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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analsysis: Pakistan's Tribal Warfare

Council on Foreign Relations

October 10, 2007
Prepared by: Greg Bruno

Violent clashes with militants in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan come at a politically sensitive time for Pakistan’s embattled president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Hours after garnering 98 percent of the vote in a controversial parliamentary election, and under immense pressure to bring stability to a border zone experts say is seeing a resurgence of militants, Musharraf ordered a flurry of air strikes on extremist encampments. Journalists have reported difficulty accessing the area, but Pakistani army officials say roughly two hundred militants have been killed during the air strikes, along with about forty-seven soldiers, the heaviest fighting (Guardian) since Islamabad vowed to support the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001.

Casualty counts aside, the fighting in the tribal belt has an important political component. For Musharraf, struggling to maintain support as he awaits a legal challenge to his election victory, the military strikes appear aimed at quieting critics as much as quelling violence. A day after the White House released its October 2007 analysis (PDF) of domestic security threats asserting al-Qaeda has “regenerated” within Pakistan’s tribal belt, Musharraf’s government fired a decisive salvo: “The action taken against militant elements by Pakistan shows our commitment against terrorism and indicates our resolve that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any act of terrorism,” said (Times of India) Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq.

Most experts agree the militants amassed in the tribal belt represent a significant threat to Pakistan’s leadership, as well as to Afghanistan’s stability. The most recent tension began in July, when the army stormed the Red Mosque in Islamabad to quash a student uprising led by a rebel cleric.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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