|08ISLAMABAD195||2008-01-14 12:47:00||SECRET||Embassy Islamabad|
1. (C) Summary. The most recent round of intra-militant
fighting in Waziristan illustrates just how complicated our
and Pakistan's choices are in trying to combat extremism in
the tribal areas. Waziristani militant commander Mullah
Nazir is being portrayed in the local media as fighting al
Qaeda, but the violence we are seeing now may be more
inter-tribal conflict than a revolt against al Qaeda
supporters. There are no genuine "good guys" in this story.
2. (C) The January 8 local press reported that, in the
latest round of tribal violence in Wana, South Waziristan,
nine "pro-government militants" led by Mullah Nazir were
killed by a group of "anti-government militants" supported by
Baitullah Mehsud. Mullah Nazir leads the same Wazir tribe
which expelled a group of Uzbek terrorists from Waziristan in
March 2007 with the support (albeit late) of the government.
Many of those Uzbeks promptly turned to and found refuge with
Baitullah, exacerbating historical tensions between the
Wazirs and the Mehsuds.
3. (SBU) A spokesman for Mullah Nazir responded to the
attacks, saying: "We suspect Baitullah and his Uzbek
supporters for this gruesome attack which left nine
Mujahideen dead. All Mehsud tribesmen, including
shopkeepers, farmers and government employees, should leave
the Wazir tribal areas by 8 am on Tuesday (January 8);
otherwise, they will be responsible for the consequences."
The Wazirs killed one attacker, captured four others and
vowed revenge for the attacks. On January 10, the Wazirs
raised a lashkar (posse) of 600 armed volunteers to "take on"
the foreign militants. Reportedly, on January 13, two Uzbek
militants were killed and another captured and Nazir survived
a roadside bomb attack.
4. (S) Although some press reports describe Nazir as being
out to hunt down al Qaeda, the reality is more complicated.
Described by Pakistanis as a "moderate" taliban, Nazir also
leads the group that destroyed maternal and
child health care supplies provided by Save the Children in
November of 2007 on grounds that the aid was sterilizing
children. There have also been reports that Nazir has allied
himself with non-Uzbek (Arab) foreign terrorists.
5. (C) Some local analysts are enthusiastically calling the
intra-militant battles an opportunity the government should
seize upon to use the Wazirs as proxies in the fight against
Mehsud. They argue that "moderate" local taliban
are better than extremist Uzbeks and say that, at a minimum,
the Wazirs could block Mehsud's ability to cross into
Afghanistan via South Waziristan, forcing him to use more
difficult routes via Zhob (through Balochistan) or north via
the Nawaz Kot route.
6. (S) Comment: This illustrates the conundrum we face in
trying to turn back extremism in the tribal areas of
Pakistan. The "choice," at least in Waziristan, according to
some observers, has become one between the "pro-" and "anti-"
government militants. The Mehsud lands of eastern South
Waziristan have become a "no go" area for the Pakistani
military and Frontier Corps forces. "Friendly" Wazir
territory in western South Waziristan is not much better; the
Wazirs control security and dispense law and order there
without government assistance or interference.
7. (S) Using proxy fighters has been part of the classic
"divide and rule" strategy the British and Islamabad have
long played to "control" the tribal areas. While employing
the Wazirs as a proxy make make tactical sense to some, there
are longer-term strategic consequences, as the Pakistanis
learned from their experience in supporting the Mujahideen
against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
8. (C) This long term answer is to increase Pakistan's
counter-insurgency capability, and that effort is now
underway with USG support. For now, the GOP may be
criticized if it rewards the "moderate" Mullah Nazir in this
fight. But with Baitullah Mehsud responsible for over 600
deaths due to suicide attacks in Pakistan, Islamabad's choice
has become one (in the words of a Pakistani editorial)
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between the devil and the deep blue sea.