The Pakistani military continues to claim fantastic success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the offensive in the tribal agency of North Waziristan which began in June 2014. Based on the reporting from Pakistan, it seems the military is eager to declare victory and put an end to Zarb-e-Azb, even though the jihadists networks based there have not been dismantled.
Pakistan’s Army claimed an unlikely kill ratio of 32 to 1 in its “last phase” in the Shawal area of the tribal agency. From Xinhua:
“During last phase of operation in Shawal, 252 terrorists have been killed reportedly 160 were severely injured. In the last two months, valiantly fighting in Shawal, eight soldiers of Pakistan Army embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) while 39 injured,” the army spokesman said.
Additionally, the military said it captured Ahmad Mehsud, who was described as “an important commander of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP). Pakistani officials previously claimed Mehsud was based in Afghanistan, but he was captured in the Razmak area of North Waziristan.
The Pakistani military has claimed that Zarb-e-Azb has targeted all jihadist groups in North Waziristan, including the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, two powerful Taliban factions that are independent of the TTP. But as the The Long War Journal has reported multiple times, that claim is fiction. The Pakistani military has blatantly ignored the Haqqanis and Bahadar’s group (the so-called “good Taliban” because they don’t overtly challenge the Pakistani state), and only targeted the “bad Taliban” such as the TTP, the defunct Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda.
The so-called “good Taliban” are the life blood to the “bad Taliban.” They provide shelter, safe haven, logistics, manpower, finances, and other key enablers that allow the networks to survive a military offensive. Groups like the TTP melt away while a rearguard harasses Pakistani forces, and establish or reinforce operations in other areas of Pakistan.
The Pakistani military and intelligence service’s myopic view that groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network serve its domestic and foreign policy agenda is short sighted to say the least. Pakistan’s refusal to deal with the entire continuum of the jihadist threat – both the “good” and “bad” Taliban – ensures that Pakistan and neighboring countries will continue to suffer devastating terrorist attacks.