Dynamics of a N Waziristan operation


Khalid Munir May 27, 2010

Once again the media is buzzing with news about American pressure on Pakistan to carry out an operation in North Waziristan Agency. Every visit by American generals gives rise, rather confirms this speculation. Pakistan has said that it will choose the timing itself, that is amounting to agreeing to carry out the operation.

If we look at the ground situation prevailing in Fata and Pakhtunkhwa, the army is overstretched. Stiff resistance is being faced in Orakzai Agency. Tirah valley in Khyber Agency will be a big thorn when the time comes to clear it. And parts of Mohmand and Bajaur have yet to be cleared. Swat is in a state of consolidation state which means that its civil administration  needs the army to be around, at least for one more year. Also, there have been signs of the militants re-emerging, albeit not on the same scale as before. In South Waziristan the army is there but most of the its residents are currently in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan as IDPs.

In these conditions making troops available for a major operation in NWA will not be feasible. Already a major chunk of army is busy in active operations. Relocating troops from any operationally active area may result in providing breathing space to Taliban and thus giving them a chance to reorganise. Besides, keeping in mind North Waziristan’s terrain, there may be heavy causalities to our troops. The same goes for artillery guns, not counting the wear and tear to the rest of the equipment.

Another factor which needs to be kept in mind is how to safeguard Pakistan’s interests when Nato forces leave Afghanistan. The Taliban in the agency such as Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Nazir and Jalaluddin Haqqani have rarely attacked the Pakistan army or carried out terrorist activities inside the country. Hence, eliminating all pro-Pakistan elements before any meaningful dialogue takes place in Afghanistan will not be in our interest. We may be left with only Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami as the only pro-Pakistan group. Also, Kashmiri mujahideen and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (commonly known as Punjabi Taliban) are present in the area and dealing with them requires an altogether different strategy than the tribal militants.

Pakistan should think about reformulating its policy regarding Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a never a satellite state of Pakistan and never will be. All we should strive for is a non-hostile Afghanistan. And while the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was allied with Pakistan, it had a profound influence on Pakistani society and this is turn gave rise to militancy in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has said that there are no good or bad Taliban, we know that he is not the one who is calling shots in formulating the Afghan policy. The army chief must understand this as well and ensure that the next generation does not suffer because of the mistakes and lack of vision of the older generation.

COMMENTS (40)

Khan | 10 years ago | Reply A very well written piece by Khalid Munir. I saw some odd comments though. People saying we should attack now and that the masses want it and since the army is subordinate to the democracy the army should kill all Taliban.. nonsense really. I know for a fact that Pakistan army is indeed one of the strongest and most disciplined armies amongst the world second tier armies. And if its in the second tier its only because of technology and a limited budget. I agree that the state policy has to be dictated by the democratic government, but let us not talk about masses dictating how a war should be waged. I remember reading about Bismarck and the one thing that makes him an outstanding statesman is he never did what the masses said, for example after the franco-prussian war of, was it 1871, against popular demand - he left France to the French, moved his armies out of French Territories and drew a favourable treaty. We must understand that democracy is to elect a leader and the leader must do what he knows is best. The leader cannot follow the call of the masses through media.. that would be fatal. If the army presently feels that it has to rest and recuperate, or perhaps as Khalid Munir says it is overstretched, then it simply cannot be pushed into an operation it is not ready for. El Edroos says that everyday people are beheaded and attrocities commited and the security forces are just sitting. Well, Mr El Edroos, I have followed most of your comments and I feel you have this inner anger against your nations army, that is if you are a Pakistani (name sounds trans-jordanian). Look, I know you are angry about the defence housing and things like that, but this topic has nothing to do with that. I spent 12 years in the military and then (feeling i'd done my pennance) left without a housing scheme account or even a pension. I've seen the army inside out and I assure you its the most disciplined outfit in the country. Yes, there may be a bit this and that in the senior heirarchy, but compared to the civil beaurocracy its negligent. I also saw a comment by someone saying we celebrate defence day for a war we lost. In 1965 we launched an operation to liberate the occupied state of Kashmire and this operation then escalated into a war. But we defended our borders from a major Indian ingress and if at all there was an ingress we had a corresponding advance thus ending the war at a neutral footing. Compare the giant India with Pakistan and I'd say we did rather well. We didn't acquire the aim of the operation so one may say we lost the war. But we defended well and I don't see any harm in celebrating that. Think objectively everyone. Leave the work to the army, in good time they will clear this mess up.
MacNurv | 10 years ago | Reply By all accounts chances are US will repeat the same mistake as it did at near the end of Vietnam war. Then it bombed Cambodia and now it threatens Pakistan, the only difference is Cambodia did not had a capable army Pakistan does. Territory and its control is one of the pivots of concepts of Sovereignty, US have already invaded Pakistan on several occasions by sending its Special Forces. Not to mention the daily drone attacks. Any one who have negotiated with Americans knows this in order for you to make them listen to your point of view is to lay it the way it is, in a very candid and direct manner. Pakistan should make it clear privately and publicly that any unilateral actions will be considered an attack on Pakistan's sovereignty. Albeit that who in Pakistan can dare to say NO to them, not the current elite. US is publicly building a case against Pakistan, using NYT, WP et.al which are known propaganda mouth pieces for the US establishment. Some analysts are insisting that this is nothing more then a benign media circus designed to appease a electoral section of US society, they must be reminded that not only the Americans have the capability but also intentions to use Pakistan and its army as a escape goat. Such policy of denial will only lead to self defeat. Pakistan should consider these threats very seriously and act accordingly both Diplomatically and Militarily. Sooner or later Americans will leave Afghanistan and the mess will be left for us to be dealt with. Pakistan should safe guard its interests, Afghan Taliban are a reality that Pakistan must face. It is about time Pakistan develop a strategy to protects its own interest rather then serving that of Washington.
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