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July 17, 2007
Musharraf Goes To War
Pakistan's embattled President Pervez Musharraf has decided to take the bull by the horns and start regaining some control over the lawless, terrorist infested tribal areas in the north. He has sent thousands of troops into the area to battle extremists who not only threaten his hold on power but also carry out attacks against NATO forces in Afghanistan:
In response to the deteriorating situation in the NWFP, the Pakistani government has sent thousands of troops with heavy artillery to the area where an offensive into the Swat Valley is expected any day. The Red Mosque’s closure was regarded as an important first step for any military action to be taken there. It not only eliminated the heart of the Islamic extremism movement in Pakistan, but also destroyed a powerful center of resistance to the army’s coming campaign.That 2004 offensive by the Pakistani army ended up in a humiliating defeat with a peace treaty that gave the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies large swaths of territory in North and South Waziristan where the Pakistani army couldn't tread.
In 2004, the Red Mosque helped undermine the army’s offensive against al-Qaeda in Waziristan when the two sibling leaders issued a ‘fatwa’ (religious decree), calling on people not to say prayers for dead army soldiers or bury them in Muslim graveyards.
This time, things are going to be different. Radically different. For the first time since American forces entered Afghanistan, they will be able to take up "hot pursuit" mission in Pakistani territory to go after Taliban fighters. In addition, a secret agreement signed with the Americans may give NATO air forces the green light to destroy some Taliban camps where many cross border operations are initiated by the terrorists:
American military forces in Afghanistan are expected to take part in the effort to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaeda bases in the NWFP. Shahzad says a secret agreement has already been reached to allow American troops to launch ‘hot pursuits’ into Pakistan against Taliban fighters, and American warplanes and intelligence assets will undoubtedly be utilized. NATO intelligence, Shahzad says, has pinpointed four Taliban bases in Waziristan, from which attacks against its troops are organized and launched, that it wants taken out.Musharraf is taking a huge gamble by allowing western forces on Pakistani soil. The reason he has resisted the idea for so long is the probability of massive unrest generated by the abhorence of foreign troops on their soil by the Pakistani people. For them, it is a matter of intense pride that no army has set foot in those tribal areas for many generations. Such movements by American and NATO forces will be seen as a slap in the face by many Pakistanis and they will inevitably blame Musharraf.
Shahzad also reports that American forces are currently building a base on a mountaintop at Ghaki Pass on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which the jihadists have already unsuccessfully attacked to prevent construction. The purpose of the base is to supplement aerial surveillance and prepare for incursions into Taliban territory.
But it is apparent that Musharraf fears the extremists now more than he fears a restive population. And one of the surprising reasons is apparently a recently signed trade deal with China. Roads leading from Pakistan to China are vital to the agreement and Musharraf wants to clear them of any Taliban or al-Qaeda infiltration. The trade deal is important to the long term economic well being of Pakistan and Musharraf wants nothing to interfere with it nor the historically close relations Pakistan has had with their Chinese neighbors.
The war will take place in perhaps the most rugged geography on the planet - a nightmare of mountains and rugged hills with ample opportunites for a small force to ambush larger forces. But Musharraf feels he has little choice with both America and China breathing down his neck about the Taliban and their terrorist allies in al-Qaeda.
Let's wish him luck. He's going to need it.