30,000 Pakistani soldiers poured into the South Waziristan Agency today, aiming to subjugate the region which has become the most important base of operations for the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan has been bombing the region for weeks, and army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas says the military will focus on the “headquarters of the defunct” TTP and the approximately 1,500 foreign fighters he estimates are present in the area.
But while the official position has been, and remarkably enough seems to continue to be that the TTP is a group “on the ropes” or even on the verge of destruction since August, the militant faction has launched an unprecedented number of high profile strikes over the past week, killing over 170 and hitting sites long thought to be untouchable, like the Pakistani military’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Likewise, though the number of foreign fighters in the region is likely quite small, the military is almost certain to encounter stiff resistance from the locals, which have a long history of jealously guarding thier independence from outside interference and are feeling increasingly persecuted by the Pakistani government.
Tackling 1,500 foreign fighters in the hilly region would be no small task, but when coupled with hundreds of thousands of Pashtun tribesmen, virtually all of whom are armed and ready to oppose what it seen by many as a US-driven invasion, the 30,000 soldiers is going to likely become far insufficient, and force the government to rely even more heavily on air strikes and artillery shelling, driving up civilian casualties and sewing even more discontent.