Keep those wars coming, boys, their’s gold in them thar pipelines. Black gold, that is. Texas tea. What’s a few more dead rebel hillbillies?
Flashback: Pakistan anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan ‘over’ | Refugee flood reveals human cost of South Waziristan’s invisible war | ‘Taliban’ resist Pakistan onslaught | Pakistani troops assault ‘Taliban’ stronghold | Militants attack Pakistani cities | Pakistan launches air strikes before offensive
Saeed Shah, The Globe and Mail
December 15, 2009
Washington is putting intense pressure on Pakistan to follow its offensive in South Waziristan with a push into adjacent North Waziristan, a territory controlled by the Haqqani network, seen as the most dangerous rebel group in neighbouring Afghanistan.
While some senior military commanders back the idea, resistance in the mainstream of the army means that any operation there could be half-hearted, analysts and officials said.
“It is quite likely, under U.S. pressure, that we’ll see some operations in the central part of North Waziristan but it is not clear that will amount to taking on the Haqqani network,” said Simbal Khan, an analyst at Institute of Strategic Studies, a government-funded think tank in Islamabad.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, who now operates through his son, Sirajuddin, has long been viewed as close to the Pakistani military, a relationship that’s lasted 30 years. The Haqqani network is allied with the Afghan Taliban, though it works independently. While most experts believe the Pakistani military would never turn on him, behind closed doors some senior Pakistani security officials are advocating such a dramatic change in policy.
“Once we’re done with the TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the main Taliban group in the country], we’ll go after Haqqani and all the others,” one highly placed Pakistani official said. “It is just a question of sequencing.”
But with the United States widely thought to be at the beginning of its exit strategy from Afghanistan, the core of Pakistani military and civilian opinion doesn’t want to make an enemy of Mr. Haqqani now. The veteran jihadist controls much of eastern Afghanistan, especially Paktika, Paktia and Khost provinces, all on the border with Pakistan, which could create serious trouble for Islamabad if they fall into hostile hands once the Americans leave.
A limited operation in North Waziristan could see the Pakistani military deploy in the strip down the centre of North Waziristan, between Miran Shah and Mir Ali. That way, they could trumpet an operation in North Waziristan that would not clash directly with Haqqani fighters, thought to number several thousand.
Up to now, North Waziristan’s Taliban extremists, both Pakistani and Afghan, have not been a threat to Islamabad as they were focused on fighting in Afghanistan. Some military officials believe that Mr. Haqqani’s violence and extremism, as well as his lack of appeal in the majority of the ethnic Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, make him an unsuitable ally for Pakistan in the future.
The speculation around an impending operation comes as high-level Washington officials push for action by the Pakistan army.
“I remain deeply concerned by the growing level of collusion between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda and other extremist groups taking refuge across the border in Pakistan,” Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul yesterday just before leaving for Islamabad.
In October, Pakistan launched a long-awaited operation in South Waziristan against the TTP, but most of the outfit’s fighting force appears to have slipped away. The fact that many of the TTP fighters, along with their al-Qaeda allies, have fled to North Waziristan could provide a rationale for mounting an offensive there, without looking like Pakistan is simply bowing to U.S. demands. But inside the Pakistani military, the prospect of fighting against Mr. Haqqani remains a tough sell.
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