The ISPR release on the 139th Corps Commander’s Conference states “The army was following a well-thought-out campaign plan and is under no pressure to carry out operations at a particular time. Future operations, as and when undertaken, will be with political consensus. He [Army Chief], however, called upon the brave people of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) to evict all foreigners from their soil and take charge of their land and destiny once again. He emphasised that it was wrong, in principle, to allow others to use our land for fighting their battles. This must not be allowed. The army in NWA is committed to supporting the people of NWA in this effort”.
The carefully worded statement has given the outline of the conduct of operation in NWA. The statement highlights a few important points. The army will conduct an operation in NWA as per its own campaign plan and will decide about the timing. The operation will only be launched once the government develops consensus, takes all political parties on board and orders the conduct of the operation. The help of the tribals has been sought for eviction of foreign militants from their area. This implies that it is going to be a targeted operation, against suspected hideouts, and the tribals may have to raise lashkars. The tribals should not allow ‘others’ to use their soil to fight battles having nothing to do with the people of the area.
The operation in the north will be different from those conducted by the army in other terrorist dominated districts and Fata, because, unlike those areas, NWA is not in control of the terrorists. They are not occupying areas like Fazal ullah did in Swat, Baitullah in South Waziristan, Faqir Hussain in Bajaur and Tariq Afridi in Darra. The terrorists are using compounds and hideouts in different parts of the agency. The political administration is reasonably in control of the area. About 30,000 army troops are already present there.
Targeted operations, based on reliable intelligence and with the support of locals, are likely to be conducted. Before the initiation of the operation, Orakzai and Central Kurram have to be secured; otherwise most terrorists are likely to shift to these areas. The priority targets should be elements of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other groups who are involved in terrorist activities inside Pakistan.
The Americans are of the view that an operation in North Waziristan would help them win their war in Afghanistan. The Coalition Forces fighting in Afghanistan have created this perception. Armies all over the world traditionally do not accept their failures and look for reasons to cover up their own incompetence, Nato forces are no exception. It is a fact that different terrorists groups are present in the agency and they conduct raids inside Afghanistan. However, the scale of incursion of terrorists from NWA is being exaggerated.
The US focus is on Haqqani, they want his network to be dismantled and evicted from NWA. Haqqani’s activities are being considered as a major hurdle in the implementation of Obama’s exit strategy. However, an operation in the area may not fulfill this objective. Before the operation starts, the Haqqani group may move to Afghanistan. As per US intelligence in Afghanistan, the group has bases in nine provinces of Afghanistan — Khost, Paktiya, Paktika, Nangrahar, Ghazni, Zabul, Kabul, Wardak and Logar. In 2009 and 2010, the Coalition Forces conducted operations against the network in Khost, Paktia, Paktika, and Zabul, but were not able to eliminate its presence in these provinces. In case Coalition Forces eliminate the Haqqani group by securing these areas, they would be justified in blaming Pakistan for harbouring Haqqani. The operation in North Waziristan should be conducted not because the Americans so desire, but to eliminate the sanctuaries of terrorists where young boys are being brainwashed to kill innocent Pakistanis. The terrorists have to be denied space and areas where they are settled and have established training camps, planning centres and logistics areas. They should be on the run so that their capability is diluted.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2011.
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