Army Operations in North Waziristan
A controversy has arisen due to statement of a former DG ISPR regarding a decision taken for carrying out Army operation in North Waziristan in 2010 or 2011. Gen APK has been blamed for procraitising on this operation.
My aim is to put the facts before jumping to any conclusion whether an operation was viable then. It would be pertinent to visualise the overall geo-political situation in 2010-11. A critical analysis tells us that:
1. The ISAF/US forces were in full strength in Afghanistan, over 165,000 troops were deployed with no withdrawal timetable .
2. Another 150,000 fully armed mercenaries were deployed under the garb of contractors by Blackwater etc to guard L of C, logistic convoys and installations & for other military related covert work. They had their own complement of armed helicopters etc.
3. Inspite of such preponderance of forces the US military leaders & eminent writers like Eric Margolis & Robert Craig etc. had repeatedly voiced concern about Taliban resurgences & that continuous occupation will not lead USA anywhere..
4. Pakistan was under tremendous pressure to ‘ do more ‘ i.e. carry out operations in NW as per their wishes to remove Taliban pressure from US troops in Afghanistan.
5. At home the PPP coalition Govt was involved in all sorts of activities sane good governance. The political leadership was incapable of deciding about the operation. They neither had the will nor the desire to do anything except stay in power.
6. Gen kayani was at the end of his first tenure and generally being spoken off leaving the COAS’s chair to become CDS or CJSC. he would not have wanted to leave such an operation in midstream.
7. Pak Army had worked out a number of peace agreements with tribesmen in NW e.g. With Hafiz Gul Bahadur etc which by and large were holding.
8. Contrary to the popular belief the Pak army was well deployed in NW even then. However not carrying out any major operations.
9. The Swat hpw operation along with operations in Dir, Bajour, Malakand were still continuing and had not ended. Pak army would not have wanted to get involved in two full scale operations simultaneously.
Under the given circumstances it is obvious that the Army High Comd must have decided not to carry out any major operation in NW at that particular time. In fact we should appreciate their ability to sustain all the pressure brought upon them by the US & other Coalition partners to carry out such operations.
We should also not forget that full fledged military operation brings about unfathomable sufferings to public which was already suffering under the Taliban yoke. Innocent dead, wounded IDPs, homes under air and arty shelling later vandalised and looted in absence of owners. In the end the local public will blame the Govt and the army for their sufferings. It cannot be excused as collateral damage, even the general public of Pakistan was against any operation particularly under pressure from the US.
Another fact that we have always missed in our discussions is recourse to special operations vs conventional operations. The US Special Forces are the only element that has been expanding and getting enhanced budget. On the contrary the Pak army has mostly utilised the conventional forces with the result that our casualty ratio is more than 10 times that of US forces in Afghanistan.
The raising of a light commando battalion for Corps is a step in right direction however it is not enough. The LAT battalion in an infantry division should also be converted to light commando role after shedding their A/TK component to an indep A/TK company/squardron. This will give tremendous reconaisence capability for operating behind the enemy and ability to carry covert/specialised operation within each infantry division.
Americans though not successful went over to special operations long time back. They resorted to the use of drones, SEALS for the eliminating targets e.g. Osama Bin Ladin. It would have been appropriate if we had recoursed to surgical strikes, on comm centres, IED factories, training places, caves complexes etc whenever any hostile Int Reports came.
A continuos low intensity process to degrade the Taliban could have paid dividends then. However now that a full fledged ground operation has been launched let us hope that it ends quickly and the IDPs are back in their homes by the next Eid ul Azha.