Pakistani military officials are now claiming that the North Waziristan operation, which began on June 15, will target the Haqqani Network. Sorta. Reuters reports on a press briefing with a general and government official. A cursory read of the report might lead you to conclude that yes, the Pakistani military is now indeed serious about squaring off against the Haqqanis. But see the following excerpt from the Reuters report:
But Major General Asim Bajwa said all civilian residents of North Waziristan, a mountainous region on the Afghan border, had left and the military would target anyone still there.
“They cannot escape,” he told a press briefing. “It’s very clear that those who left inside are only terrorists.”
Nervous laughter rippled around the room as Bajwa faced aggressive questioning about whether the military was pursuing the Haqqanis or allied Taliban commanders who stage attacks inside Afghanistan but leave Pakistani forces alone.
Although Bajwa did not refer specifically to the Haqqanis, he promised that the military would go after “terrorists of all hue and color” and there would be no discrimination between Taliban factions.
Abdul Qadir Baloch, the minister for states and frontier regions and a close ally of the prime minister, was more blunt.
“Haqqani or no Haqqani … no one who tries to terrorize in Pakistan will be allowed. Our government has been saying time and again that the soil of Pakistan will not be allowed to be used against anyone,” he said.
Note how General Bajwa can’t even bring himself to name the Haqqani Network. He does promise to target “terrorists of all hue and color,” but if you don’t consider the Haqqanis to be terrorists, that solves that problem.
Also note how Minister Baloch claims that “no one who tries to terrorize in Pakistan will be allowed” [emphasis mine].
That carefully crafted statement gets to the heart of the “good Taliban” vs. “bad Taliban” issue. The Haqqanis (and Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s Taliban faction) are good Taliban because they don’t advocate “terrorizing” the Pakistani state. And they were given ample time to clear out of North Waziristan before the military launched its operation.
The simple reality is that if the Pakistani military and intelligence service were serious about dismantling the Haqqani Network, they wouldn’t need to launch a massive operation to do so. The top leaders of the Haqqani Network are known to operate in Pakistan’s major cities, and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate knows just where those leaders reside.
As we’ve noted at the onset of the operation, the real target of this operation is the “bad Taliban” – the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and “foreigners.”