Senior al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders are reported to have met with Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud to advise him to move his group's operations into Afghanistan and halt attacks against the Pakistani state.
Several meetings were said to have been held last week after an 11-man delegation of al Qaeda and Taliban heavy hitters arrived in Waziristan to deliver a request from Mullah Omar, the Amir al Mumineen, or the leader of the faithful in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to a report in The Nation.
The Taliban dispatched Sirajuddin Haqqani, the powerful military commander of the Haqqani Network, and Abdul Hakeem Sharaee and Mir Ahmad Jan Hashemi, two senior deputies of Mullah Abdullah Zakir, the Taliban's senior-most military commander in southern Afghanistan who was released from Guantanamo Bay.
Al Qaeda sent Abu Yahya Al Libi, one of al Qaeda's senior ideologues and a representative of the religious committee, and Abdul Haq Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda-linked group that is made up of Uighurs who fight the Chinese government. Abdul Haq serves on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or executive council.
The joint Taliban and al Qaeda delegation reportedly advised Baitullah to halt the Pakistani Taliban's attacks against the military and government and to focus his energy in Afghanistan. The leaders believe Baitullah's terror attacks against the Pakistani state are putting undue pressure on the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and threaten to damage the overall Taliban movement.
The Taliban and al Qaeda leadership are concerned that even a limited Pakistani military offensive in the tribal areas will put their training camps and safe houses throughout the border regions at risk as the Afghan Taliban is gearing up for a major fight with Coalition and Afghan forces.
Baitullah was reportedly advised to dodge the nascent Pakistani Army offensive in South Waziristan and move the bulk of his forces into Afghanistan to carry out attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces.
The Taliban and al Qaeda delegation was also reported to have advised North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar to provide safe passage for Baitullah and his Taliban army.
Baitullah is said to have rejected the request from Mullah Omar, responding, "Mullah Omar is our Amir but like Afghanistan, they [the Pakistani Taliban] are determined to continue resistance in Pakistan."
Baitullah also met with the shura of the United Mujahideen Council, the alliance with South Waziristan Taliban warlord Mullah Nazir and powerful North Waziristan leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Nazir, who is being pressured by the Pakistani government to sit out the operation against Baitullah, is said to have not attended, according to the Islamabad Ausaf, a pro-jihadi Urdu-language newspaper. Bahadar offered Baitullah safe passage through to Afghanistan, as advised by the al Qaeda and Taliban delegation.
------------------------------All the while, the Pakistani military is continuing ground operations in its South Waziristan offensive against Baitullah's forces.
Heavy fighting has broken out in South Waziristan as the Pakistani Army and paramilitary Frontier Corps have begun moving ground forces forward into tribal areas run by Taliban chieftain Baitullah Mehsud.
More than 30 Taliban fighters have been reported killed in separate engagements in South Waziristan. Pakistani forces, backed by Air Force F-16 fighter-bombers, attack helicopters, and artillery, have begun to engage Baitullah's forces in earnest.
The clashes "should be read as the formal launch of an offensive against Baitullah," Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP.
Read more about the ongoing offensive here.