We can’t say we didn’t expect it after the marginalization of Pervez Musharraf in the last Pakistani election, but the deal between Islamabad and the radical Islamists still comes as a blow to American strategic interests. The Pakistanis will retreat from the Swat region, where al-Qaeda and the Taliban have gathered, in exchange for Baitullah Mehsud’s promise to cough up foreign fighters and end suicide attacks. The Taliban will likely do neither, as ABC reports:
Pakistan’s new government has signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants, in what some U.S. officials call a “victory for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.”
Under the terms of the 15-point plan, signed Wednesday in the city of Peshawar, the Pakistani army will withdraw thousands of troops deployed to the Swat Valley region, an area where officials believe bin Laden and other al Qaeda figures could be hiding. The militants have promised to stop suicide bomb attacks and hand over any foreign militants, according to Bashir Bilour, a senior minister of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province.
“While the deal sounds good, it’s likely to be implemented badly,” said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant and former White House counterterrorism chief. “What this means is that the United States will continue to be threatened by an al Qaeda that has a safe haven where it can attract people from around the world, be trained and equipped and sent out to the United States and other countries around the world.”
A taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, told ABCNews.com, “We accept the writ of the state and will no longer challenge it.”
This is actually worse than the deal Musharraf cut with the radical terrorists in the Waziristans and North West Frontier Province. At that time, Musharraf held the Swat valley, a popular tourist area until Mehsud and his henchmen started squatting in the region. This essentially concedes even larger swaths of territory to the sovereignty of the terrorists, who claim to accept the writ of the government while pushing the nation’s army out of its own soil.
Under these conditions, does anyone in their right mind believe that Mehsud and his gangs will ever turn Osama bin Laden and the rest of the foreigners over to the Pakistani Army? Of course not. Mehsud continues to operate training camps in the federally-administered tribal areas (FATA) for foreigners interested in pursuing violent jihad through terrorism. Osama, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the rest of the AQ network ensconced in Pakistan are brothers in arms to the radical Islamists, as well as potential sources for funding.
Nor can we expect that the Taliban will end their push to reclaim power in Afghanistan. This agreement allows the Taliban to secure their rear and their lines of communication through the frontier in order to increase the intensity of their missions. That will force NATO to put more combat troops into southern and eastern Afghanistan at the moment when NATO nations have begun resisting that exact move.
Pakistan just folded. They may keep their nuclear weapons safe from Islamists for the short run with this deal, but they have given the terrorists safe haven for their bases from which they will launch innumerable attacks against Afghanistan and the West.