Is the Pakistani military considering a full-fledged military operation in North Waziristan? According to The New York Times, the idea is being kicked around as officials are finally acknowledging that North Waziristan has become a witches’ brew of jihadi groups.
Pakistani officials recognize that the evolving nature of the militants has made them more dangerous – and made the necessity of going after them in North Waziristan increasingly unavoidable. “Their nexus with the Punjabi Taliban have given them greater reach,” a Pakistani law enforcement official said.
But even as there is a growing consensus that North Waziristan is now the source of the problem, there is a continuing debate in the military over when and how to tackle it. Publicly the Pakistani military is saying that it is already fighting on several fronts, and that it does not have the resources to push into North Waziristan for at least several months. Western officials say they believe that the Pakistani military is doing as much as it can under the circumstances.
There is also an understanding that opening a new front in North Waziristan – with its tangle of tribes, Qaeda militants, antistate groups and Haqqani supporters, thought to be in the thousands – will be a formidable task. “To go after Haqqani, it takes a very sizable military operation,” the diplomat said.
But some officials say an operation could come sooner, not least because officers on the ground are calling for it. More frequent attacks emanating from North Waziristan “are likely to lead to a reaction sooner rather than later as field commanders feel the pressure to protect their troops,” said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia program at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Others argue that Pakistan should wait and see how the American-led military offensive in southern Afghanistan plays out this summer. One senior military officer who favors Pakistani military action sooner derisively called that option “sitzkrieg,” Mr. Nawaz said.
In my opinion, this is the most important paragraph of the article, as it seems the military really isn’t interested in a full-fledged operation but may instead seek to boost its forces in North Waziristan.
Whatever the case, the military would most likely avoid a frontal invasion, some officials suggested, and instead bolster the forces it already maintains in the area, about 10,000 soldiers. Pakistani forces in North Waziristan, which include the paramilitary Frontier Corps, are mostly confined to their barracks.
A few weeks back, Major General Athar Abbas claimed a military operation was already underway in North Waziristan and that more than 40,000 troops were conducting low-key security operations there. But there is little evidence that an offensive is underway, or that 40,000 troops are currently deployed there.
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