US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Pakistan’s military is gearing up for a major attack in North Waziristan to rout out militants, but history would suggest such an offensive, if it happens, won’t be what Panetta is touting it as.
US and Pakistani officials have been in talks recently as relations have warmed following a length bitterness after US missiles killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and Islamabad shut down US military supply routes to Afghanistan. The chief of the Pakistani spy agency, ISI, Lieutenant-General Zaheerul Islam, visited Washington earlier this month.
“General Kayani did indicate that they had developed plans to go into Waziristan,” said Panetta of Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “Our understanding is that, hopefully, they’re going to take that step in the near future. I can’t tell you when, but the indication we have is that they are prepared to conduct that operation soon.”
Pakistan is surely under pressure from Washington to attack the tribal border regions from which insurgents plan and ready attacks in Afghanistan. But this game has been played for a long time and Islamabad has never taken decisive action that changed anything.
While the US would like Pakistan to target the Haqqani network, which has been effective in keeping the insurgency in Afghanistan alive and well, Islamabad almost certainly won’t hit them. The Pakistani Taliban, though, may be in their sights.
Maria Sultan, a defense analyst, tells Voice of America that the targeted area “is a cross-border area, so a military operation could only be successful from either side if both sides had agreed to it.” She says, “it will require a major military operation. So this means that all countries of NATO, America and Pakistan have to be on board if this operation is to succeed.”
If this is true, the US could be involved in planning and carrying out new military offensives inside Pakistan, perhaps departing from its dominant use of special operations teams and unmanned drones. Meanwhile, the populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to suffer from more than a decade of war, which even the most pro-war voices admit has failed.