The government of Pakistan has apparently entered into a peace accord with pro-Taliban forces in the tribal areas along the Afghan border:
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 5 — The government of Pakistan signed a peace accord Tuesday with pro-Taliban forces in the volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, agreeing to withdraw its troops from the region in return for the fighters’ pledge to stop attacks inside Pakistan and across the border.
Under the pact, foreign fighters would have to leave North Waziristan or live peaceable lives if they remained. The militias would not set up a “parallel” government administration.
Reached as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, prepared to visit the Afghan capital Wednesday, the accord aroused alarm among some analysts in Afghanistan. They expressed concern that, whatever the militias promise, a Pakistani army withdrawal might backfire, emboldening the groups to operate more freely in Pakistan and to infiltrate more aggressively into Afghanistan to fight U.S. and allied forces there.
“This could be a very dangerous development,” said one official at an international agency, speaking anonymously because the issue is sensitive in both countries. “Until recently there has been relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, but now that could start to deteriorate.”
Marc Schulman of American Future has an excellent media round-up.
There may be somewhat less to this story, however, than meets the eye. The Internation Herald Tribune reports that the most incendiary claim of the ABC News report, that Osama bin Laden would not be taken into custody so long as he behaves himself, may not be true:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistan’s top army spokesman on Wednesday vehemently denied saying in a news report that Osama bin Laden would not be taken into custody if he agreed to live peacefully in Pakistan.
“This is absolutely fabricated, absurd. I never said this,” Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told The Associated Press, referring to an ABC News broadcast aired hours earlier.
The ABC report cited Sultan as saying in a telephone interview that al-Qaida chief bin Laden “would not be taken into custody” if found, “as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen.”
Sultan’s recorded comments were included in the report, but it was not immediately clear whether he understood that bin Laden was the specific subject of discussion at that point in the interview.
Sultan told the AP by phone that “what they are saying on Osama is absolutely fabricated.”
“Pakistan is committed to its policy on the war on terror, and Osama, caught anywhere in Pakistan, would be brought to justice,” he said.
Hat tip: Done With Mirrors
Bill Roggio, of course, provides more details and analysis of the situation. Bill concludes his analysis:
The Pakistani government has ceded a region the size of New Jersey, with a population of about 800,000 to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan is not the end of the Taliban’s expansion, however. An intelligence source indicates similar negotiations between the Taliban and the Pakistani government are being held in the agencies of Khyber, Tank, Dera Ishmal Khan and Bajaur. The jihadi dreams of al-Qaeda’s safe havens in western Pakistan have become a reality. And the gains made by the Coalition in Afghanistan have now officially been wiped away with the peace agreement in the newly established Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.
There’s more than a single border involved here. The border between the so-called “tribal areas” of Pakistan (IMO better described as an ungoverned territory adjacent to Pakistan) and Afghanistan has always been porous: escaping across that border is, presumably, how the Taliban and, presumably, Osama bin Laden eluded being apprehended by Coalition forces in 2002.
But there’s also the border between those territories and the areas under the control of the central government in Islamabad to consider. If the Pakistani government devotes serious attention to securing that border (from both directions), the situation may not be quite as dire as Bill’s conclusion suggests. We should probably maintain cool heads and see how the story develops.
The entire matter does bring up a larger consideration: how are we do to deal with ungoverned territories or areas in which the nominal government refuses (or is incapable) of enforcing its monopoly on the use of force, the prerequisite for a Westphalian state? It would certainly be a shame if intertribal warfare broke out in those areas or if tribal leaders began to be assassinated mysteriously, far from the protection or, apparently, the interest of the nominal central government.