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FATA - Recent Developments

Following the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are believed to have retreated across the Afghan border and into Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in an effort to re-establish a terrorist safe haven. Aided to a large degree by the sanctuary provided by refuges in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan, the Taliban have survived the initial onslaught of Coalition forces and begun a re-emergence as a viable political and military opposition to the democratically elected Karzai government in Kabul.

It took the Pakistani military and intelligence leadership some time to realize what was happening in the region because, at the same time, the Indian military was amassing on Pakistan's eastern border in 2002-2003, creating a time-consuming distraction. In June 2002, for the first time in Pakistan's history as an independent country, 8,000 Pakistani regular forces, entered tribal territory in search of Al-Qaeda sympathisers. Their presence was deeply resented. The Government of Pakistan finally started confronting Taliban and al-Qaeda elements militarily in 2003. The army eventually moved into FATA in force. The equivalent of six infantry divisions were deployed over time to FATA and Swat, some having moved from their positions along the Indo-Pakistan border where they represented Pakistan's strike force against any Indian attack. Largely a conventional army, it was trained and equipped for regular warfare against other similar forces, not against insurgent guerrilla units.

In the run-up to the September 2005 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, Pakistan deployed approximately 80,000 troops, including Frontier Corps (FC) units, to the border region. Pakistan Army and FC units raided key al-Qaida safe havens in North and South Waziristan, including a compound used by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a leading Taliban figure. President Musharraf reported in November 2005 that Hamza Rabia, al-Qaida's chief of external operations, was killed in an explosion in North Waziristan. These operations significantly degraded al-Qaida's command and control capabilities in the region and disrupted cross-border operations. Parallel to this military effort, the government developed a strategy designed to win the support of the tribes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas with a combination of negotiations and economic development investments.

In March 2006, the President of Pakistan requested that President Bush support Pakistan's effort to support a more comprehensive approach to combating terrorism in the FATA. As a result, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan began coordinating efforts by Defense, State, and USAID to develop department-specific efforts to support Pakistan's Sustainable Development Plan for the FATA. Pakistan's Sustainable Development Plan is a 9 year, $2 billion effort to provide economic development, extend the influence of the Pakistani government, and establish security in the FATA.

The US Government and the Government of Pakistan signed a five year agreement in September 2007 paving the way for a 750 million-dollar US aid package under the 2.3-billion-dollar FATA Sustainable Development Plan. The assistance will be used to support programmes in capacity building, livelihoods, agriculture, micro and small and medium enterprises, health, education and infrastructure development. These activities are intended to promote better living conditions and the cessation of opium poppy cultivation. If fully approved, the United States would provide an estimated $956 million between fiscal years 2008 through 2011 for development, security, capacity building, and infrastructure in support of the Pakistani government.

Of the over $10.5 billion that the United States has provided to Pakistan from 2002 through 2007, GAO identified about $5.8 billion specifically for Pakistan's FATA and border region; about 96 percent of this funding reimbursed Pakistan for military operations in the FATA and the border region. According to Defense and State Department officials, Pakistan deployed up to 120,000 military and paramilitary forces in the FATA and killed and captured hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives. Pakistani military operations have resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,400 members of its security forces. In October 2007, State reported that it had determined that Pakistan was making "significant" progress toward eliminating the safe haven in the FATA. However, GAO found broad agreement, as documented in the unclassified 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), State and embassy documents, as well as among Defense, State, and other officials, including those operating in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan's FATA.

The Pakistan delegation presented a strategy for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This strategy consists of political dialogue, development aid and security operations. But these attempts by Pakistan to negotiate ceasefires and other agreements with the tribes in the FATA and NWFP were deeply flawed. After the Government of Pakistan signed agreements in 2005 and 2006, cross-border operations by extremist groups against the Afghan, US, and NATO forces increased substantially, due in part to the provisions of the agreements. By August 2007 the "peace deal" had publicly collapsed; the policy of appeasement was beyond spin control; and the Musharraf government lurched back to the military option.

The military’s Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched in 2017, continued throughout the year 2022. Radd-ul-Fasaad is a nationwide counterterrorism campaign aimed at consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb (2014-17), which countered foreign and domestic terrorists in the former FATA. Law enforcement agencies also acted to weaken terrorist groups, arresting suspected terrorists and gang members who allegedly provided logistical support to militants. In raids throughout the country, police confiscated caches of weapons, suicide vests, and planning materials. Police expanded their presence into formerly ungoverned areas, particularly in Balochistan, where military operations became normal, although such operations often were not reported in the press.

Poor security, intimidation by both security forces and militants, and limited access to Balochistan and the former FATA impeded the efforts of human rights organizations to provide relief to victims of military abuses and of journalists to report on any such abuses. For example, the Jani Khel tribal conflict in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, continued following the government’s failure to negotiate or satisfy a settlement agreement to investigate the killings, remove militants from the area, and compensate the families.

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Page last modified: 09-05-2023 16:55:37 ZULU