COAS Kayani visits South Waziristan

WANA: The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited South Waziristan Agency to see the progress of rehabilitation process and implementation of Quick Impact Projects.

These Projects are being undertaken by the Pakistan Army, in consultation with local tribes and in coordination with the Civil Administration, for social uplift of the affected areas.

The COAS performed the earth-breaking ceremonies of two main roads of the area: Road Tank-Jandola-Sararogha-Makeen and Road Tank-Khajuri-Tanai-Wana. A large number of notables of Mehsud and Wazir Tribes were present at the occasion.

While interacting with the tribal notables, the COAS thanked them for their resolve and support and attributed success of Military Operations to the will and determination of the people of Waziristan.

He emphasized the need for rapid development of the area to consolidate gains made through Military Operations. He also reiterated that the Army will not abandon the tribal people and will continue to play its role in rehabilitation of the Displaced People and development of the area.

He asked the local tribesmen to come forward and assume ownership of the development works being initiated in their areas.

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Operation Rah-e-Nijat ( Pictures)

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Achievements of operation Rah-e-Nijat

Asif Haroon Raja | Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) established by Baitullah Mehsud in December 2007 with the help of his foreign mentors spread its tentacles in whole of FATA and some settled parts of NWFP including Fazlullah led TNSM in Swat and also gained access in South Punjab . Swat Taliban lost public support when they refused to de-weaponise and abide by Swat agreement signed in February 2009 and let Nizam-e-Adl get introduced. Occupation of Lower Dir and Buner led to launch of Operation Rah-e-Rast on 28 April. Successful Swat operation and return of 2.5 million displaced persons to their homes turned the tide and forced the militants to run in panic. Establishment of linkage of militants with foreign powers and ongoing spate of acts of terror brought Taliban in bad books of public and demand for uprooting their main base in South Waziristan (SW) grew louder. The public as well as all political parties less JI, JUI and TI stood behind the Army.

Additional troops had started to move into Waziristan from July onwards in anticipation to a decisive battle in SW. USA had been exerting extreme pressure on our government to commence operation in Waziristan in conjunction with Swat operation. Army disfavored opening of two fronts simultaneously particularly when troops were engaged in Swat, Lower and Upper Dir , Buner, Shangla, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency and Darra Adam Khel. It would have amounted to dilution and dispersion of resources thereby losing concentration of effort in all sectors. It took its time to allow consolidation of gains made on Swat front.

Period from July to mid October was judiciously utilized for gaining intelligence to formulate plans, getting to know strength and weaknesses of militants, acclimatization of troops and familiarization of area of operations, completing its operational deficiencies, tying up nuts and bolts and streamlining drills how to confront challenges of IEDs, militants adept in guerrilla warfare and rugged terrain. For the first time, the army was not launched in haste and given adequate preparation time and moral support. During preparatory maneuver, troops continued with their creeping forward policy to isolate and encircle targeted area from multiple sides. This tactic curtailed liberty of action of Hakimullah led militants and gave psychological ascendancy to the military. At the same time, both Maulvi Nazir in SW and Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan (NW) were kept under tight control and no deal was made to keep them friendly.

Once go ahead was given by the government, operation Rah-e-Nijat was unfolded from three directions on 17 October. One prong moved from north to south along axis Razmak-Makeen, second from southeast to northwest along axis Jandola-Kotkai-Srarogha, the third from south to north along axis Shakai-Shrawangai-Ladha. Balanced force was employed on each axis of advance and movement made on broad front to overcome opposition with speed and to home on to vital complex of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen. Three pronged maneuver aimed at outmaneuvering and encircling the adversary and blocking all avenues of escape or reinforcement from elsewhere. Soldiers climbed the rugged mountains like mountain leopards and rolled down to rupture the positions occupied by militants on hilltops.

Rah-i-Nijat Pictures, Images and Photos

general kayani in south waziristan Pictures, Images and Photos

Within fortnight, considerable progress was made on all axes causing disarray among militants. Wireless intercepts indicated signs of chaos among them. Many among them shaved their beards and trimmed their beards and ran for life. Troops on Razmak pincer secured Kot Azam and Cheena and then leapt towards critical position of Makeen. On Jandola axis, troops captured important places of Spinkai Roghzai, Kotkai which is hometown of Hakimullah and Qari Hussain and then over ran the pivotal position of Srarogha. On Shakai-Shrawangai axis, Shrawangai, Khaisura, Torwam Bridge and key town Kunigram were captured. Troops on this axis attacked vital target of Ladha, 8 km ahead of Kunigram on night of 3/4 November where after intense fighting in the streets, the town was captured on 5 November, much ahead of scheduled 7 November. Soon after, this force was asked to clear Makeen and link up with the force coming from direction of Kot Azam which it did with admirable speed and efficiency.

Although the militants put up stiff resistance at each point, however the resolve and determination of assaulting troops led by officers was so strong that they had to give in. Rapid successes made by the brave-hearts shattered centuries-old myth of invincibility of tribesmen of this region. Terrorists are failing and will fail because they are fighting for a wrong cause and at the behest of foreign powers. Huge caches of arms, ammunition, explosives, suicide jackets and material required for suicide jackets have been seized; chemical factories making IEDs taken over. Five truckloads of Indian origin arms, ammunition, medical equipment and literature were apprehended from Shrawangai. One laptop of 1000 GB with external drive containing all sorts of data, training lessons, and videos of criminal activities of so-called Taliban recovered.

Tunnels laden with armaments in hundreds have been discovered in captured areas. One of the tunnels in Kotkai was 500 meters long. These tunnels were in use for treating injured, for rest and refitting, for training and hiding suicide bombers and for making escape good. Houses with compounds and high mud walls where suicide bombers were imparted training have also been unearthed. Weapons and equipment seized include heavy MGs, RPGs, 12.7mm and 14.5mm guns, 107mm rockets, AK-47 rifles, SMGs, missile launchers, anti-aircraft guns, grenades, anti-tank mines, chemicals, explosives, wireless sets, jamming equipment. These were mostly Russian and Indian made.

It was foreseen that battle within Ladha-Makeen complex will be the hardest where top leadership of TTP is based and where majority of militants uprooted from forward positions would withdraw and would give last ditch battle. Large numbers have been killed and arrested. Most survivors have moved towards the western Shawal Range or into dense jungle northwest of Makeen. Occupation of critical triangle of Srarogha-Ladha-Makeen together with main communication lines has dismantled the TTP network and it is no more in a position to put up an organized fight except for sporadic raids. Maj Gen Rabbani led Division has made further progress west of Shrawangai-Kunigram-Ladha towards Shawal Range through search operations and cleared more militant nests and made more recoveries of armaments.

Although border security check posts along Afghan-Pakistan border were deviously vacated by US-Nato troops with sinister motives at a crucial time when operation had just begun, the scheme backfired. Much to the disappointment of detractors of Pakistan , Afghan Taliban categorically stated that they would abide by their policy of not confronting Pak Army. Spate of suicide attacks from September onwards were undertaken by bombers already launched from SWA. Involvement of Blackwater and RAW in terrorist activities in major cities of Punjab , NWFP is evident. India is desperate to ease pressure on beleaguered TTP since its massive investment is going waste.

New battlegrounds in NWA and Karachi are being created to stretch the Army. Orakzai Agency, which had become another breeding ground for suicide bombers, has been controlled through a focused FC operation resulting in curtailment of suicide attacks. Militants in Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber Agencies too have been given no respite. Simultaneous and strenuous efforts by the Army and FC have begun to pay dividends. Tribal jirga of Mahsud tribe have agreed to hand over TTP chief as well as wanted 377 other militants and has announced its full support to the government.

Successful completion of Rah-e-Nijat would help in curbing terrorism to a great extent. The Army having played its part commendably, it is now the turn of political Administration to play its part to win the hearts and minds of the affected areas through relief and rehabilitation works together with development works and adopting people friendly rather than US friendly policies. FATA should be freed of presence of CIA and RAW agents and foreigners.

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US and Pakistan, strange allies

Dr Huma Mir | President Obama’s inaugural pledge to defeat Al Qaeda and Taliban appears in stark contrast to the ground realities in Afghanistan. Obama’s much hyped AF PAK policy is believed to have been practically castigated to history after multiple reviews. The US military’s assessment of the war in Afghanistan too paints a bleak picture. The Taliban today control more than half of Afghan Provinces where they have installed their own shadow Governors.

Despite having suffered the most due to the US adventure in Afghanistan, Pakistan today remains the most vibrant and loyal US ally. US, NATO and Pakistan are mutually dependant. The US and Western Forces operating in Afghanistan are dependent on Pakistan for 80% or more of their logistic support and of course they need vital intelligence. Pakistan needs US financial support, weapons and technology and some specialized training to fight the menace of terrorism. Unfortunately, Pakistan is taken for granted by the US; our blind support has drawn little sympathy for our own national concerns. There have been continued nasty outbursts by US leadership and officials against Pakistan, the “Do More” mantra has become a sickening buzzword.

As the US mounts pressure on Pakistan to open a new front in North Waziristan and around Quetta and to thin out troops from the Eastern Borders to commit on Afghan border, in last few weeks, there appears to be a diabolical worsening in US attitudes. First comes, Mr. McCain who says that the US would continue to use Drone Attacks, saying words to the effect that they care little for Pakistan’s sovereignty and cries from Pakistani leadership that Drone Strikes were counterproductive. Now comes Mr. Gates, the US Secretary Defence who states that in case of another terrorist strike in India, India would be justified in its military response against Pakistan. While Mr. Gates was conveying this not so veiled Indian threat, India committed two border violations. In this scenario, Mr. Gates plays the exact opposite of ground reality and says that he does not see any Indian threat to Pakistan. Mr. Gates made no reference to Indian involvement in terrorism in Pakistan and its support to the terror outfits in Baluchistan and FATA.

That much for Pakistan being a frontline US ally, remember US trumpets that Pakistan is their closest and most Valued Ally in the War on Terror. Meanwhile, against Pakistani protests the US drone strikes continue. More sinister is the fact that armed US diplomats and security contractors like Blackwater (XE), DynCorp etc travelling in vehicles with fake number plates and documents roam around our violating Pakistani laws with impunity.

The pressure being brought on Pakistan is because of the state of paralysis that US and allies are suffering in Afghanistan. In seeking a scapegoat for their pathetic military performance, the US continues to accuse Pakistani Military and the Intelligence Services of linkages with their Taliban and Al Qaeda adversaries in Afghanistan. Most absurd and illogical feature of these accusations is that while accusing the ISI and our military of playing ball with their enemies, they seek our military and intelligence cooperation and support. The latest figment of imagination is the “Quetta Shura”. Soon we will hear about the Chichawatni and Bhai Pheru Shuras too.

In routine, every few weeks, the US leadership, officials, think tank, newspaper, TV Channel or a court jester expresses DEEP CONCERN at the security of Pakistani Nuclear Arsenal and indicates fears of it falling into the hands of extremists. Often such CONCERNS are followed by controlled information leakage that the US has plans to TAKE OUT Pakistani Nukes if threatened by extremists. As our leadership starts responding to these absurd revelations, a kind hearted US official or political leader provides a verbal certification that Pakistani Nukes were safe as if he or she knew the way our nukes are deployed and secured. Pakistan has given more than its share to support the US operations. It opened its airspace and airbases, ports and allowed use of land route for logistic support of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. It has committed more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan Border in a very expensive low intensity conflict which has had devastating effect on our bankrupt economy and internal stability. What has the US given to our nation in return? The US has even held back our due share of Coalition Support Funds worth almost 2 Billion Dollars. US has not contributed a dollar to maintenance of our road network under their use. What happened to the promised ROZs in tribal belt, what has the US done to check flow of weapons and money to the Pakistani extremists from Afghanistan, what have the US done to stop the Indian managed training camps for Baluch nationalists on Afghan soil, what about preferential access to Pakistani goods in US and EU markets, etc etc. US has balked from providing the drone technology to Pakistan, they hav’nt given the additional helicopter gunships and ground mobility vehicles and vital spares that Pakistan has been asking for. Even the carrot in the form of Kerry – Luger Bill of a few billion dollars has been strangled and tied to notions which can only appeal to those who framed the policy.

US has been persistently demanding from Pakistan to shun its traditional threat perception and shift additional troops from Indo Pak border to the Afghan border to battle the Taliban extremists in North Waziristan. The US wants to use Pakistani forces as bait, US planners visualize that Pakistani action in North Waziristan could draw Taliban fighters from Afghanistan thus relieving the pressure there on US and NATO forces while Pakistan executes its dirty work. Pakistani security establishment has its own threat perception and have refused the US pressure. We have many options and Pakistan doesn’t have the time pressure which the US has. Pakistan Army’s categorical statement that it shall not open a new front till it has consolidated its gains in Malakand and South Waziristan is absolutely apt response. The timings of Pakistani assault in North Waziristan would be dictated by the speed of our consolidation and preparations and probable speed of US administration to meet Pakistani military demands rather than be synchronized to US desires.

It would be extremely interesting to follow the operations in North Waziristan as and when they come and its impact on the Afghan security scene. Will the Pakistani assault provide any relief to the Western Forces in Afghanistan or will it confirm the Pakistani viewpoint that the Afghan problem needs an Afghan solution. Demonizing Pakistan won’t win the war for the Western Forces in Afghanistan.

A Two-Front Threat Emerging For Pakistan

Dr. Shireeen M Mazari:

The moment of truth for those in Islamabad who continue to trust the Americans is nearing and might have already arrived. Pakistan needs to respond to the provocations by India and by those who are supporting India. Pakistan also needs to consider withdrawing from the coming London conference on Afghanistan if its legitimate security interests are further ignored by the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, Pakistani forces need to be positioned along the border with southern Afghanistan, where some elements within the US establishment seem to be planning limited incursions.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—A nightmare security scenario for Pakistan seems to be emerging – that of a two-front military conflict. Pakistan is already facing an internal militancy aided and abetted from Afghanistan and is threatened with all manner of likely US boots actually coming into Pakistan.

Already, the drone attacks on Pakistani soil have increased. For all these reasons, Pakistan has moved a large chunk of its forces away from its Eastern border with India and along the LoC, and moved them to the Western front along the international border with Afghanistan as well as into FATA.

Now India has upped the military ante against Pakistan after meetings between Indian officials and America’s Holbrooke and Gates. Hence we are seeing the unprovoked Indian military firing at Pakistani forces across the international border, the working boundary and across the LoC, which has resulted in death and injury for Pakistani soldiers. What can possibly be the Indian intent at this time to undertake such military adventurism? Had it been given some go-ahead by the Americans?

This new military provocation comes when there seems to have been a decision made by the British and Americans to give India a major military role in Afghanistan. The two allies are all set to spring this nasty decision onto Pakistan at the international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of this month when it will be proposed that India train the Afghan National Army – something it is already doing at a small level covertly and on that pretext already has its operatives in Afghanistan. It is these operatives who are conducting the aid and assistance to militants within Pakistan.

In view of these developments, what are the immediate options for Pakistan which will protect its interests as well as signal an effective message to both the US and India?

First and most immediate, Pakistan needs to move its troops back to its Eastern front and cease operations in FATA. We need to distinguish between our militancy problem, which is certainly threatening and very real, but has multiple dimensions, and the misguided US ‘War on Terror’. On the Western front, it needs to realign its forces along the Chaman border area with Afghanistan where it is expected US boots may enter Pakistan on the ground.

Second, it needs to tell the US in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate these Indian military incitements and may well up the ante also choosing its own time, place and type of response.

Third, Pakistan needs to categorically refuse to participate in the London Conference if the plan to train the Afghan National Army by India is even discussed informally. In fact, under the circumstances, if India participates in the Conference, Pakistan should consider the option of boycotting it. Let us see how far the US and UK get in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s active cooperation!

Fourth, it is time to demand that Indian operatives move out of Afghanistan and Indian consulates in Afghanistan along the border area with Pakistan be closed.

The fact that the Indian aggression has come immediately in the aftermath of the discussions between the Indians and visiting Americans including Defense Secretary Gates, and following on the heels of the visit to Kabul by India’s DG MI, shows only too clearly the Indo-US nexus in terms of presenting Pakistan with a possible two-front threat.

No new operation for now, says ISPR

Pakistan Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas

ISLAMABAD: The military said on Thursday during a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that it could not launch any new offensive against militants for six months to a year.

The announcement probably comes as a disappointment to the US, which has pushed Pakistan to expand its military operations to North Waziristan to target militants staging attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The comments by military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas clearly indicate Pakistan will not be pressurised in the near term to expand its fight beyond militants waging war against Pakistan.

The Pakistan army was overstretched and it was not in a position to open any new fronts. “Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat,” Maj-Gen Abbas told DawnNews TV channel.

It was not about years, he said. “It will take us between six months and a year to consolidate the gains in the areas taken back from the militants to make them completely secure and ensure safety of the returnees and stabilise the situation,” he said.

The country’s resources did not allow the army to open a new front. However, if at all it opened a new front it would do so in line with the country’s interests.

He rejected criticism that Pakistan had been slow to move against the Haqqani network that is quite active in Afghanistan and told journalists traveling with Mr Gates that the CIA had failed to provide “actionable intelligence” about the group.

The army launched a major ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold in South Waziristan in mid-October.

Can US Strategy Stabilise Afghanistan

Sequel to the policy speech on Afghan strategy, various opinions and comments have appeared in the US press indicating that Pakistan needs to expand war against terrorists and extremists to other areas in Pakistan. The New York Times reported in its edition of 8 December that the US has warned Pakistan that its forces would chase Taliban forces in Pakistan if Islamabad does not Then there have been other reports with some acknowledgments of the Pakistani Army’s efforts in confronting the Talibans in South Waziristan. All the reports tantamount to increasing US pressure on Pakistan to expand its efforts against terrorism and extremism elsewhere in Pakistan also.

The proponents of US military venture into Pakistan lack foresight in calculating grave risks that such a venture would pose for both Pakistan and the United States from all angles and that the bilateral relationship might never be able to resurrect itself again. Last time when the US committed such mistake to raid a village inside Pakistan where they thought that the militants were hiding, there was such a political furore in Pakistan that the US was forced to promise never to use boots on ground in Pakistan again. Pakistan Army is very much capable of tackling head on impediments that threaten its sovereignty and security and as such is successfully battling the insurgents in Waziristan and Swat. While doing so, it has the complete backing of its people who sustained numerous merciless bomb killings as Taliban retaliated. Read more of this post

Taleban targeting big crowds in Pakistan

Afghan Taliban

TALEBAN insurgents are unleashing more suicide bombers on large crowds of civilians in an attempt to bomb Pakistanis into submission and discredit the military after major offensives against their strongholds. Pakistan’s Al-Qaeda-linked Taleban served notice of their plans on Friday when a militant in an explosives-laden SUV drove on to a volleyball field in a village in the northwest and blew himself up in the middle of a game, killing 90 people. Such carnage will both terrorize civilians and raise new questions over the effectiveness of Pakistan’s military, despite government assertions that a security offensive launched in October dealt a major blow to the Taleban.

The United States sees Pakistan as the critical front-line state in its war against the Taleban in Afghanistan. It wants Pakistan Army to root out militants who cross the border to fight US forces there. But Pakistan’s military would likely point to the volleyball game killings and similar attacks as clear proof that it must concentrate on threats from homegrown Taleban militants. Some analysts argue that nuclear-armed Pakistan, and the region for that matter, can only be stable in the long term if the army hunts down all militant groups in the country, including those Afghan Taleban factions not fighting the Pakistani state.

“Given the fact that there is such a close nexus here between these various terror groups. These distinctions didn’t pay off in the past,” said International Crisis Group South Asia Director Samina Ahmed. “All that has happened is that the alliance relationships between these groups have now solidified and become far more dangerous.” But fighting all of the groups at once would mean giving up alliances with militants the Pakistani military wants as leverage in Afghanistan, especially if, as Pakistan anticipates, the United States pulls out before the country is stabilized.

And it could create new enemies for a military that’s already stretched. Some 30,000 troops were used in an offensive against the Taleban in October in South Waziristan. The Taleban responded with bombings that killed hundreds of people. “From the Pakistani point of view, are you capable of withstanding a much larger rebel Taleban force than the one that already exists? I have my doubts on that,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for the Middle East and South Asia at STRATFOR global intelligence firm.

Powerful Al-Qaeda-linked warrior Sirajuddin Haqqani is possibly the best example of why the military averts its eyes from some groups on the US military’s hit list. Entrenched in Pakistani border enclaves, his network has no interest in fighting the Pakistani state. He runs a large part of the insurgency battling US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
“This guy is an independent operator. He does his own stuff as well. He is independent and he has got the relations with the Pakistanis.” Washington’s embattled ally, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, is at odds with the military and could be embroiled in a new political crisis if his aides, including the defense and interior ministers, face prosecution over renewed corruption charges. All of that uncertainty is likely to encourage the Taleban to press ahead with spectacular attacks on civilian targets to spread chaos and terror.

They have targeted civilians before. But analysts say the volleyball game attack — one of the bloodiest in Pakistan in over two years — indicates they will take bloodshed to new levels.

“It’s a huge challenge because you never have enough security to protect the innocent civilians. Particularly when you have determined suicide bombers,” said Riffat Hussein, chairman of the department of defense and strategic studies at Quaid-e-Azam University.

Michael Georgy—Arab News

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