Why would Pakistan invade North Waziristan?

Published: May 31, 2011
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Pakistan has its own enemies in North Waziristan, mainly the Tehrik-e-Taliban movement.

Pakistan has its own enemies in North Waziristan, mainly the Tehrik-e-Taliban movement.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has been talking about mounting an offensive in North Waziristan for a long time. But if it goes ahead with one now, it will be due mostly to US pressure. Washington has long pressed Pakistan to go after militant groups such as the Haqqani network in North Waziristan who cross the border to attack US troops in Afghanistan.

The military has been reluctant to go after those militants, who it sees as strategic assets to ensure influence in Afghanistan and keep India at bay.

But it may no longer be able to resist after it was discovered that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan, which depends on billions of dollars in American aid.

Pakistan has its own enemies in North Waziristan, mainly the Pakistani Taliban movement, but the army is stretched in other parts of the northwest and getting sucked into fighting on difficult terrain which militants have mastered may be risky.

How would N. Waziristan differ from earlier offensives?

North Waziristan would present the same geographical challenges as other areas where offensives have been launched. Militants have spent years getting to know the mountains and forests and digging in for any major operations.

The main difference in North Waziristan is that it is home to a wide assortment of militants from all over the world, not just homegrown Taliban militants who are more predictable.

Attacking a group of al Qaeda fighters, for instance, could invite retaliation from a host of other militants, from Egyptians to Chechens.

The Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent faction seen as one of the United States’ most implacable foes across the border in Afghanistan, presents the Pakistani army with its most dangerous dilemma in North Waziristan.

The United States will undoubtedly insist that any offensive should target the Haqqanis. Pakistan denies backing the group.

Antagonising the Haqqani network could backfire, turning thousands of seasoned fighters against a Pakistani state already facing determined Pakistani Taliban militants.

Pakistan would need far more air power and ground troops in North Waziristan because militant sanctuaries are more spread out.

The town of Mir Ali is just one example of the perils. It is surrounded by hills and narrow gorges that make ideal hiding places for militants.

Any success would require follow up operations to deny militants of any future sanctuaries.

What are the risks?

A major worry is a government offensive would incite a general uprising against the state by the Pashtun tribes who live in Waziristan and other areas along the border.

Pakistan might worry that Afghanistan, which has long questioned Pakistani rule over the Pashtun lands, could cause trouble in the area.

A North Waziristan offensive would probably be the army’s toughest test since it joined the US-led war against militancy launched after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Before launching operation in South Waziristan in 2009, the army made a pact with one of the most prominent militant commanders in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur.

Under the terms of the deal, he agreed to stop aiding militants in South Waziristan and in return the army would keep away from his territory in North Waziristan.

If the arrangement falls apart, the country could face a bigger security threat as it tries to contain suicide bombings carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, who have already delivered on threats to avenge bin Laden’s death.

Unlike the Pakistani Taliban, Bahadur and the Haqqani network have refrained from attacking targets inside Pakistan and have focused on fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The nightmare scenario would be the Haqqanis, Bahadur, al Qaeda and other hardcore militant groups turning on the Pakistani army in retaliation for a North Waziristan operation.

If an offensive forces tens of thousands of people to flee North Waziristan, and civilians are killed, public discontent with a government which has failed to improve basic services and create economic opportunities may deepen.

“This operation will be tougher than South Waziristan. I fear there will be much more destruction and human losses from both sides,” said Asad Muir, a former head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence in the northwest.

 

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Thinking
    May 31, 2011 - 10:42PM

    “Antagonising the Haqqani network could backfire, turning thousands of seasoned fighters against a Pakistani state already facing determined Pakistani Taliban militants.”

    Isn’t this the motto of modern day Pakistan? Be cowardly in the face of terrorists and hope they “let you off” – how is that working out so far? The once proud nation of Pakistan is worthless if it cannot stand up to these terrorists. If you give in to the terrorists, you might as well start writing Pakistan’s eulogy. Recommend

  • R S JOHAR
    May 31, 2011 - 11:00PM

    Pakistan army has really the most difficult job at their hands in fighting Taleban in NWA. The in-hospitable mountaneous terrain with well entrenched and determined militants is an extremely tough ask for any professional army who require special skills in counter-insurgency operations in which Pak army has limited experience unlike Indian army. However Pak army has a upper hand since it can use air power to pin the militants down but success can only be achieved by co-ordinated ground operations and not by air power alone.Recommend

  • May 31, 2011 - 11:11PM

    Attacking North Waziristan literally means kicking the hornet’s nest. Are we ready and prepared for the retaliation that will happen in our cities and towns? The answer is NO.Recommend

  • VH
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:13AM

    @ Abu – so you would rather continue to let the terrorists build up strength? The military can either attack them now or let them grow 100-fold. Either they fight the battle now while it is still winnable or they cower in the corner like little boys knowing that their end is near. I hope most Pakistanis do not have your defeatist attitude.

    This is not a choice. This is a necessity for the future of Pakistan. Destroy the terrorists now or be destroyed by them.Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:34AM

    Time for the citizens of Pakistan to unite and stand up to these terrorists.Recommend

  • sabs
    Jun 1, 2011 - 5:41AM

    It’s now or never. 99% of the countries in the world would take this existential threat by the horns, however hard. Does Pak care about adhering to any world standards? We will know in the coming months.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 1, 2011 - 6:22AM

    The nightmare scenario would be the Haqqanis, Bahadur, al Qaeda and other hardcore militant groups turning on the Pakistani army in retaliation for a North Waziristan operation.

    That statement certainly implies that Pakistan considers them allies right now — and that’s part of the reason the World considers Pakistan the nexus of terrorism.Recommend

  • Aamer Zaheer
    Jun 1, 2011 - 7:12AM

    Much more important than targeting the terrorists there is to target the terrorists here in the non-tribal areas. It is not the tribes who are fueling extremism, it’s the Mullah on every pulpit and Madrassah. These people have been completely unchecked and we can see the results in the form of widespread public support for extremism. Unless these guys are controlled, no amount of ammunition is going to help…Recommend

  • Karim S
    Jun 1, 2011 - 7:53AM

    Whose fault is it that a nest of terrorists with global ambitions was created in North Waziristan? Whose jurisdiction does that territory lie in? Whose fault is it that Pakistan refused to enforce modern law in the tribal areas and allowed them to do whatever they wanted?Recommend

  • VH
    Jun 1, 2011 - 8:01AM

    @ Abu – and does that mean Pakistan is ready for the awful things happening in its cities and towns right now? Your logic is very dangerous. Pakistan is sliding down the slippery slope of giving in to fundamentalists and terrorists very quickly – it’s time to fight back to the top or slip into the abyss forever.Recommend

  • Ali Sultan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:28AM

    What the hell is our army going to do? haqqanis are doing nothing against pakistan but they are fighting the US army in Afghanistan here it is a part of the whole story given above “Unlike the Pakistani Taliban, Bahadur and the Haqqani network have refrained from attacking targets inside Pakistan and have focused on fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.” Oh Allah please save us.Recommend

  • Usman Zakki
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:30AM

    What the hell is our army going to to do. Haqqanis are not fighting against Pakistan but they are fighting the US forces in Afghanistan. Here is a part of the whole story given above. “Unlike the Pakistani Taliban, Bahadur and the Haqqani network have refrained from attacking targets inside Pakistan and have focused on fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.” Oh Allah help us to chose the right path. AminRecommend

  • Abdullah Shah
    Jun 1, 2011 - 10:34AM

    That is certainly gonna take us into more troubles. We should not fight the groups who are not against Pakistan but are fighting in Afghanistan. I would suggest not to take any such action.Recommend

  • R S JOHAR
    Jun 1, 2011 - 11:10AM

    No terrorist group anywhere in the world can be treated as a friend of the state and Pakistan is no exception. India burnt its hands by supporting LTTE who took on the might of the Indian army but it quickly learnt the lesson by indirectly supporting SriLankan army to defeat this deadly outfit. In Pakistan too, some oufits supported by the military are already challenging the state and Haqqani group is no different therefore action against it will benefit Pakistan in the long run.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2011 - 7:45PM

    It does not make military sense for Pakistan to launch an operation against a set of militants that it is not in conflict with at the moment, while it is still engaged in a previous conflict with another set of militants who are busy wrecking havoc on Pakistan’s streets. Undertaking the NWstan operation at this time is irresponsible while the repercussions could be catastrophic. We should set our own priorities and time lines, rather than following the whims of an US Administration only interested in electioneering
    .Recommend

  • Khan
    Jun 1, 2011 - 9:22PM

    People who are asking not to launch this operation are cowards .. Due to this mentality we are already suffering .. from past 63 years GoP didn’t establish rule of law in FATA for fear of reprisal due to which all these gangsters are hiding there.

    Who is Gul Bahadur or Haqqani to send people across the border and fight NATO, they should leave Afghanistan to their own people and we should send back 2-3 Million refugees sucking our economy like leeches from past 33 years. How would you feel if US along with rest of the NATO nations attack Peshawar, Lahore, ISB, Karachi in retaliation of what these scum bags are doing from FATA. Its now or never … Lets get rid of them for once and for all. Recommend

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