Saturday, August 11, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Aug 12, 2012

Coordinated operations ISI chief Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam’s visit to Washington seems to be bearing fruit. In a briefing to the Corps Commanders conference chaired by COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, General Islam reported on his discussions with the CIA chief and other top American officials. The issue that took up the most time in the conference was the problem of increasing cross-border attacks by Pakistani Taliban elements that have found safe havens in Afghanistan after they were routed from Swat and South Waziristan. In a general climate of improving Pakistan-US relations after a year or more of acrimony, reflected also in the foreign office spokesman’s regular briefing to the media, coordination in counter-terrorism efforts seems to be on the agenda. On the political/diplomatic front, preparations are afoot for Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s visit to Washington, a trip expected to pave the way for a late September meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and US President Barack Obama when the former is in New York on a three-day sojourn to attend the UN General Assembly. The reopening of NATO’s supply lines is credited with the improved atmospherics between Islamabad and Washington. The long-pressed demand by the US for military operations against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan has been resisted so far by the Pakistani military on two counts: one, Pakistani troops are too stretched for a major offensive; two, any operation in North Waziristan will be mounted by and at the will of the Pakistani military and not under any pressure from the US. The latter contention has once again been reiterated in ISPR’s press release on the Corps Commanders’ deliberations. Nevertheless, reports state that the military command is contemplating a nuanced operation in North Waziristan after Eid. Drawing on the experience (most of its bad) of previous operations in FATA, the military command envisages scaled-up and targeted operations in North Waziristan with additional troops from other formations and areas. In order to avoid the risk of a wider tribal uprising, the military is planning a two-phase low intensity targeted campaign with ground penetration engaging and securing militants launching direct attacks on the security forces and threatening the ground presence of troops. The success of the operation depends crucially on air operations coordinated with moves on the ground as well as intelligence and border coordination with ISAF forces across the divide. Being a notoriously porous line, the border needs sealing or at the very least forces of the two allies on either side to prevent militants under attack from fleeing across the border. General Islam pressed his US counterparts in Washington to take action against the Pakistani Taliban in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan. So far, so good. However, what has not found mention in any of the reports is the quid pro quo demanded of (or received) by the US. Since the Haqqani network has proved the bête noir of the US/ISAF, the silence on what will happen to them is both intriguing and perhaps ominous. If the Pakistani military is receiving cooperation from across the border against the militants attacking it, has it offered the counter-cooperation demanded against the Haqqanis? Only time will tell. GHQ seems to have take cognizance of the Haqqanis' treachery in giving the Pakistani Taliban safe havens in eastern Afghanistan in areas controlled by them. Whether this is a sufficient condition for ditching these erstwhile proxies is still, however, an open question.

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