The pre-conditions to launch an army operation in North Waziristan

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ISLAMABAD:
Following Leon Panetta’s disclosure, for reasons best known to him,
that Pakistan Army was planning an operation in Waziristan, General
Kayani’s remarks on 14 August that ‘war on terror is also our war’ must
be appreciated as a bold step, setting right direction for the army, if
not for the nation.

However, these remarks in no way
imply that the military would undertake operation in North Waziristan on
the US’ dictation. Certain considerations would dictate whether the
operation should be undertaken or not and if the decision is in
affirmative.

Certain pre-requisites must be met before embarking on this venture. These considerations should be:

(1)
Is the Pakistani public in favour of such an operation? (2) In spite of
the general perception in Pakistan that foreign forces are presently
occupying Afghanistan, the worldwide view is that they are UN mandated
and supported by a legitimate Afghan government. That be the case, are
local militants within their right to undertake terrorist activities in
Afghanistan? (3) If the local Taliban do not accept Pakistan
government’s writ and go across to Afghanistan to hit the Nato/Afghan
forces, how should the Pakistan government respond to any counter action
by them? Should we put our country at stake for those who do not evven
accept government’s writ (4) A friendly and stable Afghanistan is surely
in Pakistan’s interest. This being the objective, are the local
militants part of the solution or part of the problem? (5)
Notwithstanding emotional outbursts which some of our leaders display,
is the nation prepared to face the consequences of local militants’
continued declared interference into the internal affairs of
Afghanistan? If not, how to stop them? (6) Negative international
perception about Pakistan with regard to ongoing militancy. (7) And
finally, internal fall out of any such operation and its ramifications.

If
as a conclusion to above considerations, an operation is deemed
necessary, the same be undertaken after meeting certain pre-requisites,
especially in view of our past experiences.

While
considering the external factor, we must never forget that in the
eighties, Pakistan fought along-side US and together we were
instrumental in ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan. After achieving
their objectives, however, the US left us in the lurch to face the
consequences.

Similarly, not very long time back, our
forces undertook operations in Swat and South Waziristan and since the
border on Afghan side was not sealed, the terrorists not only went
across but since then are conducting terrorist activities against
Pakistan, with impunity, from their safe-havens in Afghanistan, if not
under the patronage of Nato/Afghan forces but certainly from areas
presently controlled by them.

In this backdrop, it would
be natural for the Pakistani leadership to be apprehensive about the US
intent behind compelling us to undertake the operation in North
Waziristan. We must never preclude the possibility that the US only
wants us to attack the militants so that the weakened militants could be
pressurised by them into negotiations for extracting a better deal,
which may not be in Pakistan’s best interests.

Besides,
the backlash, if also sponsored by hostile intelligence agencies, would
be crippling for Pakistan. As such, Pakistan Army must not undertake
this operation unless the border across is sealed by Isaf/US forces and
guarantees are given that the retreating militants would not be given
safe passage to be used against Pakistan in the future.

Also, Pakistan must be included as a party in any future negotiations, overt or covert, with the Taliban.

Internally,
the experience shows that successful military operations in Swat and
South Waziristan were not backed by the required political process for
seeking permanent solution. The army still is deployed and committed in
these areas. As such, any future military operation must be preceded by
shaping of environment for which the political leadership must take full
ownership and media should be effectively used to educate the masses.

Well-planned
covert operations must be undertaken to isolate the militants from the
locals, though a difficult proposition till the time locals carry the
impression that militants are waging ‘jihad’ against foreign forces in
Afghanistan.

Speedy rehabilitation and initiation of
political process after successful military operation are imperatives
for a permanent solution, which must be planned in advance. The
political leadership must also be fully prepared to deal with any
internal fall out of such an operation.

And finally, in
the prevailing regional environment, sincerity of purpose is of prime
essence. Both Pakistan and US must learn from the past mistakes,
recognise the threat in its larger context, formulate a comprehensive
threat response and then appropriately deal with the rogue elements.

Double
games by the US or Pakistan or both have neither served their interests
in the past nor they would in the future — the threat is too grave to
play around.

 

By Major General (R) Tahir Ali
Wednesday, September 05, 2012


The News Pakistan 

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