As the Pakistani military sizes up the growing conflict it faces with its South Waziristan offensive, there is increasing concern among soldiers that while the army was able to defeat a small Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction in the Swat Valley (albeit at the expense of creating millions of refugees), they may be biting off a bit more than they can chew in Waziristan.
In the 1930’s the British military launched a massive anti-militant campaign against the Wazir and Mehsud tribes, sparking years of indecisive battles that ended when British forces left the area and support began to dry up for the insurgent commander. Since then, Waziristan has had a fiercely independent streak and governments have been able to exercise only a small measure of control over the tribes.
The military had initially eyed a very limited set of targets to the offensive, including a fraction of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan and TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud. Yesterday’s ambush in North Waziristan was followed today by an announcement from one of the other Taliban factions that it was scrapping the peace deal in North Waziristan and joining the battle as well.
This has left the Pakistani Army high command with an uncomfortable decision to make. Retaliatory strikes against the North Waziristan Taliban factions would certainly be in keeping with the Pakistani government’s present strategy of constant escalation, but as more and more factions join into the battle it must inevitably be asked: if the British military wasn’t able to handle Waziristan militarily, what chance does the Pakistani military have?