Anand Gopal is a Kabul-based journalist who has reported for the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, and other outlets on Afghanistan and the insurgency. He is writing a history of Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 (Henry Holt). Mansur Khan Mahsud isthe research coordinator for the FATA Research Center, an Islamabad-based think tank. He is from the Mahsud tribe of South Waziristanand has worked with several NGOs and news outlets as a researcher. He holds a masters degree in Pakistan studies from the University of Peshawar. Brian Fishman is a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation.
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The Battle for Pakistan
Militancy and Conflict in North Waziristan
Anand Gopal, Mansur Khan Mahsud, and Brian Fishman
North Waziristan is the most important center of jihadist militancy in the FATA today, in largemeasure because of the impunity with which militants in the agency have operated. Even as thePakistani government has confronted anti-Pakistan militant coalitions in other regions, it haslargely ignored fighters in North Waziristan.
North Waziristan, the second-largest of Pakistan’s FederallyAdministered Tribal Areas, is the most importantspringboard for violence in Afghanistan today, much as ithas been for decades. The most important militant group inthe agency today is the Haqqani Network. The legendaryAfghan
commander Jalaluddin Haqqani lefthis native Khost province and settled in North Waziristan’scapital, Miram Shah, in the mid-1970s; his son, Sirajuddin,was raised in the area.
Jalaluddin quickly became the mostimportant mujahideen commander in eastern Afghanistanduring the 1980s; Sirajuddin now manages the network hisfather built, employing it to support violence against U.S.and NATO forces. Like his father, Sirajuddin uses NorthWaziristan to recruit, as a safe haven, and for strategicdepth. North Waziristan is well-suited for all of thesepurposes because of its geographic isolation, difficultterrain, and relatively stable coalition of tribal militants.Besides the Haqqanis, the largest militant coalition inNorth Waziristan is headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, of theMada Khel clan of the Uthmanzai Wazir. Bahadur does nothave the track record of his collaborators in the Haqqaniclan, but he does have something they do not: a strongtribal base in the rugged mountains between Miram Shahand the Afghan border. This provides important strategicleverage over militants who must traverse his territory toreach Afghanistan. Bahadur’s deputy, Maulana Sadiq Noor,is from the Daur tribe and leads a coalition of both Wazirand Daur tribesmen. Sadiq Noor is very close to theHaqqanis and Bahadur seems to follow Haqqani guidanceon difficult questions, such as whether to attack Pakistanitroops in the region.North Waziristan has been a safe haven for successivewaves of militants fleeing U.S. or Pakistani militaryoperations. Shortly after the fall of the Taliban regime inAfghanistan in late 2001, thousands of Taliban members
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