View Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan in a larger map
The Pakistani military has launched what it described as a “comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists” in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The operation, called “Zarb-e-Azb” after the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s sword, was announced today by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the public affairs arm of the Pakistani military, which said it is targeting “foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in North Wazirastan [sic] Agency.”
“Using North Waziristan as a base, these terrorists had waged a war against the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property,” the ISPR statement said. “They had also paralyzed life within the agency and had perpetually terrorized the entire peace loving and patriotic local population.”
The Pakistani military has been “tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries,” the ISPR claimed. “These enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country.”
The ISPR did not specifically name the groups targeted in the North Waziristan offensive. The military appears to be focusing only on the foreign terror groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party, according to the military’s own statements.
The ISPR announced that “a number of Terrorists hideouts in Degan, Datta Khel in NWA [North Waziristan Agency], were targeted by jet aircrafts” in the early morning hours.
“There were confirmed reports of presence of foreign and local terrorists in these hideouts who were linked in planning of Karachi airport attack,” the ISPR continued. “Over 50 Terrorists, mostly Uzbek foreigners” were killed.
A later ISPR announcement said that “precise and targetted [sic] air strikes 8 hideouts of Terrorists in NWA were destroyed killing 105 terrorists, most of them Uzbek foreigners.” The military also claimed that the towns of Mir Ali and Miramshah have been cordoned off. The military is calling for “militants who chose to quit violence and give up their arms.”
Abu Abdur Rehman Almani, a “key commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” and several fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party are said to have been killed in the operation, but Almani’s death has not been confirmed, Dawn reported. Almani’s nom de guerre indicates he may be of German origin. He is said to have been involved in the June 10 suicide assault on an airport in Karachi. Both the IMU and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for the attack.
“Good Taliban” unlikely to be targeted in Operation Zarb-e-Azb
It is unlikely that the so-called “good Taliban” groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group will be targeted in the operation. The Pakistani state considers the Haqqanis, Bahadar, and the Mullah Nazir Group in South Waziristan to be good Taliban as they do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state and instead direct their forces to fight in Afghanistan. These independent Taliban factions are considered to be strategic depth against the Indians in Afghanistan.
The bad Taliban are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Punjabi Taliban, and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party in the tribal areas that threaten or attack the Pakistani state.
But the good Taliban shelter and support the bad Taliban, as well as al Qaeda. Top al Qaeda, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders and operatives have been killed in US drone strikes in the past.
The response of the good Taliban to the Pakistani military operation is not yet known. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, one of the most powerful Taliban leaders in North Waziristan, has threatened to end his peace agreement with the government if the military goes on the offensive. And the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said it would back Bahadar if he declared war on the state. [See LWJ report, Pakistani military strikes anger ‘good Taliban’ commander, and Threat Matrix report, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan vows to defend ‘good Taliban’.]
The Pakistani military has previously launched limited offensives in North Waziristan, but has refused to deal with the Haqqanis and Bahadar’s group. In those past operations, foreign fighters melted away to neighboring tribal agencies, Baluchistan, and eastern Afghanistan, only to come back after the offensive ended.