Losing the NWFP to the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 2 months ago

In Baitullah Mehsud: The Making of a Terror State we discussed the consolidation of power in the NWFP under the umbrella of Baitullah Medsud and the Tehrik-i-Taliban, and even though different subsets of Taliban currently threaten Peshawar, they are ultimately part of the Tehrik-i-Taliban. Now it is being reported that internal Pakistan analysts and watchers are concerned about the total loss of the North West Frontier Province to the Taliban. “I am telling you that the Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan,” the newspaper quoted Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the junior coalition partner Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI) as saying.

A CRISIS meeting of Pakistan’s new coalition Government has been warned that it could lose control of the North West Frontier Province, which is believed to hold most of its nuclear arsenal.

The warning came yesterday from the coalition leader, who, although he is part of the new Government, is regarded as having the closest links to al-Qa’ida and Taliban militants sweeping through the region.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman bluntly told his colleagues: “The North West Frontier province is breaking away from Pakistan. That is what is happening. That is the reality.”

This came just days before new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s scheduled meeting with US President George W. Bush to discuss al-Qa’ida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Reports last night said Maulana Fazlur Rehman, regarded as having unparalleled insight into the mood of the three million tribesmen in the NWFP, and leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, was backed in his assessment by members of the coalition Government from the Awami National Party, which rules in the province’s capital, Peshawar.

They, too, told the meeting of jihadi militant advances throughout the province, with their influence extending to most so-called “settled areas”, including Peshawar …

For a first-hand account of the increasing Talibanization of the Peshawar region, see a must read article by M Waqar Bhatti with The International News. As for the nuclear arsenal, there were reports near the end of 2007 by Stratfor that they are not in jeopardy.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are already under American control even as analysts are working themselves into a lather on the subject, a well-regarded intelligence journal has said.

In a stunning disclosure certain to stir up things in Washington’s (and in Islamabad and New Delhi’s) strategic community, the journal Stratfor reported on Monday that the “United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed US forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India’s help.”

“This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet,” the journal, which is widely read among the intelligence community, said.

The Stratfor commentary came in response to an earlier New York Times story that reported that the Bush administration had spent around $100 million to help Pakistan safeguard its nuclear weapons, but left it unclear if Washington has a handle on the arsenal.

The Captain’s Journal doesn’t believe this. Regardless of where the nuclear arsenal is located, the notion that the U.S. could garrison enough troops and military materiel inside Pakistan proper to provide force protection for itself and a nuclear arsenal is ridiculous. This might make for interesting intelligence community “reports” and tabloid -type discussions over discussion forums, but it doesn’t pass the reality test.

Finally, the idea that the highly anti-India sentiments inside the Pakistani military would allow something like this to happen without so much as a word seeping out – except of course to Stratfor – is dubious. Even if the U.S. does indeed have intelligence resources or other troops garrisoned with the nuclear arsenal, they cannot deploy with enough forces to prevent being overrun in the case that either the Taliban or the Pakistani military decides to gain (or regain) control of the munitions.

In the case of NWFP, the best bet is to have already moved the arsenal out of this region and closer to Rawalpindi or Islamabad.  But the security of the nuclear arsenal is only problematic because of the Pakistani refusal to take military action against the terror state that is Baitullah Mehsud and the NWFP.



  • Warbucks

    Winning or losing the NWFP will prove to be of secondary concern for the US. The Queen Victorian boarder line on the ridge between Afghanistan and old India, now Pakistan, divided the 5,000 year old culture of the Pashtun. The US primary concern will most likely be finding and extracting OBL for symbolic closure and troop withdrawals…… to this end even Pakistan will come around.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    OBL is a very minor concern, and is nothing more than a figure head now. Losing Waziristan is huge, as the Talibanization of Pakistan proceeds unabated towards Peshawar, Ralwapindi and Islamabad.

    Troop withdrawals cannot occur when and if we ever find OBL. The MUCH larger concern is the radicalization of the Pakistan/Afghanistan region (the Pashtun have been utterly unable to stop the move towards militancy within the tribes), and counterinsurgency will take many more years there. This isn’t about HVI/HVT, but the region, militants and the population.

  • kingaethelstan

    ‘Regardless of where the nuclear arsenal is located, the notion that the U.S. could garrison enough troops and military materiel inside Pakistan proper to provide force protection for itself and a nuclear arsenal is ridiculous.’
    Not sure this scepticism is justified. The mission requirement would be to have sufficient capability to destroy the Nukes functionally and remove the radioactive material before any intervening party could get at them. That doesn’t need to comprise much of a force. It would be a tough mission though. And as far as the reality test goes, the likelihood that some contingency like this DIDN’T exist stretches credulity. Pakistan is a corrupt basket-case, prone to coups and many other kinds of unpredictabilities. If GWB didn’t take action like that described after 9/11, I’d very much like to know why. You might be right, but my money would be the other way.

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You are currently reading "Losing the NWFP to the Taliban", entry #1216 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Nuclear,Pakistan,Taliban,Tehrik-i-Taliban and was published July 27th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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