ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has postponed for an indefinite period a full-scale military offensive against the Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal region because of the freezing winter, which normally lasts more than six months in these parts, The Express Tribune has learnt on authority.
In the meantime, US pilot-less aircraft will continue to target Taliban ‘sanctuaries’ in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the tribal belt as the only available options to weaken the insurgents, a source told The Express Tribune.
This is notwithstanding Pakistan’s official position that US drone attacks are an infringement on its sovereignty and stoke anti-Americanism in the country due to increasing civilian casualties.
North Waziristan’s terrain is extremely difficult from a logistic point of view. Analysts say it is one of the main reasons for Pakistan Army’s reluctance to go after the Haqqani network. Moreover, the Obama administration has not provided the special equipment the Pakistan Army needs for such an operation.
Interestingly, most of the US aid provided to Pakistan’s armed forces is in the shape of “work services”, such as overhauling of transport and helicopter gunships.
Recently US contractors overhauled a number of helicopters at a cost three times higher than what is normally charged, the source said. And the overhauling was of poor quality and the helicopters had to be grounded again for maintenance.
“Taking the ongoing war in the tribal areas and other regions to its logical conclusion is the first and foremost priority for the Pakistan Army,” another source told The Express Tribune.
Pakistan has been under pressure from the US for launching a full scale offensive in North Waziristan. The Foreign Office, however, has denied any US pressure. It says the operation will be launched only if it is in the interest of Pakistan.
David Ignatius, a Washington Post associate editor, quoted a senior US military official in Islamabad as telling him that the US debate about Pakistan was becoming “hyper-focused” on a demand that Pakistan Army attack North Waziristan.
The official told Ignatius that he believed Pakistan was incapable of meeting this demand because its forces were “stretched too thin”.
“The harder Washington pushes for a crackdown, the more Islamabad seems to resist. And the explanation is simple. The two countries’ interests differ on this one: America, with its forces exposed in Afghanistan, wants action now. Pakistan, facing a nationwide campaign of terrorism, wants to concentrate on its internal threat,” Ignatius said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2011.