The Survivalist of North Waziristan: Hafiz Gul Bahadur Biography and Analysis
Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters use Waziristan to prepare for and launch attacks against American forces in Afghanistan and Western targets abroad. Since early June, the Pakistani military has been conducting a campaign to kill Waziristan’s preeminent Taliban leader, Beitullah Mehsud. Standing in the military’s way is Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a key Taliban leader in North Waziristan and an enigmatic man of complex ideology, shifting alliances, and an overarching commitment to his own survival.
IMPORTANCE OF HAFIZ GUL BAHADUR
The American-led coalition in Afghanistan faces insurgents directed, trained and supported by Taliban leaders in the North Waziristan Agency, a district within Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and sits roughly 130 miles to the southwest of Islamabad (see Waziristan map insert below). A September 2007 UN report estimated that 80 percent of all suicide bombers in Afghanistan pass through training facilities in North and South Waziristan. Although American drone attacks have killed some foreign fighters operating in North Waziristan, these attacks cannot dismantle the area’s insurgent support network.
The Pakistani military has been conducting a significant military operation in Waziristan since early June. The stated goal of this operation is to kill or, at least, significantly diminish the power of Beitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the most wanted man in Pakistan. Mehsud is widely held responsible for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and his forces threaten the stability of the Pakistani government, which has blamed Mehsud for the deaths of 1200 people in the last two years. He also threatens to expand, or at the very least continue, Waziristan’s significance as a staging ground for attacks abroad, whether by Taliban insurgents against coalition forces in Afghanistan or by al-Qaeda members against targets worldwide.
To attack or isolate Mehsud from the north the Pakistani military must cross through North Waziristan, an area controlled by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Bahadur could hinder the Pakistani military’s campaign against Mehsud by preventing or seriously impeding the movement of Pakistani forces through his region.  Since late June, he has demonstrated –on a limited scale – his ability to disrupt Pakistani operations in the region, kidnapping at least ten Pakistani soldiers on July 31 (whom he released two days later) and claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing – the first time Bahadur has claimed responsibility for such an attack– on July 28. 
Bahadur has cooperated with both the Pakistani government and Beitullah Mehsud in the past, but he has never made permanent alliances with either. On June 29, Bahadur’s forces attacked Pakistani troops in North Waziristan, which began the recent violence between his forces and those of the government. This attack broke an on-again, off-again peace deal Bahadur had maintained with the Pakistani government since September 2006.  Bahadur said he attacked Pakistani forces because of continued American drone strikes and increasing Pakistani military operations in and near his territory, which he claimed violated the 2006 agreement’s terms. Bahadur repeated this message through his spokesman after the July 28 suicide bombing.
Bahadur has protected his powerbase by engaging in limited violence in response to American drone strikes, Pakistani military operations, or encroachment by certain groups of foreign fighters. Yet he has never launched an unrestricted war against the Pakistani government, Beitullah Mehsud, or other elements in North Waziristan, including foreign fighters who have occasionally crossed him. It appears that the maintenance of his sphere of influence motivates Bahadur more than any other factor. Unrestrained attacks on the Pakistani military or other power brokers in his area could entail risk above the level Bahadur seems willing to accept, effectively limiting his potential use of force. His current fight with the Pakistani military does not seem to be a life-or-death struggle, but is more like a series of negotiations through violence with attacks and threats of attacks as bargaining chips. Bahadur attacks to limit or direct Pakistani military operations, and the Pakistani military responds to ensure its continued freedom of movement through his area, but neither side seeks open conflict with the other. As a result, neither a true peace agreement nor a complete defeat of Bahadur seems likely any time soon, and Bahadur’s limited raids are likely to trouble Pakistani operations in Waziristan for their duration.
Little information is available on Bahadur’s early years. He comes from Madda Khel, North Waziristan, a town close to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Estimates of his age vary widely, from early thirties to late forties.  He likely received his education at a Deobandi madrassa and probably participated in the Afghan civil war from 1992 to 1996, during which the Taliban, founded in 1994, began to seize control of most of Afghanistan. His self-designation as a Hafiz, or one who has memorized the entire Qur’an, suggests that his religious education plays an important role in his thinking.
Bahadur first received media mention in 2000 when he was active as a North Waziristan leader of the Jamiaat Ulema Islam (JUI), a major Islamist Pakistani party.  He received still more attention in the month before the 9/11 attacks when he threatened to attack monitors the United Nations planned to deploy to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to halt the flow of weapons to the Afghan Taliban. Bahadur vehemently opposed the deployment of such monitors, which would have diminished the ability of Pakistani Pashtuns to support the Afghan Taliban fighting Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. In conjunction with other JUI leaders and in his role as the head of the JUI’s student wing, the Jamiat-Tulaba-i Islam, Bahadur recruited a lashkar, or militia, of as many as 4,000 volunteers to oppose the monitors, who never deployed due, in part, to the disruption created by the 9/11 attacks.
Bahadur’s ability to combine political acumen and charisma with local tribal ties gave him a strong foundation for acquiring power. Bahadur is one of the leaders of the Utmanzai Wazir tribe, who reside primarily in North Waziristan. Reports suggest that Utmanzai Wazirs have historically exhibited more unity than other tribes, perhaps providing Bahadur with a relatively stable base.  Within the Utmanzai Tribe, Bahadur probably belongs to the Madda Khel subgroup, part of the Ibrahim Khel branch.  Bahadur’s men, reported to be some of the fiercest fighters in North Waziristan, have been reported to number several thousand.
Bahadur has used his ability to negotiate peace agreements in his area to expand the influence he had because of his tribal leadership. He has frequently served as chief negotiator, giving him significant control over post-ceasefire situations; negotiations have also served as tools whose short-term nature and exacting terms Bahadur uses to ensure that both the Pakistani military and Taliban leaders like Mehsud continue to woo him.
Bahadur achieved his greatest prominence with the September 2006 peace deal with the Pakistani government, which resulted in an end to hostilities and military operations in exchange for an expulsion of foreign fighters (which never occurred fully), among other terms. Between September 2006 and June 2009, Bahadur conducted occasional violence against the Pakistani government while scuffling from time to time with fellow Taliban and, particularly, foreign fighters whom he perceived to be encroaching on his area of control, such as Uzbeks.
OUTLOOK ON THE WORLD
Reports often mention Bahadur in the same breath as his fellow Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, who resides in South Waziristan. Nazir Ahmad, a leader of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe and its Taliban branch, has likewise made alliances with both the Pakistani government and Beitullah Mehsud. Style, outlook on the world, and Bahadur’s political background separate the two leaders, but an opposition to foreign fighters in Waziristan, particularly Uzbeks, as well as loyalty to Mullah Omar and the Haqqani family, connect them.
Unlike other major Taliban leaders in Waziristan, especially Maulvi Nazir, there is little public knowledge about Bahadur’s worldview. Nazir has made numerous public statements, including an April 2009 interview with as-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media branch. Bahadur by contrast maintains a private profile, avoiding any direct contact with journalists in recent years and putting out statements only through his spokesman, Ahmadullah Ahmadi. 
In August 2008, his forces banned journalists working for Western news agencies from operating in his territory based on claims that such reporters had ties to foreign intelligence agencies. Stating, “those who work for intelligence agencies will be punished,” Ahmadi called foreign media employees “harmful for Islam, Muslims and the country.”  The North Waziristan Taliban made good on their promise in November 2008, when they kidnapped a freelance Canadian journalist who sought to meet with North Waziristan Taliban leaders. Gul Bahadur’s forces still have not released the journalist, Beverly Giesbrecht, although they have distributed videos of her pleading for her life.
Bahadur’s worldview draws heavily from his religious beliefs, which originate from his reportedly Deobandi education. Deobandism, a branch of Sunni Islam, arose in Deoband, India in 1866 as part of a wave of civic reform across India brought on by the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Deobandism’s students came from as far as Afghanistan and Arabia. The teachings of Shah Wali Allah, a scholar who lived from 1703 to 1762, laid the foundation for Deobandism. Wali Allah promoted takhayyur, or the belief that, instead of following a single school of Islam throughout one’s life, one could employ any one of the four principal schools. Eventually, Wali Allah hoped for a “harmonization” of all of the four schools. Wali Allah also promoted the cautious use of ijtihad, or the independent interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah for the modern age, as opposed to a reliance entirely on ancient commentaries.
Deobandis initially studied how to revive Islamic life while living under a colonial regime, eschewing politics and focusing on Islamic practices and personal belief, as opposed to the long-term political goals promoted by Islamist thinkers such as Hassan-al Banna. Deobandism eventually became the force behind the Jamiaat Ulema Islam (JUI), founded in 1947 first as a religious movement, which helped to set up popular mosques across Pakistan.
The creed of today’s Pashtun Taliban probably stems from the combination of ideologies that resulted when hundreds of mosques sprung up in the Pashtun tribal belt during the Afghan-Soviet war. Pashtun local custom, known as Pashtunwali, and Wahabbism, brought to the region by mass Saudi funding for the mujahideen, created a new form of Deobandism specific to the Taliban, far more radical than the apolitical movement originally envisioned by Deobandism’s founders. Today’s Taliban may actually draw more from something closer to the Salafi-Jihadism ideology espoused by al-Qaeda and its followers than from that expressed by traditional Deobandi beliefs. 
While Nazir and Bahadur both believe in jihad as it applies to fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, recently, Nazir has been a much stronger champion of the implementation of radical Islamism. In April 2009, Nazir said the goal of Islamic militants should be “to make supreme the Word of Allah and establish the system of shari‘a.” Nazir even imposed a strict form of shari’a in his portion of South Waziristan (see here for more on Nazir's ideology).
Bahadur’s fellow Taliban leader Maulvi Saddiq Noor, who has sometimes worked alongside Bahadur, did lead an August 2006 campaign in Miranshah to force shopkeepers not to sell CDs and barbers not to shave men’s beards; other North Waziristan Taliban also imposed taxes in line with shari’a practices in October 2006.  In 2000, Bahadur himself said that, “Opium and alcohol have destroyed the youth. Obscenity, video and satellite dishes are everywhere. The government is not taking the responsibility to eradicate these evils, therefore, we decided to put an end to it.”  Bahadur did work through political channels earlier in his life to pressure the government to adopt more Islamist-oriented values, but he has remained quiet on the issue in recent years and appears never to have directly implemented shari’a himself.
The most recent information on Bahadur’s views on international jihad comes from a public statement he issued jointly with Beitullah Mehsud and Nazir in February 2009, after their formation of the Council of United Mujahideen. The document, which quotes several Qur’anic verses citing the need for the unity among Muslims, states:
This document, however, may better represent the overall Taliban’s views, rather than the specific views of the three men who signed it.
Views on the state of Pakistan reveal the greatest divergence between Bahadur and Nazir. Nazir and Bahadur both agree that attacks on Pakistan distract from anti-coalition efforts in Afghanistan.  Yet Nazir goes further: he also sees the conflict in Kashmir as a diversion. Bahadur, while not explicitly commenting on the Kashmiri conflict, has proclaimed the importance of defending Pakistan. Just days after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, in the midst of tension between India and Pakistan, Bahadur’s spokesman said:
While Nazir said nothing along such lines at the time, other Taliban leaders made similar statements during the post-Mumbai period: even Beitullah Mehsud said that, “Thousands of our well-armed militants are ready to fight alongside the army if any war is imposed on Pakistan.” Bahadur is no Pakistani nationalist: his November 2008 statement goes on to say that the Pakistani government has made the slogan “Pakistan ka Matlab Kya: La Ilaha Illallah” (“What does Pakistan mean? There is no God but God”) a “shibboleth” through its actions, particularly the alliance with the US.  In 2000, Gul Bahadur stated most clearly his views on Pakistan and Islam: “We are not against the government. We are Pakistanis, but we want the rule of Allah.” This ambivalence appears to define his position and actions in Waziristan.
RELATIONSHIP WITH MULLAH OMAR, HAQQANI, AND OTHER FOREIGN MILITANTS
Bahadur’s conflicting views on the Pakistani state, combined with his attacks on government forces, show his desire to preserve his autonomy and power through limited action. Most of Bahadur’s interactions, however, have occurred with fellow fighters in North Waziristan. These relationships best show Bahadur’s personality as a survivalist: he hopes to maintain power through fealty to Haqqani and Omar while fending off foreigners who encroach too much on his power or draw too much attention to Bahadur’s area of influence.
The first major Pakistani military offensive against foreign militants in Waziristan, beginning in March 2004, brought Western media coverage to militant leaders such as Gul Bahadur through reports of clashes and the eventual peace deal between Bahadur and the Pakistani government in September 2006. Bahadur’s prominence rose significantly once the military began focusing on North Waziristan in early 2005 (parts of North Waziristan, particularly the Shawal Valley, had seen more limited fighting in early 2004), due to an increased focus on al-Qaeda and other foreign militants in that area.
Bahadur played a key role in the conflict as a Taliban leader who, while opposed to the Pakistani military operation, remained skeptical of the presence of some foreign militants in North Waziristan. Some of these foreign fighters were Uzbeks, who began arriving in Waziristan en masse after the 9/11 attacks and subsequent fall of Kabul. 
Uzbek militants initially came as part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group founded by Tahir Yuldashev and Joma Namangani in 1998 to overthrow Islam Karimov’s regime in Uzbekistan. A faction of the IMU broke away around 2002 to form a smaller group known as the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) over an apparent disagreement with the larger organization’s leadership that the time was not ripe to resume operations in Uzbekistan. The group left IMU territory in South Waziristan to reside near Mir Ali in North Waziristan and, in 2005, changed its strategy to focus less on Uzbekistan and more on global jihad, reportedly following a directive from al-Qaeda. Soon the group changed its name to the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) and made Mir Ali, North Waziristan, a key operational and training base. The IJU’s fighters likely number between 100 and 200, according to estimates.
These Uzbeks eventually began to bother Bahadur. His Madda Khel hometown and Miranshah base of operations lie in western North Waziristan, closer to the Afghan border and roughly fourteen miles by road to the west of the Uzbeks’ base of Mir Ali. However, areas of influence in North Waziristan overlap and shift quickly (both Bahadur and foreign fighters work in each other’s territory), meaning the Uzbeks – perhaps on their way to jihad in Afghanistan, or perhaps in the process of acquiring choice tracts of land (as they did in South Waziristan) could have easily aggravated Bahadur.
In August 2006, perhaps caving to pressure from the Pakistani government, Bahadur decided to cease hosting foreign militants, a decision backed and perhaps precipitated by the drop in support for foreign militants by fellow Taliban leader Maulvi Saddiq Noor, with whom Bahadur has allied on occasion. Direct statements from Bahadur on the eviction of foreign militants are not available, but the September 2006 peace agreement between Bahadur and the Pakistani government (see below for more information on the agreement) called for their eviction. Other reports have surfaced on Bahadur’s displeasure with growing Uzbek influence in North Waziristan, and opposition to Uzbek influence was one of the reported aims of his formal alliance with Nazir (detailed below).
Bahadur followed up on the 2006 peace deal by orchestrating a drive to force foreigners led by Iraqi national Abu Okash to remove tinted windows from their vehicles in March 2007, showing that non-Uzbek foreign fighters could also irritate Bahadur.  Okash had resided in North Waziristan since 2001, winning the respect of some locals, who also believed he had al-Qaeda ties. Tensions between him and tribesmen such as Bahadur, however, increased after the September 2006 peace deal. Bahadur’s forces nearly exchanged fire with the foreigners after they attempted to expand the campaign to Mir Ali from Miranshah, but tempers cooled after Beitullah Mehsud reportedly intervened.
As recently as December 2008, Bahadur’s organization turned against a local Taliban leader who had worked closely with foreign fighters, accusing the individual, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Haqqani (as a Pakistani, Abdul Khaliq is unrelated to the Haqqani network) of embezzling funds collected on behalf of local Taliban. Bahadur’s men seized the man from his office in Miranshah and drove him towards Mir Ali. Khaliq, a firebrand radical whose mosque and madrassah – Gulshan-e Uloom in Miranshah – the Pakistani military destroyed in 2006, worked closely with Uzbek militants.  He even appeared with IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev in a propaganda video in January 2008. In July 2007, Khaliq launched attacks against Pakistani military targets, promising to “avenge the martyred brothers, sisters and sons” who had died in the raid on the Red Mosque on July 10 that year. Khaliq, also reportedly a proponent of suicide bombings, may have drawn unwanted attention to Bahadur’s home base of Miranshah through his pronouncements and Uzbek associates, who often treated local Pashtuns brutally. Khaliq also may have simply encroached on Bahadur’s control.
Bahadur’s relationships with Mullah Omar (head of the Quetta Shura Taliban and former leader of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan) and the Haqqani network have likely tempered Bahadur’s opposition to the foreign fighters. Omar, who wants the Taliban in Afghanistan to have as much support as possible, attempts to avoid internal Taliban conflicts on the Pakistani side.  The Haqqanis use Uzbek and other foreigners to assist in operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan. Bahadur trusts, and perhaps follows, both of them. Omar pressured Nazir, Mehsud, and Bahadur to form the Council of United Mujahideen, or Shura Ittehad ul-Mujahideen, in February 2009; the statement announcing the council’s formation cites bin Laden, with whom Haqqani has ties, and Mullah Omar as the leaders of the mujahideen. Omar and Haqqani also reportedly pushed for the September 2006 Waziristan peace agreement between the Pakistani government and Bahadur.  Finally, Haqqani’s forces must pass through Bahadur’s strongholds to conduct attacks in Afghanistan. No reports of Bahadur preventing the work of such forces have surfaced. Indeed, Bahadur has dedicated himself to fighting American-led forces in Afghanistan and reportedly cooperates with and assists Haqqani.
Probably thanks to the Haqqani network, foreign fighters remained in North Waziristan despite some opposition. A sampling of the list of foreigners killed by CIA drone strikes in or near Bahadur’s area of North Waziristan shows the that Bahadur either failed to remove some of the foreigners, chose to work with some foreign fighters, or harbored fighters at Haqqani’s behest. Drone strikes killed Al-Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libbi in January 2008 near Mir Ali,  former Egyptian Islamic Group Leader and reported chief al-Qaeda propagandist Abu Jihad al-Masri in October 2008, senior al-Qaeda member Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi died on November 19, 2008, and Rashid Rauf, the organizer of the plot to bring down trans-Atlantic flights, on November 22, 2008.  A May 16, 2009 strike that killed al-Qaeda member Asad al-Misri along with twenty-three militants loyal to Bahadur and a September 4, 2008 drone strike near Miranshah that killed two Arab fighters along with four Daur tribesmen show Bahadur may indeed have chosen to associate with some foreigners.
Such strikes infuriated Bahadur as they occurred within his territory and sometimes killed individuals loyal to him. After the November 2008 Rauf killing, Bahadur spokesman Ahmadi said, “Americans have killed innocent people and none of them were foreigners.” After Azzam’s death, Ahmadi said that, “We will start revenge attacks across other districts if the US drone attacks do not stop after November 20 .” Such feelings may have caused Bahadur to waver in his peace dealings with the Pakistani government and potentially ally with Beitullah Mehsud.
RELATIONSHIP WITH BEITULLAH MEHSUD AND PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT
Bahadur has maintained on-again, off-again relationships with both the Pakistani government and Beitullah Mehsud over the last several years. Bahadur’s Wazir tribesmen are traditional rivals of Beitullah’s Mehsud tribe, although both tribes share a common lineage. Bahadur opposes any perceived infringement upon his territory and power, and he has thus constructed short-term arrangements, rather than full-fledged peace treaties, to force both sides to seek his support. 
The first of these occurred in September 2006, when the Pakistani government, worn out after its two –and-half-year offensive against foreign militants and Taliban fighters in Waziristan, signed a deal with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Saddiq Noor, among other tribal leaders, many of whom had aided and abetted foreign fighters. Many analysts saw the deal as a victory for North Waziristan Taliban leaders, as the region had seen well over a year of fierce fighting. The deal called for the Pakistani military to cease operations in the region, release detained militants, remove checkpoints, and reimburse local Taliban for damages during the operation. In return, the militants agreed to halt attacks on the government, refrain from setting up a parallel government, stop cross-border movement into Afghanistan, and expel foreigners, although the agreement made an exception for foreigners who remained and chose to “live peacefully in line with tribal customs and traditions.” The deal, however, remained virtually unenforceable and, immediately after its conclusion, NATO reportedly recorded a 300 percent increase in attacks in Afghanistan.
While both Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Omar reportedly supported the peace deal, Bahadur reportedly could not extend the peace deal provisions concerning foreign fighters to Mir Ali, a primary location for foreign fighters in North Waziristan. Haqqani, who reportedly controls seven thousand fighters, relies on a large number of foreign militants, particularly the aforementioned Islamic Jihad Union, to conduct attacks in Afghanistan. These tensions almost resulted in conflict between Bahadur and foreign forces in March 2007. 
Bahadur called off the peace accord with the government on July 15, 2007, reportedly accusing the government of violating its terms by reestablishing checkpoints along North Waziristan roads. Anti-government attacks by fellow North Waziristan Taliban leader Maulvi Abdul Khaliq Haqqani and anti-government sentiment generated by the July 10, 2007 raid on the Red Mosque in Islamabad may also have pressured Bahadur to call off the peace deal. The Pakistani government responded to the deal’s breakdown by attempting to encourage tribal leaders to engage in talks with Bahadur. 
After months of conflict, Bahadur joined the newly formed Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) – an umbrella group of several Pakistani Taliban factions – as the first deputy to Beitullah Mehsud in December 2007.  The TTP has since become the primary Taliban group operating inside Pakistan. Despite joining the new group, Bahadur’s forces refused to coordinate attacks against the Pakistani government, signing a short-term peace deal with the government on December 18, 2007 that would last until the beginning of 2008, restoring the September 2006 agreement.
Rumors have emerged that Bahadur left the TTP, and, although he has made no formal announcement to that effect, he certainly has not coordinated operations with the umbrella group. Further clashes between Bahadur and the government occurred in January, followed by another agreement on February 17, 2008, reportedly the sixth extension of the ceasefire between Bahadur and Islamabad.
In June 2008, Bahadur’s name did not appear on a Pakistani government list of most-wanted individuals. Also absent from the list was the name of Maulvi Nazir, the leader of the Ahmedzai Wazirs in South Waziristan and Bahadur’s counterpart. Nazir and Bahadur formalized their cooperation on July 7, 2008, creating the Local Taliban Movement, or Muqami Tehrik-e Taliban, with Bahadur as the chief and Nazir as the deputy.
Just a few days before the Local Taliban Movement’s formation, Beitullah Mehsud distributed pamphlets in North Waziristan that stated he would never fight Bahadur, demanding proof from those who said he would. Two weeks later in Bannu, just to the east of North Waziristan, “unidentified” individuals distributed anti-Mehsud pamphlets attributed to Bahadur and Nazir.  Bahadur denied a role in pamphlet distribution while Beitullah Mehsud, on July 3, 2008, blamed the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency, for attempting to create divisions among the militants.  Mehsud also called Bahadur “a true mujahid,” or fighter for jihad, at the time. 
Nazir and Bahadur would continue their cooperation throughout 2008 and 2009, forming the Council of United Mujahideen in February 2009 with Beitullah Mehsud and declaring their joint peace deal with the Pakistani government ineffective in June 2009.
Having attempted to prove their allegiance, Bahadur and Mehsud, along with Nazir, took their most formal step towards alliance with the formation of the Council of United Mujahideen on February 20, 2009.  As mentioned above, Mullah Omar reportedly pushed for the unity agreement.  Bahadur may have been responding to the existing perception of disunity between him and Mehsud, as well as pressure from Taliban colleagues represented by statements made by Taliban leaders in Bajaur and Swat in early February 2009 that declared Bahadur their enemy because he refused to fight Pakistani forces. Bahadur’s loyalty to Mullah Omar also likely influenced his decision.
The compacts between Bahadur and Mehsud and Bahadur and Islamabad came under the greatest stress in late spring and early summer 2009 as reports emerged that the Pakistani military would conduct a campaign in Waziristan targeting Mehsud. On June 1, 2009, Bahadur’s forces escorted a group of Pakistani military cadets from the military college in Razmak, in the southern portion of North Waziristan, to the border with the Bannu district of the NWFP. Two hours after Bahadur’s forces left the convoy, forces reported to be loyal to Beitullah Mehsud seized the more than 500 cadets. In reported retaliation, the Pakistani military began conducting operations near North Waziristan in Bannu and Makeen.
With such operations serving as the final straw – Bahadur saw them as intruding on his area of influence – on top of the primary irritation of drone strikes, Bahadur’s forces attacked Pakistani forces, just weeks after the Pakistani military had worked with Bahadur to evacuate the students through his area of control. On June 29, 2009, a reported 150 Taliban fighters attacked a convoy of Pakistani soldiers, killing anywhere from thirty to sixty Pakistani soldiers; the fighting left at least ten Taliban fighters dead.  In taking responsibility for the attack, Bahadur’s spokesman Ahmadullah Ahmadi said at the time that, “This accord is being scrapped because of Pakistan's failure to stop the American drone attacks in North and South Waziristan…Since the army is attacking us in North and South Waziristan, we will also attack them.”
The Pakistani military responded in force, targeting Bahadur’s hometown of Madda Khel with airstrikes on June 30 and helicopter attacks on July 1, causing local tribesmen to flee to Peshawar, Bannu, and across the border into Afghanistan.  Yet the Pakistani military took pains to assure the local populace that it did not intend to launch operations in North Waziristan, dropping leaflets in Pashto and Urdu on July 1 and asking for tips on terrorist locations. Despite the leaflet statements, “stray missiles” from Pakistani Air Force jets hit a village near Miranshah on July 5, followed by the movement of “hundreds” of troops and dozens of tanks and other vehicles to Miranshah from Mir Ali on July 15 and the shelling of Miranshah and Mir Ali on July 16.
The Pakistani forces likely moved forces from Mir Ali to prepare for a stranglehold operation against Beitullah Mehsud, but commanders likely realized their secondary value in threatening Bahadur as well. Responding to the threat, Bahadur organized the aforementioned July 28 suicide bombing against Pakistani forces and July 31 kidnapping of soldiers.
Bahadur had repeatedly indicated his displeasure with the peace agreement in the weeks before he broke it. On June 14, 2009, Bahadur threatened to scrap the deal with the government if operations, conducted reportedly as vengeance for the kidnapping of the Razmak cadets, continued in the Bakakhel and Janikhel areas of Bannu, claiming the February peace deal did not allow the government to conduct operations in those areas. Reports have also emerged indicating that Bahadur has said that Pakistani military operations against Beitullah Mehsud must cease before Bahadur will negotiate with the government, indicating that he may view any operations in North Waziristan as threatening to his existence, regardless of their stated target.
Yet, according to reports and statements from Bahadur’s spokesman, American drone strikes have irritated Bahadur even more than Pakistani military operations. On June 26, Bahadur, along with Nazir, reportedly said that the peace agreement with the Pakistani government had become invalid due to US drone strikes. Bahadur spokesman Abdullah Ahmadi also claimed that 50 drone strikes had killed hundreds of people since the signing of the February 2008 peace agreement with the government and repeated the demand to stop drone attacks after the July 28 suicide bombing. 
Ahmadi’s statements against drone strikes in November 2008 showed that such actions irritated Bahadur even before drone strikes in North Waziristan this year, which included a March strike that apparently hit a house in Sara Rogha, South Waziristan, where Bahadur met with Beitullah Mehsud and Nazir and the aforementioned May attack that killed twenty-three militants loyal to Gul Bahadur.  Drone strikes threaten Bahadur the most as his inability to defend against, take revenge for, or predict their location decreases his control over North Waziristan.
These series of demands and Bahadur’s willingness to abandon or throw his support behind both the Pakistani government and Beitullah Mehsud show his desire to survive, remain independent and maintain his control over North Waziristan.
Bahadur remains a jihadi committed first to his own survival, second to the conflict in Afghanistan, third to Beitullah Mehsud, and last to his vision of an Islamist Pakistani state. His background of accruing political power, fluid ideology and alliances, and loyalty to Mullah Omar and Haqqani has given him the tools to continue supporting the fight against the American-led coalition in Afghanistan while compromising on almost everything else.
What does this mean for the current Pakistani military offensive in Waziristan? Bahadur will likely continue to direct some level of violence, including perhaps an increasing use of suicide bomb attacks, in an attempt to bully the Pakistani government into lessening operations in North Waziristan and reducing cooperation with the US on drone strikes. Likewise, the Pakistani government will likely continue limited actions against Bahadur to push him towards negotiations. However, Bahadur and the Pakistani government will probably avoid unchecked hostilities, which both seem to believe would be harmful to their interests.
While striking a non-aggression pact with Bahadur might allow the Pakistani military to achieve greater short-term success in Waziristan, US interests may suffer in the long term. As long as Bahadur maintains his sphere of influence, Taliban leaders such as the Haqqani family have a safe haven from which they can launch attacks against American forces in Afghanistan. And, while Uzbeks and some other foreign fighters have annoyed Bahadur, the Taliban leader continues to work with, or at least allows to reside in or near his territory, some foreign fighters, creating another ungoverned area where terrorists can – and have – plotted attacks against targets in the West. Peace between Bahadur and the Pakistani government may boost Islamabad’s interests in the short term while hurting Western interests in the medium and long term.
Islamabad Khabrain (Urdu), August 17, 2001. pp 12, accessed via World News Connection Database.; “Religious group said to have set up tribal army to resist UN monitors,” The Nation, August 21, 2001, accessed via World News Connection database.