EDITORIAL: Ignored victory in South Waziristan
On Tuesday the Pakistan army took control of Sararogha in South Waziristan, the nerve-centre of the operations launched by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) into the populated heart of the country. As the troops entered Sararogha and were carrying out search and clearance operations the rest of the country was busy witnessing the falling apart of the political order brought about by the 2008 general elections. But the success achieved by the Pakistan army is extremely significant in the context of what is expected to transpire in Pakistan in the coming days.
Sararogha was where the TTP Shura met and decided the targets the Taliban suicide bombers were going to hit. This is where the various branchline warlords streamlined their plans and the spokesmen of the TTP made important announcements about the crimes the TTP had committed in the name of their dubious sharia. The taking of Sararogha was important after the capture of the symbolic Kotkai, the home of the current leader of the TTP, Hakimullah. It is too soon to say if this latest victory is going to lead to the disintegration of the Taliban, but it will definitely relieve some pressure on such important cities as Bannu, which lie right next to Sararogha.
The final success of the operation will depend on the ability of the Pakistan army to prevent the expanding of the war front. The Taliban must be engaged within the territory controlled by Pakistan and the enemy must not be allowed to flee to areas where Pakistan army cannot pursue them. If the enemy were able to flee across the Durand Line and regroup on Afghan territory, the effectiveness of the operation would be halved, putting pressure on the paramilitary forces that the army will leave behind after ‘pacifying’ South Waziristan.
It is for this reason that Pakistan was upset earlier on when it saw that the US-NATO forces were seen to remove their border posts, which later was said by the Americans to be mere “readjustment”. Already a large part of Afghanistan is said to be the target of Taliban forays because the US-NATO forces do not control it or control it only temporarily. The Taliban strike not only in the heart of Kabul city but anywhere in the country at will, and even more freely in southeast Afghanistan, which is predominantly Pashtun territory. It is more or less known now that the Taliban on both sides of the border are acting under one shared command. Hence, the success of the Pakistani operation in South Waziristan will depend on how well the US-NATO forces are going to coordinate with the Pakistan army.
There is hardly any doubt about the importance of the South Waziristan operation in the eyes of the US and its allies. The view on the other side of the border is that men coming across from Pakistan carry out most acts of terrorism committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. For instance, the attack on the UN guesthouse was blamed on suicide-bombers that had come from Pakistan. Pakistan is often subliminally blamed for not guarding the border well enough, but the same charge could be made about the allied forces guarding the border on the other side.
President Barack Obama faces his own dilemmas on the subject of Afghan policy. Should he go for reconstruction or counter-terrorism? Since reconstruction is impossible without control, he has to beef up the ability of the allied troops in Afghanistan to handle the Taliban aggression. The US army chief in Afghanistan, General McChrystal says 40,000 more American troops are needed, but that balks the Pakistan army on other counts. The last time the Taliban came under pressure from the American troops they made a beeline for Pakistan. When the additional troops put pressure on the Taliban they will retreat into Pakistani territory for regrouping and in the process negate the success achieved in the Tribal Areas by the Pakistan army. Clearly, both sides are pointing to the same weaknesses that they actually share. The only way is to coordinate and tackle the menace jointly. (Daily Times)