North Waziristan operation
After days of speculations sparked by the statement of Admiral Mike Mullen to the US media that an operation in North Waziristan is imminent, the army has denied it. Pakistan has been under intense pressure by the US to launch an operation in the conflict-ridden tribal agency, believed to be the nest of the Afghan militant Islamist Haqqani network accused of carrying out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Even when the speculations of an imminent operation were at their peak, it was believed that it would be a selective operation against the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda, leaving the Haqqanis unharmed. This gave rise to suspicions about Pakistan’s intentions and sincerity. It is the Haqqani network that is closer to al Qaeda than even the Pakistani Taliban. This is also the network that gave refuge to Hakeemullah Mehsud and other leaders of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the military offensive in South Waziristan. It is believed that Pakistan’s security establishment does not want to touch the Haqqani network or Mullah Omer and his shura because in the post-withdrawal scenario, they will serve as Pakistan’s strategic assets to give Pakistan a foothold in Kabul, when the new government eventually comes about.
The Haqqanis are the most effective guerrilla group in eastern Afghanistan, up to and including Kabul. There are reports that the Karzai government is talking to the Haqqani network, which has made things more complicated. There were reports of Sirajuddin Haqqani being taken to Kabul from Pakistan for this purpose, although these were later denied. Interestingly, the talks, if any, and the fighting are continuing simultaneously in Afghanistan. There have also been reports of Germany quietly making a diplomatic intervention to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with the US. Germany’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Michael Steiner recently visited Pakistan and India after which reports appeared in the German media that Steiner is mediating talks between the warring sides. Pakistan’s strategic concerns notwithstanding, we cannot afford to leave North Waziristan festering with militants of all hues because these will eventually come back to haunt us.
An interesting development in this regard is the attack on a police and levies check post from across the border in a remote mountainous town of district Upper Dir of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bordering Afghanistan in which 31, including 27 security personnel, have been killed after heavy fighting. About 40 attackers have also been killed. Reportedly, a Swat Taliban spokesman has accepted responsibility for this attack. This is not the first attack from across the border and indicates that extremist elements are taking refuge in Afghanistan to launch attacks in Pakistan. If, in post-withdrawal Afghanistan, there is a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan, then eastern, southern and southwestern Afghanistan will be under the control of the Afghan Taliban. In that instance, TTP will find safe havens across the border and, in a reversal of roles, launch attacks on Pakistani targets from across the border. If Pakistan keeps on dilly-dallying in launching an operation in North Waziristan, the process of creating safe havens in Afghanistan may be consolidated by the time things settle down in Afghanistan and will create more problems for Pakistan’s security establishment in fighting this menace. We cannot pursue these people across the border when they retreat after making a strike here. Pakistan’s procrastination in this regard is part of the policy to preserve ‘strategic assets’ for influence in Afghanistan. But the diminishing returns of this policy are visible in the form of suicide bombings and attacks on military installations within Pakistan. If attacks from across the border become regular, it will compound our difficulties. It is therefore imperative for Pakistan to carry out this operation to root out all the foreigners aligned to al Qaeda in the area and of course the local Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has declared war on the Pakistani state. We also need to strengthen our defence on the border to defend against this kind of incursion. The Pakistani security forces should root out these malign forces from North Waziristan and other tribal areas. This is vital for our own survival. *
Source: Daily Times