On Sunday, the Pakistani military launched a massive offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to clear out havens for insurgent forces in the wake of the attack at the airport in Karachi last Sunday. Last week, we examined Pakistan’s battle against insurgents and international terrorist elements in the FATA in our article “The Pakistani Military’s Fight Against Terrorism“. The offensive launched this past weekend is targeting insurgent havens with ground forces augmented by air strikes:
Pakistani fighter jets pounded North Waziristan on Monday, a day after the army announced the start of a full-scale military operation to flush Islamist insurgents out of the volatile region bordering Afghanistan.
In a long-awaited military operation precipitated by a deadly insurgent attack on Pakistan’s biggest airport a week ago, Pakistan has deployed troops, artillery and helicopter gunships to fight insurgents in North Waziristan. (Reuters, June 16)
NPR reports on the willingness of the Pakistani military leadership to sustain the fight against the insurgency:
Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa went on: “Our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and color, along with their sanctuaries.” (NPR, June 16)
Upwards of 70,000 Pakistani military personnel have been mobilized in the fight. In the hours following the launch of the operation, the Pakistani military reports reflected success for the operations with the military stating that several dozen militants have already been killed in the offensive:
The airstrikes are part of a long-awaited operation against foreign and local militants in North Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border that is used by insurgents to attack the rest of Pakistan. The operation was first announced on Sunday.
The essentially lawless region serves as a training base for militants and a staging point for insurgents who attack NATO and Afghan troops across the border.
The United States has for years complained to Pakistan about its failure to impose order in a region harboring what Washington considers the country’s most dangerous militants, and has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in the area.
The airstrikes early Monday targeted six hideouts in the Shawal area near the border with South Waziristan, a neighboring tribal region, killing 27 militants, the military said.
Separately, the military said seven militants were killed trying to escape Mir Ali, one of the two main towns in North Waziristan, and another three were killed by snipers while trying to lay roadside bombs near Miran Shah, the region’s other main town. Three Pakistani troops were wounded in an exchange of fire with militants.
The military said in a statement that six troops died and three were wounded by the roadside bomb as the Pakistani Taliban warned that more violence could be in the offing. (ABC News, June 15)
On Monday, the most recent official Pakistani government updates stated that over 100 militants had been killed in the strikes:
The military said 105 militants were killed as Pakistani jets pounded the hideouts of foreign and local fighters in North Waziristan. After the airstrikes, the Pakistan army swept into the area, sealing off at least two towns in an attempt to cripple an insurgency that has been blamed for the deaths of 50,000 Pakistanis over the past decade. (The Washington Post, June 16)
The Pakistani military’s efforts to root out and destroy networks of insurgents, somewhat overshadowed by the insurgent offensive of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, is an important step in Islamabad’s battle to recapture large swaths of territory in the country ostensibly controlled by anti-government forces such as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and The Haqqani Network. International terrorist elements, to include the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and Al Qaeda have also battled Pakistani government forces throughout the past decade and as a result have been able to successfully set up training camps in havens throughout the tribal areas. Refugees have begun fleeing the areas of the heaviest fighting but the government has apparently burgeoned itself for the long haul. The government in Islamabad has characterized the offensive launched this weekend as the first step in what will likely be a protracted effort to destroy the multi-faceted insurgency in Pakistan’s tribal areas:
“Pakistan already has a sizeable military presence in North Waziristan, an estimated 28,000 to 30,000 troops, said defense analyst Zahid Hussain, whose book “The Scorpion’s Tale” plots the rise of militancy in Pakistan.
Hussain said militants had been using North Waziristan essentially as a training base. This operation will establish the military’s control across the territory and make it more difficult for militants to freely operate there. But, he warned, it won’t be easy, and it will likely spark reprisals.
“It is going to be a long drawn-out war. It is not going to end soon,” he said. (The Huffington Post, June 15)
Essential Intrigue links are below.
- Clashes at refugee camps in Bangladesh kill nine. (Al Jazeera)
- Saudi Arabia faces its own sectarian challenge. (The Huffington Post)
- The Venezuelan government claims to have uncovered a plot. (ABC News)
- The Philippines confronts China on construction in disputed territory in the South China Sea. (The Wall Street Journal)
Latest posts by Eric Jones (see all)
- Overwatch: the Foreign Intrigue Podcast, Episode 2 (United States Presidential Candidates and Foreign Policy) - 15 February 2016
- Overwatch: the Foreign Intrigue Podcast, Episode 1 (Foreign Policy and the US Presidential Election) - 8 February 2016
- Central Asia at a Crossroads: Introduction and Overview - 30 December 2015