More incursions in the offing?

Pakistan is already in enough trouble politically and economically. Terrorism has added to our woes and it seems like that in the coming days, more trouble may follow. According to a report published in the New York Times (NYT), “senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas”. It is plain that this proposal has more to do with military strategy than with politics. Pakistan has been stalling a military operation in North Waziristan for some time now. Our argument is that the military is already stretched in Swat and South Waziristan, that we fear more IDPs, and we do not have enough money to conduct a large-scale operation. This delay has not gone down well with the US military commanders based in Afghanistan. The US-led NATO forces are running out of patience with us because of the safe havens that have been provided to the Afghan Taliban on our soil, particularly in North Waziristan. The military commanders now want to hit the Taliban in their rear base areas to make life difficult for them.

The NYT reports that the “Afghan militias backed by the CIA have carried out a number of secret missions” in our tribal areas. Although NATO forces have denied these reports, Pakistan’s military establishment should understand the gravity of the situation. NATO’s denial is due to the political sensitivity involved. Pakistan is the frontline ally of the US/NATO in the war on terror and the Americans want to keep us on their side rather than push us away. On the one hand the withdrawal date of foreign troops from Afghanistan is looming large and on the other hand, the frustration of military commanders is growing. Will they be held back by political considerations is a question worth pondering. Already there is outrage in Pakistan against the increase in drone attacks, which WikiLeaks has confirmed are with the tacit approval of Pakistan’s government. The political fallout of more clandestine operations can be seriously damaging, but under the circumstances, it cannot be ruled out that the Americans might opt for it if our military establishment keeps up its dual policy.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has ruled out ground operations and asserted that our military is quite capable of handling the terrorists within our borders. With all due respect to Ambassador Haqqani, our military is definitely capable of doing this, but does it really want to? Our military establishment must understand the limits to which we can push this dual policy because great danger lies ahead now if we keep on with our misadventures.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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