The Magazine

Pakistan Surrenders

The Taliban control the border with Afghanistan.

Oct 2, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 03 • By BILL ROGGIO and DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS
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The Taliban and al Qaeda will operate with impunity. They have already repeatedly broken their brand new agreement with Pakistan without facing consequences. Since September 5, a number of anti-Taliban clerics and tribal leaders have been shot and beheaded in Waziristan. A government official in Waziristan was kidnapped, and a reporter was murdered in the city of Dera Ismail Khan. Bombings and other attacks have taken place on military outposts in North and South Waziristan, and bombings have occurred in Peshawar and Bajaur.

Adding to the peril of this surrender, Musharraf has reiterated that the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghan istan won't be allowed into the tribal areas covered by the peace deal. "On our side of the border there will be a total uprising if a foreigner enters that area," he said. "It's not possible at all, we will never allow any foreigners into that area. It's against the culture of the people there."

Waziristan probably does not mark the end of the Taliban's expansion. Instead, an American intelligence source told us--and United Press International has since confirmed--that further talks are underway that may lead to Pakistan's ceding parts of the North-West Frontier Province. Negotiations are reportedly being held in the jurisdictions of Khyber, Tank, Dera Ismail Khan, and Bajaur.

So Taliban and al Qaeda forces have consolidated great geographic gains over the past few weeks. On September 15, they also experienced a major gain in personnel when Pakistan released 2,500 foreign fighters linked to the Taliban and al Qaeda. These men, according to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, had been "detained by Pakistan after fleeing the battleground in Afghanistan."

Intelligence sources indicate that the released prisoners represent a broad cross-section of the jihadist movement, including computer ex perts, WMD experts, and low-level grunts. Some of the notables released include Ghulam Mustafa, a senior al Qaeda commander in Pakistan; Fazl-e -Raziq, a senior aide to Osama bin Laden; and several of the murderers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. These individuals are said to be gathering in al Qaeda's new safe haven in Waziristan and reconstituting the terror group there.

It seems that at this point nobody in the U.S. government knows how to deal with the situation in Pakistan. Some routine suggestions have been peddled: covert operations, pressure on the Musharraf government, and the like. Some in the State Department have even publicly defended the Wazir istan Accord, while at a Friday press conference with President Bush, Musharraf stated, "The deal is not at all with the Taliban. This deal is against the Taliban. The deal is with the tribal elders." To this, President Bush replied, "I believe him."

But neither President Bush nor the State Department officials are to be believed on this point. They aren't ignorant of the problems with the accord. Rather, it seems that their concern is Musharraf's retreat from Waziristan and release of prisoners suggest he may be losing his grip on power. And as bad as Musharraf has been of late, things would be far worse if, in a critical Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, a relatively pro-Western leader were replaced by al Qaeda-linked fundamentalists.

One intelligence source has opined that the gains of the past five years were reversed in mere weeks with the loss of Wazir istan and the release of 2,500 fighters. We urgently need solid ideas about how to cope with this problem before it grows worse. Simply overlooking the dangers of the present situation does not a solution make.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior consultant for the Gerard Group International and author of the forthcoming book My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin). Bill Roggio is an independent civilian military blogger who served in the Army from 1991 to 1995.