Afghanistan's Border Battle: Ground War In Pakistan


Inside North Waziristan, Haqqani fighters have tried to limit the damage from a large increase in drone attacks, which has been facilitated by the U.S. military "lending" drones to the CIA, according to a U.S. official. Haqqani fighters are increasing their tendency to live in small groups – no more than 10 people together – and spread out across a wide area, according to residents of the area and U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. Many of those groups are based next to Pakistani Frontier Corps outposts, and sometimes, Frontier Corps soldiers "hand out food and water to the fighters," according to a resident of the area.

Haqqani commanders have also stepped up a violent campaign against spies who facilitate the drone strikes. One propaganda video produced by Haqqani militants shows a public execution of an alleged spy who confesses on tape – most likely under duress – to being paid by the CIA.

Pakistan's Ties to Haqqani Network

The Haqqani network is also trying to open up new supply lines into Afghanistan. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan believe Haqqani fighters are coming into Afghanistan from the tribal agency of Kurram, where the CIA does not have permission to use unmanned, aerial drones.

Arab, Punjabi, Chechen, Uzbek, and even European militants all largely live separately in North Waziristan, according to Pakistani analysts, but when anyone crosses into North Waziristan, a Haqqani commander leads them. U.S. military officials say the Haqqani network has taken over primary responsibility to train militants from al Qaeda.

The U.S. military is killing as many as 100 Haqqani fighters every week, and last month said it captured or killed more than 20 "senior leaders" in raids by special operations forces at night. But the pool of Haqqani recruits in Pakistan is massive, thanks to a large system of radical madrassas, or religious schools. And the military can't significantly degrade the Haqqani network's ability to operate without Pakistan's help -- which has not been forthcoming, the military says.

"We're not seeing any real effort by anyone to interdict Haqqani," says a senior military official.

The CIA and Pakistan's premiere intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence, are working closely together, according to senior Pakistani and U.S. officials. The U.S., for example, was recently allowed to expand its presence in the southwest city of Quetta, where the ISI has long resisted any U.S. presence.

But the strain between the United States and Pakistan has increased in the last few months, perhaps best exhibited in a briefing a senior Pakistani military official gave to Pakistani reporters last week. Details of that conversation, which were published in Dawn, Pakistan's oldest English daily newspaper, revealed a large gulf between the two countries.

The senior military official, according to Dawn, "listed a catalogue of complaints the 'people of Pakistan' have against the US. These include: the U.S. still has a 'transactional' relationship with Pakistan; the U.S. is interested in perpetuating a state of 'controlled chaos' in Pakistan; and, perhaps most explosively given the Wikileaks' revelations, the 'real aim of U.S. strategy is to denuclearize Pakistan.'"

Asked to predict how the U.S.-Pakistan relationship would evolve in the next year, the senior military official said simply: "I see difficulties and pitfalls."

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