As Pakistani soldiers fought their way into the forbidding heartland of the Mehsud tribal territory against Taliban and al-Qaida
militants, they faced the most ferocious fighters in Pakistan, men whose ancestors were legendary for never succumbing to the British.
One thing was working in the army's favor, however. In the time-honored tradition of the mercurial relationships in the tribal areas, the military has sealed alliances with two Taliban commanders of the Waziri tribe, winning deals that they would not attack the army on their southern and eastern flanks.
Commanders, Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadar, control territory that surrounds the lands that are home to the rival Mehsuds and that form the Taliban stronghold where the army has begun its push. Army spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, acknowledged the arrangement with the Waziri leaders, saying any military would do all it could to isolate the enemy.