Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pakistani Army Begins Assault On Al-Qaeda And Taliban Held Areas

The Pakistani Army has sent over 30,000 troops in a ground offensive against al-Qaida and the Taliban’s main strongholds in South Waziristan.

While the US government has been pushing the Pakistani government to do this for some time, it took attacks on troops and civilians that killed over 175 people in th elast few months before the Pakistanis decided to bring the army in.

This will be the third time since 2001 that Pakistan has tried to attack the insurgent controlled areas and dislodge the Taliban and their allies. Both previous encounters ended in truces with conditions that heavily favored the Taliban and left them in control.

The assault itself is fairly limited in scope and is likely designed as display to appease the Obama Administration and keep the military aid flowing rather than a serious attack on the Taliban and their allies. According to Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, it's going to be limited to recently killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s holdings. The area is about half of South Waziristan, about 1,275 square miles, the equivalent of about half of the State of Delaware. The Pakistani army is going to attempt to take and hold the area.

According to my sources, the US military has gifted the Pakistani Army with lots of gear designed to help out - Cobra helicopter gunships, night fighting equipment, intel equipment designed to monitor cell phone transmissions and the like.

I'd be very surprised if any of it made a difference.

There are too many factors, to put it mildly, weighing against any sort of decisive victory for the Pakistani Army, who aren't exactly the US Marines or the Tenth Mountain in the first place.

The terrain favors the Taliban. It's rocky and mountainous and cut up by hidden ravines that are ideal for ambushes and IEDs. The insurgent forces know the lay of the land intimately and they've had years to prepare their defenses.

And the area in question is almost entirely Pashtun, just like the Taliban.And like most mountain people, the locals don't like flatlanders and outsiders. Local clans like the Mehsud openly support the Taliban. They're not exactly going to cooperate with the Army and may even lend a hand fighting them off.

Another factor is that there are a number of people in Pakistan's political/military and intel establishment that lean towards the Islamists. I'd be very surprised if elements of the ISI weren't leaking intel to the Taliban an dkeeping them apprised of exactly what the army is up to.

The army could end up bogged down and taking heavy casualties in an area where they don't know the land and inhabited by a hostile population.

Nor do I expect the other Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to simply sit back and let the Pakistani Army take part of their territory.

Aside from the fact that other Taliban might decide to launch offensive on Pakistani territory from places like North Waziristan or even join the fight in South Waziristan, there the additional factor of

Another risk for the army is that militant factions in North Waziristan might launch further attacks in Pakistan proper, like this month's raid on the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi.

And the Joker in the deck is that even if the Pakistani army achieves the unlikely objective of 'defeating' the Taliban, with winter coming on they will simply melt into the other Taliban held territories and be back to fight in the spring.

You see, when you knuckle under and give Islamist fighters a secure base, it can be hell to take it back. The Pakistani government is in the process of finding this out.


Ivan said...

I won't be surprised if some the advanced gear ends up with the Muslim insurgents in Kashmir as had happened to all other previous American shipments. It will take a lot more that 200 dead to wake the Pakistanis up.

Freedom Fighter said...

Assuming they want to be woken up.

And aside from Kashmir,I can assure you that some of the gear will end up being used against our warriors in Afghanistan.