US warns Islamabad against Taliban deal

February 07, 2013 - 6:03:43 am

Mullah Mohammad Omar

ISLAMABAD: The US has warned Pakistan against striking a peace deal with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),  sources said yesterday.

Washington maintains that the TTP’s latest offer of dialogue was motivated by the fugitive Ameer of Afghan Taliban Mullah Mohammad Omar, primarily to secure greater cooperation of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan where the fighting season — the annual spring offensive — is getting closer with the end of the winter spell.

According to diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the Obama administration has made it clear to the Pakistani military and political elite through the highest diplomatic channels that any peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban at this stage could invite the wrath of the US and might result in the suspension of military and economic assistance.

The US intelligence community is convinced that the TTP’s dialogue offer to Pakistan was a tactical ploy to ensure a short-term truce with the Pakistani establishment, which would be used to support the Afghan Taliban in their upcoming spring offensive against the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

A spring offensive is launched every year by the Afghan Taliban after the winter season is over.

Due to harsh weather conditions, the Taliban slow down their military activities and resume the same as the spring approaches and the weather conditions improve. 

As another spring approaches, another offensive is being planned.

But the Taliban believe that unlike in the previous spring offensives since they were booted out of power from Afghanistan, they are better placed than before, especially when the US-led coalition forces are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

The Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, led by Mullah Omar, are still a strong force and openly mocking the Nato and Isaf troops by saying that they are ‘fleeing’ their country in ‘disgrace’ and ‘humiliation’.

The TTP had struck a clandestine peace deal with the Pakistani establishment in January 2013, before the start of the spring offensive under which the Taliban had made a commitment that they won’t attack the Pakistani security forces in the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas.

The deal was motivated by Mullah Omar who wanted to unite all the Taliban groups in Waziristan on a single platform to reorient the direction of their battle away from Pakistan and towards the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Subsequently, Shura-e-Muraqaba, an anti-US war body consisting of five key Al Qaeda- linked Afghan Taliban groups, was launched on January 2, 2012.

The five members of the Shura, included the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Haqqani Militant Network led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, Tehrik-e-Taliban led by Hakimullah Mehsud and two more groups of militants led by the South Waziristan-based Maulvi Nazir and the North Waziristan-based Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan made public the formation of the Shura through a press release, saying that all the Mujahideen groups had reposed their confidence in Mullah Omar’s leadership and accepted him as the consensus leader of Afghanistan.

He added that the unity among the militants came after a call by Mullah Omar and told the Pakistani Taliban to stop fighting at home and to join the battle to liberate Afghanistan. 

Ehsan said the TTP would send its fighters to Afghanistan after next month to wage jihad against the US-led “infidel” forces.

“Convey my message to the Pakistani Taliban that you have forgotten the real purpose, which is to fight the US-led invading forces in Afghanistan and liberate it from their occupation,

“Forget all your differences and give us fighters to boost the battle against America in Afghanistan,”  a reported statement by Mullah Omar cautioned the TTP leadership at that time.

However, what remained hidden was made public by Haqqani, the chief operational commander of the Haqqani network, who conceded the existence of a peace deal with the Pakistani security establishment under which the Pakistan Taliban, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur groups won’t attack Pakistani troops and would focus their attention on the allied forces in Afghanistan.

The revelation came in the form of a February 12, 2012 statement by Haqqani, directing the Pakistani Taliban to stop attacking Pakistani security forces in accordance with a peace deal, thus giving credence to media reports that the militants and the military had struck a clandestine ceasefire. Haqqani had issued these directives as the Ameer of the Shura-e-Muraqaba.

Shortly afterwards, the spring offensive was launched with multiple attacks targeting Western embassies, the Nato headquarters and the parliament building in Kabul.

The terrorist attacks in 2012 highlighted the ability of the Taliban to strike the heavily guarded government buildings and diplomatic zone even after a decade of war in Afghanistan.

As the spring of 2013 approaches fast, a TTP spokesman has made another offer of dialogue to the government as it needs time to reorganise. 

A similar offer was extended by the TTP Ameer Hakimullah Mehsud in December 2012, but with the condition that the TTP would not renounce the armed struggle and that the army was not acceptable as a mediator.

The offer was rejected by the military and the government, considering it a non-serious move because it failed to meet the government’s condition that the TTP first lay down arms and accept the supremacy of the Constitution, officials said.

While the military and political elite doubt that the TTP was genuinely interested in peace talks with the establishment, there are those in the official circles who argue that the TTP’s dialogue offer should be accepted to strike a short-term peace agreement to ensure peaceful upcoming general elections, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.       Internews