May 28, 2012:
Pakistan has declared victory in its three year battle for control of the tribal territories along the Afghan border. But the Pakistanis admit that their victory is only 90 percent complete, as the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups are still in control of North Waziristan and parts of adjacent South Waziristan. Pakistan also admits that it leaves the Taliban and other terror groups alone in North Waziristan, as well as providing another sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban in Baluchistan (just across the border from Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where most of the Afghan Taliban and the world's heroin supply comes from). This is in Southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), an area where the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic terrorists do not otherwise operate.
Three years ago Pakistan went to war with the Pakistani Taliban and some other terror groups who were making attacks against the Pakistani government. This was mainly a matter of self-defense. The core of Taliban power in Pakistan was (and is) in a region called FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). This small (27,220 square kilometers) and thinly (3.1 million) populated region has long been the lawless Wild West for Pakistan. The "tribal territories" are actually much larger (extending all along the Afghan border and part of the Indian frontier as well) but FATA is where most of the action is. FATA not only includes North and South Waziristan (Taliban Central) but also the Khyber Pass (the main road into Afghanistan).
In 2009, there were nearly 4,000 incidents of terrorist violence in FATA, leaving over 5,000 people dead. Over the next three years the pattern of violence (and eventually the death rate) changed. There are fewer low level (often resulting in no deaths) terrorism actions, and more battles, with high body counts. By last year the violence had greatly declined in FATA, as the Taliban retreated to North Waziristan.
All this violence is fairly recent. Back in 2005, there were only 285 terrorism related deaths in FATA. But then it began growing, as the Afghan Taliban, flush with drug money, began building up their bases and allies in FATA. Terrorists got another boost in 2008, when al Qaeda, fleeing defeat in Iraq, moved men and money to FATA. This led to more Islamic terrorism throughout Pakistan and a backlash. That involved the first ever army invasion of FATA and some of the other tribal territories. FATA was the hardest hit, and over 150,000 troops and thousands of police and paramilitaries swarmed over the region, using helicopter gunships, artillery, and smart bombs to kill rebellious tribesmen. The kill ratio was very unfavorable for the tribes, with over ten tribesmen killed for every soldier or policeman slain.
The tribal leadership has noticed this shift in power. For thousands of years the Pushtun tribes were supreme in their mountain strongholds and often able to invade and plunder the more populous lowlands. But now that equation has shifted, and the more astute tribal leaders are making peace and helping the army get rid of local troublemakers. These are usually Islamic radicals, who have become very unpopular in FATA. There have always been young guys with guns and bad attitudes wandering around the hills. But now you have louts like this with a sense of spiritual superiority as well. As if being poor and illiterate were not bad enough, now you have some self-righteous maniac telling you to shut off the music and videos. The Taliban and al Qaeda won't be missed and remain in North Waziristan, if anyone wants a living reminder of the bad old days.