Pakistan's long delayed offensive against terrorists begins

I was on a BBC radio show last week - a roundtable discussion of Pakistan that featured a Georgetown University expert and a Pakistani journalist. We had a couple of calls from inside Pakistan that were almost pleading in their desire for the government to do something about the terrorism. All of us agreed that the Pakistani government's long promised offensive into the tribal areas better kick off soon or the situation would threaten civilian rule not to mention destabilize the entire country.

In fact, the government promised back in June after they had swept the Swat Valley of Taliban extremists that their next military move would be an invasion of the cesspool of Taliban activity that is "The Islamic Republic of Waziristan" which is what many local residents refer to as the provinces of North and South Waziristan.

It was a long time coming - the delay a result of administrative problems like dealing with refugees and re-establishing the writ of Pakistani law in the Swat Valley - but the army has finally begun its offensive into the troubled provinces.

Janie Perlez of the New York Times has the story:

Pakistan moved thousands of troops into the militant stronghold of South Waziristan on Saturday, the army said, beginning a long-anticipated ground offensive against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in treacherous terrain that has stymied the army in the past.

The operation is the most ambitious by the Pakistani Army against the militants, who have unleashed a torrent of attacks against top security installations in the last 10 days in anticipation of the military assault. The militants' targets included the army headquarters where planning for the new offensive had been under way for four months.
The United States has been pressing the army to move ahead with the campaign in South Waziristan, arguing that it is vital for Pakistan to show resolve against the Qaeda-fortified Pakistani Taliban, which now embrace a vast and dedicated network of militant groups arrayed against the nuclear-armed state. The groups include some nurtured by Pakistan to fight India.

American officials have said the fighting there would probably not substantially help the American and NATO effort in Afghanistan because most militants who cross the border to fight there are from a different area in Pakistan and because the Taliban stronghold within South Waziristan is not directly along the border.

But if successful, the operations could put pressure on Al Qaeda, a pivotal supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan, providing training and strategic planning.

Musharraf tried rooting out the Taliban and al-Qaeda in this area back in 2005 and suffered a humiliating defeat. He was forced to sign a peace deal that left the province virtually in the control of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

This time, from what I've been reading, the Pakistani army is going to forgo the heavy use of tanks and jets and concentrate on small unit attacks. How much more successful this will prove to be is debatable. The terrain on which the fight will take place just doesn't get any worse. It is tailor made for hit and run tactics that have been used successfully by tribesmen for hundreds of years. Many observers expect the only difference between Musharraf's failed efforts and the current offensive will be fewer dead Pakistani soldiers. Expect another peace deal in a few months.



I was on a BBC radio show last week - a roundtable discussion of Pakistan that featured a Georgetown University expert and a Pakistani journalist. We had a couple of calls from inside Pakistan that were almost pleading in their desire for the government to do something about the terrorism. All of us agreed that the Pakistani government's long promised offensive into the tribal areas better kick off soon or the situation would threaten civilian rule not to mention destabilize the entire country.

In fact, the government promised back in June after they had swept the Swat Valley of Taliban extremists that their next military move would be an invasion of the cesspool of Taliban activity that is "The Islamic Republic of Waziristan" which is what many local residents refer to as the provinces of North and South Waziristan.

It was a long time coming - the delay a result of administrative problems like dealing with refugees and re-establishing the writ of Pakistani law in the Swat Valley - but the army has finally begun its offensive into the troubled provinces.

Janie Perlez of the New York Times has the story:

Pakistan moved thousands of troops into the militant stronghold of South Waziristan on Saturday, the army said, beginning a long-anticipated ground offensive against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in treacherous terrain that has stymied the army in the past.

The operation is the most ambitious by the Pakistani Army against the militants, who have unleashed a torrent of attacks against top security installations in the last 10 days in anticipation of the military assault. The militants' targets included the army headquarters where planning for the new offensive had been under way for four months.

The United States has been pressing the army to move ahead with the campaign in South Waziristan, arguing that it is vital for Pakistan to show resolve against the Qaeda-fortified Pakistani Taliban, which now embrace a vast and dedicated network of militant groups arrayed against the nuclear-armed state. The groups include some nurtured by Pakistan to fight India.

American officials have said the fighting there would probably not substantially help the American and NATO effort in Afghanistan because most militants who cross the border to fight there are from a different area in Pakistan and because the Taliban stronghold within South Waziristan is not directly along the border.

But if successful, the operations could put pressure on Al Qaeda, a pivotal supporter of the Taliban in Afghanistan, providing training and strategic planning.

Musharraf tried rooting out the Taliban and al-Qaeda in this area back in 2005 and suffered a humiliating defeat. He was forced to sign a peace deal that left the province virtually in the control of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

This time, from what I've been reading, the Pakistani army is going to forgo the heavy use of tanks and jets and concentrate on small unit attacks. How much more successful this will prove to be is debatable. The terrain on which the fight will take place just doesn't get any worse. It is tailor made for hit and run tactics that have been used successfully by tribesmen for hundreds of years. Many observers expect the only difference between Musharraf's failed efforts and the current offensive will be fewer dead Pakistani soldiers. Expect another peace deal in a few months.