July 29, 2007

War In Waziristan

Pervez Musharraf, who has just concluded a political alliance with moderates and reformers in Pakistan led by Benazir Bhutto, has opted for war in Waziristan. Now convinced after the Red Mosque incident that the radical Islamists want to "Talibanize" Pakistan, he has started to move his army into Waziristan -- and the radicals are screaming for a civil war:

President Pervez Musharraf sees it as the centre of a campaign to “Talibanise” Pakistan. Spurred on by Washington, he has abandoned a truce with Waziristan’s Islamist guerrillas and ordered his army to root them out.

There are believed to be about 8,000 gunmen – a mix of foreign Al-Qaeda volunteers, Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Islamists and local Waziris whose families have for centuries fought off any attempt to impose outside rule on this area. In modern times, even map-makers have been shot to hide the region’s mysteries from the outside world.

Last week soldiers sealed all the roads into Miran Shah, the provincial capital, occupied the hills around it and fired the first artillery salvo in what Musharraf’s many critics have called a war on his own people.

On Friday morning the army moved into parts of Miran Shah itself after militants blew up government buildings overnight. Most of the 60,000 townspeople are feared trapped, but hundreds of families have fled their mud homes in villages nearby and headed east for the sanctuary of Bannu, a town in the neighbouring North West Frontier province.

The news will delight US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, which have suffered the brunt of the consequences of Musharraf's truce with Waziri tribal leaders. The lack of pressure from the Pakistani military has allowed the Taliban and al-Qaeda to reorganize and gain strength in their hideouts on the Pakistani frontier. Until the US took command in Afghanistan, the Taliban had pushed across the border and took control of villages almost with impunity.

The Islamists have called for a general uprising against Musharraf in Pakistan as a result. However, after their performances at the Red Mosque, they may have lost what little draw they had with the Pakistani populace. The radicals have sympathy with only about 10% of Pakistanis under normal circumstances, but their attempts to Talibanize the community surrounding the Red Mosque through hostaging and terror opened eyes, and not just in the military.

The military, though, has had enough and sees a fight as their only option. The Times of London quoted their sources in the army as saying, "There is no other option. It’s bad, but we have to fight.” Taliban leaders warn about the wrath of Allah coming down on Musharraf, but it's more likely they're worried about the wrath of the US. If Pakistan starts conducting full-blown military operations in Waziristan, the US will have an opportunity to conduct their own operations from the other end of the area, perhaps clandestinely enough to confuse the radicals about who is coming from where. The resultant chaos will force the Islamists out in the open to flee -- and at that point it will be easy enough to severely reduce them.

With his political flank secured, Musharraf has an option for total war in Waziristan. Let's hope he makes better decisions this time around.


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Comments (6)

Posted by Lightwave | July 29, 2007 9:29 AM

"There is no other option. It’s bad, but we have to fight.”

Now right there is a money quote if there ever was one.

But why is Musharraf "risking civil war" by fighting back? Hasn't anyone at the London Times figured out that the status quo ante -- unchecked and growing AQ control of Pakistan and possibly its nuclear weapons -- might have been a worse threat to the stability of the country? Should Musharraf have waited until the civil war came to him then instead of doing something about it now?

Hopefully Washington is dead serious about backing Musharraf up on this.

Posted by Ned | July 29, 2007 10:25 AM

Sounds like "Hammer and Anvil" time.

Posted by La Mano | July 29, 2007 11:50 AM

Exactly right, kick arse time. Send them ALL to ALLAH. Heaven help all the virgins.

Posted by Eg | July 29, 2007 12:37 PM

With his political flank secured, Musharraf has an option for total war in Waziristan.

If this is to mean Mush is headed for his retirement home in ImOuttaHereStan when he resigns as head of the armed forces and loses his bid for President in the September elections, we'd better hope for a very quick and decisive victory before all this comes about. Mush is by no means popular and if I'm not mistaken the Parliment and people are largely sympathetic to Pakistan becoming a full fledged Islamic state. With some estimating that at least 70-80% of the Madrasas are turning-out students which are fully Islamized and Pakistan being the most virulent anti-American's of all the Islamic states, Benazir Bhutto is warning,

"The Red Mosque was just a warm-up for what will happen if the religious schools are not disarmed."
we'd better hope Mush can keep his army in-line. SAAG's lastest analysis, Musharraf's Follies Disquiet Senior Army Officers, is a pretty good primer on the problems Mush faces within his armed services,
On July,10,2007, Musharraf ordered the Commandoes{ed note: Remember Mush had to rely on his home unit to bring about the assault, the loyalty of whom is unquestionable} of the Pakistan Army to raid the Lal (Red) Masjid in Islamabad and the two madrasas for boys and girls attached to it, and put an end to the activities of the clerics of the masjid and the students of the two madrasas....

The commando action against the madrasa for boys, which is located at a distance away from the Masjid campus, was neat and smooth.

The commando action against the Masjid and the madrasa for girls located inside the campus was bloody messy.

Most of the students of the two madrasas were the children of Pashtun tribals----many of them serving and retired soldiers of the Pakistan Army--- from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The anger over the commando action and the deaths of a large number of children led to many acts of suicide terrorism and attacks on the security forces in the tribal areas.

There have been reports of large-scale desertions of members of the Police force in FATA. Tribal soldiers in the Army and para-military forces deployed in the FATA have also come under tremendous psychological pressure to desert. Messages appealing to them to desert have been circulating in the tribal areas.

This is one situation which is extremely dangerous from any number of perspectives. In fact, we could be in a helluva fix in very short, or no, order.

Posted by ss396 | July 29, 2007 1:24 PM

Is it possible that the truce / peace with Waziristan was ploy to get the Taliban leadership together, comfortable, and in the open? That is a vulnerability that Musharraf can now exploit with, thanks to the Red Mosque, not a great deal of domestic downside.

A general sympathy among the populace toward an Islamic nation is troubling, but the Koran permits little governance outside of its strictures so this is to be expected. I am in no position to gauge how serious this could be; I merely observe that a goodly number of folks would like to turn the US into a Christian nation, but only a couple of screwballs are attempting to foment a violent revolution that would accomplish this. I can only pray that, with the conquest of Waziristan, Pakistan might prove analogous.

Posted by KW64 | July 29, 2007 2:32 PM

My Pakistani acquaintances have seemed to think that the tribal areas could be ignored safely as their troubles would be confined there. I suspect the Red Mosque events were frightening to them; as it turns out that the tribal regions were reaching out their efforts to the very capital and in large numbers not just an infrequent, isolated bombing.

This may give Pervez a chance to win his way back into the public's good graces before the election if he concedes the Army leadership after winning a decisive victory (probably with covert US help) over the threatening Islamist insurgency. The right enemy at the right time combined with clear success may turn the trick.