Pakistan launches ‘comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists’ in North Waziristan

View Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan in a larger map

The Pakistani military has launched what it described as a “comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists” in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The operation, called “Zarb-e-Azb” after the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s sword, was announced today by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the public affairs arm of the Pakistani military, which said it is targeting “foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in North Wazirastan [sic] Agency.”

“Using North Waziristan as a base, these terrorists had waged a war against the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting our national life in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth and causing enormous loss of life and property,” the ISPR statement said. “They had also paralyzed life within the agency and had perpetually terrorized the entire peace loving and patriotic local population.”

The Pakistani military has been “tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries,” the ISPR claimed. “These enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country.”

The ISPR did not specifically name the groups targeted in the North Waziristan offensive. The military appears to be focusing only on the foreign terror groups, such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party, according to the military’s own statements.

The ISPR announced that “a number of Terrorists hideouts in Degan, Datta Khel in NWA [North Waziristan Agency], were targeted by jet aircrafts” in the early morning hours.

“There were confirmed reports of presence of foreign and local terrorists in these hideouts who were linked in planning of Karachi airport attack,” the ISPR continued. “Over 50 Terrorists, mostly Uzbek foreigners” were killed.

A later ISPR announcement said that “precise and targetted [sic] air strikes 8 hideouts of Terrorists in NWA were destroyed killing 105 terrorists, most of them Uzbek foreigners.” The military also claimed that the towns of Mir Ali and Miramshah have been cordoned off. The military is calling for “militants who chose to quit violence and give up their arms.”

Abu Abdur Rehman Almani, a “key commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” and several fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party are said to have been killed in the operation, but Almani’s death has not been confirmed, Dawn reported. Almani’s nom de guerre indicates he may be of German origin. He is said to have been involved in the June 10 suicide assault on an airport in Karachi. Both the IMU and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed credit for the attack.

“Good Taliban” unlikely to be targeted in Operation Zarb-e-Azb

It is unlikely that the so-called “good Taliban” groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group will be targeted in the operation. The Pakistani state considers the Haqqanis, Bahadar, and the Mullah Nazir Group in South Waziristan to be good Taliban as they do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state and instead direct their forces to fight in Afghanistan. These independent Taliban factions are considered to be strategic depth against the Indians in Afghanistan.

The bad Taliban are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Punjabi Taliban, and other jihadist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party in the tribal areas that threaten or attack the Pakistani state.

But the good Taliban shelter and support the bad Taliban, as well as al Qaeda. Top al Qaeda, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders and operatives have been killed in US drone strikes in the past.

The response of the good Taliban to the Pakistani military operation is not yet known. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, one of the most powerful Taliban leaders in North Waziristan, has threatened to end his peace agreement with the government if the military goes on the offensive. And the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said it would back Bahadar if he declared war on the state. [See LWJ report, Pakistani military strikes anger ‘good Taliban’ commander, and Threat Matrix report, Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan vows to defend ‘good Taliban’.]

The Pakistani military has previously launched limited offensives in North Waziristan, but has refused to deal with the Haqqanis and Bahadar’s group. In those past operations, foreign fighters melted away to neighboring tribal agencies, Baluchistan, and eastern Afghanistan, only to come back after the offensive ended.

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

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  • Birbal Dhar says:

    The Pakistani ISI have created the situation “Damn if you do, damn if you don’t”. With so many terrorist groups, that the ISI have given sanctuary that those Frankenstein creatures they’ve created are now attacking them. Serves them right !!

  • Alex says:

    Here we go again…
    I’m thinking the best thing that could happen for the whole region is rapprochement of some sort between India and Pakistan. This way we wouldn’t have Pakistan continuing their love-hate relationship with the Taliban as a reserve force against India.

  • gitsum says:

    About time you raked up the dirty leaves in your own backyard!

  • Bill S. says:

    The Dawn, an online Pakistani newspaper, sees little evidence of troop movement, but claims extensive bombing. You wonder: how many of the claimed 150 “terrorist” casualties were innocent civilians? The USA has been under intense international criticism about innocent victims of drone attacks. The USA claims that it has made maximum efforts to assure that as few civilian casualties as possible occur. It would be surprising if Pakistan is trying to fine tune their air attacks at all. The upshot of indiscriminate air attacks with a weak follow up by ground forces will probably cause intense anger in North Waziristan making even worse the already existing insurgency and attacks. This is about as far opposite of Shock and Awe as you could ask for.

  • Minnor says:

    Pakistan should establish a military base in that area complete with airstrip. Just hit and run by military will not do, once they go back to peshawar militants will come back.

  • Joy says:

    The thought that solving India Pakistan problem might solve the Pakistani problem borders on naivete. or at best a desperate search for anything that might look like a begining of solution to this continuing nightmare of islamist terrorism.
    small thought – Pakistan says it wants to solve its territorial dispute with India and hence needs strategic depth and hence feels entitled to meddling in afganistan ….no, it does not need to respect afgan sovereignity.
    And somehow the entire international community feels the pakistani’s are valid and justified in this blatantly illegal positioning.
    I never have ever seen anyone ticking off Pakistan to stopping messing in afganistan.
    The crux of this entire islamist problem lies in two countries – Saudi Arabia and pakistan. and the world is right now not ready to solve the right problem – and being too busy coping with tens of rashes across the world.
    going by the way it is going we are looking at the islamist issue continuing for atleast a few decades more…if ever it may get solved.

  • g says:

    Is there an estimate of the number of “bad guys” in that region? It seems like 200 kills, a number being approached in the Pak press, is significant but I don’t know.

  • Moose says:

    You’re absolutely right. Pakistan has used its conflict with India as a pretext to attack Afghanistan for decades now. They openly admit it too, which is a pretty good indication it’s a lie. The strategy doesn’t even make sense. My understanding is that Pakistan wants the ability to retreat into Afghanistan in the event that hostilities break out with India. If things get that bad for Pakistan, then it has already lost.
    The fact is they want Afghanistan under their control. Personally, I believe the creation of the Taliban in the 1990s was the first phase towards Pakistan’s annexation of Afghanistan, but was thwarted due to 9/11 and the U.S. intervention. I believe this b/c Pakistan’s population is estimated to double to 300 million by 2050 and they can’t handle that many people within their current borders. Think of it as a Pakistani version of the Lebensraum campaign in Nazi Germany. They also teach their kids in school that Afghanistan belongs to Pakistan.

  • Shatru Ajaat says:

    Alex Rapprochement with Indian means what? You think its possible? They want Kashmir, Kashmir is strategically important for India, entire population of India is ready to die for Kashmir. If Kashmir goes to Pakistan there will be riots across the country. Besides, even if we give them Kashmir they are not going to stop it because their agenda is not Kashmir alone, they want to bleed India from thousand cuts and behind this enmity both history and religion are at play. The current military operation in Pakistan is nothing but a hogwash. Pakistan is actually getting their proxies ready to attack withdrawing US forces, it is also readying them for take over of Kabul once again once the US troops leave. This is one of the major reasons they brought in Nawaz Sharif who enjoys good relations with various militant factions in Af-Pak region. If Pakistan was serious about destroying terror network on its soil it would have first targeted Haqqani network, Lashkar e Tayyaba and others but it doesn’t want to do it because keeping these terrorist organizations alive, as claimed by the former ISI chief Hamid Gul, is in the national interest of Pakistan. Pakistan is suffering from superiority complex, they are competing with India, trying to become a regional power but the means it has chosen are back firing. In Pakistan the world is running out of time as the religious fundamentalists and the terrorists groups are fast becoming more powerful than the state itself. If these groups take over Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US troops and later Pakistan then no one can prevent a nuclear holocaust in the region.


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