February 8, 2008

EXCEPT THAT MUSHARRAF IS ONLY USEFUL TO THE EXTENT THAT HE TAKES THE WAR TO THEM:

Ceasefire: A lull before the storm (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 2/09/08, Asia Times)

Over the past few months, Mehsud, a hardline Takfiri - a believer in waging war against any non-practicing Muslims - has become isolated from the Taliban leadership, with Mullah Omar "sacking" him because of his fixation in waging war against the Pakistan state. Mehsud has widely been accused of complicity in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpinidi on December 27.

The ceasefire deal, brokered by Taliban commanders Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulvi Bakhta Jan, is face-saving for both the militants and the security forces and provides them with breathing space; they had reached a stalemate in South Waziristan.

The militants had laid siege to the main military camps at Razmak Fort and Ladha, and were firing missiles and mortars from three sides into the camps, at the same time cutting off their supply lines.

Earlier, commandos from Pakistan's Special Services Group launched an operation to catch Mehsud, but the mission only resulted in them losing several score men and the militants about a dozen.

At this point, Islamabad reached the conclusion that its only option was to unleash an aerial assault on suspected militant camps. However, local tribal elders intervened and assured the authorities they would get Mehsud to retreat.

Once this was guaranteed, the authorities accepted with alacrity, mindful of the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 18 and the demoralization of their troops in the bitterly cold weather and harsh terrain.

The Afghan Taliban see the ceasefire as the ideal opportunity to step up their preparations for their annual spring offensive - they rely heavily on the Pakistan border areas for manpower and provisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 8, 2008 6:03 AM
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