Replicating the Al Anbar model in FATA, Pakistan? Some suggestions…

Replicating the Al Anbar model in FATA?
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Farhat Taj

Al Anbar is a region in Iraq that was devastated by Al Qaeda inflicted violence. Several Sunni tribes of the region formed an alliance, supported by the US, and took up arms against the terrorists. The tribes successfully controlled Al Qaeda terrorism and stabilized the region. In media it was called ‘Al Anbar Awkening’.

All over the world think tanks studying the situation in FATA debate and discuss whether an Al Anbar style awakening is possible in FATA? Can FATA tribes take up arms against the Taliban and Al Qaeda? In my opinion there is tremendous potential for an Al Anbar style awakening in FATA. But there is one huge obstacle: the mistrust of the tribes in the military leadership, especially the intelligence agencies. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have been target killing tribal leaders and so far the military has failed to protect the latter. So far no one has even been officially accused or arrested of the target killing of more than 200 tribal leaders.

The target killing of the tribal leaders started in South Waziristan almost at the same time when the US was bombing Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan in 2001 and the militants ran towards Waziristan. They were not welcomed by the tribal leaders. In order to have a strong foothold in Waziristan, the militants killed more than 120 tribal leaders. Clearly the then government of General Pervez Musharraf was playing a double game. On one hand it joined the US led war on terror, on the other hand it allowed the militants to kill the tribal leaders and replace the tribal order with the Taliban order.

Next the killing spree was taken to other tribal areas including Khyber, Orakzai and Bajaur agencies. There is a strong perception among many Pakhtun that this killing was carried out with tacit consent of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan to create full leadership space for Taliban in the Pakhtun tribal society. This is the key obstacle that is preventing the remaining tribal leaders and young people in FATA from taking up arms against the Taliban and Al Qaida.

Despite this there is still a strong potential in FATA tribal leaders and young people to challenge the terrorists. I conclude this from the surveys conducted by AIRRA, an independent think tank working on human security, regional cooperation and radicalization, previous events in the area and my personal discussions with young men and women of FATA: They pointed out that in tehsil Pranghar of Momand Agency, the people rose against the Taliban as soon as the Taliban first assaulted Momand Agency. Consequesntly, Tangi in district Charsadda is safe because of this event. Since 2004, we find sporadic uprisings against the Taliban but due to the inability of the Pakistani security forces, the leaders of Qaumi Lashkars (national laskars) were mostly target killed by the Taliban. If the elders and the youth of the Pakhtun belt are taken into confidence and assured that an anti-Taliban tribal army will not be marked for target killing, the uprising can succeed.

But for that to happen Pakistan army and the government of Pakistan have to take some confidence building measures to restore the faith of the tribes. I had discussions with some tribal men and women during my recent visit to Pakistan. They suggested the following as confidence building measures. One, some, if not all Taliban leaders must be target killed by Pakistan army. Two, all security forces must be issued a kill at sight order against the first and second layers of all Taliban and Al Qaida groups in Pakistan. Three, the government should announce head-money for killing or capturing any top, second or third level leaders of the Taliban. They also said that the Pakistan army must closely coordinate with the tribal armies made against the militants. They pointed out that the tribal armies had been fighting for days and Pakistan army, stationed near by never showed up to help the armies besieged by the Taliban till the armies were massacred by the Taliban, armed with much more sophisticated weapons than the tribesmen. They said the tribal leaders must stay in some kind of hot line communication with the top leadership of Pakistan army and government and in case of any Taliban attack, Pakistan army must send air borne commandos to help the tribal armies. They also said if necessary Pakistan air force must carpet bomb the Taliban and they are not averse to the ISI buying some suicide bombers in some kind of intelligence cover and sending them to bomb the Taliban leaders in meetings, just like they bombed the tribal jirgas in FATA.

I would request the government of Pakistan and the leadership of Pakistan army to engage in discussions with the tribal leaders to work out details to form tribal armies, to take on the Taliban. I would request fellow citizens all across Pakistan to morally support such tribal armies and build up pressure on Pakistan army to stand by the tribal armies until the Taliban are controlled and writ of the government restored. I would also request the international community to keep financial plans ready for prompt reconstruction and development of FATA after the elimination of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. (The News)

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email:


For a sample of the success of the Iraq Operation, read this op-ed on BBC Urdu dot com published 30 January 2009.


English version:

Iraqi PM hails vote as ‘victory’

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has hailed a largely peaceful vote for new provincial councils across the country as a victory for all Iraqis.

Voting was extended by one hour due to a strong turnout, including among Sunni Muslims who boycotted the last polls.

The first nationwide vote in four years is being seen as a test of Iraq’s stability ahead of a general election due later this year.

Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed around polling stations.

The election is also being seen as a quasi-referendum on the leadership of Mr Maliki.

“This is a victory for all the Iraqis,” he said, after casting his vote in Baghdad’s highly-protected Green Zone.