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91 Challenges Facing a Counter-Militant Campaign in Pakistan’s FATA Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema is President of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). His research interests include nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia, conflict resolution, and Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Dr. Cheema has published extensively on security topics in Pakistani and international journals. He can be reached at . 92 Executive Summary This paper outlines the challenges and opportunities facing the Pakistan government in its fight against militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Main Argument: • Militancy in the FATA is a by-product of the perception that Afghanistan is under foreign occupation and that Pakistan is acting as a “front line” state in support of the U.S. and NATO forces. • Although there has been a general decline in popular support for the FATA’s militant elements, pockets of sympathy do exist. Nonetheless, tension is emerging between foreign Taliban and the local FATA population, which feels increasingly threatened by these foreign elements. • Pakistan’s three-pronged military, political, and economic approach to counter-insurgency has not yet produced the desired results due to lack of coordination of military and political measures. Policy Implications: • Pakistan’s success in managing militancy in the FATA will depend on the government’s ability to adopt imaginative, robust, and sustainable political and socio-economic measures instead of relying only on military force. The Pakistani government thus will want to focus on winning the hearts and minds of the estranged FATA population by developing soft power and working to integrate the region into the federation. • Local tribesmen could be co-opted to rid the area of foreign militants. The Pakistani government might also marginalize militant organizations by allowing moderate political parties in the FATA. • There is a pressing need to train Pakistani officers in special mountain warfare, especially in guerrilla and counter-insurgency warfare. Officers will also need to be trained in how to conduct counter-insurgency operations against their own people. • Traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms such as the jirga could be utilized to resolve conflicts in the FATA. If properly employed and with some modifications, the jirga could play an important role in mitigating conflicts both within tribes and between tribal groups and the Pakistani government. 93 cheema F ollowing the seismic events of September 11, Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) shot into global prominence.1 After the Taliban regime was ousted from power in 2001, remnants of Taliban forces found a safe haven in the FATA region, where these forces were warmly welcomed by co-ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. The Pakistan Army’s attempt to rid the area of foreign militants and Taliban forces has resulted in a strong and violent backlash against the government. Militancy and terrorism in the FATA are by-products of the current situation in Afghanistan. Many in Afghanistan perceive that their homeland is under occupation of foreign forces by the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and that Pakistan is acting as a “front line” state in support of the Western occupation. Until these perceptions cease, militancy and terrorism in the FATA are likely to continue. Whether militancy can be managed depends on Pakistan’s ability to adopt imaginative, robust, and sustainable political and socio-economic measures instead of relying only on military force. This essay describes the nature of Pakistan’s military operations in the FATA. The essay first outlines the variety of militants operating in the FATA and discusses the battle for the hearts and minds of the local Pashtun population. The essay then highlights the successes and failures of Pakistan’s counter-insurgency operations and suggests effective political and socio-economic measures to counter the Taliban and Islamic militants operating in the FATA. Military Operations in the FATA Due to Pakistan’s counterterrorist operations, both the backbone of hardcore militants and the organizational structure of al Qaeda have been weakened—though both groups are far from being eliminated. It is now very difficult for al Qaeda elements of Middle Eastern origin to operate as freely in the FATA as before. Taliban elements and their sympathizers, however, have resurged, mainly following Pakistan’s controversial 2007 military operation against militants lodged in the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque). Tribal militants strongly opposed this operation—especially Baitullah Mehsud, who vowed to take full revenge. The government action was seen as an affront to Pashtun ethnic and religious sensibilities. The recent spate of suicide attacks on military personnel and installations in the...


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