Will Iraq playbook work in Pakistan?
One tribal leader vows to raise a force of 600 to help fight an Al Qaeda-linked tribe in Waziristan.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Pakistan's troubled tribal belt is emerging as the latest test bed of this counterterrorism strategy.
In September of 2006, Pakistan's government brokered a controversial truce deal in which it released Pakistani militants in return for pledges that they support the government in fighting against Al Qaeda and foreign militants, such as Uzbeks. The dividends of that deal have been slow to materialize.
But last week, Maulvi Nazir, a pro-government Taliban commander, vowed to raise a militia to fight Baitullah Mehsud, a wanted Taliban commander who the Pakistani government blames for the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto and for the bulk of suicide attacks that have left some 800 dead in the past year.
The two militia leaders, who operate near the city of Wana in South Wazirstan, are already enemies. The Pakistani government is relying on that enmity to accomplish what Pakistan's military has failed to do: rid the area of foreign militants linked to Al Qaeda and capture or kill Mr. Mehsud.
While the plan worked in Iraq, some Pakistani analysts warn that it could backfire in Pakistan. In the long run, militias raised to fight against Al Qaeda today could turn against the government tomorrow.
"I think it's a very misguided step. It might work for the time being in Iraq, but it won't work here. You can buy [the militants'] loyalty for some time. But it's not a long-term solution," says Rahimullah Yusufzai, a journalist and political analyst in Peshawar.
In March, Pakistan's military hailed Nazir's militia when it launched an attack against the Uzbek forces of Mehsud, killing as many as 100. Some analysts now expect the Pakistani military to provide cash and weapons to the Nazir's new militia, although the military has not announced any such plans.
The new plan comes as Washington is openly considering direct intervention in Pakistan's tribal belt, considered a staging ground that has allowed militants to launch their deadliest spate of attacks in Pakistan's history.