A former chief military spokesperson said on Monday that the decision to launch an operation against extremists holed up in North Waziristan Agency was taken three years ago, but the then army chief delayed action.
“The army brass had decided in principle that preparations will be completed from 2010 to 2011 for an operation in North Waziristan which will kick off the same year,” Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas, the former director general of ISPR, told the BBC in an interview.
However, he added that the then army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was reluctant to give the nod for the operation. Abbas answered in the affirmative when asked if delaying the operation was a personal decision of Gen Kayani.
“Gen Kayani thought he would be held accountable for sending troops into North Waziristan. And that is why he dilly-dallied on the operation due to which we wasted too much time and suffered losses,” he added. “The country, its people, the government and the armed forces had to pay a heavy price for Gen Kayani’s hesitance.”
The delay in deployment, however, helped extremists strengthen their foothold, recruit more fighters, raise more resources and develop a network, “I think things have become quite complicated there [in North Waziristan],” Abbas said.
The decision to launch a military operation was taken on the basis of opinion of the military commanders stationed there and intelligence reports coming from the agency.
“The military on the ground was unanimous that extremists of all hues were holed up in the region, and without an operation in the area peace could not be restored in the country,” he added.
Initially, the army brass was divided on launching a full scale offensive. There were several reasons for the difference of opinion including on how to handle the Haqqani Network and the issue of IDPs. There was a general perception that the IDPs from the 2009 Swat operation were not taken good care of, he added. “These issues delayed the operation in North Waziristan.”
Abbas said the Unted States also created difficulties in launching the Waziristan operation. “Each day America would issue a statement suggesting that Washington was building pressure on the Pakistan Army for an operation in North Waziristan,” he added.
The Americans had been told umpteen times that such statements were counterproductive. “We were finding it more difficult to decide on deploying troops as it would have given an impression that it was done under the US pressure,” he added.
The former military spokesperson said the situation in North Waziristan was not different from what it was in 2010. “In my opinion action should have been taken in 2011. We wasted too much time which created more problems.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2014.