Waziristan Operation – Episode 2009

With much bragging and swagger the Waziristan Operation also glorified as mother of all battles has been launched from 17 October 2009. While it is important for military morale to spread the word that God or Allah is on side of the Pakistan Army , wars are not fought by propaganda or media alone. It all bottom down to superior strategy, superior operational strategy and superior tactics by a military machine which is well supplied, has the right firepower at the right time, good intelligence, high morale and finally the physical endurance to climb the highest and steepest rocky pinnacles and traverse mountain gorges under the deadliest threats of ambuscades and annihilation.

What are the key elements of the situation one may ask without fear of forfeiture of rank or military or worldly advancement. A journalist who does not have the motive to please anyone and who writes not for money can or may do it.

Here are my two cents or half-cent:

  • The Waziristan Talibans center of gravity is no longer the Mehsud inhabited area of South Waziristan. They have spread into Orakzai Agency, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu District, Khyber Agency, Kurram Agency, Southern Punjab and most notably Karachi, which is a monster city of some 18 million souls with some one third Pashtun or lets say one-fourth Pashtun. Any tangible military operation in Waziristan will not destroy the Taliban. The Talibans require a broader strategy.
  • The Talibans are not an ethnic movement. They are an ideological movement and have some support,in all parts of Pakistan. Seen in this context, the Mehsud tribe although the core leadership of Taliban is a diverse set up in which leadership may not be destroyed even if the Mehsuds are destroyed or suffer serious casualties.
  • Security and power they say is more psychological than physical.15,000 British soldiers held all India in the First World War! The Pakistani security forces have fast lost this moral deterrence since 2004 with reverses in Waziristan, attack on corps commander and army chief and finally the GHQ attack. While apologist may brush them aside as of no consequence the intangible trends are dangerous. A state cannot go on with an army that is no longer respected or feared may it be China, USA or Pakistan. This is Pakistan’s most grave strategic imbalance or vulnerability.
  • The Talibans are supported by: non-state actors in Pakistan, silent supporters in the state actors, foreign state and non-state supporters who support them for various agendas. By merely launching the army in South Waziristan they cannot be destroyed.
  • The Talibans inflicting major damage on USA are in Kandahar or Helmand but these are being rewarded with rich construction and logistic sub-contracts by US aid agencies since 2001. They carry on drug and weapons trade day and night and are not interdicted by any US forces as I have repeatedly seen as a contractor based in South Afghanistan since 2004.Are they being prepared for Iran or at some stage China.Its a question that only history will answer. These Talbans have their center in Pakistani Balochistan but have never been attacked by the US.
  • So much propaganda and rhetoric has preceded the Waziristan Operation that the Waziristan Taliban have had ample time to relocate to Birmal in Afghanistan and to other tribal agencies adjoining South Waziristan and even to Punjab, settled NWFP area and to Karachi which is the largest Mehsud city in the world!

The key to the issue may be in the following:

  • Economically empowering Pakistan’s tribal areas [1] with export duty exempt industrial zones to USA and EU. The naive US senate and congress have not addressed this core issue. What a waste of time this Kerry Lugar Bill.
  • Serious reorganization of Pakistan Army with heavy reliance on technology and on non-human military assets like dogs so well used by many armies fighting counterinsurgency. So far the Al Qaeda has failed to infiltrate in dogs. A dog of a good breed will be a better anti terrorist asset than any human asset in soldiers attire.
  • Serious economic re-structuring of Pakistan with emphasis on power projects and incentives for small business.
  • A rapprochement with India so that the primacy of Pakistani military in politics is reduced.
  • A gradual disengagement with USA other than export free zones so that the demeaning impression of the Pakistani State and armed forces as petty vassals and mercenaries of USA is reduced in the eyes of the Pakistani populace.

If military operation could pacify any country, there would have been no Vietnam or Afghanistan or even 50 plus expeditions into Waziristan since 1890s till to date. The issue is not military alone but much larger. Seen in this context the abject surrender of Pakistan’s political leadership to the Pakistani military to find a Waziristan solution is pathetic at best and shameful at the worst. As they say war is too serious a business to be left to the generals.


Waziristan 1936-37 :: The Problems of NWFP and their solutions ::
by C. E. Bruce