Pakistan launches South Waziristan operation

The Pakistani military has launched its much anticipated ground assault into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.

“The army has launched an operation after receiving orders from the government,” Major General Athar Abbas, the top military spokesman, told AFP. “The operation was launched early in the morning. Both air and ground troops are taking part.”

Infantry and armored columns have begun the advance into the Taliban-controlled regions of Lahda, Makeen, and Sararogha in South Waziristan, where forces are under the control of Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsuh.

Large columns of troops have been reported to be moving south from Ramzak, northeast from Wana and Shakai, and northwest from Jandola. Army units are being backed by helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers.

The operation will focus on the eastern areas in South Waziristan that host Hakeemullah Mehsud’s Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Other powerful Taliban leaders such as Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Mullah Nazir, and Siraj Haqqani will not be targeted.

“The headquarters of the defunct Tehrik-e-Taliban (the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan) in the agency will be surgically targeted to dismantle the network of the terror outfit,” Abbas said.

The Taliban have reportedly struck at Army units as they moved from bases in Ramzak and Jandola. Three soldiers were killed in an IED attack in Ramzak, and another was killed by an IED in Jandola.

Eight Pakistani soldiers were also killed in fierce fighting in Spinkai Raghzai and Sarakai, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

The Pakistani military claimed that 11 Taliban fighters have been killed in airstrikes and only four soldiers have been killed so far.

The military has massed two divisions, an estimated 28,000 troops, to take on the estimated 10,000 Taliban and 1,500 foreign fighters believed to be sheltering in the area.

Some of the Taliban forces are thought to have left South Waziristan to preserve forces, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

“The Taliban appear to want to deny the military a decisive victory so they have pulled up some units and key leaders,” the intelligence official said. “A substantial rearguard unit will be left to bleed the Army.”

The military has said it will clear the Taliban from the region, keep troops in the Taliban stronghold, and will not conduct negotiations with the Taliban as it has in the past.

The offensive was launched as the Taliban have shocked the country with a series of devastating suicide and military assaults on Army, police, government, and civilian targets nationwide. More than 160 people have been killed in attacks since Oct. 5. The attacks include a Taliban assault on the the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and police stations in Lahore, as well as suicide attacks in Islamabad, Peshawar, Kohat, and Shangla.

For more information on the Waziristan operation, including who is and who is not being targeted, the strengths of the Army and the Taliban, and past operations, see LWJ report, “Analysis: What lies ahead in Waziristan.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • KaneKaizer says:

    How will the Pakistanis react if the Taliban attack from North Waziristan to relieve the TTP?

  • Airedale says:

    ISI will be telegraphing movements of “The Light Brigade”
    jmo, certain folks know the outcome already

  • Solomon2 says:

    I don’t get it, they are facing 25-30K opponents, doesn’t the PA need 2-1 or 3-1 — that is, four to six divisions – to succeed?

  • KW64 says:

    Sad as it may seem to say, the success of such strikes by the Pakistani army are probably the best hope for success by the American forces in Afghanistan. They have my best wishes.
    The timing of the strike in mid-Fall and after much ballyhoo and advance notice may show that making the Taliban move around and take cold casualties is more of an objective than closing with the enemy to destroy them.

  • Hi Bill,
    How can the USA ask the Pakistani army to fight its own cadre. The Kerry lugar bill has precipitated this operation. The attack is delayed as the pakistani army is NOT convinced of this operation. They will say the winter snow has stopped the operation and blame it on weather.The Taliban also know this. The statment by Corps commanders on KLB is also known to them. The Taliban will do everything to prop the coterie in GHQ.
    finally the terain is not something very different from SWAT except that Mehsuds belong here, The operation is mainly focussed to make the mehsuds to ask for asylum in areas controlled by Mullah Omar and jaish and haqqanies. If this is achieved then Americans can be given a figleaf for withdrwal from Afghanistan. The truckers who supply NATO in karachi will also be relieved.
    The double game which Musharaff played is getting exposed all the more.

  • Civy says:

    As in Chechnya and Iraq, if the insurgents stay in contact for more than 10-15 minutes they get slaughtered. Moral of the story, don’t let the Talliban break contact if you can goad them into a stan-up fight.

  • Nic says:

    Is there a military historian in the LWJ audience that could write a comparison between the current Pak offensive and the United State’s “Pancho”

  • jim2 says:

    It sure would seem that the Pakistan offense might bring good targets out into the open for Predator/Reaper attention. That is, while the Pakistan military would own the near-front battlespace, surely the Taliban/AQ reactions and responses would include putting men and units in motion to resist (or perhaps displace or even escape). Might this not create good targets at even a safe separation from Pakistan forces?

  • I wonder what the Pakistani Army is going to do with the members of the Taliban it captures? Will it execute them, or risk throwing them in a Pakistani prison where they can “covert” other inmates into becoming Taliban fighters? It will be very interesting to see how many prisoners the Pakistani Army takes in this operation. I’m also highly skeptical of the casualty estimates given by the Pakistani Army. The only true measure of success will be if the Taliban stays out of South Waziristan permanently, which I doubt it will. Pakistan will only defeat this enemy unless it totally crushes the movement. If Pakistan does not do this, then the Taliban will just move to another region and the Pakistani Army will simply be playing a game of “Whack-a-Mole” until it gives up. Kind of sounds like Afghanistan, doesn’t it?

  • civ3 says:

    What is the PA army doing with the captured Taliban?
    Sending them to Kashmir?

  • Oscar says:

    You have to give credit where credit is due. The Pakistan Army did take the battle to the Taliban in Swat and whatever the exaggerations may be, the Swat operations appears to be a success on balance.
    Can we say the same in Southern Afghanistan?

  • Civy says:

    I agree with your line of thinking, but given there are 10,000 targets, Predator and Reaper platforms are insufficient. This is the playground of BUFFs and BONEs.
    Almost 5 yrs ago I wrote most of a military thriller set in exactly this area, and know it pretty well, as public maps are quite good. Even in winter, BLU-82s and MOABs make for instant firebases – about 25 in all IIRC – which provide 1st response and persistent cover for deep incursions. With these alone you can usually defeat defenses in depth with mobility.
    To their credit the USMC has been experimenting with pushing the guidance of PGM (lazer and GPS) down to the squad level. You fly heavy bombers in racetrack circles like flying Coke dispensers, and have small special forces groups pickle off various types of bombs on demand. The result is a very light and fast force with staggering firepower at their disposal. This was largely the tactic used against the Talliban in the 1st month of the war after 9/11.
    Using helicopters, snowmobiles, and Prowlers with MatTracks, these forces can engage the enemy at a time and place of their choosing, and where the enemy MUST stand and fight or loose everything. For reference, Google “USMC + Distributed Operations”
    These kinds of operations have been designed, since first used in Vietnam in Air Cavalry operations, to defeat shallow, front-based defenses. It is these capabilities the USMC seeks to dramatically improve with the Osprey. DO is a much more thorough application of distributed forces, and one we are in desperate need of in an age of sensor-fused munitions delivered by TBMs.

  • ehunter says:

    The one good thing about Pakistan being a backward
    barbaric country is that it just might use napalm on
    these scum. And if so we should pat them on the back
    and give them all they need.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    Hopefully this will provide the Pakistanis more intel that we can coordinate our drone strikes with. Though I personally doubt Osama is in South Waziristan, it may give us intel that will lead us to him and other top AQ and Taliban leaders.

  • Jauhur says:

    In response to e-Hunter:
    “one good thing about Pakistan being a backward barbaric country is they just might use Napalm on these scum”
    Yes please do tell us how its used, where its made and if there are any instances of history where this barbaric, backward practice has been used.

  • John Abraham says:

    Napalm use may be considered barbaric but certainly not backward practice. It was non-existent, for example, a couple of centuries ago.
    For barbarism part, there are/were lot more things more barbaric than this though.
    For example massacre of 1-3 million innocent civilians by Pak army in 1971. Pak soldiers (may/may not have official blessings) torturing/mutilating PoW. For Afghan part(Taliban/Mujahedin) read about the acts by warlords.
    Even the writer of SAW series will shiver at these. Shall we start talking about the lovely treatment the women in these places receive.
    So things need to be put in perspective.


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