A Withdrawal

by Joshua Foust on 9/8/2006 · 4 comments

What to make of Pakistan’s withdrawal from Waziristan? The region, on the uncontrolled southeast border of Afghanistan, has been infamous for years for its open support of the Taliban, complete lack of border patrol, and general lawlessness. It is a region Islamabad was never quite able to quell, and despite recent overtures toward increased funding and integration with the rest of the country, Waziristan has been a de facto autonomous region for a long time.

The region, too, is known for its violent unrest, and this year alone almost a dozen Pakistani soldiers have been killed. So, Pervez is sick of controlling the region—if they pretty please promise to stop supporting the Taliban and end the attacks, the Pakistani military will stop monitoring the situation.

Let’s review: the Pakistani government cannot control a region known for its religious hyper-conservatism and violence, so it strikes a deal that stipulates it will leave if the militants promise to stop attacking the government. Am I wrong for seeing this as a surrender of sorts? Foreign Policy is saying Musharraf has outlived its usefulness as an ally. He certainly appears to have done that, but that FP piece was written before the withdrawal. How mysterious.

Let’s make this bigger: whose side is Pakistan on? Clearly its own, but is it still working with the Taliban, or has it simply decided to stop working against it?


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 3 comments }

Brian Ulrich September 8, 2006 at 11:16 am

This is something I post about often at American Footprints. Pakistani policy has always drawn a distinction between foreign militants, whom it opposes, the the Taliban, whom it tries to conciliate. I believe that ultimately it hopes to use the Taliban as part of its ongoing confrontation with President Karzai’s government, as well as insulation against Islamist hostility toward Musharraf.

Laurence September 8, 2006 at 4:28 pm

Thank you for this post.

David September 13, 2006 at 6:21 am

Another thing to keep in mind while considering Musharraf’s pullout of Waziristan is the recent killing of Nawaz Bugti in Baluchistan. Islamabad may be responding to an increase in unrest there and need to more troops to contain it. Or they might just be using the Baluch situation to back off the taliban for a bit and buy some time, only to regroup and go back in to Waziristan in the spring when America puts the pressure back on and it warms up a bit.

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