Pakistan's Interior ministry says 84 Uzbek militants and 30 local tribesmen were killed in the clashes.
WEINBAUM: Well, I think that supposition isn't necessarily correct. By the way, this is south Waziristan that I understand the fighting is taking place. This is not the agreement that was signed several months ago which was with northern Waziristan. Now, there is an earlier agreement with south Waziristan. I think what's important to recognise here is that this is an intact unit of Uzbek fighters. They've been around there for at least five years and one has to ask, Why now? Why has there been no effort to move against them and is this really a result of any now change of attitude on the part of the tribesmen, or is this simply a falling out between the tribesmen and this group here, very possibly over inter-personal reasons.
LAM: Indeed, I was about to ask you whether this is purely an inter-tribal feud?
WEINBAUM: Well, they are of course not tribal in that sense, they are foreigners and they're viewed differently. But I think it's very important to note that we're not talking about anything to do with the insurgency in Afghanistan. These are people who are left over from the Taliban-era in Afghanistan. The people we're talking about are pro-Taliban. In fact, many of these people we would describe as Pakistani-Taliban. So the idea that the government is taking credit for this, and obviously they're very anxious to do so, I think that's very premature to reach that conclusion.
LAM: So why has the presence of the Uzbek fighters been tolerated in Waziristan up till now?
WEINBAUM: Well, I think it's because they have not been viewed as the enemy. Now, I think it is important to make a distinction between the foreigners, and they are foreigners, and they're not al-Qaeda. They may have links to al-Qaeda but they're not al-Qaeda, they're foreigners. Many of them have inter-married but apparently a large number of this IMU group, which is this militant group which at one time was operating in Uzbekistan, many of them were able to remain and apparently to thrive through this entire period. I think that's remarkable and it shows just how little control the central government had over this region.
LAM: I understand there have even been calls by the Waziristan tribesmen for a jihad, a holy war against the Uzbek militants. Aren't the Uzbek fighters Muslims too?
WEINBAUM: Oh yes, yes, they are Muslims. This may lead to some sharp differences, attacks between these two groups, but I think what we're really concerned about here is the fact that both parts of Waziristan have become a state within a state. And it's that group which I think the government has to come into some kind of understanding with. And the agreements that have been reached, I see nothing in there which suggests that somehow they're going over to the government's side with respect to the insurgency in Afghanistan.
LAM: So indeed Pakistani president Musharraf should not take heart then in what's happening in Waziristan at the moment?
WEINBAUM: I think he can say, Well, maybe this is the harbinger of an attitude toward these foreigners and that would be to the benefit of the state and it would demonstrate to the outside world just how these agreements are being successful. But I think, as I said before, I don't think we can draw that conclusion from this. It is worth nothing that it's certainly something the government will want to take credit for but at this stage at least I think we don't know enough about what really is going on there to draw that kind of conclusion.