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Friday
Dec182009

USPak Relations Strong Following Petraeus

It’s been a heck of a week for US-Pakistan relations. General Petraeus was in Islamabad on Monday, December 14, to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Army General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, where he reiterated the Obama administration’s call for expanding operations against Afghani Taliban groups based on Pakistani soil.

PM Gilani said on Monday that the national political leadership strongly backs the ongoing anti-terrorism operation however Pakistan and the US will have to take measures to bridge the gape in bilateral confidence.

Pakistan was quick to offer the US a confidence building measure (CBM) shortly thereafter. The Pakistani news agency Dawn reported that the South Waziristan Political Administration and the Mehsud tribe held a jirga (assembly) in Wana (South Waziristan's largest town) on Tuesday Dec. 15 wherein the political authorities handed down a pamphlet to the tribal elders spelling out conditions for restoring peace and eliminating militancy from the area.

According to the pamphlet, the Mehsud tribe would hand over all militants unconditionally to the administration, while displaying and carrying heavy weapons in the agency would be banned. The administration has also banned any parallel administrative or judicial system in the tribal region.

By Thursday (Dec. 17) the Sindh police’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) had apprehended a close associate of Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud – Nooran Gul Mehsud, alias “Rocket,” who was in charge of the Logistic Group and Recruitment Cell of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Nooran Gul Mehsud aka "Rocket"The Rocket was also responsible for providing medical treatment in the city to the terrorists who got wounded during the fight with the Army in Waziristan having had secret contacts in hospitals in Karachi and interior Sindh.

It is yet unknown whether the US views the apprehension of Nooran Gul Mehsud as serious or symbolic. If the Rocket is who he is purported to be then perhaps the intelligence gleaned from no doubt harsh Pakistani interrogations led to one of the US’s single largest missile barrages in the Afpak theater since Obama took office in January. (N. Gul Mehsud's capture could also be used by both the Pakistanis and the Americans as a pretext for continued drone attacks. On the flipside, the barrages may be a sign of American impatience with Islamabad).

The first strike Thursday killed two insurgents as they traveled in a vehicle in Dosali village, the Associated Press reports. In the second wave of the strikes, a cluster of five drones hovered over a militant compound and fired as many as 10 missiles, killing 15 militants. The attack took place in the village of Degan, located near the North Waziristan capital of Miran Shah, according to The New York Times.

As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, Thursday’s strikes were significant for what they targeted: areas of North Waziristan belonging to Siraj Haqqani and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Taliban commanders believed responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government had previously refused to target the areas under the control of the two men.

All this amidst calls for President Zardari’s resignation after the Supreme Court struck down an amnesty that had protected him and thousands of other political officials from corruption charges.

The bottom line is that the framework that houses US-Pakistan relations and the fight against radical Islamists was reinforced this week. Time will tell whether those reinforcements were cosmetic or structural.

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