Spearhead Analysis – 27.02.2014

Cobra HelicopterThe recent air strikes in North Waziristan and the most recent cabinet meeting have more or less endorsed a regime of retaliatory and even pre-emptive strikes on the TTP. The Federal Cabinet has also clearly stated a precondition for talks— complete end to all violent activity by the TTP. Given the fact that all the factions in FATA may not be under TTP control and the rumors of divisions within the TTP this pre-condition may not be possible even if the TTP agrees to it. The dialogue option, never a starter, is all but scuttled and the muffled sound of war drums can be heard. Public opinion that was being manipulated by ‘pro-Taliban’ factions is now supportive of a decisive military operation to end or at least side line the insurgency in FATA and political resolve is slowly manifesting itself. This resolve is a given for the orchestration of state power in pursuit of a clearly stated political objective. It is the military’s job to translate the political directive into military strategy. Hopefully these aspects will be discussed, debated and approved in a meeting of the much heralded Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS). The fact that the political leadership and the military are on the same page is a definite plus.

A recent statement by former COAS General Ashfaq Kayani retired went largely unnoticed. While clarifying the statement attributed to him about a 40% success probability of a military operation in North Waziristan the General stated that what he had actually said was that a successful military operation would lead to a 40% reduction in terrorist activity in the country. He added that it was important to address the issue of militancy, lawlessness and ethnic/sectarian divides in tandem with the military operation. In this context the 100 page three part national security policy formulated by the government is important and will hopefully address the issue of internal security and capacity build up for implementation of the policy. This policy too must be laid before the CCNS so that structures are evolved for intelligence and operational coordination at all levels as provincial governments will have major implementation responsibility.

The air strikes being carried out are effective. All reports indicate disarray within TTP ranks. A boots on the ground military operation, however, has to be undertaken and it is this realization that is prompting arm chair strategists to speculate on the forces, directions and actions. The guaranteed success of such an operation is absolutely vital. For this reason a joint political-military-foreign policy preparatory maneuver is important. This must ensure the support, or failing that then at least the non-interference of the US, the Afghan Government, Iran, India and the Middle Eastern countries that fund different entities. This maneuver must bring the US presence in Afghanistan and the Afghan government forces in support of the Pakistan military by taking mutually coordinated steps on the Afghan side of the Afghan-Pak border. Iran’s cooperation and support is especially important. The military operation itself will involve stopping and interdicting all inter and intra-agency movement in FATA, into Afghanistan and into mainland Pakistan as multiple directions are used to clear areas and establish the writ of the government. The care of IDPs (Internally Displaced People) and the follow-up civil administration to control and rehabilitate the cleared areas will have to part of the overall plan.

Right now we are seeing sporadic and seemingly isolated incidents of sabotage, subversion, crime and urban violence as part of the overall terrorist activity. The danger is that once the operation gets underway these incidents may be leveraged into several daily events to weaken the resolve of the state. Dissidents and criminals with their own narrow agendas may try to take advantage of the situation and even external sponsors may upgrade their support. This must not be allowed to happen and for this an internal security plan should be implemented before, during and after the military operation. Thorough preparations will signal intent and capacity and may even bring about a result ahead of an actual use of force in an operation.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)