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Pakistan General Dismisses North Waziristan ‘Hype’

Pakistan General Dismisses North Waziristan ‘Hype’

Corps Commander Peshawar Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik

 

MOHAMAD GAT, Pakistan — A leading Pakistani commander on Wednesday sought to play down “media hype” over the prospect of an imminent military offensive to meet US interests in North Waziristan.

 

In the fallout from Osama bin Laden’s killing, US officials are said to have increased pressure on Pakistan to mount a major offensive in the district, considered the premier Taliban and Al-Qaeda fortress along the Afghan border.

 

Local newspaper The News reported this week that Pakistan had decided to launch a “careful and meticulous” military offensive in North Waziristan after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad.

 

But Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik, the corps commander supervising all military operations in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told reporters: “We will undertake operation in North Waziristan when we want to.”

 

“There has been a lot of media hype about the operation,” said Malik in the Mohamad Gat area of tribal district Mohmand, where the military flew reporters to show off apparent progress in battles against homegrown Taliban.

 

“I do not operate on press reports. I get orders from my high command,” he said in response to a question.

 

“We will undertake such an operation when it is in our national interest militarily,” the general said, describing North Waziristan as “calm and peaceful as it was weeks ago”.

 

The remote, mountainous region has attracted major interest in the United States as a fiefdom of the Haqqani network, one of its most potent enemies across the border in Afghanistan and thought to have a core of 4,000 fighters.

 

The Al-Qaeda-linked group attacks only across the border in Afghanistan, and is said to have long-standing ties to Pakistan’s intelligence services.

 

Pakistani officials are said to believe they cannot win if they take on its leaders, who command considerable tribal support and are well-armed.

 

Set up by Afghan warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, the group is loyal to the Taliban and has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing in 2009 that killed seven CIA operatives.

 

But asked about the Haqqanis, Malik hit back: “We are misusing the word ‘network’. It does not become a network if four people sit together somewhere.”

 

Instead he said the military was focused on maintaining an already “stable” environment to undertake “developmental activity” in North Waziristan, and confirmed reports that a cadet college in the area had been reopened.

 

The army had closed the college at Razmak after Taliban militants briefly kidnapped 46 students and two staff in June 2009 as they were going home at the start of the summer holidays.

 

In the absence of a Pakistani military offensive, a covert CIA drone war on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked fighters has been concentrated in North Waziristan, and Western officials say it has dealt a major blow to militant capabilities.

 

But Pakistan is publicly opposed to the drones as a violation of sovereignty and parliament demanded an end to the attacks in the fallout over the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad by US troops.

 

Malik called the programme a “negative thing” that “creates instability and infringes” his relationships with local tribes, and rejected any question of a joint operation with US forces in North Waziristan or anywhere else.

 

Clinton last Friday urged Pakistan to take decisive steps to defeat Al-Qaeda, as she became the most senior US official to visit since US Navy SEALs found and killed bin Laden in the country on May 2.

 

The fact that the Al-Qaeda terror chief had been living in a garrison city just a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s top military academy raised disturbing questions about incompetence or complicity within the armed forces.

 

Under US pressure to crack down on Islamist havens on the Afghan border, Pakistan has been fighting for years against homegrown militants in much of the tribal belt, dubbed a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

 

Pakistan has always maintained that any North Waziristan operation would be of its own time and choosing, arguing that its 140,000 troops committed to the northwest are already too overstretched fighting elsewhere.


If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

If NATO wants to Broaden the War Theatre does it have the body bags?

  • At least 27 tankers carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan were destroyed at a fuel station in southern Pakistan, an official said Friday.
  • It was unclear whether the attack was linked to a NATO airstrike Thursday at a border post in Khurram Agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in which three Pakistani troops died, the BBC said.
  • Pakistan has formally lodged protest with NATO over airstrikes in its tribal region, which Thursday also killed three soldiers, officials said on Friday.
  • “Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani met the Deputy Secretary General of NATO in Brussels to lodge protest over the border violations by NATO/ISAF helicopters,” Pakistani Embassy in Brussels said.
  • Most people in Pakistan’s tribal regions strongly oppose U.S. missile strikes in their territory, with nearly half believing they kill mainly civilians, according to a rare opinion poll that may raise doubts about a key plank of the Obama administration’s anti-terror strategy.
  • Nearly nine of 10 people surveyed opposed the U.S. taking action against militants in the tribal belt.

Following the unwarranted missile firing by two NATO helicopters on Pakistani army posts in Kurram agency Waziristan, the situation has taken a very ugly and ominous turn. In what they claim as hot pursuit option of the militants, the NATO air force has arrogated itself the right to target even the Pakistani soldiers fighting on Pakistani soil in what ostensibly is NATO and American war.

While this is outright an egregious provocation, it lends a new grave dimension to the anti terrorism alliance between Pakistan and America a new bizarre twist. For Pakistan, there are two choices. She should either bear with this disgrace and willingly agree to be killed and come under wanton aerial bombing by the chasing NATO bombers or retaliate in a befitting manner. Being a world class and one of the finest armies, it would be difficult for Pakistan army command to swallow this insult and affront that could be repeated time and again.

The second course would be to withdraw, the Pakistan army from the embattled frontier and tribal regions to allow the NATO troops to deal with the insurgents directly. It is important to do so because NATO and particularly America is bent upon dealing severe blows to the insurgents and Taliban no matter it amounts to grave and naked violation of the territorial integrity of a country which is rendering huge sacrifices by fighting a proxy war for the foreign occupation forces stationed in Afghanistan. It is highly improbable that if NATO cannot succeed in a limited area of Afghanistan, how it can cope with a larger terrain.

Yet it clearly demonstrates that America and NATO are embracing a new strategy in their war again the militants in which the demarcation of boundaries and sanctity of the land do not hold any prominence. By that token, it would not be naïve to speculate that if the border regions of Pakistan can be bombed and intruded either by land or by air, the remaining territory of Pakistan can also be treated as a war zone for chasing the miscreants because there is every possibility of fleeing Taliban to spread across the land of Pakistan. Thus, they can also launch their forays against the NATO forces and retreat to save havens and sanctuaries interspersed all over Pakistan.

This overly alarming development has the seeds of pitting the two allies against each other. The Pakistan army’s top brass must be emergently seized of the freakish and sinister turn of the events and the changing paradigm of fighting and the latest tactics of the NATO forces for counter-terrorism. Hopefully, Pakistan army’s command would be able to persuade the NATO commanders not to indulge in such insane violations,, highly questionable conduct and desperate maneuvers that can deal a fatal blow to the cooperation between Pakistan and NATO in combating terrorism.

While Pakistan army would be mulling over the next step and is believed to be in consultation, it is laudable that the NATO supplies have been suspended by Pakistan as retaliation to this fiasco.

If NAT O does not have the requisite intelligence that can differentiate between friends and foes and militants and the Pakistan army personnel, then this negligence assumed very intriguing dimensions. In the future too, every time the NATO bombers can cross over to Pakistan’s territory, indiscriminately shell the Pakistani soldiers, and then justify it as an act of self-defense. The logic of self-defense is tenable if Pakistan forces infiltrate all the way into the Afghan territory and attack the NATO troops. This is not self-defense and there is no precedent that you can trespass the terrain of a friendly country without giving prior information based on proper and credible intelligence.

The hamstrung government run by the spineless and titular rulers in Pakistan does not have enough courage and dignity to order shooting down the intruding aircrafts or helicopter gunships. If the invaders do not observe any rules of the game then why should Pakistan be imposed with an explanation which is downright audacious, unconvincing and an open declaration for doing such violations even for the future.

The crossing of the international borders and firing upon an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan is either a sign of desperation or willful attempt to give the message that NATO can extend its operations to the Pakistani territory. According to a Pakistan army spokesperson, Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers “retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory,”. “Instead of heading to the warning, helicopters went to fire two missiles, destroying the post. As a result, three FC soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and three have been injured.”

These patently provocative actions would erode whatever the support and sympathy America and her NATO allies have at the moment in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps as a retaliation that brazen misadventure by the NATO gunships, the NATO containers were torched at Shiakpur Pakistan emanating a clear yet a portentous message that if such acts are repeated these can have their detrimental reactions in Pakistan’s mainland and perhaps elsewhere.

If United States thinks that the Pakistan’s territory should also be envisaged as the war theatre, a scenario that can prompt Pakistan to withdraw her troops from these war areas to leave the embattled terrain open to NATO and the insurgents, then it can be a good riddance by Pakistan army, fighting under duress. Or else Pakistan army can shoot down the intruding gunships, fight the land troops if these enter Pakistan’s territory and drive away or bring down drones by firing missiles at them.

This very horrendous projected situation neither suits Pakistan nor NATO and America. It would be, therefore, better if NATO leaves the military operations in the Pakistan’s territory to Pakistan army. They can continue focusing on Afghanistan as they are doing now. Pakistan indeed is a scapegoat in this so-called war against terrorism but there is a limit to find faults with such a trustworthy, competent, and brave ally as the Pakistan army is. October 1, 2010, Upright Opinion, Does NATO want to Broaden the War Theatre? By Saeed Qureshi.

(The writer is a freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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  • President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said that the Government of Pakistan strongly disapproves any incident of violation of its sovereignty and any violation of internationally agreed principles was counter-productiveand unacceptable.
  • The president made these remarks during a meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta, who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Thursday.
  • Panetta also separately met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at the PM House and the General Headquarters respectively.
  • Gunmen in southern Pakistan on Friday torched more than two dozen trucks and tankers carrying supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan, police said.
  • Attacks on trucks carrying goods for US and Nato-led forces are routine.

US Drone strategy will fuel desire for revenge

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

US Drone strategy will fuel desire for revenge

Drone attacks operated by the CIA and the targeting of suspected militants in northern Pakistan have intensified over the past month even though officials in Islamabad deny that the upsurge is linked to a specific terror plot.

There have been at least 21 strikes in September, a monthly record, as the Obama administration aims to widen the scope to take in both high and low-ranking militants.

It was claimed this week that a senior al Qaeda figure, identified as Sheikh al-Fateh, was killed in a strike last Saturday.

This month’s strikes are said to have killed more than 100 people in the country’s remote tribal areas many of them, inevitably will have been civilians.

Some analysts believe that the upsurge in strikes, more than twice the monthly average reflects ongoing US efforts to try and maintain pressure on al Qaeda and Taleban militants ahead of a review of Afghan strategy later this year.

Having set in motion the timetable for its eventual departure from Afghanistan, the US is more aware than ever of its limited ability to force the Pakistani military to move against militants it considers national assets.

“It’s also part of a longer game,” said Professor Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan security research unit at the University of Bradford. “Even after the US pulls out of Afghanistan there will still be a need for pressure on al Qaeda.”

The strikes, some involving multiple drones in co-ordinated attacks, have largely focused on the wild tribal region of North Waziristan, considered a safe haven for both al Qaeda, Taleban and associated militants.

Prime among the targets have been the Haqqani network, a father-and-son-led outfit described by Western intelligence agencies as the most potent threat to US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. The group is closely aligned with al Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.

It also has a relationship with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and yet exerts influence over the Pakistani Taleban.

Western security sources do not believe the latest terror plan involving European cities could have been the work of the Haqqanis although Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told the BBC that the plot could be the clans’ response to sustained US aerial bombardment.

“They don’t understand why they are under attack and they intend to take revenge,” he said.

The group is now headed by the young, hot-headed commander, Sirajuddin Haqqani, but remains symbolically under the control of his septuagenarian father, Jalaluddin Haqqani,who rose as a mujahedin leader much favoured by the US in the 1980s. He was lavishly supported by the CIA and was once described by Texan Congressman Charlie Wilson as “goodness personified”.

From their base in North Waziristan, the Haqqanis have launched spectacular and vicious attacks on both Western troops and high profile targets in Kabul including an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Haqqanis are believed to have introduced suicide bombing to Afghanistan, a tactic not seen there before.

The Haqqanis’ friendship with Osama Bin Laden was demonstrated in 1986, when they allowed the Saudi millionaire to erect his own militant base, known as the Lion’s Den, in Haqqani-controlled territory. Drone strategy may fuel al Qaeda desire for revenge. 10:13 AM Thursday Sep 30, 2010. – THE INDEPENDENT