With little reporting, and almost without media or governmental comment, the United States has suffered a substantial defeat in the war against radical Islam. Three weeks ago, Pakistan signed the terms of the Waziristan Accord with the northern region of its country called North Waziristan. It was, effectively, the terms of surrender by Pakistan to the Taliban and al Qaeda, which dominate North Waziristan. Pakistan has negotiated a separate peace -- the eternal danger to any wartime alliance.
With the exception of a superb article in the Weekly Standard by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and the redoubtable Bill Roggio and a few blogs, such as Flopping Aces, The Fourth Rail and The Belmont Club (apologies to some other blogs I surely have missed) there has been little comment. This column is based largely on the reporting from those sources.
The event itself was reported by the major newspapers, but the abject nature of the surrender passed with almost no comment. But surrender it was.
According to intelligence sources cited by The Fourth Rail and other sources above, the Accord includes: (1) Pakistan to abandon its garrisons in Waziristan, (2) Pakistan military to not operate in or monitor actions in the region, (3) Pakistan to turn over weapons to Waziris, (4) Taliban and al Qaeda to set up a Mujahideen council to administer the region, (5) region to be called "The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, (6) unknown but substantial amount of money paid by Pakistan to the Taliban, (7) al Qaeda and other jihadis to be allowed to stay in region, (8) 2,500 foreign fighters linked to al Qaeda and Taliban released by Pakistan from their prisons (this fact also confirmed by London's Daily Telegraph), and (9) Taliban to refrain from violence in Pakistan only; the agreement does not stipulate refraining from violence in Afghanistan.
Moreover, according to intelligence sources, Pakistan is negotiating similar terms with agencies in the Khyber, Tank, Dera Ismail Kahn and Bajaur regions of western Pakistan. If those negotiations are realized, the Taliban and al Qaeda will essentially have their own country again. With Waziristan they already have an excellent base of operations against our forces in Afghanistan.
According to an intelligence source cited in the Weekly Standard, the gains we have made in that part of the world in the past five years were "reversed in mere weeks with the loss of Waziristan and the release of 2,500 fighters."
But this is not really Pakistan's fault. They have probably suffered over 3,000 fatalities to their troops in their attempt to subdue the region. And the British, during their centuries-long rule of the subcontinent, never subdued the region -- sending unsuccessful punitive raids by their superb British Indian Army into Waziristan for almost a hundred years (right up to 1945).
Nor can one blame President Pervez Musharraf, whose intelligence service is still partial to the Taliban (which it helped create), who has suffered two credible assassination attempts, and whose country has a violent and growing radical population.
I don't have any basis for this, but I can't help wondering whether Musharraf is planning to retire. His announcement at a joint press conference with President Bush of a book deal with Simon and Schuster and its serialization in Time magazine was beyond weird.
Not only is it rare for a sitting national leader (particularly in mid-crisis) to publish his memoirs, but what he says in them is in conflict with his fiercely held public position regarding the War on Terror. Last year, I was personally and forcefully instructed by a senior Pakistani official that Pakistan is not helping us with our war on terror, they are voluntarily fighting their own war on terror.
And yet, Musharraf reports in his book that he was threatened with U.S. bombing if he didn't become our ally -- and he agreed to it only after calculating the consequences of crossing us.
Whatever is going on in Pakistan (and we must hope that the men who replace Musharraf sooner or later will not be more sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and will be at least as careful in controlling their nuclear weapons), our effort to stand up Afghanistan and suppress the Taliban and al Qaeda in the region has suddenly taken on an even more formidable dimension.
There are no ready solutions to the dilemma. With Pakistan now hors de combat, our already undermanned forces in Afghanistan will soon have to engage the tribal regions of northwest Pakistan -- fighting some of the world's most resourceful and cruel fighters in the most unforgiving lands on earth.
We ask a lot -- and we get even more -- from our brave and smart young warriors. But from Iraq to the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan and now to northern Pakistan, there is a limit to what our current number of active forces can possibly accomplish. And the list of danger spots will only grow in the coming years. Whether we like the fact or not, the ranks and lands (and confidence) of the enemy are growing. And they can't be sweet talked out of taking the fight to America.
We must come to terms with reality -- and soon. We are going to have to substantially increase the size of our army and Marines to face the growing threats to our national security.
The president and his advisors are entitled to spend some time privately absorbing the implications of this reversal in Pakistan. But certainly no later than the State of the Union Address, he must explain how this changes things and what he is going to do about it.