Islamabad's campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan is largely irrelevant to the struggles of the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan across the Durand Line, according to Afghanistan News Net. The relevant groups are the Old Taliban led by Mullah Omar, based in Quetta; the Haqqani Network of Siraj and Jalaluddin Haqqani, based in North Waziristan and targeting the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika; and the Hizb-i Islami or Islami Party of Gulbadin Hikmatyar, which is mainly based in Afghanistan but has a presence in Bajaur, the northernmost of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan.
So what is in South Waziristan? Groups that are targeting Pakistan itself. These include the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan [TTP] or Pakistani Taliban Movement and elements of anti-Shiite Sunni extremist groups from the Punjab, who have begun hitting Pakistani government targets. The campaign will thus have little effect on the fighting in Afghanistan, except to the extent that some militants may be displaced from Pakistan north to Afghanistan.
Dawn reports on the Pakistan military's advance into South Waziristan on the campaign's second day.
I picked out some worrisome parts of this report which are mentioned but not highlighted:
- South Waziristan's population is 600,000; the campaign has already displaced 100,000 of them.
- Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Sangin has brought in 1,500 Afghan Pashtun fighters to support the Pakistani Taliban Movement in South Waziristan.
- Azam Tariq, spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban Movement, said that militants’ supporters from Muslim seminaries in Punjab, Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province were in touch with the Taliban and were coming to the battle zone through various routes.
(In support of this last point, police teams intensively investigated seminaries or madrasahs in the capital of Islamabad and some other areas on Sunday.)
In other words, this military campaign is not just a matter of troops versus guerrillas. It is becoming a rallying point for Muslim radicals, with volunteers coming in from Afghanistan and others from madrasahs from all over Pakistan -- and with Pakistan's own security hanging in the balance.
Tariq took responsibility for the recent horrific bombings in the Punjabi city of Lahore, which targeted Pakistani security forces, thus claiming that South Waziristan had a very long reach into the rest of the country.
Pakistani security forces also arrested some 300 Afghans on Sunday.
As if the fighting in Pakistan itself is not worrying enough, the USG Open Source Center translates a threat against India from TTP leader Hakimullah Mahsud:
Pakistan: TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud Says India Next Target After Country
Unattributed report: "We Shall Declare War Against India After Islamic States Is Established in Pakistan: Hakimullah Mehsud"
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
Islamabad -- Hakimullah Mehsud, chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has threatened that the Taliban will send terrorists to fight against India after succeeding in establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan. He said in the footage shown in a British news channel Sky News : "We wish to make Pakistan an Islamic state, and we are striving for this objective. We are battling against the Pakistan Army, the police, and militia."
(Description of Source: Islamabad Khabrain in Urdu News, a sensationalist daily, published by Liberty Papers Ltd., generally critical of Pakistan People's Party; known for its access to government and military sources of information. The same group owns The Post in English, Naya Akhbar in Urdu and Channel 5 TV. Circulation of 30,000)'