Analysis: Musharraf strategy in tatters

By SHAUN WATERMAN, UPI Homeland and National Security Editor   |   Nov. 7, 2006 at 2:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's strategy of cutting peace deals with local leaders on his country's border with Afghanistan lies in tatters, after the strike last week on a religious school in the area, and charges that a terror plot was hatched there.

"It is in tatters, but there is no alternative," Pakistani analyst Husain Haqqani told United Press International Monday. Musharraf adopted the strategy under pressure from army leaders who saw the effort to pacify the notoriously lawless and inaccessible border region by military force alone as doomed.

The architect of the strategy, retired Gen. Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, has threatened to resign, and Musharraf will hold a meeting with senior army staff Tuesday to allay their fears about the deal's collapse, according to local reports.

Over the weekend, the Dawn newspaper -- citing an unnamed senior investigator -- reported that the leader of a shadowy Uzbek extremist splinter group, the Islamic Jihad Group, had given the go-ahead for a planned series of attacks in Islamabad last month.

The attacks were foiled when a number of artillery shells, wired to be detonated by mobile phones, were found by authorities less than a mile from the parliament building and Musharraf's residence, on Oct. 5.

The Uzbek was named by Dawn as Nadzhmiddin Kamilidinovich Janov. The enwspaper said he used the aliases Yakhyo and Commander Ahmad and was based in Mir Ali, in North Waziristan -- one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal agencies that lie on Pakistan's lawless and inaccessible border with Afghanistan. Dawn said Janov was the leader of a splinter from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

The Islamic Jihad Group has been designated a terror group by the U.S. government, but little is known about it. The group claimed responsibility for several attacks in Uzbekistan in April 2004, but has not been heard from since.

Eleven people have been charged in the plot and Dawn said interrogations had revealed the link to Janov. "While the fingers were in Islamabad, the tail was in Mir Ali," the anonymous investigator told the newspaper.

"If this report is true," Haqqani said, "it would be a very serious breach of the agreement" signed between Pakistani authorities and local leaders in the agency Sept. 5.

Under the agreement, the leaders, who included prominent members of the local Taliban shura or council and the heads of tribal militias, were supposed to expel any foreign militants who did not adopt what the deal called "a peaceable life," and prevent cross-border attacks against NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

But U.S. military officials said that attacks in the Khost province of Afghanistan had increased since the deal was signed, and many analysts have been skeptical of the deal.

The Dawn report comes days after a strike Oct. 30, widely believed to have been carried out by a U.S. predator drone, killed more than 80 people, including several children, at a religious school or madrassa in the Bajaur agency, another of the tribal areas.

The strike destroyed a deal scheduled to be inked in Bajaur that day with local leaders, the latest in what was planned as series of such agreements building on the North Waziristan accord, and an earlier deal with militants in South Waziristan. One of the leaders who was due to sign the Bajaur deal narrowly escaped death in the attack.

Former Indian intelligence official B. Raman reported that Orakzai had threatened to resign last week because he was angry at being blindsided by the strike.

Newsweek reported Sunday that at least six middle-ranking Pakistani Army officers have been court-martialed for refusing orders to fight in the area, and the pressure from the military that led Musharraf to adopt the strategy in the first place has not abated.

But the Bajaur strike suggests that the United States has lost faith in the approach, and the allegations in the Dawn report, if they are borne out, show that the strategy has failed to stop militants planning operations even very close to home.

"There are only rocks and hard places for Musharraf now," said Haqqani.

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