Two unconfirmed reports from Pakistan today claim that “NATO” forces in two helicopters crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan, snatched five Taliban/Haqqani Network members, and took them back across the border into Afghanistan. The reports differ: Xinhua claimed five leaders from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan were captured, while The Nation said five Haqqani Network operatives were captured.
Unconfirmed news from intelligence sources said on Monday that five Pakistan Taliban ( TTP) leaders were arrested Monday morning in the Gorvait area of North Waziristan by NATO forces and later taken away by two NATO helicopters to Afghanistan.
According to the sources who asked to remain anonymous, the action was taken by the NATO forces without informing the Pakistani government. If so, this is another Abbottabad-like operation taken by the foreign forces on the Pakistani soil without the knowledge of the Pakistani side.
Political agent of North Waziristan also confirmed the news.
And from The Nation:
Sources said that two NATO choppers entered the Pakistani airspace to hunt militants in border area of North Waziristan Agency (NWA).
The NATO helicopters entered the border area, claiming that five members of Haqqani network have been arrested after the search operation.
A few points:
- I have no confirmation that this raid occurred.
- The two reports mentioned above have not been picked up beyond these two news outlets. Xinhua has a good track record in its reporting from Pakistan, while The Nation, a nationalist newspaper that occasionally reprints Afghan Taliban press releases without context, has a spotty record at best.
- A raid of this nature would not be carried out by regular ISAF forces; this would be conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in northwestern Pakistan on May 2.
- There was a cross-border incident on May 17 in North Waziristan, but that incident involved ISAF Apache attack helicopters, which struck a Pakistani border outpost during an exchange of fire along the border. That did not appear to have been a snatch-and-grab operation, as no transport helicopters were reported to have been in the area.
- In order to carry out such a raid, the US would have to be sure that the chances of capturing a high-value target – at the level of Hakeemullah Mehsud or Siraj Haqqani – are very good. The raid that killed Osama bin Laden has caused serious divisions between the US and Pakistan, and the Pakistani military would come under enormous pressure from the political class and the public if another cross-border raid took place. Just today, Prime Minister Gilani said that “[u]nilateral acts like Abbottabad incident will not be acceptable to us,” according to the Daily Times.
- Another unconfirmed report from yesterday claims the Pakistani military is preparing for an operation in North Waziristan, but the operation would be limited to targeting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The Haqqanis and Hafiz Gul Bahadar would not be targeted.