Secret accord sheltered Al Qaeda linked militants in tribal Pakistan
Wednesday, a US airstrike killed 11 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border.
A newspaper in Pakistan this week disclosed the leaked details of a secret agreement between the Pakistani government and certain tribes that allows Al Qaeda-linked militants to remain in North Waziristan, a strategically important region that borders Afghanistan. The move is the latest in a series of negotiations that Western officials worry will strengthen militants.Skip to next paragraph
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The agreement, between the government and leading Waziristan tribes, is the first known to directly address the issue of Al Qaeda. The document was signed in February and the Pakistani English-language Daily Times divulged the specifics on Sunday.
In a copy of the agreement made available to Daily Times, Al Qaeda-linked militants have been allowed to live in North Waziristan as long as they pledge to remain peaceful. However, a basic demand of the accord is that all foreigners leave the area. The agreement, inked between the government and the Utmanzai tribes on February 17 to fight Taliban-linked militancy through support from the local population, states that no parallel government of suspected Taliban militants would be tolerated. The Utmanzai tribes have also agreed that there would be no attacks on security personnel or government employees and no target killings would be initiated.
The Long War Journal, a website that covers the "Global War on Terror," reports that the central government, for its part, will withdraw the Army, turn over security to local paramilitaries, and release imprisoned Taliban leaders and fighters.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the al-Qaeda threat from Pakistan represents a "huge challenge" for the United States, but said Pakistan has been lacking in its execution of a strategy to eradicate the safe havens for terrorists and insurgents in the lawless region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Mullen called on Pakistani authorities to enforce any deals they strike with tribal leaders in the FATA and to require not only the expulsion of al-Qaeda but also a halt to the flow of insurgents across the border into Afghanistan. However, Mullen predicted slow progress, citing Pakistan's complex tribal allegiances and sensitivities over sovereignty that have limited US military involvement in the region.