Cease-fire in Pak tribal areas: A lull before the storm

February 8th, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by admin  

Mullah Omar
Islamabad, Feb.8 (ANI): The cease-fire deal brokered between the Pakistani security forces and Pakistani Taliban commanders is just the lull before a big storm and the beginning of a new chapter of militancy in Pakistan.
In an article for the Asia Times, Syed Saleem Shahzad says that while Islamabad has officially announced a ceasefire in restive South Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan, a revolt is brewing among tribals not happy with the new deal.
According to Shahzad, Baitullah Mehsud, a hardline Takfiri, who is a believer in waging war against any non-practicing Muslims, has become isolated from the Taliban leadership, with Mullah Omar “sacking” him because of his fixation in waging war against the Pakistan state.
Mehsud has widely been accused of complicity in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpinidi on December 27.
The ceasefire deal, brokered by Taliban commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Bakhta Jan, is face-saving for both the militants and the security forces and provides them with breathing space.
The militants had laid siege to the main military camps at Razmak Fort and Ladha, and were firing missiles and mortars from three sides into the camps, at the same time cutting off their supply lines.
Earlier, commandos from Pakistan’s Special Services Group launched an operation to catch Mehsud, but the mission only resulted in them losing several score men and the militants about a dozen.
At this point, Islamabad reached the conclusion that its only option was to unleash an aerial assault on suspected militant camps. However, local tribal elders intervened and assured the authorities they would get Mehsud to retreat.
Once this was guaranteed, the authorities accepted with alacrity, mindful of the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 18 and the demoralization of their troops in the bitterly cold weather and harsh terrain.
The Afghan Taliban see the ceasefire as the ideal opportunity to step up their preparations for their annual spring offensive - they rely heavily on the Pakistan border areas for manpower and provisions.
Acutely aware of this, the US State Department has indicated its disapproval of the ceasefire.
A ceasefire in North Waziristan in September 2006 - after partial ones beginning in April of that year - led to the Taliban’s strongest showing in the battlefield since being ousted in 2001.
According to Shahzad, a key component of the Taliban offensive this year will be to counter NATO plans against them and al-Qaeda.
The Taliban are expected tol increase their activities in Khyber Agency, which means a war with the elders of the Shinwari and Afirdi tribes,” he says in his article, quoting an Al Qaeda contact.
The second sector of Taliban activity will be in Nooristan and Kunar provinces in Afghanistan, where US forces are conducting huge counter-insurgency operations.
The contact said that the al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan is convinced that American pressure will be so strong that the ceasefire will not be long-term.
This perception is not without substance. Wana military airfield in South Waziristan and Miranshah airfield in North Waziristan have been upgraded from makeshift airstrips into proper runways with backup facilities, which indicate plans for a powerful air operation.
The deployment of US forces at Lowari Mandi and Ghulman Khan checkpoints (both on the Afghan side of the border near North Waziristan) and the construction of a new military camp near Shawal (North Waziristan), on the Afghan side, indicate that the US is not planning on peace for very long.
The only real issue is which side will strike first, and where, he concludes. (ANI)

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