The United States, it seems, has been successful in winning Pakistan’s support to curtail the Haqqani network.
In what appears to be a significant development, the Pakistan Army is planning measures to restrict the network’s movement at the Afghan border as part of an understanding reached with the US.
At least two senior security officials confirmed that the military has decided not only to restrict the movement of all militant groups, including the deadliest Afghan Taliban insurgents, but also deny them space within Pakistan’s borders.
“We will play our part while coalition forces will stop infiltration from across the border,” said a Pakistani military official.
However, officials refused to divulge details of the plan and it could not be independently verified since media does not have access to border areas.
The move, if confirmed, will be seen as a departure from the security establishment’s years-old approach towards the Haqqanis. Washington has long demanded that Pakistani military go after the Haqqanis, believed to be operating from the Pak-Afghan borders areas in North Waziristan.
But this change on Pakistan’s part does not mean the army will directly confront the group, which the country believes will have a vital role in any future political dispensation in Afghanistan.
These new border security measures are believed to be the result of a deal that was struck between Islamabad and Washington during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Pakistan.
Under the agreement, the US is no longer asking for a full-scale military offensive against the Haqqani network in return for Pakistan’s commitment to ‘take care’ of the group by using means other than an operation. This includes tightening border security to keep a check on the movement of the Haqqanis and persuading them to come to the negotiating table with the US.
Media reports emanating from Washington also indicate a new approach by the Obama administration on the Haqqani network.
The New York Times quoted a senior US official as saying that Clinton did not use her meeting to convince the Pakistani military to mount an offensive to root out the Haqqanis and other militants allegedly operating from sanctuaries in North Waziristan. “Instead, the administration says, it is pressing the Pakistanis to provide intelligence on the Haqqanis, arrest some of the group’s operatives and reduce ties to the terrorist group – all steps well short of military action,” the official said. “We’re at the point where Pakistanis have told us they’re going to squeeze the Haqqani network.”
When approached, Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Major-General Athar Abbas did not speak of any specific plan but reiterated that Pakistan has a stated policy not to allow its territory to be used against any third country, including Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2011.