Afghanistan's Border Battle: Ground War In Pakistan


The Pakistani military has parried U.S. pressure to launch a full scale operation in North Waziristan, arguing that it is already overstretched with two major military campaigns that still fester in South Waziristan and in Swat. It also argues any operation in North Waziristan would increase terrorist attacks across Pakistan, and the country is neither ready nor willing to endure that.

"It requires action and we are now planning action to go there, but we have other issues also. We have to stabilize the whole province, we have the other [tribal] agencies, we have constraint of resources," Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, who heads the Pakistani military along the border, told ABC News and other news outlets last week.

"There's a military saying, 'always have one foot on ground,' so I can't open up so many fronts," he said. "We have other agencies to stabilize first. And then let us stabilize [those], and we will take a decision."

Pakistan Pushes Back Against U.S. Pressure

As the senior Pakistani military official who did not want to be identified put it: "This needs to be left to us. You can't push us. We know our constraints."

But U.S. officials and long-term observers in Pakistan believe there is another reason why the Pakistani military refuses to launch a major campaign in North Waziristan: a long-term relationship with Jalaluddin Haqqani, who has been used as a proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan for decades.

"There is no chance that Pakistan will view enhanced assistance levels in any field as sufficient compensation for abandoning support to these groups, which it sees as an important part of its national security apparatus against India," the U.S. embassy in Islamabad wrote in a Sept. 23, 2009 cable leaked by WikiLeaks. "Afghan instability by definition leads the Pakistani establishment to increase support for the Taliban and thereby, unintentionally, create space for al-Qaeda."

The de-facto leader of the Haqqani network is Jalaluddin's son, Sirajuddin, who U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say is more radical and international-minded than his father. Sirajuddin sits on both the senior al Qaeda and Taliban shuras, or leadership councils, and is now competing more aggressively for donations earmarked for al Qaeda, according to officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Haqqani's business interests and economic ties run through Pakistan and the Gulf countries, according to U.S. officials and leaked cables. And its relationship with the Pakistani military is decades old.

"I think for a very long time, Haqqani has been worked with the military very closely, since 1975. It's a 35-year-old record which predates even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan," argues Ahmed Rashid, an author with long experience reporting from Pakistan and Afghanistan. "I don't think the military or the intelligence services or the government up in the Northwest is trying to do anything to stop Haqqani… The fact is that their survival is being helped and guaranteed by the authorities here."

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