Pakistan Resists Military Action in ‘Epicenter of Terrorism’

Foreign media published numbers of reports indicating that Pakistan’s military is resisting pressure to begin a promised offensive against Taliban sanctuaries in its border region.

In Washington, however, there is increasing anger at Pakistan’s reluctance to take on groups such as the Haqqani network, which its powerful intelligence agency is accused of backing despite military aid, including a $US2 billion package announced last week.

The voice of America report suggests that Pakistan resist action in ‘epic center of terrorism’

The Haqqani Network is a group within the insurgency in Afghanistan that is based out of North Wazirstan in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The group has been active mainly in the east of Afghanistan—in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Ghazni Wardak and even Kabul provinces.

Haqqani’s connection with the ISI dates back to the times of the Soviet jihad. According to U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Afghanistan (1989-1992), Peter Tomsen, the ISI has maintained its Jihad era ties with Haqqani.

The peace accord is with the Haqqanis’ host in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who is considered the top commander among the local warlords. He and other militant groups in North Waziristan have offered safe haven to the Haqqanis, who are from Afghanistan, and other Afghan Taliban since U.S. operation Enduring Freedom in December 2001.

With U.S. pressure, the Pakistani Army began military operations in North Waziristan in 2002 but then cut a peace deal in 2006 to end hostilities. Since then, there have been many subsequent agreements and on-and-off fighting, but the keystone of the understandings is promises by the militants to not carry out attacks inside Pakistan proper.

An intelligence assessment leaked to The Washington Post said the offensive’s impact on the Taliban had been negligible because fighters could simply retreat to Pakistani sanctuaries and wait until the drawdown begins next northern summer.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on his return to Islamabad from the United States that 35,000 Pakistani troops stand ready at any time to launch the offensive.

That was just days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced alongside Qureshi in Washington a new $2 billion assistance commitment to Pakistan on October 22. She noted that it would “complement the $7.5 billion in civilian projects that has already been approved in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation.”

The United States has wanted a ground operation because North Waziristan is the base of the notorious Haqqani network — which Washington considers the primary Taliban faction orchestrating terror attacks in Afghanistan today. American experts as well as conman US citizen wonder: Why can’t or won’t Pakistan eject the Taliban terrorists from their safe havens, or stop them from crossing the border to kill NATO soldiers  in Afghanistan? and asking questions alike will Pakistan start new operation under U.S pressure?

Despite the Obama administration’s pleas last week at a top-level “strategic dialogue” and a new $2 billion U.S. military aid pledge, Pakistan has no near-term plans to launch new offensives in its tribal area to help the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, officials and analysts said Friday.

The focus of U.S. demands is North Waziristan, on the Afghan border, where Pakistan has provided sanctuary to the Haqqani network since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. analysts in Washington said the Pakistan military couldn’t launch a new offensive in the tribal areas in the foreseeable future even if it intended to, because its transport aircraft and helicopters are committed to flood-relief operations.

Islamabad had earlier promised Washington it would mount the offensive, but refused to give a time frame, despite the pressure to act now and squeeze the insurgents on both sides of the border.

Pakistan has launched military offensives in all six other parts of the tribal area, and operations are still under way in Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan. Action in North Waziristan isn’t on the current agenda, Pakistani officials said, and even if an operation started there, it’s expected that it would be much more limited than the “steamroller” offensive seen in South Waziristan a year ago, so Haqqani could be left untouched.

“Our preference is to consolidate our gains elsewhere in the tribal area,” said Abdul Basit, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The time and scope of any operation (in North Waziristan) will be determined by Pakistan alone.”

Basit said that if the Afghan government reached out to all the insurgent groups, including Haqqani, “Pakistan would support that.”

Immediately after Qureshi’s return, the main military commander for the northwest, Lieutenant General Asif Yasin Malik, said there would only be an offensive in North Waziristan when other tribal areas were “cleared and held-and it would take at least six months to clear militants from Bajaur and Mohmand.”

Malik told Reuters on October 26, “What we have to do is stabilize the whole area” first. “The issue is I need more resources,” he added.

“It’s a question of timing,” Malik said. “Everywhere there are reasons to go in, and there are reasons not to go in.”

According to the “The Miami Herald” report:

Pakistan not only hosts the Afghan Taliban leadership – the so-called Quetta Shura – and the Haqqani network of veteran jihadist Jalaluddin Haqqani, but also the third big Afghan insurgent force, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another longtime Islamist warlord. That gives Islamabad huge leverage over any negotiated settlement. While Washington equates Haqqani with al-Qaida, for Pakistanis it’s clear that Haqqani hasn’t joined the al-Qaida agenda of war against Pakistan.

The Haqqani network, now run by the aged Jalaluddin’s son, Sirajuddin, is careful not to be involved in the campaign of violence run by Pakistani jihadist groups, in particular the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan. Another North Waziristan-based jihadist group, led by Gul Bahadur, also focuses exclusively on the fight in Afghanistan.

“Islamabad feels it would be suicidal to act against Bahadur and Haqqani, especially when the Pakistanis are struggling to combat renegade Taliban forces elsewhere,” Stratfor, a U.S.-based geopolitical consultancy, says in a report this week. “It is unclear that the United States and Pakistan can come to terms on which Taliban can be negotiated with. Until that happens, North Waziristan will remain a major source of tension between the two sides.”

The Haqqani network relies entirely on Pakistan for a haven, as it has no permanent territory in Afghanistan, unlike the Taliban, who hold sway over large chunks of land.

Haqqani is credited with a series of attacks on the interests of Pakistan’s archenemy, India, in Afghanistan, including assaults on the Indian Embassy, a hostel where Indians stay in Kabul and Indian contractors working in Afghanistan. That has proved Haqqani’s loyalty and worth to the Pakistani establishment, analysts said.

Earlier this year, the Pakistani military reportedly arranged a meeting between representatives of Haqqani and Afghan officials in Kabul.

Even many local people doubt whether the Pakistani Army is ready to destroy the Haqqani network and others at the risk of disrupting local peace accords that Islamabad considers vital to its own domestic security.

Analysts say Islamabad sees the al Qaeda-linked group as a bargaining chip in any settlement of the Afghan crisis once U.S.-led foreign troops leave that country.



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