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Pakistan Back to Cutting Deals with the Taliban?

2:11 PM, Aug 28, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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I've been saying for months now that Pakistan has no desire to move into South Waziristan, the Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. According to Time magazine, a Pakistani official with close ties to the military said that no such operation would occur, and in fact the military would resume the disastrous policy of signing peace agreements with the Taliban:

A top Pakistani general, Nadeem Ahmed, recently said preparation for such an operation could take up to two months. Now, there will be no ground assault at all, according to a senior Pakistani politician known to have strong military ties; instead, the politician tells TIME, the military will try and buy off some TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] factions through peace deals.

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute thinks the Pakistani military is seeking to keep its policy of strategic depth - keeping the Taliban in reserve as a chip against India and hedging against a US withdraw from Afghanistan - in place, and thus threatening President Obama's AfPak strategy to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban:

But the experts - like some U.S. officials - suspect the Pakistani military lacks the desire to eliminate the TTP entirely. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute, who conducted the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, says the military may simply want "to get the TTP back to where it was two years ago - a malleable force that doesn't attack the Pakistani state, and particularly not the Army." A somewhat tame TTP is a useful boogeyman, "to keep civilians appreciative of the need for the Army to be getting resources and priority attention," Riedel adds.

For the Obama administration, the Pakistani military's reluctance to take on the TTP doesn't bode well for the pursuit of U.S. interests. Washington would like Islamabad to confront the groups that pose a direct threat to NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan - the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. But "its not clear that the Pakistanis are prepared to pay more than lip service to that," says Riedel.