Global News Journal

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: Getting Waziristan right this time

October 6, 2009

U.S. defence officials, in a ringing vote of confidence, said over the weekend that Pakistan had the forces and equipment to launch a long-awaited ground offensive in South Waziristan. It could mount this assault without seeking more reinforcements, a U.S. official said, according to this Reuters report. Yet Pakistan had cited in recent months shortages of helicopters, armoured vehicles and precision weapons in putting off a Waziristan assault.So what has changed? Has the United States,  desperate to turn around a faltering war in Afghanistan, got ahead of itself in nudging Pakistan toward "the mother-of-all battles"? Some people are asking if the Pakistan Army is really ready to start what must be its bigest test yet since the militants turned on the Pakistani state. If the idea is to go in and linflict casualties on the Taliban in the hope of killing senior leaders, then it will be another punitive strike for which the force levels may well be adequate.But if the Pakistan Army plans to go into the Mehsud strongholds and occupy the region then the numbers are a bit worrying, says Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.  A Pakistan Army spokesman has said that  two divisions, or up to 28,000 soldiers, are in place to take on an estimated 10,000 hard-core Taliban. But Roggio says Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who heads the Mehsud Taliban forces in Waziristan, (Hakimullah Mehsud who surfaced at the weekend is the overall head of the Pakistani Taliban) is estimated to command anything between 10,000 to 30,000 forces.  If the army were to wage a full-scale counter-insurgency they and the Frontier Corps "would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size," he argues. And then there is the Haqqani network, as well as a sizeable contingent of Uzbek and other non-Pakistani fighters in the area. They may well join the fight, according to the Dawn newspaper.Pakistani expert Imtiaz Gul, who heads the  Independent Centre for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, calls Waziristan a "blackhole" for security and intelligence forces. At least 800 pro-government tribal elders and intelligence officials have lost their lives to Taliban and al Qaeda assassins in Waziristan and adjacent tribal areas, most of them in the last four years, eroding Pakistani intelligence from the region and in turn forcing a greater reliance on U.S. drone surveillance and strikes, he says in a piece for the AFPAK channel for Foreign Policy.Gul reckons one of the prime objectives of the impending military assault would be to take out the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan entrenched there and whose powerful leader Tahir Yuldashev is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.Some others are saying there is actually no public estimate of the total number of Waziri fighters, and that the Pakistan Army might end up in a 1:1 ratio with the militants, which is far too low to sustain a counter-insurgency campaign, let alone win it. You can't help recalling again the oft-quoted words of Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the-century British Viceroy of India, who said : "No patchwork scheme will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine."And even if Pakistan were willing to run the steamroller it may just not be avaialble to it, not yet at least.Sameer Lalwani in a study for the New America Foundation says that the Pakistan Army is already overstretched with the Swat operation and lacks the capacity to  expand the fight. The study provides a fairly detailed assessment of Pakistani capabilities for a counter-insurgency campaign focussing on  1) the nature of the insurgency, including its strength, capabilities, tactics, and strategic objectives; 2) the terrain challenges posed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and 3) current and potential Pakistani potential military capabilites.  Here is the PDF of the full report.In short, Lalwani argues that 370,000 and 430,000 more troops would be needed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas  and the North West Frontier Province region to meet the minimum force-to-population ratios prescribed by standard counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, much higher than current Pakistani deployments of 150,000, and even this is no assurance of success given adverse conditions.It is too big for the army alone, and  would need the calling up of reserves and also greater reliance on the poorly-equipped Frontier Corps. And the Pakistan Army would resist redeployment of more forces from the Indian border because for it, the Indians remain an enduring threat.And as Roggio asks is the state ready for the blow back from a full-scale assault? The militants have repeatedly attacked cities each time they have come under pressure. On Monday, a suicide bomber breached the tightly guarded office of the United Nations World Food Programme in a residential part of Islamabad, killing five people.[Photographs of Hakimullah Mehsud and paramilitary soldiers] The Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps would need to throw multiple divisions against a Taliban force of this size

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Talk of Waziristan offensive picks up in Pakistan

October 2, 2009

According to Dawn newspaper, the Pakistan Army is poised to launch a major military operation in South Waziristan, stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.