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America has limited role to play in FATA: Joshua T. White

“The US leads the global war against terrorism, however, it has very limited role to play in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The US should not or cannot deploy its forces in FATA, and such deployment is itself a bad idea. It is principal task of Pakistan to counter the militants in that region. But there are few things which can be done by the US to support Pakistani forces fighting in FATA. It can provide border trainings to the Frontiers Corps (FC). Albeit slow the process can have very positive results. The US can help in terms of equipment. To give few helicopters to Pakistan for using in frontier region is an easy thing to do but the US bureaucracy is very large, complicated and slow, and it requires a great deal of time and procedures to do that. Meanwhile there is lot of room for cooperation in strategic communication, and counter-insurgency experience sharing,” this was stated by Mr. Joshua T. White while delivering a lecture at Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) premises in Islamabad on 20 July 2009. Joshua T. White is a Research Fellow at the Center on Faith & International Affairs and a Ph.D candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.

Responding to a question on deployment of the US forces along Afghanistan–Pakistan border areas and its impact on militancy in FATA, he said this [deployment] is very curious and interesting thing, which US president Barack Obama did. He designs to put 17,000 troops in the southern region of Afghanistan. When the decision was made public, it was not revealed what these troops were going to do. We have recently come to know what they will be doing. The US is going to undertake aggressive counter-insurgency actions against Taliban. [I know] the government of Pakistan is very nervous about the deployment of 17,000 troops in southern Afghanistan. So the troops in southern Afghanistan are not going to focus on the border. They are not focusing on the border near Quetta and FATA even though they could be very useful to disconnect the Taliban in Quetta from Taliban in Kandahar.

At the same time, Joshua argued, many people in the US are very much interested in counter–insurgency and keep this approach distinct from that of counter–terrorism because there is huge difference between insurgency and terrorism. Americans are very slowly beginning to understand that there is not just one thing as to counter Taliban. I think Afghan Taliban are quite different from Pakistani Taliban. Within Pakistan there are many groups which are termed Taliban or disguise themselves as Taliban. American officials are coming to understand that there are criminal groups who call themselves Taliban, and then there are sectarian groups too.

Mr. Joshua T. White elaborated how religious-political parties, the religious groups, and even the religious militant groups in Pakistan have used Islam as a political tool to negotiate with the government. They mostly advocate Islamic laws for this purpose. Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) has been doing this in Swat. If you look at the new Nizam-e-Adl and old Nizam-e-Adl [regulations] there is not very much substance difference between the two. Same thing happened in 2005 when the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)–an alliance of religious-political parties–used Hasba Bill. They knew some provisions of the bill will not be acceptable to the Supreme Court and the federal government even then they pursued it to negotiate with the government, challenge the government and push back on Islamabad.