Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Step Back, Two Steps....Back?


Last week, it was reported that Pakistan was scaling back efforts to help the US against militants on the western border with Afghanistan in order to actively pursue a peace agreement with the warring factions. Yesterday, that tree bore its rotten fruit.

Pakistan's government promised to "gradually" pull out troops from the northwestern valley of Swat after signing a peace agreement with Taliban militants on Wednesday.

The deal was done a day after the United States advised its ally against negotiating with militants, saying it could give them breathing space to plot attacks in Pakistan and abroad.

For its part, the militants and their leader, Fazlullah, promise to try really hard not to carry their weapons around and create more violence. Given the precursor to the present situation, there's no reason to doubt them.

Swat, which is tribal, though not a part of FATA, had been the main tourist destination in NWFP until last year, when the militants launched a violent campaign to enforce Taliban-style law in the region.

It's probably out of their system.

Several other trade-offs include the militants asking permission before broadcasting on their radio station while "the government...agreed to review the criminal cases filed against Fazlullah and other militants."

As the American military toils in Iraq, the region from which Gen. Petraeus believes the next terror attack will emanate is being abandoned to the militants by a country touted as the US's strongest ally in the region.


Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has for the most part been reluctant to do anything which might undermine the al Maliki government, has begun issuing anti-American fatwas.

Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.


[Maliki and Sistani] met Thursday at the elderly cleric's base in the city of Najaf south of Baghdad.

So far, al-Sistani's fatwas have been limited to a handful of people. They also were issued verbally and in private — rather than a blanket proclamation to the general Shiite population — according to three prominent Shiite officials in regular contact with al-Sistani as well as two followers who received the edicts in Najaf.

Though the edicts has thus far been issued to a limited number of close followers, they represent a significant shift in the tone of the opposition to the American occupation for which "he believes [it] will at the end pay a heavy price." Most likely, the switch is in response to the growing inevitability of an agreement on permanent US bases in the country.

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