Pakistani Army initiates an offensive in Waziristan as President Bush begins tour of the region
Amidst troubling reports that Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas of North and South Waziristan have become de facto al Qaeda and Taliban mini-states, Pakistan has initiated an offensive in the border town of Danda Saidgai, which lies about ten miles north of Miranshah in North Waziristan. The Pakistani Army has conducted an air assault on the isolated town, and report over thirty “foreign miscreants” (code for al Qaeda) have been killed or wounded. An unnamed Pakistani Army official states a senior Chechen commander was killed in the raid; “This Chechen commander Imam was behind most of the attacks against Pakistani security forces along the Pakistan-Afghan border… He was an important man for al-Qaida linked militants, and he died with his three bodyguards.”
The strike occurs one a week after the Pakistani military suspended operations in Waziristan, with the hope the local tribes can “restore peace and normalcy through their own customs and traditions.” The brutal reality is the Pakistani government exerts little control in North and South Waziristan outside of the government controlled bastions in Wana and Miranshah. President Musharraf is trying to demonstrate his government’s ability and sincerity in conducting operations in Waziristan as President Bush arrives for a tour of Pakistan and India, and a surprise stop in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently presented Pakistan a list of known Taliban operatives, along with their locations within Pakistan. Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is said to have been on the list. President Musharraf disputes this allegations, stating “certainly Mullah Omar is in Afghanistan… I’m 200 percent sure he’s in Afghanistan. He’s living in his own area.” Musharraf does recognize Taliban is operating from Pakistani territory and has offered to seal the border, “I have been telling (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai and the United States, ‘Let us fence the border and let us mine it.’ Today I say it again. Let us mine their entire border. Let us fence it. It’s not difficult.”
The reality is sealing the Afghan-Pakistani isn’t all that simple. This is some of the roughest terrain on the planet, and Pakistan exerts little real control on its western border. Like the northern provinces, the southern province of Balochistan is a virtual haven for al Qaeda, and there is a low level insurgency being waged against the Pakistani government there. Over the past few days, a politician sympathetic to the central government was assassinated, a gas line was destroyed and a train was attacked in the region.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.