Friday, May 18, 2007
The frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan known as South Waziristan has gotten some attention lately. First because of the "peace deal" the Pakistani military struck back in September with "militant tribal groups allied to the Taliban and al Qaeda". Later because of an outbreak of fighting between local tribesman, led by an Afghan named Maulvi Nazir, and Uzbek jihadists who had set up shop in the area. Although it's hard to get accurate information from the area, which is beyond the reach of journalists, the Uzbeks reportedly suffered heavy losses before being driven into neighboring North Waziristan.
The Pakistanis, who took a lot of heat for their "hands off" policy, claim the development as proof that their decision to leave the job of policing the frontier badlands to the local tribesmen is bearing fruit. Not so, say Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bill Roggio in the Weekly Standard. The fighting between Nazir and the Uzbeks had more mundane causes and doesn't represent a significant change in Waziri relations with their al Qaeda guests.
But according to this article on The Jamestown Foundation website, the campaign against the Uzbeks represents the first success not of Pakistan's withdrawal from Waziristan, but of a covert Pakistani intelligence operation designed to re-integrate a new generation of Taliban leadership back into Pakistan's sphere of influence. The idea being that if the Taliban recognize that their alliance with al Qaeda runs counter to their political interests, they'll choose to cut the jihadists loose and focus on returning to power in Afghanistan.
Apparently the only thing wrong with the Taliban, as far as Pakistan is concerned, was the company they kept.