Taliban Extends Cease-Fire With Pakistan in Troubled Tribal Region

U.S. officials are not happy with the arrangement in part because past deals have backfired.

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One day before the cease-fire between the Taliban and Pakistan in the troubled Swat Valley was due to expire, the Taliban announced that the two sides have agreed to extend the truce indefinitely.

Earlier this month, the Pakistani government said that it would accept Islamic law and a truce with the Taliban in the tribal region, located in Pakistan's northwest along Afghanistan's border. Although it's just 100 miles from the capital, about 70 percent of Swat Valley is controlled by the Taliban, and it's a key launching point for strikes into Afghanistan against coalition troops.

By agreeing to a truce, the government essentially conceded the area to the Taliban, disappointing U.S. officials who had wanted Pakistan to defeat the Taliban, not make peace with the militants. But the Pakistani government says the fighting's repercussions on civilians are too great. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by either the Army's shelling or Taliban-sanctioned beheadings; thousands more have fled. And some 200 schools have been destroyed by the Taliban's campaign against secular education.

Although the 10-day cease-fire was to expire tomorrow, militants in Swat announced today that they've agreed to make the truce extend indefinitely, with more details to be announced this evening. As a goodwill gesture, they've said that they will release all their prisoners unconditionally and said they already had let four paramilitary soldiers go today.

A similar cease-fire crumbled in mid-2008, and many analysts say that this one is also unlikely to last.

Meanwhile, a similar, but unilateral, cease-fire was announced yesterday by a Taliban commander in the nearby district of Bajaur. The Pakistani government has not said if it will accept the truceā€”but it did respond today by suspending military operations in the district for four days.