October 19, 2009

COIN 101

Pakistani intelligence officials claim the army reached verbal agreements with two militant commanders, Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, three weeks before the Waziristan operation began. In exchange for neutrality and allowing Pakistani soldiers to pass through their territory, the army will not attack the men and their fighters.

Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the AP that no formal agreements have been signed, but that, "there was an understanding with them that they will not interfere in this war. There is always a strategy to isolate your main target... Obviously, they are not coming to rescue or to help."

The American response can't be positive. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly is doing his job when he says, "We have a shared goal here, and the shared goal is fighting violent extremism," but his job isn't to tell the truth. Maybe Pakistan is truly isolating the core TTP first, then will turn on its offshoots in the event of its defeat. America is pressing Pakistan to turn into North Waziristan once its finished in South Waziristan.

Except these deals can't be an encouraging sign for America. Pakistan doesn't have the ability to combat every group at once, vast as they are in number, a bad sign in itself. Though a smart move by Pakistan, negotiating with militants hostile only to America sends an explicit message.

Pakistan seems unlikely to take on TTP branches as long as they stay neutral and focused on Afghanistan. Bahadur is second in command after Hakimullah and commander of North Waziristan, while Nazir is actually a commander in South Waziristan. Pakistan knows that it'll spark a larger fire than it can contain by breaking agreements with Bahadur and Nazir, yet this ensures the whole system will survive if Hakimullah resists the onslaught.

General David Petraeus, who's meeting with Pakistani officials at this moment, can't like what he's seeing. Pakistan won't compromise its contingencies while America remains an unreliable partner. Ironically the Kerry-Lugar bill, dubbed the Kerry-Loser bill or the Kill Bill to Pakistan, couldn't have come at a worse time.

Sec. 203, paragraph C(A)
, of the Kerry-Lugar bill calls for, "ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighboring countries."

If the Pakistani army is truly upset by the bill, negotiations with militants could be push back in addition to military pragmatism, a message that it won't be ordered around by America. It won't support them, but it won't attack them either. Then again, negotiations themselves qualify as support if Bahadur and Navir benefit from them.

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