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October 18, 2007
Pakistan Declares all out war against Al-Qaeda
Asia Times On-line is reporting some spectacular news; the Pakistani army is about to engage in full-scale war with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in North and South Waziristan aiming to take control of those provinces "once and for all:"
An all-out battle for control of Pakistan's restive North and South Waziristan is about to commence between the Pakistani military and the Taliban and al-Qaeda adherents who have made these tribal areas their own. An American might say "It's about time" but for the moment let's go with "better late than never."
According to a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, the goal this time is to pacify the Waziristans once and for all. All previous military operations - usually spurred by intelligence provided by the Western coalition - have had limited objectives, aimed at specific bases or sanctuaries or blocking the cross-border movement of guerrillas. Now the military is going for broke to break the back of the Taliban and a-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area.
The fighting that started two weeks ago in the provinces has turned thousands of families into refugees and has killed more Pakistanis than have died in all the India-Pakistan wars of the last 60 years. But ATOL is reporting that these battles are just a taste of what's to come:
Lining up against the Pakistani Army will be the Shura (council) of Mujahideen comprising senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders, local clerics, and leaders of the fighting clans Wazir and Mehsud (known as the Pakistani Taliban). One might ask, why now? It could be that Musharraf will not have such freedom of action once the government is returned to civilian control in a matter of months. And he may be under a lot of pressure from the United States to go after the Taliban before they carry out their murderous cross border raids into Afghanistan - in effect, reducing their numbers through a war of attrition that will improve the security situation in Afghanistan considerably.
The shura has long been calling the shots in the Waziristans, imposing sharia law and turning the area into a strategic command and control hub of global Muslim resistance movements, including those operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"All previous operations had a different perspective," the security official told ATol. "In the past Pakistan commenced an operation when the Western coalition informed Pakistan about any particular hide-out or a sanctuary, or Pakistan traced any armed infiltration from or into Pakistan. "However, the present battle aims to pacify Waziristan once and for all.
The Pakistani Army has sent a clear message to the militants that Pakistan would deploy its forces in the towns of Mir Ali, Miranshah, Dand-i-Darpa Kheil, Shawal, Razmak, Magaroti, Kalosha, Angor Ada. The Pakistani Army is aiming to establish permanent bases which would be manned by thousands of military and paramilitary troops."
A "qualified" intelligence estimate is that pacification of the Waziristans would reduce the capability of the Afghan resistance by 85% and severely curtail militant operations in Iraq.
Engaging the Taliban and al-Qaeda in a stand up fight, using air power and armor will probably kill a lot of Pakistani civilians. Evidently, Musharraf believes it worth the price to regain control of his country from the radicals he so cavalierly bargained with just last year and handed them the Waziristans on a silver platter. Whether he feels stronger now or is simply desperate is beside the point; he's going after them hammer and tongs and that's what counts.