01 May 2010

Another Pakistani "Shift?"

The arrest of Abdul Ghani Baradar and some other leading members of the Afghan Taliban in January was initially seen as a "shift" by Pakistani security forces toward a more anti-(Afghan) Taliban stance that was more in line with what American diplomats and military leaders wanted. Subsequent reports suggested that the arrests may have been motivated by other considerations (for example, the fact that Baradar may have been ready to negotiate with the government; others suggested that it may have been a method by which Pakistan could gain some leverage in any upcoming negotiations).

Now, "Western diplomats and Pakistani security officials" are saying that Pakistan may open up a new anti-insurgent front in North Waziristan. This has been one of the biggest demands of the US for some time now. Pakistan has already mounted offensives in Swat and in South Waziristan, and has suffered considerable military losses and civilian suffering as a result. The government has been hesitant to mount similar operations in North Waziristan, partly for these reasons, and partly because North Waziristan has been more a haven for anti-American/anti-Western forces, such as the Haqqani Network, than for anti-Pakistan forces like the Pakistani Taliban. The US's only way to strike in these areas has been through the use of drones.

Again, though, there is some reason to be skeptical as to whether the US and NATO are really going to get what they want if this offensive does actually happen. The offensive in South Waziristan has caused several anti-Islamabad groups and individuals, including Hakimullah Mehsud (the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban and public enemy number one), to flee to the north. The idea of launching a new offensive is probably more a result of this than Western cajoling. In the event of a Pakistani offensive, it obviously can't be assumed that Pakistani forces will go after the elements that the US and NATO wants it to after.

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