'Kayani was reluctant to launch N Waziristan operation three years ago'

Published: June 30, 2014
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Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (L) and Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas. PHOTO: FILE

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (L) and Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas. PHOTO: FILE

Former army spokesperson Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas has disclosed that the army was on the brink of launching a military offensive in North Waziristan three years ago, but given then army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s reluctance, they were unable to.

In an interview with the BBC, former director-general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Abbas said that the military leadership had given the go-head for an operation in North Waziristan in 2010, and preparations for it were made for one year, but it was pulled back at the last minute due to Gen Kayani’s indecisiveness.

“It had been decided in principle that preparations for the operation would take place between 2010 and 2011, and that it would be launched in 2011 to rid North Waziristan of extremists once and for all,” Abbas said.

When asked whether the reason behind his reluctance to give the final approval for the operation was due to his own weaknesses, Abbas agreed, saying ‘yes’.

“He was very reluctant when it came to the North Waziristan operation. Kayani thought the decision to launch the operation would reflect on his personality and people would take it as his personal decision, which is why he kept delaying the operation,” said the former DG ISPR.

Abbas further said that delay in launching the military offensive in North Waziristan has complicated matters as the militants have strengthen their position in the area and have also established contact with other militant groups.

According to him, the decision to launch the operation was taken after considering intelligence reports and consulting military officials posted in the area.

Abbas revealed that earlier, opinion over the operation was divided. One group was in favour of the operation, while the wanted to delay it.

Abbas said there were several reasons for supporting the delay in the operation, including how to deal with the Haqqani network and the problem of internally displaced persons.

He also claimed that the United States further complicated the situation by issuing statements which gave the impression that US was pressurising them to launch an operation in North Waziristan.

“We told the US that such statements are not helping us, and if we decide to launch the operation it would give the impression that we are doing it on the wishes of the US,” said Abbas.

He further said that the situation in the North Waziristan is same as it was in 2010; so if an operation can be carried out today, it could have been done back then.

“In my personal opinion, the operation should have been conducted in the 2011. We have wasted a lot of time due to which a lot of difficulties have arisen for all of us,” he said.

Maj Gen Abbas retired in June, 2012, and was replaced by incumbent DG ISPR Maj Gen Asim Bajwa.

As DG ISPR, Abbas had to regularly play down rumours of an offensive in North Waziristan.

In 2010, he had said that militant strikes in Mohmand and Bajaur have indicated that areas already ‘cleared’ by the military were still to be consolidated.

“And before we have done that, it is impossible to rush into another campaign,” he had told The Express Tribune.

“We have always been emphasising on consolidation in these regions … we have been saying let’s first secure our trail before going for something else,” he added, referring to a ‘pending’ operation in North Waziristan.

In 2011, a meeting of top commanders of the Pakistan Army decided that the military would not take action against the Haqqani network, despite US pressure.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • sabi
    Jun 30, 2014 - 7:18PM

    Hope someone in future will not disclose that Rahil was reluctant to take actions against banned religious organizations.
    If operation remains confined only to wazirastan there will not be much of jubilation for common man.Hope this will end only after every terrorist including intelectual terrorism is eliminated.

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  • haroon
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:02PM

    I thought it was suppose to be the political governments prerogative to decide on whether to start the operation and not the Army’s.

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  • sid rush
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:20PM

    Good or bad, Parvez Musharraf was decisive. Only 3 drones that too with prior approval. Lal Mosques thugs are now boating 5000 suicide bombers now. You need a man like him. He is a son of refugee that is why he values the country more than feudals all over Punjab and Sindh.

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  • AB
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:23PM

    And you decided to disclose it to media. Good going!
    I wondor if there are any guidelines for critical civilian and military posts that would help our esteemed leaders to stop discussing critical issues in media after being retired?

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  • A J KHAN
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:32PM

    Gen Kiyani was reluctant because of following reasons”-
    1. Government was not behind the Military Operation.
    2. Judiciary & Media had hyped campaign against Army. Decisions of the court showed their inclination & support for the militants & terrorists. They created a perception & mislead the people. Iftikhar Ch, Nawaz Sharif & Mir Shakeel was taking political milage from situation.
    3. Political support was missing.
    Nation was not prepared & they wanted to push the problem under the carpet. It was anti Geo movement which put the nation at the back of Armed Forces and paved way for the operation.

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  • Wali
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:34PM

    This is a very damning indictment from an insider at Kayani’s “cabinet”.. Apart from the obvious state of General K’s thinking or lack of it, this also reflects on army’s decision making process and clearly the lack of any influence/regard for the civilan government.

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  • Gp65
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:39PM

    @haroon:
    On paper- what you say is undoubtedly true.

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  • H Chaudhry
    Jun 30, 2014 - 8:49PM

    @Haroon well we are talking about Pakistan here and you should know better who is making the decisions for last 67 years and where it has brought us.

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  • shah
    Jun 30, 2014 - 9:27PM

    @haroon
    If the army in Pakistan says no to an operation then there is nothing political government can do. That is the political reality. I think Kiyani was still clinging to “strategic depth” nonsense.

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  • Ahmed Ishtiaq
    Jun 30, 2014 - 9:37PM

    So that settles the question of why PPP government did not conduct the operation during its tenure.

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  • Mirza
    Jun 30, 2014 - 10:32PM

    The general has clearly admitted that there was reluctance about keeping the strategic assets or going against them. He also confessed that delaying the action by 2-3 years has only made these fanatic extremists strong.
    There is another reason to delay the action and keeping TTP strong was to let them hijack the election and its results. TTP effectively provided a walkover to the rightwing parties by keeping ANP and PPP completely out of a whole province. Even in some other constituencies ANP, MQM and PPP could not mobilize their election campaign due to constant attacks by TTP.
    It was only after the desired election results were obtained the establishment decided to finally move against this menace. This is not the first or last time the establishment has supported the rightwing party of Sharif. Even the SC under Sharif’s favorite CJ has determined that ISI hijacked an election for Sharif.

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  • costs and benefits
    Jun 30, 2014 - 10:48PM

    Kayani was a pragmatist. The simple reason, therefore, might be that his calculation was that costs might outweigh benefits. Abbas fails to tell us about that. Only time will tell if Kayani was right.
    In any case, Abbas should not be betraying his former boss. Whatever happenned to military discipline?

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  • T ariq Mahmud
    Jun 30, 2014 - 11:13PM

    This had to happen.It was the end result of political ineptness of the people’s party government in giving undue extension to General Kayani who not only sat over the much needed operation but also Caused embarrasment and ignominy to the nation in the wake of a surprise US SEAl ‘s operation in Abbotabad in taking out OBL . According to the press report the General dragged his feat and showed reluctance to take any action as it would be known his decision . What a way to shun ones p rime responsibility and a co mmitment to the national call! It travails to see the amount of suffering this nation , its armed forces had gone through all these years In view of this blunderous inaction when the collective wisdom of the armed forsces clearly stood for action . Kayani should have had the clairvoyance t o foresee what lay ahead in terms of history ‘s judgement on his pathetic state of indisiciveness . He fell short on that account . We need to Learn that more than the action it is the timing Of such actions which matters in the life of a nation .On that count , we as a nation have failed more than once . Do we have any system of accountability for such like monumental blunders !

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  • Ahmed
    Jul 1, 2014 - 12:41AM

    Well said, A J Khan sahib. Gen. Abbas has done a great service to the nation by speaking the truth, even if it is not the whole truth. The whole truth, as you rightly indicate, includes the fact that the operation would have required making a clean break with the past policy of “proxy wars” fought by supporting Islamist terrorists.

    As for other comment makers here who think that Abbas should have hidden the truth from the nation out of “loyalty to the boss”, they clearly are an indication of the moral decay in Pakistan where the truth is subservient to this slavish “loyalty” to some individual or institution.

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  • Hassan
    Jul 1, 2014 - 2:09AM

    Very unprofessional of him to leak this type of information which is not even three years old. I am sure this is violation of army rules for confidentiality. There may have been many other reasons why Kayani could not execute the operation back this. Issuing statements at this stage send wrong signals as if Army was divided on this issue before.

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  • Smokescreen
    Jul 1, 2014 - 2:18AM

    @Mirza:
    So the only reason, PPP lost was due to TTP and PPP’s loss had nothing to do with its performance during its tenure? And, the “establishment” had nothing to do with PPP’s electoral victory in 1988?

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  • Not Surprised
    Jul 1, 2014 - 5:03AM

    @Mirza:
    What cowards: “TTP effectively provided a walkover to the rightwing parties by keeping ANP and PPP completely out of a whole province. Even in some other constituencies ANP, MQM and PPP could not mobilize their election campaign due to constant attacks by TTP.”

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  • Last Word
    Jul 1, 2014 - 8:39PM

    So, the former General has put yet another stamp over a well known fact that no important decisions can be taken in Pakistan without military’s concurrence. Even the on-going operation was announced initially by the army and not the civilian govt confirms that it was purely military’s decision. However, it is important that the military who has committed to take on militant groups in NW sticks to its word and stamps out militancy in Pakistan for good. This would be the most noble task ever undertaken by any former General till date which Gen Sharif has the golden opportunity to achieve and get his name written in the history books.

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  • Jul 2, 2014 - 1:38PM

    @sid rush: Viva! Bravo! Shabash! Mubarak! Well said! it’s about time somebody fired out with the truth. Thanx and Salams

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