Pakistan and the Taliban

Bill Roggio:

News from Pakistan's western tribal belt is less than encouraging these days. The Taliban and their al-Qaeda backers continue to operate from safe havens within Pakistan, particularly in North Waziristan and Quetta.

The Taliban have fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, and forced them to largely remain in barracks in the North Waziristan agency capital of Miranshah. Beheadings of suspected U.S. spies are now commonplace; the bodies of the two latest victims "were dumped at separate places near Miranshah." Despite this, the Pakistani government is openly negotiating with the Taliban. This is the second time the Pakistani government has negotiated a settlement with the Taliban since the Pakistani Army was largely defeated in 2004.

The Taliban are not only negotiating a settlement which will allow them to remain in control of North Waziristan, but one which would require the Pakistani government to pay ‘huge compensation’ for fighting in the region. The Daily Times reports on the haggling over the tribute to be paid to the Taliban.

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The Taliban are running the southern Afghanistan campaign largely from Quetta in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. Colonel Chris Vernon was excoriated in May of 2006 for speaking frankly about the Taliban's status in Pakistan. “The thinking piece of the Taliban is out of Quetta in Pakistan. It’s the major headquarters,” Colonel Vernon said in an interview with the Guardian, “They use it to run a series of networks in Afghanistan.” Colonel Vernon's remarks were not intended to be on the record, but the Guardian reprinted the comments regardless. His words are echoed by military commanders across southern Afghanistan, but the sentiment is only spoken off the record. When I interviewed Colonel Vernon in June of 2006 about this very issue, he refused to answer. Military officers have been advised not to discuss this, as there are serious policy implications with recognizing the status of the Taliban in western Pakistan.

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Instead of reaching agreements with the Taliban the Pakistanis need to bring the NATO troops from Afghanistan in to help them clean out this infestation.

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