The military operation has to take place in Pakistan, but the announcement about it has been made in the United States of America.
It isn’t the first time that news about something important happening in Pakistan is first broken in the US. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in early July that Pakistan was reopening the overland Nato supply routes after having shut them down on November 27, 2011, to protest the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in US airstrikes.
It is strange for Pakistan’s civil and military leaders to share such key information with the US authorities rather than with parliament and the media. As WikiLeaks revelations have showed, this has happened in the past and is still happening.
Those revelations caused embarrassment to our leaders, but they continue to trust US officials with information that is quickly passed on, or sometimes leaked, to the American media.
In the latest such instance, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced in Washington on August 14 that the Pakistani army had indicated it would soon begin combat operations in North Waziristan. Panetta also knew the specifics of the operation, as he said the main target would be the Pakistani Taliban, rather than the Haqqani network, which remains a priority for the US.
Panetta, known for his hawkish views on Pakistan, also said Pakistan’s military leadership gave information about the planned operation in recent meetings with the US and Nato military commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen. He specifically mentioned the Pakistani army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as telling Gen Allen about it. The general has been a frequent visitor to Pakistan,
It is possible that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam also gave such an indication during his recent visit to the US where he met CIA head Gen David Petraeus. It was his first visit to the US after taking charge from now-retired Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha in March this year and American media reports later said the two countries were considering joint counter-terrorism operations against the militants on both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border. The report was denied by the Pakistani military, but it needs to be noted that the denial concerned “joint operations” in North Waziristan, which was understandable as Pakistan has always, at least in principle, refused American boots on the ground on its soil. It is another matter that the US hasn’t cared much for Pakistan’s displeasure and protests on this count.
An operation by Pakistan’s security forces in North Waziristan hasn’t been ruled out even though it though it has been delayed due to a host of reasons. In fact, the militants’ attack on the Pakistani air force airbase at Kamra on Thursday and the claim of responsibility for it by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan could force the military’s hands to expedite plans for the operation against the Hakimullah Mahsud-led militants based in North Waziristan.
The thoughts of an impending military operation in North Waziristan seem to have created excitement in the US as not only Panetta but some officials in the Pentagon have also gone public with this information without even waiting for the Pakistani government and military to make the announcement after having ensured that parliament and the public opinion are on their side. For the last few years, the US has been demanding military action in North Waziristan targeting the Haqqani network along with others and then using every tactic, such as increasing the number of drone strikes, to put pressure on Pakistan to make it happen.
However, there is little realisation in the US of the fact that its support and involvement in any military operation by Pakistani forces would make these forces’ task even more difficult due to the strong anti-US sentiment in Pakistan. The US could help by staying away from any such an action and let the Pakistani government and military do what is needed to tackle terrorism.
The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org