Pakistan needs to clean up North Waziristan for its own sake
Would the US like to see an operation launched by the Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan Agency sooner than later? Absolutely. Are the Americans pressurising Pakistan to launch the operation now? It’s difficult to say with any certainty because all such discussions are held behind closed doors, but several factors point to the possibility that the Americans may not be.
First, the Pakistan Army has made it clear that an operation of some kind in North Waziristan is not completely off the table. In fact, it has indicated that an operation is likely once circumstances are more propitious. Those circumstances include dealing with hot spots in Orakzai Agency first; ensuring that the overstretch of troops and resources caused by the operations in South Waziristan, Malakand and elsewhere is brought down to manageable levels; and trying to achieve more favourable circumstances on the ground in North Waziristan. Eventually, some kind of operation in the Mir Ali area is expected. That may be extended to areas of ‘secondary’ importance to the Pakistan Army. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan has not been as successful in the ‘clear and hold’ phase of counter-insurgency as it would like to have been, and without enough boots and resources on the ground, North Waziristan may become another morass.
Second, people familiar with strategic and operational discussions between Pakistan and the US are sceptical of the notion of specific demands that the Pakistan Army is asked to ‘agree’ to. There is clearly some misalignment between the interests of the army and the US in North Waziristan. Given its ‘prioritisation approach’, the Pakistan Army is concerned first and foremost with the militant hubs that are used to launch attacks inside Pakistan; similarly, the Americans are concerned more about militant hubs that project into Afghanistan and perhaps even have their eyes set on targets in the West.
Nevertheless, the onslaught of drones in North Waziristan against both sets of militants indicates a level of cooperation which belies claims of ‘extreme pressure’. More likely, the frequent high-level meetings between American and Pakistani officials result in discussions about overall strategy and aims, and the specifics are left to each side to fill out.
Yet, there is the danger that the Pakistan Army may wait too long, once again clinging to the deep ‘red lines’ that proved so disastrous in Swat and South Waziristan. Pakistan needs to clean up North Waziristan for its own sake. Debating ‘hammer and anvil’ strategies and the number of check posts with the Americans is alright. But the sooner the job is done in North Waziristan, the better.
DAWN.COM | Editorial | North Waziristan operation