Pakistan to launch another Potemkin offensive in North Waziristan

According to The New York Times, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Kayani claims his forces are preparing to launch a military operation against the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network in North Waziristan after the terror group’s latest suicide assault on Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost province. At least “most American officials” aren’t buying it this time around (although it is pretty sad that at this point some American officials are waiting for said offensive):

But after the Salerno attack in June, the army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, privately told American officials he would launch a three-phase military operation against the Haqqanis over the coming 12 months.

Most American officials, however, say they are not counting on that promise. One remarked with a sardonic touch, “This is the most delayed campaign in the history of modern warfare.”

As we’ve documented here at Threat Matrix, the Pakistanis have promised to launch offensives in North Waziristan, but never executed. Remember when Pakistan considered launching an offensive in the spring of 2010? And then it claimed it was conducting “surgical raids” and a “stealth operation” in North Waziristan back in October of 2010? But then in November of that year, Pakistani officials claimed the offensive was delayed, only to flip and say the offensive was underway in December? And then, again, in May 2011, the military said it agreed to launch “a careful and meticulous military offensive” in North Waziristan?

We do.

Keep in mind that as the Pakistanis made promises and excuses in the spring and fall of 2010, US military officials were flacking for the Pakistani military.

Here is an anonymous senior US military official providing cover for Pakistani inaction, and echoing the ‘North Waziristan offensive is imminent’ and ‘Pakistan is sacrificing against terror groups’ narratives, during a briefing to reporters in March 2010:

Roughly 40,000 Pakistani troops are conducting operations against militants in the country’s North Waziristan region near the Afghan border, a senior U.S. military official said March 29.

Unlike a larger, “steamroller” offensive last year that uprooted enemy fighters in neighboring South Waziristan, the current engagement comprises smaller, piecemeal operations, the official told Pentagon reporters on background.

“We are seeing quite a bit of activity [in North Waziristan] that’s going on that supports what General Kiyani’s been telling in some of the strategic dialogues about his campaign plan,” the official said, referring to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff.

Except that “quite a bit of activity” never really happened, and Pakistan never launched the offensive.

Wind the clock forward about nine months to mid-December 2010, and anonymous US military officials were still pining for Pakistani action in North Waziristan. But not yet, this official said, not yet, as the Pakistanis are still gearing up. This briefing in December 2010, titled “Defense Official: Pakistan Deserves U.S. Respect, Support,” by an anonymous Pentagon official, might as well have been written by Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. (Don’t believe me? Read the briefing.) Here is a taste:

Pakistan deserves America’s respect and support for its fight against extremists in the country, a defense official said here, Dec. 15.

The official, speaking to reporters on background, said the United States wants Pakistan to do more to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan, where the Haqqani network and other extremist groups are using the tribal-area province to plan and launch attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistani military leaders consistently say they will address North Waziristan, but not yet, the official said. In the meantime, Pakistan’s military has been active elsewhere.

The Pakistani military has moved 140,000 troops to the border area with Afghanistan, the official said, suffering losses of between 1,500 and 2,000 killed in action and perhaps four times that many wounded in the past 19 months.

“Two years ago, this kind of effort, these kinds of sacrifices would be unthinkable,” the official said. “There has been 19 months of sustained combat.”

Note to the anonymous defense official (you know who you are): Two years after you provided political cover for Pakistan’s inaction, there still hasn’t been an operation against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan. Are you still convinced that “Pakistan deserves America’s respect and support?”

Given the historic level of ignorance among US officials, it is no wonder that some US officials are still eagerly awaiting the next Potemkin military operation in North Waziristan. Maybe we just need to wait another two years for the real operation to begin? Please don’t hold your breath.

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