The IHT has more on Pakistan's claim that tribesmen have killed foreign Islamic militants in its western provinces. Carlotta Gall and Ismail Khan ask: is it true and if so, why is it happening? Apparently it is true, to some extent.
The military does appear to have gained more control in the immediate region of Wana, and Muhammad said the progress made in clearing the area of foreign militants - mainly Uzbeks and other Central Asians who have been allied with Al Qaeda - would serve as a model to use in the rest of the region, including the equally lawless North Waziristan next door.
These may be the reasons "why".
Pakistan has been under heavy pressure from the United States and NATO countries to contain the spreading lawlessness of its tribal areas, which Pakistani, Afghan and foreign militants have been using to wage an expanding insurgency across the border in Afghanistan. South Waziristan had become a Taliban state in all but name after a peace deal with militants in 2005 gave them freedom to operate while the military withdrew to its barracks.
After the Pakistani "peace deal" with militants fell apart, the Pakistani government was left with no place to go but back to the battlefield. The IHT reporters think that while the tribesmen are credited with having pulled the triggers on the "foreign fighters" it has many characteristics of internecine fighting among the bad guys.
And while the military has tried to depict the fighting as local tribespeople moving against the foreigners, in fact it has been led by a Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulavi Nazir, who has close links to the Afghan Taliban and Arab members of Al Qaeda. One of his accusations against the Uzbek group of militants has been that they did not want to fight foreign troops in Afghanistan but preferred to attack pro-American Pakistanis, whether tribal elders or government members.
Still, the Pakistanis are claiming credit for setting one side against the other without quite explaining how they did it.
A rift emerged between a local commander and Uzbek fighters in his region in November and the military, and intelligence agencies admit they have sought to exploit the growing animosity among the local tribespeople toward the foreign militants, whom they accused of thuggery, robberies and murders. ...
Even as it explains the recent developments as a homegrown uprising, the government is claiming credit for the shift in tribal dynamics as a result of its three-pronged strategy, referred to by Muhammad as coercive deployment, political engagement and socioeconomic development, to "win over the hearts and minds of the people."
Possible translation: the Pakistanis poured fuel -- and money -- on a squabble among thieves, something they probably know very much about. Anyone who reads the Pakistani government version of events will naturally be reminded of events in Iraq's Anbar province and in Iraq in general, where American Special Forces have succeeded in pitting one side against the other. It has sometimes been remarked that the key weakness of the decentralized Jihad is its chronic penchant for internecine conflict, which manifests itself in the proliferation of "militant groups" which subsequently vie with each other for turf, the control of rackets and in setting the record for viciousness. It's almost as if some counterterrorist strategist has found a way to pit one set of bugs against the other in a form of biological pest control, except the subjects are not insects, but men. The Pakistanis even sound like commanders in Iraq.
"It will take time," the general said. "There are no quick fixes in this war. We are here for a long haul."
Maybe the world has unconsciously given up on ending terrorism by leading its misguided adherents into the light of normalcy and civilization and has settled instead for setting them one against the other, so that they may expend their murderous instincts in mutual joyful mayhem in the barren corners of the planet. That would be sad, shortsighted and possibly futile. The danger is that the infection will escape one day and haunt us all. In Tolkien's story of the Lordof the Rings is allegory to this problem. In it the Council of Elrond debates whether wield the Ring, itself evil to hold evil at bay or to seek to destroy it utterly. To use evil to defeat evil was tempting, but dangerous. The wizard Gandalf put it this way:
We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart.
In the last years we have lost confidence that, by an offer of freedom and humanity, we might strike at the very roots of terrorism. We laugh at that now. To bring democracy to the lairs of terror. Isn't it better to leave evil men to kill each other? To spread civilization -- that word was once used unashamedly; is an embarassment now. It seems naive and to take us through even darker places in the world. For the present, using Ring seems the brighter prospect. But will we return to the thankless road, when everything has failed? Will we like Frodo say, "I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way?" My guess is that we'll ask the question again. Someday.
The term of art for watching one group cancel out the other is apparently "Green on Red". Westhawk writes:
Iraq does not seem to be coming together as a unified nation-state. That constitutes a failure for the Bush administration. However, the U.S. can still achieve its paramount interests in the region. One of these paramount interests is preventing al Qaeda from establishing a sanctuary in Iraq. What was termed “red on red” combat in Anbar province in 2005 might now be termed “green on red,” with the Sunni Arab tribes having turned from “red” enemies to “green” allies of the U.S. military.