Military operation in North Waziristan

That the Pakistan government has yet to concede that in compliance with the American demand it has agreed to launch a military operation in North Waziristan, is beyond one’s comprehension.Given that the US army chief Admiral Mike Mullen has stated most categorically that the agreement to that effect was reached during US Secretary of State Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad, and our diplomatic sources in Washington also confirm that “both sides have agreed in principle to carry out the offensive”, our stance in the matter should have been clear and made public.The Americans had long held that North Waziristan was a safe haven for the Haqqani network and demanded its elimination. But Pakistan had resisted arguing that the operation would entail a much larger deployment, which its forces cannot undertake in the present circumstances. But now a “plan” seems to have been firmed up under which the Pakistani aircraft will “soften up” militant targets before ground forces move in to wind up the operation. What new logic the American side had offered to its Pakistani interlocutors to get their acquiescence for the operation, one could not know – except for Secretary Clinton’s assertion that the bilateral relationship was at a “turning point” and Admiral Mullen’s remark that “We were very frank with them”.

Is the new understanding a kind of quid pro quo that you overlook our failure in locating Osama bin Laden, in return for accepting your demand for a military operation in North Waziristan? Wasn’t Secretary Clinton unduly overemphatic in telling people that none from the top leadership of Pakistan had any inkling about Osama’s presence in this country? Obviously, the whole truth about the meeting in the Presidency is still not known. The decision to accede to the US demand must have been made before the Clinton-Mullen visit – as suggested by the reported official call on some of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved with humanitarian work in North Waziristan to prepare for up to 365,000 displaced persons.

Given that the authorities have yet to take the people into confidence on the pledge given to the Americans to initiate a full-fledged military operation in North Waziristan – and that reluctance was discernable from the failure of the hosts and guests to hold a joint press conference, following the meeting in the Presidency – the proposed military offensive is likely to face widespread opposition in the country, unlike some earlier operations. There are doubts about the American game plan in the region, strengthened as these are by their unacceptably aggressive attitude. Strangely enough, while the US is in contact with the Afghan Taliban leadership, it is intent upon decimating their equivalents in Pakistan. Doesn’t that suggest that war is being shifted to Pakistan? Then, there is confusion about the nature of the operation. Will it be a joint operation? The issue is said to have been discussed at the meeting the Clinton-Mullen duo had with the Pakistani leadership, but what was the agreed decision is not known. But the possibility cannot be ruled out as the offensive proceeds and American involvement increases that they might land boots on Pakistani soil.

Mind you quite a few of the red lines that Pakistan had drawn were crossed by the Americans, and then laconically explained away. Should that happen again, there is bound to be a severe public reaction, which the present government might find difficult to cope with. Already the political opposition is in a belligerent mood over the Americans’ conduct and their unrelenting ‘do-more’ demands and has asked the government to explain why the night raiders of the Osama compound could not be interdicted. Of course, the Pakistani military would have no hesitation in going after the Taliban leaders who have shifted to North Waziristan, and is presently in action against them. But a large-scale operation, as envisaged by the US planners in North Waziristan, will invariably result in a massive population dislocation, which is beyond the government capacity to handle, as witnessed earlier when the operation was launched in South Waziristan. Yes, the Obama administration wants a face-saving victory as a prelude to its commitment to begin troop drawdown in Afghanistan, but one would be profoundly naïve to think such a victory would be consequential to a military operation in North Waziristan. – Brecorder