The Blog

Spinning the Fighting
in South Waziristan

Musharraf's government continues to promote its dangerous "peace deals."

12:00 AM, Apr 24, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO and DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS
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That argument does not withstand scrutiny. Although Mullah Nazir's tribesmen declared a jihad against some Uzbeks and their local supporters in South Waziristan, Arab al Qaeda were not included in this jihad--and the tribesmen didn't even target all Uzbeks in the area. Pakistan's News International notes that the tribesmen are only fighting what they describe as the "bad Uzbeks," rather than the "good Uzbeks."

The bad Uzbeks are part of the Islamic Jihad Group, a faction that splintered from the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in 2004. Islamic Jihad Group militants in Waziristan are intent on fighting the "near enemy," including Pakistan's government, rather than U.S. and Coalition forces.

And the good Uzbeks? Rather than being part of the Islamic Jihad Group, they are affiliated with the main IMU, led by Tahir Yuldashev. This faction has closely aligned itself with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Yuldashev is believed to sit on al Qaeda's global shura council and maintains tactical control of about 500 fighters in Pakistan. Intelligence sources believe that some of these fighters serve on the Black Guard, bin Laden's personal corps of bodyguards. Yuldashev enjoys a close relationship with bin Laden, and his strategic preferences align with Mullah Nazir's: he also supports attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan. The fact that these are the "good Uzbeks" undermines Pakistan's claims about the recent fighting.

Moreover, Mullah Nazir's relationships with various al Qaeda operatives shows that he's not trying to drive Arab al Qaeda fighters from Waziristan. He has been a known ally of operatives Asad, Asadullah, and Khadr Al Kanadi, who had worked with al Qaeda for more than a decade and was reportedly one of Osama bin Laden's closer associates.

When the Pakistani government intervenes militarily to aid Mullah Nazir, it isn't helping the tribes push Islamic militants out of the country. Instead, the intervention is the equivalent of the U.S. government fighting the Tattaglias on the Corleones' behalf.

But, one might ask, isn't it good that the Taliban tribes and al Qaeda-aligned Uzbeks are fighting each other? Shouldn't we celebrate this schism? The answer is that the fighting is a positive turn for us, but the long-term impact may be relatively insignificant to al Qaeda. Like an internal mafia war, one family rises to the top in the end and the criminal enterprise continues.

But there is a real danger for the West. If the fighting is incorrectly viewed as a Waziristan Accord success story, it may lead some observers to believe that future Waziristan Accords are sustainable--and thus alleviate Western pressure to avoid such deals.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of My Year Inside Radical Islam. Bill Roggio writes on the war at billroggio.com, and his daily updates on the war in Iraq appear at THE WORLDWIDE STANDARD.