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.
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.
The report goes on to quote the new Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, who says that any agreements reached between militants and the Pakistani government will insist that extremists not give haven to guerrilla fighters who would launch attacks on any of Pakistan's allies, including Afghanistan or the United States. However, the leaked agreement in North Waziristan does not appear to make this demand.
Regardless of such peace deals, the US is continuing to pressure Pakistani militants. Reuters reports that a pilotless US drone may have fired a missile into Pakistan on Tuesday, the fifth time the Americans have attacked targets inside Pakistan this year.
"There was an attack by a spy plane close to the Afghan border but we don't have information about casualties or damage," said the government official based in the region. He declined to be identified.
Neither U.S. nor Pakistani authorities usually confirm U.S. missile attacks on Pakistani territory, which would be an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty.
Wednesday, a US airstrike killed 11 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border, the sixth time Americans have attacked targets inside Pakistan this year and
An Army statement quoting a spokesman said a paramilitary checkpost at Gora Prai in the Mohmand tribal agency was "destroyed by coalition forces in Afghanistan through aerial attack," killing 11 troops including an officer.
"The spokesman condemned this completely unprovoked and cowardly act on the FC (Frontier Corps) post and regretted the loss of precious lives of our soldiers," the statement said.
"He blamed the coalition forces for violent act and said that the incident had hit at the very basis of cooperation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in the war against terror," it said.
Pakistan had lodged a strong protest with the coalition, it said.
On Tuesday, the Indian daily the Economic Times, citing a new book by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, wrote that the US Central Intelligence Agency established a secret base in northern Pakistan in order to carry out drone strikes.
"On Jan 9, 2008, Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael Hayden, director of CIA, visited Islamabad where they discussed a plan to make operational a secret CIA base that could mount attacks on militants by drones armed with missiles," Rashid says in his book "Descent into Chaos."
The base was located in the restive Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a region considered a safe haven for Taliban and Al Quaeda cadres, The News [a Pakistan paper] Tuesday reported, quoting from the book.
Washington officials say that such measures are necessary because peace deals are ineffective. The Daily Times reports that
[S]uspected Taliban militants continue to blow up CD shops in Miranshah and target killings have continued despite the February 17 peace deal.
The interior adviser to the Prime Minister Rahman Malik said on Monday that the government has "scrapped" a recent peace deal with Taliban militants in the Swat valley area of the North West Frontier Province because of continued violence, according to Xinhua, China's official news agency. Pakistani authorities later denied that the peace agreements have been abandoned.
Moreover, a report this week by the RAND Corp., a US-based think tank, says that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and Frontier Corps, which are to police North Waziristan according to the provisions of the agreement, "have failed to root out Afghan insurgent groups based in Pakistan, and, in some cases, individuals from these Pakistani organizations have provided direct assistance to such groups as the Taliban."