waziris under his thumb, and instead they thumbed their noses at him. After losing several hundred troops in largely unsuccessful efforts in the mountainous region, Musharraf decided to try enlisting their support instead.
It hasn’t worked. Musharraf released thousands of pro-Islamist prisoners, to the consternation of the US, and that had the predictable effect of strengthening the Islamists in the region. When information came out that Mullah Omar blessed the deal, it surprised few but underscored the extent of Musharraf’s capitulation. Now the newly-energized Islamists can traverse the border region with little concern for security on the Pakistani side.
Hamid Karzai cannot abide the constant infiltration on his borders, and he has a right to be angry. The Pakistani refusal to police their own border puts a lot more pressure on his own security forces and the NATO coalition trying to protect Afghanistan’s first democratic republic. Since Pakistan’s intelligence services helped create and support the Taliban in its previous incarnation, Karzai and his government have plenty of reason to believe that the Pakistani retreat may have more sinister motivations and implications, and that suspicion has created a great deal of tension between Karzai and Musharraf.
President Bush has tried to remain optimistic about Musharraf’s efforts. However, the results speak for themselves, and we need to proceed with a more realistic understanding of Pakistan’s stance. Perhaps this would be a good time to start pressing for the return of Pakistani democracy.