Is the situation conducive for an operation?
Asif Haroon Raja
The US had mounted extreme pressure on the newly formed democratic government to annul peace treaty with Maulanas Sufi and Fazlullah in Swat after the militants had penetrated Dir and Buner in April 2009. Alarm bells were sounded that the militants were at the verge of capturing Islamabad and the nukes. A joint resolution was passed by the parliament and the Army tasked to confront the existential threat with full force. No sooner the bases of Pakistani Taliban were demolished in Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir and Bajaur, USA exerted pressure to tackle the main base of TTP in South Waziristan (SW). Dismantlement of TTP’s base in SW dismayed the schemers. Had ISAF instead of withdrawing its border posts sealed the border in 2009 effectively, all the fleeing militants including their leaders could be nabbed or killed and the genie of terrorism bottled up. However, the US and its allies didn’t want to control terrorism. They wanted to weaken Pak Army and not TTP that had been created with devious intentions.
Since Pak Army’s successes went against ill-motivated plans, the US in its bid to cripple the Army decided to open new fronts with the help of runaway terrorists. They were provided safe havens in Kunar and Nuristan, regrouped and re-launched in 2011 in Dir, Mehmand, Bajaur and Chitral. These absconding terrorists are now being equated with Haqqani network (HN) which is struggling to liberate its country from foreign occupation. The US after failing to win over Haqqanis has now decided to overplay HN threat and to sensationalize safe havens in North Waziristan (NW). It also has decided declare HN as a terrorist group. If so, it will maximize pressure on Pakistan. Last September, Mullen had described HN as the ‘veritable arm’ of ISI.
Drone war was intensified to provoke pro-government militant groups in NW to shelve peace treaty and pick up arms against security forces. Other reasons were to push the Army to launch the much delayed operation and to compel HN to exit from NW. There was a lull in drone strikes during the stoppage of NATO supplies for seven months but after reopening of supply lines in July this year drone attacks have once again picked up momentum. Not a single member of TTP has been killed by drones. Attack on Kamra airbase on the night of 16 August by a band of nine suicide bombers was aimed at destroying strategic assets and to impel the Army to hasten to plunge into NW. This crude tactic was employed earlier on also when a terrorist attack took place on GHQ on 10 October 2009, which forced Gen Kayani to give a green signal for Operation Rah-e-Nijat in SW.
After persistent efforts since early 2010 and application of multiple pressures, the US now claims that Pakistan has finally agreed to launch a joint and coordinated operation in NW in concert with US troops. This decision had been taken long time back but socio-politico-economic-operational constraints came in the way. Even now firm decision in this regard has not been taken. GHQ has turned down the US proposal of joint operation saying that the ISAF may do so on other side of the border in Khost-Paktika provinces in coordination with Pak Army’s operation whenever it is launched. GHQ also made it clear that its prime focus will be on anti-Pakistan groups and not on anti-US elements as wished by USA. Washington seems satisfied that at last its wish is being fulfilled and may not contest these two points but HN will continue to haunt the US military as long as it stays in Afghanistan. The US military has given clear hints that it will take care of sanctuaries in Kunar and Nuristan and control cross border raids provided Pakistan demolished safe havens of HN in NW.
In case an operation is launched in next few months, the situation will not be as grim as was in 2010-2011. While Swat to a large extent has been rehabilitated and secured, rehabilitation and development works under the aegis of Army in SW are going on with speed and good progress has been achieved. Almost 75% of displaced people have returned and are taking part in reconstruction and business activities with fervor. Had the US lived up to its promise of setting up ROZs in Waziristan, by now a world of change would have come in that war torn region. Held up $1.1 billion CSF is being released which will enable the Army to oil its war machinery.
Notwithstanding the relative improvement in security situation and the fact that the trunk of armed forces remains as strong as ever, the fact is that restive areas that had been controlled by the Army after paying a heavy price are again being made turbulent by the powers that desire an operation to be launched in NW. Distrust gap between USA and Pakistan has widened with little hope of its abridgement. Civil administration is reluctant to take over its duties in troubled areas pacified by the Army. Covert war by foreign agencies based in Kabul is continuing as heretofore and cauldron of Balochistan is simmering. TTP in FATA and BLA-BRA-BLF in Balochistan are being funded and equipped to keep the flames of terrorism enflamed.
Sindh and Balochistan have become a single battle zone. Criminal elements in the two neighboring provinces are militarily supporting each other since 1990s. Gun running originate from Balochistan. Criminals seek refuge in either of the provinces once the chase of the law enforcers becomes hot. Target killers of the two provinces ultimately escape to South Africa once the noose tightens around them and reappear when the noose is loosened. TTP and BLA, the two banned terrorist groups are also linked with criminal elements. The entire chain of criminals is backed by RAW, CIA and Mossad.
Sectarianism is being inflamed in Balochistan, Kurram Agency and Gilgit-Baltistan by hidden forces. Karachi is bled by the militant wings of the three ruling coalition parties together with external elements. Levlin Anatole, a British historian makes a startling exposure in his book published in 2011 ‘Pakistan a Hard Country’ that all the explosions and attacks in Pakistan are being planned and carried out by CIA and its agents in the name of Taliban. This is exactly what I and several other analysts had been highlighting. Think who are the collaborators with paid terrorists? The US and al-Qaeda were not long-term adversaries but partners.
Economic situation is going from bad to worse and the ruling regime is not showing any inclination to improve its performance and put the house in order. Discredited leadership is in no position to mould public opinion in favor of an operation in NW particularly when it is well-understood that each operation had resulted in a severe backlash. People are questioning as to why Pakistan is being pressed to launch another operation when the US has decided to quit Afghanistan by end 2014 and is desperately trying to find a political solution to Afghan imbroglio by renewing peace talks with Taliban. There is widely held view that real motive behind the US fixation on NW is to create a cause for all militant groups to get united against Pak Army.
Politicians are least concerned about internal and external threats and plight of the masses groaning under acute poverty. The rulers are manipulating to extend their stay by another year so that they could give five-year extension to President Zardari through act of parliament in 2013. The ones in opposition are divided and wholly focused on gaining power. The religious parties/groups too are divided and interpret religion through their respective narrow lenses. Under the circumstances, obtaining politico-economic-military environment are still not conducive for a military operation.