ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is expected to delay a full-blown military offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region by another four to six months, contrary to the expectations of the Pentagon, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Several reasons have been cited for the delay including differences in their perceptions over the scheduled withdrawal of Nato troops from Afghanistan, the US-sponsored peace plan of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the widening role of India in Afghanistan’s affairs.
Above all, a source told The Express Tribune that “taking the ongoing war in the federally administered tribal areas and other regions to its logical conclusion is the first and foremost priority for the army.”
The recent developments in the region, particularly in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India, have forced Islamabad to think twice before opening another war front in North Waziristan, said a former diplomat who wished not to be named.
After the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing at a CIA base in the Afghan province of Khost and the May 1, 2010 failed car bomb attack in New York’s Times Square, Pakistan has been under intense pressure from the US to launch an offensive in North Waziristan. The military has pledged to go after militants in North Waziristan, an area that has become the “epicentre of terrorism,” President Obama’s top military adviser said in an interview last month. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has given assurances that he would launch the offensive that the US has long called for in North Waziristan along the Afghan border.
As evidence for his optimism, Mullen cited Pakistan’s offensives against the Taliban and other militant groups elsewhere in the country during the past one and a half years.
The source said that the Pakistan Army was fully engaged with its war against Taliban and militants in Orakzai, Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, Swat, Central Kurram, Mamond, tehsil of Bajaur Agency and other parts of the region.
On the diplomatic front, policymakers in Islamabad are seriously perturbed over the US-India “hobnobbing on the Afghan issue.” Pakistan’s worries increased when Washington, following Obama’s trip, invited Islamabad and Delhi to be engaged in the Afghan transition.
“Our strategy is a regional strategy and we have invited countries from Pakistan to India to be engaged in and support this transition in Afghanistan,” the State Department spokesperson told reporters in response to a question.
His remarks came more than a week after Obama’s visit to India, where the US president discussed the Afghan situation with the Indian prime minister. Another issue that disappointed Islamabad was the “dramatic” announcement by President Obama in Delhi backing India’s bid for a berth on the UN Security Council.
Islamabad has expressed its serious concern and disappointment over the US support for India on the issue. Islamabad fears that the move would imperil its Kashmir cause.The US-sponsored peace process in Afghanistan also caused concern in Islamabad. Pakistan being a neighbour and a frontline ally in the war on terror had a serious desire to be part of such talks but it felt isolated by both Kabul and Washington.
Washington, on the one hand, is asking Islamabad to launch a decisive offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda in North Waziristan, while on the other hand it is talking to the Taliban about the Afghan transition. “This is not an acceptable venture for Pakistan,” the former diplomat said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2010.