Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mehsud to US: No Deal

"There can be no deal with the US." said Baitullah Mehsud at a press conference in South Waziristan this week as reported by the BBC.

If there's any thing that both Mehsud and the US administration agree on, it is outright rejection of any negotiations or deals with each other. Each side is determined to completely defeat and destroy the other.

Mehsud, a former US captive at Guantanamo, was released in March 2004 after the Americans determined that he would not pose a threat. But it seems that Guantanamo has turned him into a much bigger threat to Pakistan, US and the world than he might have been before he was captured in Afghanistan. Now described by some as more dangerous than Usama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar, Baitullah Mehsud keeps a much lower profile. He refuses to be photographed and keeps his face covered in public. He reaches out to his people through FM radio broadcasts. He crosses the border into Afghanistan at will to fight against the "crusaders." Baituallah Mehsud has been accused of ordering a series of suicide bombings inside Pakistan recently. Pakistani, US and British intelligence agencies also believe he orchestrated Benazir Bhutto's murder last year.

Here is how the BBC correspondent Syed Shoaib Hasan described his encounter with Mehsud this week: In our garden meeting, "Amir Sahib" (honored leader) - as Baitullah Mehsud is affectionately called by his men - smiles and shakes his head when this query is raised. Around us, dozens of militants armed to the teeth listen intently to their leader. The query: "Will your recent deal with Pakistan last?" The answer: "We do not want to fight Pakistan or the army. But if they continue to be slaves to US demands, then we our hands will be forced."

This answer makes it clear that this new deal and the latest ceasefire between the Taleban and Pakistan will be as fragile as the previous ones. Americans and NATO are players in this unfolding drama. They have to be part of any lasting deal. Just as the Taleban must be an essential part of any lasting deal. As long as they are unwilling, the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal belt will continue and will likely spill over into the rest of the region.

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