No to operation in North Waziristan Agency

Published: June 20, 2011

The writer was a Ford Scholar at the Programme in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at UIUC (1997) and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Studies Programme

Should the Pakistan Army launch an operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA)? Short answer: No. Is the so-called Haqqani network as deadly for US-Nato-Isaf troops as American official and media blitz suggests? No. Let’s consider these questions in reverse order.

Going by US and western intelligence and military accounts, the network operates in the velayats of Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Logar and Ghazni. Let’s also add Nangarhar to this list. Since 2001 to wit, according to The official US list of fatalities, the number killed in these areas from the combined US-Nato-Isaf troops are Paktia (1), Khost (39), Logar (37), Ghazni (74), Paktika (118) and Nangarhar (43). (NB: These statistics also include fatalities caused by non-hostile factors, including accidents involving road and helicopter crashes, weapons mishandling etc. See casualties.org/OEF/Index.aspx)

The total number of fatalities in these six velayats comes to 312. Compare this with Helmand (730), Kandahar (370), Kunar (153), Kabul (136), Zabul (99), Oruzgan (64), Parwan (54). If one adds up the numbers of fatalities, it should be clear that the fighting has been far more intense in the southern, central and north-eastern areas than where the network has been operating, with the exception of Paktika. Also, the eastern provinces combined have seen fewer fatalities this year than the average for one suicide attack in Pakistan.

Which brings us to the pressing issue of operational priorities: What groups should Pakistan operate against — those that are attacking Pakistani people and security forces or those that operate inside Afghanistan? Given limited resources and the stretch faced by the Pakistan Army, any commander would focus attention on the threat in his own area rather than pick up a fight with those who are not fighting his troops. As for the differential in resources, just one figure would be enough. So far, given US and other fatalities from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Joint IED Defeat Organisation (JIEDDO), a Pentagon agency, has spent $20 billion to develop techniques and equipment to counter the IED threat. Does this number sound familiar? Well, it equals the hyped figure of ‘aid’ that is supposed to have come to Pakistan since 2002 for the latter’s entire war effort, as well as under multiple other heads!

Pakistan is already facing a full-blown insurgency and urban terrorism by groups based in Fata and just across in Afghanistan. A recent development relates to well-staged and managed attacks from across the Durand Line on its posts in Lower Dir and Bajaur. The pattern of attacks and numbers employed show the attacking force is free to form up inside Afghanistan, has a secure line of communication to the base, can freely advance to the border, ingress, launch a surprise attack and exfiltrate. Surely, with all the radars, sensor-mounted balloons and unmanned drones, such movement should not go undetected. Apparently it does!

Pakistan’s experience also shows that no one area can be identified as the Centre of Gravity (COG) of this threat. The two US assumptions that NWA is the COG of Afghan insurgency and that once the Haqqani network is taken out, the backbone of the insurgency in Afghanistan will be broken, are wrong and self-serving.

As I wrote in The Friday Times in December 2010, the insurgency does not have a defined COG; there are multiple COGs and command lines are much more diffused than anyone is prepared to accept. There is already dispersal of the leadership and the fighters because of drone attacks. Dispersal and delegation of operations also provide the Taliban the flexibility they require to retain their asymmetric advantage.

The American idea that packing the punch against the Haqqani network — assuming that the network would offer itself as a concentrated target for the convenience of any superior force — would signal to others to come to the negotiating table is unlikely to happen.

In this game, Pakistan will be the loser. NWA does not just house the Haqqani network; it also has Haji Gul Bahadur, elements of the relocated Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), multiple Punjabi groups and remnants of al Qaeda. Currently, these groups are geographically confined. If Pakistan goes after them, it will have to face multiple negative consequences, including dislocating more of its population at a time when its build and transfer efforts in other areas have almost stalled and it is already bogged down in Mohmand and Kurram.

The network, currently no threat to Pakistan, would go for a link up with elements hostile to Pakistan and operating only against Pakistani interests. Elements hostile to Pakistan will get reinforced by such a link-up and, while use of force will make the various groups join hands, it will fail to translate into utility of force for the simple reason that the groups would disperse and spread out instead of offering themselves as a concentrated target to a superior force.

That makes eminent operational sense because, rather than losing too many men in pitched battles, the groups will disperse while retaining some fighters to engage advancing columns in combination with the use of area denial weapons like anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, ‘victim-operated’ IEDs and booby traps. This means that while they will try to slow down the advance and extract a heavy toll of advancing troops, they would not need to employ the bulk of their forces that are likely to extricate as the operation undergoes.

Pakistan would then be left with two negative fallouts: Future operational linkage between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP and other assorted hostile groups; and dispersal of these groups into other areas. An operation against the Haqqani network will also activate other Afghan Taliban groups against Pakistani security forces which are already battle-stressed, fighting the Pakistani groups affiliated with al Qaeda. That would open another front, currently dormant.

Meanwhile, what about the drones? Why should Pakistan commit ground troops if the drones are as effective as the US says they are and for which reason it is prepared to accept the cost of rising resentment inside Pakistan?

But let’s go higher up the ladder from the operational to the strategic and political. The UN Security Council (UNSC) has delinked the Taliban from its al Qaeda list, sending a signal to the Taliban that they can be talked to if they can prove that they are not linked to al Qaeda. Good move that, one which I have been insisting on before and since US President Barack Obama spoke at West Point. We also have, on the good authority of both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and outgoing US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, that the US is in talks with the Taliban. This makes sense and shows why the UNSC has done what it has.

And why should Pakistan open up a front against the Afghan Taliban when they are now to be potential partners in peace talks?

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2011.

Reader Comments (80)

  • abrar
    Jun 20, 2011 - 9:15PM

    Why this argument is not being debated more aggressively is the question.Why those in charge of giving Pakistani side of the argument do not bring this valid points on the networks?.

    Why the Pakistan military does not make a cut statement over this issue that concerns Pakistans national interest.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 20, 2011 - 9:59PM

    I agree that let the drones and taliban battle each other out, but the only problem is that Waziristan is a part of Pakistan. Arent we supposed to do something to secure our internal and external sovereignty? Recommend

  • noise
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:16PM

    So you would rather leave a whole tribal agency to function as base of terrorist attacks on Pakistan? Where do you think all these insurgents are getting their training base of operations, when do you think is the main base of operations of the Pakistani taliban? Where all those enemies in Mohmand and Kurram coming from? You would rather leave big fish like Haqannis be because they aren’t a threat. If history has shown us anything is that these warlords are not to be trusted. They will always turn on us. They are our enemy, they must all be destroyed if Pakistan is to a have a rule of law within its borders

    Only all all out bombing campaign and and massive push into the tribal areas will work, thousands of people die every year in terrorist bombing across the country, you want us to let them be?

    You just want everyone to sit around and do nothing. Whose side are you on? Not on the side of the people you aren’tRecommend

  • Ezekial
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:23PM

    One of the best analytical pieces I have ever read on the insurgency. Enlightening. This is better than what the lame New York Times buffs write as well as the confusion/cluttered jumble the Pakistani conspiracy brigade’s says.Recommend

  • Sarah Khan
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:24PM

    You are absolutely right!!! what you said is exactly how I feel!
    Welldone!Recommend

  • Ezekial
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:24PM

    Where exactly are the multiple COGs of the TTP and sectarian groups currently?Recommend

  • No BS
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:51PM

    I have not figured you out, this is a pleasent surpriseRecommend

  • ashwin
    Jun 20, 2011 - 10:56PM

    you have a valid point,but what will happen these groups if at all peace comes to the Afghanistan , will they directed against India or Iran or Afghanistan to gain strategic depth or leverage either way these groups will pursue their own deluded agenda if left unattended to which may or may not be in the best interest of Pakistan Recommend

  • SanityisGone
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:11PM

    You should have compensated that “open letter to Pasha sahab”. You did well here. In the presence of intellectuals of your kind, Pakistan is destined to succeed in every “strategic depth” strategy it makes. ;)Recommend

  • Thinking
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:12PM

    Wah wah what logic Sir. Pakistani intelligence analysts have been deluding themselves for years saying “let’s leave those terrorists alone, they do not want to blow us up.” Let’s see where it has gotten Pakistan…

    The brave people of Pakistan must get rid of all the terrorists. Recommend

  • Realist Khan
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:13PM

    Good Analysis.
    But wait What do you suggest about the TTP & these Punjabi groups ?
    When should Pakistani forces go against them ?
    The Peace talks will take heck of a long time What should we do till then ?
    let these TTP & LeT,LeJ & al qaeda operate freely & kill more pakistanis ?
    I hope Next time you will mention how to counter them.Recommend

  • Jun 20, 2011 - 11:34PM

    Quite right. Stirring up the hornet’s nest is definitely going to create problems for Pakistan, whether or not they are allied with the Afghan Taliban openly or secretly. Terrorist elements will not only disperse and exfiltrate westwards; they may also inject themselves into Pakistani villages and cities, maybe adding pressure in the already volatile situation in Balochistan – giving credence to the notion of “Quetta Shura” Taliban and ultimately allowing Allies to exit Afghanistan – only to end up in Pakistan, fighting the “War on Terror”…
    Any kind of military operation – surgical, kinetic or otherwise – needs robust economic and political components to succeed. That is especially where the international community can “do more”. There must be definite parameters to achieve for the Army to conduct operations in the first place, and there must also be indicators to achieve so that a visible timeline for eventual troop drawdown is in place. Indefinite deployment of troops in militant-vulnerable areas is also a problem that needs to be seriously looked at by the political administration at various levels. Recommend

  • Arslan
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:37PM

    lol sure that this article will not get him as many friends as ‘An open letter to General Pasha’ did.
    But, ‘why should Pakistan open up a front against the Afghan Taliban when they are now to be potential partners in peace talks?‘ resumes the matter.
    It’s not in our interest to attack the Afghan talibans, as they’re own interests are not in Pakistan; TTP will attack until America’s gone, as all their propaganda is based upon American offensives (drones), and a rhetoric of vengeance directed towards the so-called collaborating Pak. Army.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Jun 20, 2011 - 11:48PM

    man, you’re not my fav author – but for once your article actually made sense – without the mumbo jumbo of ‘dimagh kharab karne wali’ angrezi…Recommend

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:02AM

    And what about the people of North Waziristan and wider FATA who have been abandoned by the state to live under these militant organizations? Afghanistan-Taliban-ISAF may negotiate a settlement, but what does the Pakistani state have to offer to an organization that has been actively patronized for decades. The Pakistani state has effectively ceded its sovereignty to non-state actors and relinquished its responsibilities towards its citizens. The have successfully developed a war economy, based on taxation, fines, smuggling and kidnapping. Majority of Pakistanis believe that they are great Islamic warriors. What will happen once the Afghan campaign ends? Will the Haqqanis and their ilk pack up and go home? The law must be enforced, to many no-go areas exist across Pakistan as it is. America or no-America, the reign of violent and armed non-state actors who have killed and maimed thousands of Pakistanis must come to an end, and the perpetrators made to face justice. If all is well in North Waziristan then what are 36,000 Pakistani troops doing in the region? Recommend

  • Junaid
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:12AM

    Nice and logical, as always..! No conflict is settled in battles… this is the right time to realize that.. I hope our army is thinking similarly.Recommend

  • Ali Wazir
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:15AM

    Bravo,Sanity prevails at last…
    Just to throw out a theory…It seems recent efforts are on way to force a showdown between Pakarmy and the Afghan Taliban. In some Washington circles(Zalmay khalilzad and Cheryl bernard) there is the thinking that Pakistan and its public should be made to take “ownership” of the war. This will provide America breathing space like the “Awakening” movement in Anbar province in Iraq, which made Petraues.
    Thats why Pak Taliban are able to escape to Afghanistan and attack from across the border. Baloch separatist are also operating freely from Afghanistan as acknowledged by Afghan ambassador in a wikileak cable.The constant drone strikes also seem to fit this theory as DoD sources have said that only low to mid level AQ operatives(no. to 100 by US estimates) have been eliminated, but in the same time it is giving allot of legitimacy to Anti Pakistan militants rhetoric.
    Finally the CIA role in Pakistan is not really clear. Contractors like Raymond Davis are unaccounted and our ISI counterintelligence is miserably failing. No one has explained why would Raymond davis travel to tribal areas, have pictures of Pakistani Military installation on Eastern front
    .Also Anti Pakistan militants attacks on soft civilian targets dont make strategic sense as every gurella know not to alienate a population which is largely sympathetic to the Taliban Anti American Insurgency, unless there objective is to turn public opinion against the Afgan Taliban, and make it “our” war.
    In fact the Afghan Taliban propaganda material have repeatedly stressed that it does not condone attacks against Pakistani civilians or state.& in fact almost had a confrontation with TTP on killing of Col. Imam. All this points out to something very sinister…I know this is mostly speculation but I would downgrade it from Conspiracy theory….Recommend

  • kashif manzoor
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:19AM

    very nice to see a sane voice in pakistani english media after a very long time. and that is too because the man is an ex-army man and can understand the fall out of that what could be disastrous decision. Recommend

  • Amanullah Maseed
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:28AM

    Well of course you would oppose a operation against your assets. You will sponsor the Shaytaan himself if favors your aims to keep Afghanistsn weak and loyal to your interests.

    Ejaz Haider why dont you do us all a favor, go and do a operation in your native Punjab, seems like every terrorist has some link to that region, and let the Pashtun breath some fresh air, instead of hiding and disguising these criminals whom kill just to please Pakistan’s need to keep the people divided and radicalised.Recommend

  • xyz
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:38AM

    And now since Godfathers have started talking to Talibans we will see the whole bunch of war-supporters and the so called champions of peace in media and elsewhere change their tone towards the same force they once considered not worthy of existing along with their families! I was waiting to experience this… To be on the safe side you should still continue with the “Kill all Talibans and all tribal people” until it becomes completely certain that the US actually has started dialogues..

    Anyways still hope that we stop this non sense and try to get our own people on our side (and if we are sincere enough to eradicate militancy then bring them gradually into the mainstream) and actually marginalize the real miscreants. Recommend

  • ArifQ
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:44AM

    “NWA does not just house the Haqqani network; it also has Haji Gul Bahadur, elements of the relocated Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), multiple Punjabi groups and remnants of al Qaeda. Currently, these groups are geographically confined.”

    Houston we have a problem but its concentrated in one region, therefore its not our problem this is your logic. If we ignore it, leave it as it is then its not a problem, we shae it, move it or god forbid try to eradicate it then it can spill over! Amazing diagnosis, precisely the same comatose state of mind that has led us on this path. You disappoint me Ejaz. Recommend

  • Jameel
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:46AM

    @Junaid:

    No conflict is settled in battles

    Really? What about the jihads of last 1400 years? What were they about?Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 21, 2011 - 1:23AM

    Nonsense. If you don’t have the will or the ability to fight terrorist then so be it — but it takes a lot of gall to sit back and play the sovereignty card and give this terrorist defacto sanctuary. In short — if you don’t want to fight them fine — just shut up and get out of the way.Recommend

  • Babloo
    Jun 21, 2011 - 1:57AM

    Mr Ejaz, US is not giving dollars to Pakistan to help Pakistan fight those groups that attack Pakistan army but to fight those groups that attack US army. Pakistan should be using its own funds to fight TTP or groups that attack Pakistan.
    US money received is with the understanding that Pakistan will fight those groups that attack US and Pak will not provide shelter to them. Also, if Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary to groups that operate accross the border, even if Pak does not get a single dollar fro USA, it would be guilty of promoting cross border attacks.Recommend

  • Timorov
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:09AM

    Absolutely brilliant piece Mr. Haider. The US media has a habit of over-hyping the threat starting with 1945 when arguably the Cold war began in earnest, but especially since President Eisenhower’s years in office, where he used to call members of the US media his “quasi-staff” because of their role in spreading the propaganda and amplifying the threat of those “dirty” communists.

    Now this same Haqqani network that according to President Reagan was part of the core group “who are the moral equivalents of our founding fathers” is being over-hyped in the media simply to portray Pakistan in a bad light.

    Once again thank you for your boldness!Recommend

  • FactCheck
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:10AM

    OK then, if Pakistan is willing to cede the territory to known terrorists, when the International Security Force go in, you cannot yell intrusion of soveriegnty. Pakistan gave up the right by ceding the territory which was never under Pkaistans control at any time any way.

    Can we consider this permission to send F-16s to pund the terrorists.Recommend

  • saleem khan
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:12AM

    Let Drones (Ababeel) Help the poor people of NWA from the militants there! Ameen Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 2:13AM

    Is that what the “establishment” thinks? Why not Zardari writes another column in some overseas paper and duplicate these points? Plead to US that don’t throw us in front of Taliban while you go into table talks with them.

    Sad. But lets do more.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:19AM

    In short, the central argument is : “We must not attack them, as they are only attacking India and Afghanistan; besides , if we do, they may attack us too.”

    Isn’t this the very thinking that has got strategic assets going off in market places all over Pakistan? Recommend

  • saleem khan
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:35AM

    If we are still clinging to the policy of Good and Bad Taliban then there is no solution to the problem of AfPak region. Your plea that it is OK if militants of NWA kills people inside Afghanistan as long as they did not kill people in Pakistan. Then i am sorry to say, that is no solution to it. As for as the american exit and future inclusion of Taliban in Afghan government is concerned, that is a very risky solution for both the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the long run. Taliban in Afghanistan will never accept a lesser role and once US forces exit from Afghanistan, they will be encourage of the victory over defeating another Super Power. That will make them to go back to the barbarities before 2001 and then will try to have the same system in Pakistan and especially in the Pukhtunkwa province. And then Punjab will not be spared as beware of the power of the Punjabi Taliban who are tougher than other Taliban. Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:52AM

    Your interpretation of the Centre of gravity is false. The great Clausewitz’s explains Center of gravity in On War as follows:

    “Alexander the Great, Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII of Sweden, and Frederick the Great each had their centers of gravity in their respective armies. Had their armies been destroyed, these men would have been remembered as failures. In states with many factions vying for power, the center of gravity lies mainly in the capital; in small states supported by a more powerful one, it lies in the army of the stronger state; in alliances, it lies in the unity formed by common interests; in popular uprisings, it lies in the persons of the principal leaders and in public opinion.”

    In case of terrorism, the center of gravity does not lie in Waziristan, but the powerful madrassas in mainland Pakistan where the students are indoctrinated by extremist ideologies. This is exactly why the division between good and bad taliban is so ridiculous. Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 21, 2011 - 4:23AM

    Hasn’t Imran Khan been saying to get into talks with the Taliban and NOT send ur troops to fight amongst your own people because there will be a fall out against the Army. He’s been saying that for 8 years and everyone called him Taliban Khan, now you’ve seen the fall out against the Army and you’ve also seen the Taliban as being a political entity that the US is negotiating with.
    I will be giving my vote for this man’s party next elections. This is called having a vision unlike whatever poor solutions the current govt has been giving.Recommend

  • abrar
    Jun 21, 2011 - 4:30AM

    Pakistan cannot and should not carry the baggage of a foreigner’s war in afghanistan

    The same happened in the 80s and the consequences still linger.

    Pakistan cannot be blamed or made responsible for a war it did not start.Recommend

  • Shahid Saeed
    Jun 21, 2011 - 4:56AM

    Somebody forgot to mention Indian Embassy attack in Kabul, Serene Kabul suicide attack and others that have taken place out of the assumed operational area of the Haqqanis. Or was it not forgetfulness but rather trickery? I say latter.Recommend

  • harischaudhry@hotmail.com
    Jun 21, 2011 - 6:45AM

    I seriously think the author got a “debriefing” at the agency with his last piece (Open letter to Gen Pasha) as this piece constitutes a complete 180 degree U Turn from all of his previously articulated thoughts, views and suggestions.

    Sounds like another columnists has fallen in line !Recommend

  • Akhtarrao
    Jun 21, 2011 - 7:17AM

    Good approach,if it can be mad understandable to the policy makers in Pakistan.It seems they cannot hear,cannot see and cannot speak.
    God bless PakistanRecommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 7:29AM

    @faraz:
    How do we secure it when minnows are in path of mad elephants?Recommend

  • Extremely Tight Dhoti
    Jun 21, 2011 - 8:16AM

    Valid point, but u did not tell wat approach Pakistan shud take to fight the TTP?Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 9:38AM

    The strategic drilling assets should be leaved freely in the area because we fear they will come to drill us…Recommend

  • ghazni
    Jun 21, 2011 - 10:18AM

    yesterday TTP was Haqqani network for and your backer and you were willing to take it on because it was focusing on Afghanistan. Today you are asking for operation against yours friend of yesterday. So you just wait for another day and you will be for ruthless military operation against whom you deem your friends today. The game will go on until all of us are not drowned because people like you have more concern for the confusion you have in your mind than for the future of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ben
    Jun 21, 2011 - 10:49AM

    A very well-written piece. The government should concentrate more on neutralizing the existential threat in the form of menace like TTP.Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 10:52AM

    Infuriated after the Swat Taliban advanced to within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Islamabad in early April, the Pakistani military launched an offensive to dislodge militants from three northwest districts.what do you want mr ejaz?are you telling us to permit the insurgents get strengthened and let them spark a new drift of zealotry in pakistan , the very same mistake musharraf made after 9-11.he provided an alliance against al-qaeda and fortified the pakistani taliban , difficult to be harnessed now.we must chuck out hypocrisy in the war on terror.Recommend

  • CPKS
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:07AM

    The network, currently no threat to
    Pakistan, would go for a link up with
    elements hostile to Pakistan and
    operating only against Pakistani
    interests.

    Can this not be sufficient/legitimate reason enough for the Afghans (and also Indians) to support the Baloch liberation groups (as alleged by Pakistan) because “currently they pose no threat to either” ?

    After all what is sauce for goose is sauce for gander too.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:20AM

    After writing an open letter to the high command the author seems to have come under pressure to toe the Army line on NW. For the US/NATO even a single life lost to Taliban hosted by Pakistan is one too many. They are not likely to have the same charitable outlook as Ejaz Haider. If there is no operation in NW raids from Afghanistan into border tribal areas will increase and public protests against the same will multiply. If the US plays the same game as Pakistan has played so far to get even, casualties in Pakistan will multiply dramatically. The crux of the matter is that the Army does not want to disturb the status quo wrt terror groups in NW. A million explanations can be given to justify the same. A weak kneed policy against terrorists means Government cares not for citizens lives lost. Be prepared for increased levels of violence. Recommend

  • vasan
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:26AM

    As long as articles like this promote the “leaving out” of terrorists in whatever areas of Pakistan, TTP taking over Pakistan and Sharia law enforcement become closer to reality,.Recommend

  • Najam Sethi
    Jun 21, 2011 - 11:27AM

    I read with great interest Mr. Haider’s assertions:

    “If Pakistan goes after them, it will have to face multiple negative consequences, including dislocating more of its population at a time when its build and transfer efforts in other areas have almost stalled and it is already bogged down in Mohmand and Kurram.”

    Comment: Pakistan has housed these elements since 1979. Can Mr. Haider quantify “the negative consequences” of our grand policies on Pakistan since that time? Can Mr. Haider quantify the murder and genocide these groups have committed in Pakistan and the irreperable harm they have caused? We are bogged down because we have no clear anti-terrorism strategy, we do not own the war on terror because the fanatical and fundamentalist have taken root at the grass roots, because we spend no resources of education, literacy, health. We spend money on creating frankensteins. I would argue its now or never. Either the people articulate a progressive vision for the country and are willing to stand by their views in the face of regressive forces or they can become part of what is going to befall us shortly.

    “Given limited resources and the stretch faced by the Pakistan Army, any commander would focus attention on the threat in his own area rather than pick up a fight with those who are not fighting his troops.”

    Comment: They are fighting the people of Pakistan. They are kidnapping, murdering our fellow citizens. They are trying to eradicate any vestibule of governance left, they are demolishing the pillars of the state. ofcourse why would a commander pick up a fight with those aho are not fighting his troops.

    “And why should Pakistan open up a front against the Afghan Taliban when they are now to be potential partners in peace talks?”

    Comment: Indeed, why should we. They are our proven allies.Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:09PM

    @Babloo:

    Valid point and well said.

    @ Author

    Summary of the article is ‘Declare autonomy to North Waziristan’, let it become ‘Mecca of terrorists’.

    Whatever ground realities you may argue, this kind of spineless arguement never expected from you.Recommend

  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:39PM

    @author, I have few questions.
    Is NWA, a part of Pakistan? If Yes, should not Pakistan Government Govern it.
    Has Pakistan Government made NWA Autonomous province inside Pakistan under Pakistan Government? If Yes, Do the administrators of Autonomus NWA pay central taxes, etc.,
    Are Citizens of NWA ( Even being autonomous area, are Pakistanis ) paying taxes to Central Government?

    Control of NWA is required by Pakistan Central Government, only if all above are Yes.
    then no need of operation on NWA.

    If any of the above is NO, then operation is required.Recommend

  • Nabiha Chauhdry
    Jun 21, 2011 - 1:51PM

    Absolutely brilliant!

    Talks with Taliban and not operating from within Pakistan on Afghan militant groups is exactly what Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has been incessantly calling for.Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 1:54PM

    We Muslims are fighting the US war from our own pocket & this is the most hilarious part… I feel shame for being part of such a nation…Recommend

  • Ammar
    Jun 21, 2011 - 1:58PM

    So we should let the butchers spill blood of innocent NWA people???Recommend

  • Basit Khan
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:05PM

    North Waziristan is ceded then ? And what about the people of NW ? Let the United Nations then take care of NW if you can’t !Recommend

  • Usman
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:22PM

    Pakistan has missed the bus!!Recommend

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:40PM

    Just to reinforce my point above. 80% of people in South and North Waziristan suffer from mental illness due to terrorism and drone attacks. Is it okay to leave them to their own devices and abandon them? (http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/21/80pc-people-suffer-from-mental-illness-in-waziristan-2.html)

    How can we summon the Afghan amabassodor to the foreign office to protest excursions from Afghanistan into Dir and Bajaur while we argue that as long as Pakistan is not being effected we dont mind what happens in North Waziristan?Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:54PM

    Great analysis of the existing situation. We cannot afford more of war when 10 years of operations have taken us from bad to worse. The entire policy needs to be shifted from warmongering neo-cons in pakistan to real negotiators of peace.No country brings wars inside its doors and we’re now increasing facing not only internal unrest but also excursion from western border. Its time we start building alliances in our border area and provide peace and security rather than uselessly bombing them. No country bombs its own people.
    We should get rid of Musharraf-doctrine that has brought havoc to our economy, politics, society.
    Finally, I see some bold journalist speaking the truth. Tribals or settled they are Pakistanis and worth negotiating otherwise we are in for a bitter surprise on our western borders. We cannot and should not make another 1972 out of this situation where west pakistanis were being fed falsehood and lies against east pakistanis and the reins were in the hands of military junta. This entire policy should have civilian control if Pakistan is to be saved from a debilitating defeat from its ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’.Recommend

  • Ibne Rush
    Jun 21, 2011 - 2:55PM

    His analysis suffers from one basic fatal weakness; viewing the war as Aerican and ours; its a global effort in which Pakistan cant impose its own choices; It has to be an all out war. Army has to first fight it against Taliban sections that reside within its own ranks. Then it has to go after all areas where these outfits have found havens. Recommend

  • R
    Jun 21, 2011 - 3:32PM

    Pakistan should play the role that it plays best – that of the spoiler. Let Haqqani’s and that Taliban and this do their bloddy merry things – never mind if some of them are the side considered Pakistani territory! Why stand up for anything and fight the right fight? It is better to be smart sometimes – let the US do the dirty work with their drones and let them negotiate. This allows someone to blame. Once they leave, the spoilers will move in to protect their “strategic” interests and depth. Another article shall appear with its fluffy analysis sounding “I told you so”. Recommend

  • Akthar
    Jun 21, 2011 - 3:41PM

    Obviously, Ejaz got a ‘De Brief ing’ from the Establishment after his previous article. Hope they didn’t hurt.
    So, Ejaz, if they dont harm & infact the militants of NW are helping us, why cant we give them ‘Mard-e-Momin’ awards & declare NW an independent sovereign state!Recommend

  • Badu jah
    Jun 21, 2011 - 3:48PM

    These are some valid points on why the army should carry out a military operation in NW, but what about the people of NW do they want the army to move in or not? If they do all these arguments are meaningless.Recommend

  • Ali Shah
    Jun 21, 2011 - 5:17PM

    Is it still possible to have objective debate in Pakistan?

    I ask this question because Ejaz Haider was applauded by a number of people for writing “An open letter to General Pasha.” Now, the same readers believe he has been “debriefed” by the ISI and is striving to get back into the army’s good books.

    Why can’t we cater to the possibility that he can be critical of his country’s military and its intelligence agencies and still believe that Pakistan should not launch the Waziristan operation?

    I guess we only want to read those articles that conform to our worldview. Anything else, no matter how well argued, is hard for us to digest.Recommend

  • Basit Khan
    Jun 21, 2011 - 5:22PM

    Badu Jah, To find out what the people of NW want, you will have to ask them, for which you will have to go to NW. But the problem is that YOU CAN’T GO THERE. Still we have Ijaz Haiders arguing the demerits of a military operation there. What an irony !Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 5:35PM

    //And why should Pakistan open up a front against the Afghan Taliban when they are now to be potential partners in peace talks?//

    Precisely. Why should Pakistan turn them into enemies when America has suddenly realised they are not terrorists.

    ..and hence the good and bad Taliban ‘conspiracy theory’ proven right?Recommend

  • Maolana Sandwitch
    Jun 21, 2011 - 6:02PM

    Ejaz you have little idea about North Waziristan.Most of the suicide bombers are being trained and brainwashed in that Agency.The information provided to u by ISPR is not correct.If the Army does not conduct operation in NWA,be prepared for more terrorist activities.U do not understand the real motive of Taliban.They want to create an Taliban state in FATA and KP,and subsequently expand it to the whole of Pakistan.North has to be cleared to deny them space.Asad Munir has a better understanding of terrorism in FATA,Please go through his piece on the subject “Operation in North Waziristan”, which is more logical Recommend

  • mind control
    Jun 21, 2011 - 6:48PM

    Aren’t the Haqqani network fellows foreigners and citizens of a country other than Pakistan?

    And, haven’t they come to Pakistan without valid visas?

    And. aren’t they armed to the teeth with weapons not allowed to ordinary citizens?

    And, aren’t they ruling over Pakistani territory and citizens, thumbing their collective nose at Pakistani sovereignty?

    And, isn’t the first and foremost duty of any Army to secure its territory and people against foreign occupation?

    Then why is the Pakistan army so keen on failing in its primary duty?Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 7:33PM

    Why is it only the American soldiers are expected to feel stress in battle, while Pakistani soldiers are expected to search and destroy from the safety of their helicopter gunships?Recommend

  • Babloo
    Jun 21, 2011 - 8:28PM

    Thank you Mr Ejaz for revealing that you agree with the establsihment and the sensitive agancies that those militant groups, that carry out attacks against India and Afganistan, are to be left alone, as they do not attack Pakistan. They do Pakistan no harm and if Pakistan attacked them they may not like it !
    So why is USA paying Pakistan billions ?Recommend

  • Babloo
    Jun 21, 2011 - 8:36PM

    @Arindom
    You wrote
    “In short, the central argument is : “We must not attack them, as they are only attacking India and Afghanistan; besides , if we do, they may attack us too.”

    Isn’t this the very thinking that has got strategic assets going off in market places all over Pakistan?”

    Very well said.Recommend

  • Andrea
    Jun 21, 2011 - 8:51PM

    Well written article that articulates our need to look after our own interests first. The West will leave just like they did after the Soviets were defeated by Pakistani support. Again we will be left holding the bag of problems and no one will thank us for all of our effort. The enemies of Pakistan are doing their best to make hay now. We need to work for ouselves now.Recommend

  • Mir Agha
    Jun 21, 2011 - 9:03PM

    Rightfully said Mr. Haider. Agreed on your previous article, and this one. Pathetic seeing the leftist conspiracy theorist claiming ‘debriefing’. They’re more interested in being parrots for the neocon establishment. Besides the fact that they want more bloodshed so they have more confidence in their sense of being ‘liberal’. On point, NW is not the reason for the necon’s utter failure in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Jun 21, 2011 - 9:57PM

    So it means we shell be andd can be safe heavens for terrorists operating in other countries from our soil? So short sightedness. Thats what we did in teh first place and that’s why we have the Pakistani taliban.Recommend

  • Sana Naqvi
    Jun 21, 2011 - 10:11PM

    @Ali Shah:
    I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU… It is impossible for us to have a good debate in Pakistan. I might like certain things done by Pak army while totally disagreeing certain other things. Both the things neither make me a traitor nor an ISI agent. I myself might believe in Waziristan Operation BUT I would be most definitely interested in listening to those who do not believe in that. I will discuss the matter with such ppl without declaring them an ISI agent… what a pathetic discourse level we have in this country.

    By the way the article is as usual brilliantly written. I wish I could meet Ejaz to discuss certain things he has mentioned in it. Recommend

  • Ishtiaq Ahmed
    Jun 21, 2011 - 10:16PM

    The import of this article is that we should accepton on our soil foreign non-state elements waging war against a neighbouring country because we do not have the will to fight, never mind the question of our own sovereignty. By the same logic OBL presence (as also chechens, uzbeks and others) and midnight intrusion of US forces was also not a violation of our soveignty and we should accept that. And we should be under no illusion – the same very rogue group will turn its’ guns on our people and our army tomorrow. We cannot provide santuary to the terrorists and hope to live in safety.Recommend

  • kamran
    Jun 22, 2011 - 12:51AM

    Yes i believe the writer is right , there is a thin line that separate the gps operating in pakistan from the afghan taliban.The most damaging gp has been the TPP inside pakistan.so naturally we take them on first.Why there is a double standard , america has accepted the entity of afghan taliban and forcing pakistan to do more.Its a great debate.but if we have some doubts anywhere in our policy making then we should simply keep one factor in made.we have to start thinking inside and do whatever is favouring pakistan and leave rest for the nature to take care.Recommend

  • Safar Shah
    Jun 22, 2011 - 9:54AM

    Very logical article. Thanks for writing. Recommend

  • Salman
    Jun 22, 2011 - 3:11PM

    I agree by 100%, we must not get trapped into a situation from where we would never be able to extricate ourselves,,,, if we want a friendly Afghanistan, then we should know it clearly that Pashtoons are required to be on our side,, Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Jun 22, 2011 - 4:13PM

    I agree with the writer.If haqqani group is fighting in afghanistan and not against our Army, then y should v fight against them. Our Army is already too stretched and operation in south waziristan is still not finished. How come v open another front with haqqani network when they r not operating against us. I mean just for the sake of another operation should v make new enemies? i hope the sensible answer is NO. Recommend

  • Shams uz Zaman
    Jun 22, 2011 - 6:36PM

    A very good piece. This is how one must see his national interest. Look at Americans, yesterday Taliban were most brutal terrorists for them and today US is talking to them to hand them the Afghan government. Why?? Just for sake of national interest. Mind you USA will soon start supporting them and launch them against China as well. I have been saying this for many years and people would laugh at it but oh dear! dear! its happening now. These Taliban are the only US hope against China. US can’t risk a direct confrontation with China so this is how they are going to revisit the Afghan model of resistance against USSR. Unfortunately Pakistani religious extremists and liberal extremists are obsessed with their religious and secular biases which mar and blur the pragmatic vision. This is how states should pursue their national interest and not emotions. Mr Ejaz Haider is just few of those and I just wish someone could pick his line in the higher ups…..Recommend

  • kamran
    Jun 22, 2011 - 10:07PM

    Yes i agree shams uz zaman , when it comes to national interest one follows it and in case its with america they will do anything impossible for their natural interest.This also proves that in nations think in relative terms and does not follow a strict and rigid policy.So the terms like al qaeda and taliban are relative to some extent.I think people here should see wht Scientist and professor Webster tarplay say about the game the US is playing here.Beyond alqaeda and taliban there are huge national interests and planning of many years.America will make taliban their proxies which will serve their purpose. All america will be doing will be to sit back and pour in millions of dollars to sustain a fight.That all make sense and logic i think.Anyway some very good analytical and researched articles are coming these days.At least we can now say that we can choose what is good and what is bad and get out of the clinches of foreign and planted media.Right friends.Recommend

  • saleem shahab
    Jun 23, 2011 - 4:12PM

    Dear Haider,

    At present, u r the only intellectual who can see through the mist of terror mess heaped inside and outside Pakistan.As a matter of fact, u r voice in a noise.

    saleem shahabRecommend

  • Aamir Khakwani
    Jul 5, 2011 - 10:00PM

    i fully agree with Ejaz sb, infact its one of the best piece of Ejaz. i don,t agree with Najam sb. i monitored militancy and Taliban,s for 4,5 years, wrote dozens of articles on them. i m afraid that NS don,t know about so called Haqqani network or Afghan Taliban. infact these r the real taliban,s, u can hate or love them, but plz differentiate between Afghan Taliban and so called Pakistani Taliban. Siraj Haqqani or khalifa sb(as he is known in NW) never damage pakistani interest or his group never involve in kidnapping and other activities. every one has right to make any opinion about operation in NW but we should be honest with readers and tell them real picture. Well Done Ijaz Haider. Hats off to u.Recommend

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