December 12, 2009

Waziristan: Doing More

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani has announced the end of Operation ah-i-Nija (Path to Salvation).

"The operation in South Waziristan is over," Gilani told reporters in televised remarks from the eastern city of Lahore. "Now there are talks about Orakzai."

He did not give any other details, but reports noted that air-strikes have been softening up Orakzai for several weeks. An estimated 40,000 people have since the South Waziristan offensive began, the U.N. said in a statement Friday.

The move is being interpreted as a sign that Pakistan, “did not deal the death blow it had intended against the Taliban.” The TTP’s total defeat was never in the realm of possibility, but the army expected to accomplish more before winter.

No leadership was killed that we know of, and the army only counted 580 kills out of an estimated 12,000 fighters. It was looking like at least 1,000 would be removed from the battlefield, but operations began to slow the last three weeks.

The ratio doesn’t look good when added up: 79 dead Pakistani soldiers, 240 injured, over 500 civilians killed and thousands injured. True guerrilla warfare this is not, but successful asymmetrical warfare it is.

Now the army must turn north to Orakzai, and another agency when the TTP shifts again to a new territory. Its leadership is hiding out in North Waziristan, causing the Predators to pound it with missiles aimed both at the TTP and Pakistan’s government. Pakistan has shown no indication of invading North Waziristan, but the TTP was simply go somewhere else anyway.

“Do more.” 10,000 fighters remain dispersed around South Waziristan or lying low inside. “Do more.” Pakistan is being led by the drones, much to its resentment. This is more akin to guerrilla warfare, spreading out to avoid the strong, regrouping where the strong becomes weak, playing allies against each other in the process.

The latest installment of Waziristan - Pakistan’s plan to hold territory - is in development and will be released soon.

[Update: Either Gilani got his facts wrong or the military/US government reversed his position. Not many options in between.]

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