Pakistan’s military operation in Waziristan

June 24, 2009

In a world used to watching war played out on television, and more recently to following protests in Iran via Twitter and YouTube, the Pakistan Army’s impending military offensive in South Waziristan on the Afghan border is probably not getting the attention it deserves — not least but because the operation is shrouded in secrecy.

Yet the offensive has the potential to be a turning point in the battle against the Taliban which began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Many Taliban and their al Qaeda allies fled Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas after the U.S. invasion — the CIA said this month it believed Osama bin Laden was still hiding in Pakistan. The offensive in South Waziristan, designed to target Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, would if successful deprive the Taliban and al Qaeda of what has been until now one of their safest boltholes.

Before the army launches a full-scale offensive, the United States appears to be stepping up missile strikes by unmanned aircraft to weaken the Pakistani Taliban —  an attack on Tuesday by a U.S. drone killed about 70 militants.  The attack, on a funeral for one of six militants killed in a similar strike earlier in the day, would appear to indicate increasing coordination between the United States and Pakistan, although Pakistan publicly condemns the drone operations. When the army does go in, it is likely to face intense fighting against Mehsud and his thousands of well-armed followers, who have had years to prepare defences.

The killing on Tuesday of Mehsud rival Qari Zainuddin has also encouraged speculation that the military is working hard on time-honoured tactics of divide and rule, by trying to find tribal leaders who will turn against Mehsud (the blog Changing up Pakistan has produced an excellent round-up of media reports on Zainuddin’s death). 

 If Pakistan’s military intelligence is indeed looking for allies, Zainuddin’s death might deter potential candidates – Mehsud has a reputation for being both clever and ruthless, and well capable of planning many steps ahead of the offensive he has long known is coming. Anyone who doubts the Taliban and al Qaeda’s capacity to plan ahead should remember that Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud was killed two days before 9/11 in what many analysts now see as a pre-emptive strike to undercut domestic support for U.S. retaliation for the attacks on New York and Washington. So be prepared for the unexpected.

But beyond the reports of drone attacks, the news of Zainuddin’s death, and the refugees streaming out of Waziristan, it is hard to know exactly what is going on there. 

“The truth is though little is known about what exactly is going on in South Waziristan Agency, who is fighting whom and why, and what is likely to happen in the days and weeks ahead,” Dawn newspaper says in an editorial. “What is clear so far is that the security forces are squeezing Baitullah Mehsud’s strongholds by cutting off the three main routes that lead to them and pounding targets from the air.”

What you do keep hearing is that the Pakistan Army — which has been accused in the past of on-again off-again operations in the tribal areas that only allowed the militants to get stronger — is absolutely serious about pressing on with an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban which began in the Swat valley and will now continue into Waziristan. 

One to follow closely — even without live TV or Twitter.

(Photos of Pakistani military in the Swat region)


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our brave security forces supported by nation are fighting Pakistan’s Survival War. The courageous soldiers, elements of security and intelligence agencies, internally dislocated people( IDPs) and responsible nationalists’ politician scholars, writers and opinion makers would be termed as real heroes’ of future Pakistan. As regards to the murder of Qari concerned it is Baithullaha Mehsud who killed him. Government and Pakistan Security forces means business and fighting terrorism with full throtal. The time will come shortly that nation will be able to eliminate militancy from the region.

Posted by Zaheerul Hassan | Report as abusive

Definitely something to watch out for.
How often does one get a chance to watch Creator(Pakistani Army) destroying it’s own creation(Taliban). As the author says the operation is shrouded in secrecy. So was the creation.

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive

The drone attacks kill Al-Qaida/Taliban is all hogwash have they got any evidence of how many militants or their leaders have been killed? Drones are killing civilians by thousands. This shows negatively that it is America’s war not Pakistan’s. Secondly it indicates the ineffective subservient Pakistani Government unable to protect its own people from Al-Qaida/Taliban or USA itself. Death of civilians by USA also shows that USA is not bothered by civilian casualties and is no different evil than Al-Qaida. It also shows that USA does not care for international law as against the principals of interfering in a weak and small nation’s sovereignty. USA being an imperialist country has found a weak and benign partner the present Pakistani Government that suits its needs and is ready to get it civilians killed as collateral damage. A shameless government that is providing lies and the western media is happy with the propaganda that so-called enemy combatants are being killed without any investigation. They have forgotten Vietnam where USA killed millions of civilians and provided lies about the Vietcong being killed. Have you forgotten those stories?

Posted by Ratee | Report as abusive

As military action in the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan heats up, it is time to consider what we are going to do if, when it is all over, there is no sign of Usama Bin Laden.

One of the difficulties we have been having in locating Bin Laden surrounds the issue of motive. What is he trying to accomplish – What does he want? Does he even know what he wants beyond pain, bloodshed, and mayhem? My sense is that he does.

As individuals, and as nations, we tend to perceive the world around us in the context of our image and interests. Anyone who does not reflect the interests of ourselves, and our society, tends to be invisible at best. Usama Bin Laden has done a fine job of eluding us – is this related? It may well be! We have placed ourselves at the center of Bin Laden’s world, and at the focus of his cross-hairs, in the assumption that his goal is to defeat the United States, the West, and the non-Islamic world in general. More recently, Bin Laden has aimed his diatribes at Israel – Clearly then, he wishes to destroy the Jewish state.

Maybe it is time to consider the possibility that these are really secondary goals! Consider them as major priorities subordinate to an even grander plan. This is where the self-image issue comes in to play. What grander or more devious plans could there possibly be beyond attacking and defeating the United States, or destroying Israel?

It is helpful to consider Usama Bin Laden’s anachronistic mind set. He is immersed in a fantasy role-playing game, a variety of Dungeons and Dragons built on a distorted view of Arabic history and Islam’s Golden Age. He has fashioned himself a great warrior-prophet in the Islamic tradition – The heir to the legacy of Saladin, and the Khulafah Rashidun – The rightly guided Caliphs.

In this light one could assume that Mecca and Medina, the cities at the heart of Islam, would figure in his plans. We may be underestimating how important control of these sacred cities is to Usama Bin Laden. Maybe what he really wants is the Ka’ba! Consider his actions to date as preludes, intended to prove to the Islamic world that he is the great Muslim warrior deserving of this prize.

Where ever he has chosen to hide, it is my firm belief that he has been very careful not to isolate himself from the Arabian peninsula, or do anything to preempt the opportunity to make his grand entrance to Islam’s holiest shrine.

I am not in any way convinced that recent activity in Somalia and Yemen is simply convenience, or an accidental fall-back position for Al Qaeda.

Posted by Tim Raisbeck | Report as abusive

With allies like Pakistan ….

“Jihad against America and its allies in Afghanistan would continue as well.”

“Pakistan’s government only has problems with the foreign militants in the area. They have always supported us in the jihad in Afghanistan.” 18373.stm

Posted by Dulles | Report as abusive

I hope Taliban, AlQuaeda, LeT, Hizbul Mujahedeen etc run a riot in Pakistan and defeat the establishment. Then at USA will know who to fight in Pakistan. Right now US is so confused that it cannot decide whether to fight terrorists and helps/ takes help of those who cannot be trusted. For example everyone is confused who is bigger terrorist ISI or Taliban+AlQuaeda+LeT+HizMuh etc combined. Who is the biggest terrorist sponsor in world Kiyani or ISI or Osama or US?
Who is running Pakistan ISI or Zardari or Kiyani of Gilani or Osama or Mulah Omar or US? What is the form of government in Pakistan is it democratically elected government or democratically elected government with noose around neck with other end in hands of Kiyani or US controlled puppet government? Whether Kiyani will fight Taliban+AlQuaeda+LeT+Hizb Muhd or launch a joint operation with them to wage one more war against India? Some clarity is needed as to what is going on and whom to trust: Obama or Multiband or Gilani or Zardari or Kiyani or Osama or Mullah Omar or Bai Mehfooz or Myra MD. It is clouded and confusing. Please clear the smoke folks and let’s see the fire.

Posted by Roht | Report as abusive

I have been reading this blog for about 6 months now but almost never post because i lacked the more intimate knowledge on the subjects. however, now that i feel reasonibly informed on the subject matter i will say this: first of all I am an american living in america (Detroit). I often find my self agreeing with the Indian bloggers, the shear volume of terror, destruction, and death inflicted on the Indian people from the Pakistani state wether from “non-state actors”, proxy armies, or direct declarations of war since 1947 unaccepible, unjustifiable, and wrong. India has many faults, massive poverty, much religious percecution, and a caste system that results in insitutionalized descrimination. But India seeks to better itself and has made giant strids toward stability and equality. And i think will in the coming years continue with massive progress. On the other hand Pakistan is a mess. Leaders so selfish they cant see beyond there own gain and put there country first. Barely a nation at all without control of its own borders, quite literally the womb of terrorism, exporting it across the globe. Of which India bares the brunt of. And frankly a laundry list of problems i dont have time to name. When Pakistan had electoins recently I scoffed and thought “likes it matters, this is for show. the army really runs the place.”. But in the last month i feel that i might be being proven wrong. I will say honestly that im proud of Pakistan. taking extremism on head on.Not losing there nerve even in the face a growing humanitarian crisis. keeping the civilian government in control and not falling into an old habit. And how the people have come together behind the effort instead of allowing themselves to be divided by secterian or politiacl idealoigies. As an american i dont mind sending aid to an ally, when there acting like an ally. i hope Pakistan keeps up the good work cause theres more to do. Lastly i would just say that Pakistan should do one more thing. Pakistan should stand up and be men and take responsibility for Lashkar-E-Thiba, they should take on militancy in the east with the same commitment and gravity as they have in the west. Hopefully in a few years America and Pakistan can ally to build schools, roads, hospitals, and courts instead of fighting wars. Good Luck.

Posted by Matt M | Report as abusive

Some Indians, it seems, have an obsession; Pakistan.
They love to hate Pakistan.
While not every thing is right in Pakistan ( just as in India), we need to keep the history in mind alongwith the limitations that we are up against, when we discuss Afghanistan.
When Bush attacked Iraq on the pretext of WMDs, he also taged along the bogey of Al-Quaeda. In Afghanistan it is still not clear whether the US is there for elimination of Al-Quaeda OR Pipelinestan. Both the objectives seem quite remote at this point in time. Even if the Pakistan Army eliminates the Waziristan base of Al-Quaeda, which is almost impossible. Al-Quaeda has many other santuaries, to fall back on. Al-Quaeda with or without Osama, is well trenched and has a vast network of sympathisers, thanks to United States of Amnesia.
Pakistan, with all its limitations ( stupidities ! )has very little say in this. The Afghans have a simple logic. Today, they are fighting foreign occupation forces, just as they were fighting the Soviets yesterday.
One day the world will have to get serious on Afghanistan. US will leave and the regional powers will have to devise a platform for Afghanistan for a stable government with representation for all nationalities.
Pakistan will have to wait for that day when Afghanistan is stabilised. And untill then the Indians will go on blaming ISI for everything happening in India, including the earthquake in Ahmedabad.

Posted by nko | Report as abusive

Failed State Index Rankings:

All friends of China are topping the list. Aspiring failed state can use this as a reference. Copy this link quickly before china blocks this blog or links! 09/06/22/the_2009_failed_states_index

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

@Pakistan, with all its limitations ( stupidities ! )has very little say in this. The Afghans have a simple logic. Today, they are fighting foreign occupation forces, just as they were fighting the Soviets yesterday.
One day the world will have to get serious on Afghanistan. US will leave and the regional powers will have to devise a platform for Afghanistan for a stable government with representation for all nationalities.
Pakistan will have to wait for that day when Afghanistan is stabilised. And untill then the Indians will go on blaming ISI for everything happening in India, including the earthquake in Ahmedabad.
– Posted by nko

–If you were born before 9/11 you’ll know India rightly blamed ISI due to them sponsoring terrorism since 1980s (Indian Punjab and Kashmir, even if I ignore other places). Perhaps you know the Mumbai cases and since TTP started terror inside Pakistan. Until that time Swat was Pak’s Switzerland just like Kashmir was India’s paradise on erath, until Pakistan exported terrorists to India.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Not all Pakistanis are terrorist supporters. Not all Indians are peace loving citizens. We share a lot in terms of corruption and prejudice. I used to have a friend from Southern India who used to be annoyed by the contempt shown by his North Indian compatriots. We Pakistanis and Indians have similar contempt towards each other. If the sub-continent were divided into many countries, this contempt will take yet another form and most of these nations would be hostile to each other. I expect India to take the initiative as a larger country. But I want India to be fair. Kashmir does not belong to India. You guys have nothing to prove to anyone. Kashmir should have gone to us long ago. You are occupying more than half of it and the locals themselves have no love for you. You have dismembered our country into two. You are illegally occupying Kashmir which should be our territory. And you are helping Taliban. But we will fight. To be a Pakistani is a blessing and God’s gift. And we will preserve that at all costs.

Posted by Mohammed Anjum | Report as abusive

The Pakistan Army has not been conducting “on-again, off-again” operations or engaged in some deceptive scheme. Full fledged military operations are a last resort, and many other options such as negotiations, police, limited military ops and peace agreements are worth trying before going for the last option.

I also think its wrong for Pakistan to be too open to either domestic or foreign media. That has proven only advantageous to terrorist propaganda in the past.

Posted by Aamir Ali | Report as abusive

@Matt M from Detroit

It is sad that you have fallen prey to Indian blogger propaganda that all terrorism emanates from Pakistan. Your country has been engaged in Iraq/Middle East for many years now and the terrorism there has nothing to do with Pakistan. Similarly in South Asia, the terrorism that India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc. face has internal factors as well as external links. Blaming one country is not right.

Pakistan has been engaged in fighting terror since 2001, without acknowledgement or understanding from ordinary Americans. Only when 3 million people are displaced, do you then acknowledge that Pakistan is “fighting terror”. I think your standards of judging allies are stratospheric and unrealistic.

Posted by Bangash Khan | Report as abusive

Pakistanis, just like anyone else, are ordinary, peace loving people. If Pakistanis and our brothers in the Middle Eastern countries had been left alone, we surely would have lived a peaceful life. Our lives have been messed up by the Western powers to meet their objectives. They want to dominate this region for various reasons, oil being the primary one. In addition, this region is in a very strategic geo-political spot. Thirdly, there is a religious background to the whole thing. The crusade between Muslims and Christian nations is still continuing. We have been turned against each other and our governments never allowed to stabilize. The intelligence agencies of these Western powers have used assassinations and coups to derail governments and we have become what we are due to their short sighted and hegemonic acts. We are the victims. No one wants to admit that. When we fight with our will, we are branded as evil, radicals etc. But we will stand up for our rights. Bin Laden is only one man. Removing him is not going to change anything in the hearts of the Arabs or Iranians or Palestinians. We need to be treated with respect and dignity as people. That is the first step. Our values have to be respected and recognized. That is the only way peace will return. Denial of our peace will result in denial of peace for those who deny it. Realize this and do the right thing.

Posted by Mohammed Anjum | Report as abusive

@The crusade between Muslims and Christian nations is still continuing.
-Posted by Mohammed Anjum

–You guys deserve each other.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@ Rajeev and Sony and comments for Matt

Today, we live in the world that cannot deny the reality. Pakistan’s dilemma is that being a small country it has been colonized and used for different tasks. Such as defeating soviets fighting Taliban etc. The fact is this is the most suffering and humble country that tends to sacrifice it’s interests because of other big nations. Indians have Pak-phobia, everyone knows well. All Indian hates Pakistan, media creates hypes on any news impacting negatively on Pakistan, instead, in Pakistan, this is not the case. people hate India, If they do, because since the birth of Pakistan India did not accepted it’s existence. look at the Kashmir, look at 1965 unprovoked war, don’t forget 1971, where they succeeded to divide it into two. they did not stopped there, when they were able to make a nuke the first thing they did using harsh language for Pakistan. they thought they have done what they want to get rid of Pakistan. After Pakistan shown that they also possess a deterrent, Indians backed down and began talking about living in piece. they should have leaned it long ago.
Now, with all stupidities / mistakes Pakistan managed to survive by the Grace of God, as they keep their ultimate interests beyond their selfishness. No wonder politicians and some generals have been in bad practices but the nation always stood firm all the time.
The terrorist ( we call them now ) were mujahedeen called by US when they were fighting Soviets because they were doing their jobs that US were not able to do. Seemingly Pakistani ISI and Army got enough experience after soviets and tried their own tactics in Kashmir to get it out of India’s hands.
When US saw Soviets breakup they just left without realizing that the men they call mujahedeen is a fierce force that can dismantle or weaken any establishment, Pakistan took the charge and tried to make this force in their favor, called Taliban, (this is for Sunny). So the creation was not only because Pakistan wanted it , it was because US left with unfinished business, that created a whole lot of mess in the region and war lords and factions start fighting with each other. US start calling them terrorist who it used to call Mujahedeen few years back.
So, blaming Pakistan is easy but only those who wants to accept the reality, its difficult.
India now wants to become a parallel of China wants piece everywhere, should have learned its lesson long ago.
Now what they are doing in Waziristan and Afghanistan is also exporting terrorism, only if accept. World knows about it and the people who has little knowledge about the facts.
World, India, US should thank Pakistan what it has been doing for them, fighting their wars with it’s soldiers. Cleaning their mess on and off.
Now US should learn lessons how the wars are fought seeing what Pakistan has done in Swat.
Indians should have enough courage to accept the realities and what they have done to Pakistan.
If would wouldn’t have Pak Army and ISI I am afraid they were not able to bring themselves out of the crisis.

Posted by Farukh K | Report as abusive