Target: North Waziristan

Clinton visit produces Pakistani offensive against terrorist stronghold, but will our “ally” deliver or continue its duplicity?

What a difference an embarrassing capture of a world-renowned terrorist leader makes!

The Pakistani newspaper The News International reported on Monday that Pakistan’s army will “commence a careful and meticulous” military offensive in North Waziristan in north-west Pakistan, thus fulfilling a long-desired American goal in the region. After the Pakistani army’s assault on South Waziristan in 2009, many of the Islamic extremists relocated to North Waziristan, from where they have continued to conduct their operations almost unmolested, except for American drone attacks, across the border against NATO and American forces in Afghanistan as well as against the Pakistani state.

The News states the decision for the North Waziristan operation was made last week when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen met with Pakistani President Asif Zardari, army leader General Ashfaq Kiyani and Lt. Gen. Shuja Ahmad Pasha, chief of the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence agency. It was Clinton’s first trip, and the first by such a high-ranking American delegation, to Pakistan since US forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May.

“We both recognise that there is still much work required and it is urgent,” Clinton said after the meeting, adding, in possible reference to the offensive, that Pakistan would be taking “some very specific actions” on its own and with the United States. She did not provide details.

Pakistan finally acquiesced to the long-ignored American demand for the North Waziristan offensive as part of a “barter” deal, in which Pakistan would get a “clean chit” from the Obama administration regarding the Osama bin Laden case in return for the military operation. But if Pakistan’s past record is anything to go by, the United States can only expect more duplicity and incompetence from Pakistani authorities.

The high-level American delegation had travelled to Pakistan to prevent the unravelling of American-Pakistani co-operation in the War on Terror due to the bin Laden killing. Despite its ally’s proven unreliability, America still needs Pakistan because of its strategic location in relation to Afghanistan and to counter the terrorist organizations present on its territory. The simple reality for America is that there is no one else.

At a conference in Paris before her Pakistan trip, Clinton had tried to soothe tensions between the two countries, saying Pakistanis had “been engaged in their own bitter fight against the terrorists.” But that did not prevent the visibly “cold” reception she and Admiral Mullen received.

“There were few of the smiles and warm handshakes that usually open such sitdowns, and reporters were soon shooed out of the room,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Pakistanis are angry that the Americans raided Osama bin Laden’s home in a secure military town not far from Pakistan’s capital without notifying them first. The American military obviously had feared someone in the Pakistani government would tip off bin Laden before the raid. Indicating the Americans’ deep distrust of the Pakistanis, one military publication maintains the United States was ready to attack Pakistan if any of its forces tried to interfere in the raid. A “huge naval and air force” had been assembled in the region for this purpose, including three aircraft carriers, to show the “instant, and far-reaching, consequences” interference would entail.

The successful bin Laden raid, naturally, constituted a huge embarrassment for Pakistan in the world’s eyes. In the past, whenever they were accused of harboring him, Pakistani officials would deny bin Laden was even in their country and would smarmily demand evidence from the accusers. Simultaneously, Pakistan was receiving billions of dollars in aid from its “ally” America to fight against al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists.

Using the age-old strategy that attack is better than defense, the Pakistanis’ coldness towards the American delegation was a means of showing their anger and displeasure for US Navy Seals having violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. But this is tantamount to blaming the victim.

The Wikileaks documents exposed that Pakistan’s immense degree of corruption extended far beyond its protection of bin Laden. The ISI had smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture. They had also sent an al-Qaeda unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. This also does not take into account the number of victims, both inside and outside of Pakistan, of terrorist plots conceived on Pakistani soil by these very same protected terrorists.

But don’t expect for a minute the Pakistanis will ever honestly investigate the extent of its security apparatus members’ cooperation with al Qaeda or with other hard-line Islamic terrorist organizations. However, Pakistani officials did admit during the Clinton visit that bin Laden did have a support network while living in Pakistan (as if this wasn’t discernable) and that this would be investigated. But again, if the investigation’s findings are ever announced, just expect more of the same deceitfulness and lies.

Unfortunately, the upcoming offensive will most likely also fall victim to the same double-dealing. At worst, it will resemble the lackadaisical offensives former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf used to launch against Pakistan-based terrorist organizations to justify the billions of American dollars he was receiving. It will be just for show with hardly any casualties incurred and heavy contact avoided.

At best, the Pakistani army will target only Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda assets, leaving the Haqqani network largely untouched. For the Pakistani security establishment, there are good Islamist killers and bad Islamist killers. The bad ones, like the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda, stage horrific attacks inside of Pakistan and therefore deserve destruction. But the good ones, like the Haqqani network, only attack targets inside of Afghanistan, like American troops and their NATO and Afghan allies, and therefore should be left alone or even utilized for foreign policy advantages. But it is this Haqqani network, with its headquarters in North Waziristan, that NATO wants taken out in the offensive, since it represents the alliance’s deadliest enemy in Afghanistan.

Up until now, Pakistan said it was unable to undertake any military operations against North Waziristan, because the army is overstretched, and it still has to consolidate the gains made in previous offensives against Islamic extremists. This will probably provide the excuse for the offensive to develop into a slow, or “meticulous”, one that will demand more American patience and money. This scenario fits in with the Pakistani army’s depraved and predatory attitude towards making money. Like the other institutions in Pakistan, it is very corrupt and is first and foremost an independent, billion-dollar business conglomerate to the detriment its fighting abilities. It is also probably why Pakistan has lost three wars against India.

But after the bin Laden raid, America should no longer play this game with Pakistan. It should set a timetable for what it wants done in North Waziristan, and if the US military is not satisfied with progress, it should go in and do the job itself.  But before that, Congress should move to eliminate all money payments to our “ally.” Unfortunately, this seems to be the only kind of language the Pakistanis understand and the only one that can produce results.