18 December 2009

Pakistani military: legitimately over-stretched, or making excuses for foot-dragging?

The Pakistanis are asking the Americans to ease up on the operational pressure, saying they've got their hands full with current ops.

The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan is unlikely to work unless the Taliban and its allies are denied the sanctuary they enjoy across the border in Pakistan. That's why two top U.S. military commanders, General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Islamabad this week to press their Pakistani counterparts for action on Afghan Taliban networks based in Pakistani North Waziristan and around the city of Quetta. But even as the Pakistani military fights a full-scale counterinsurgency war against the Tehrik i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban), it remains reluctant to extend its targets to include the groups that most concern the U.S.
The argument most often used by Pakistani officials to rebuff Washington's demands for action against the Afghan-Taliban allied Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami, as well as the Afghan Taliban leadership core in Quetta, is about resources and priorities. Pakistan has committed 30,000 troops to its offensive against the TTP in Swat and South Waziristan, they argue, and it simply doesn't have the resources to open a second front against the Haqqani network in North Waziristan (which is also where al-Qaeda's leaders are believed to be hiding). General Ashfaq Kiyani reportedly told Petraeus that Pakistan's priority, given its limited resources, was on the TTP insurgency, which directly challenges the Pakistani state.
"Don't overstretch us," says Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general turned analyst, explaining the army's reaction Washington's plans for Afghanistan. "If that happens then even the current operation [against the Afghan Taliban] will be directly affected. Please understand our predicament. You don't want our current operations to fail."
Pakistani officials advancing this argument often imply that once the domestic insurgency has been suppressed, the Army can move on to tackling the groups that most concern the U.S. But many analysts believe that Pakistan's reluctance to go after Haqqani, Hekmatyar and the Afghan Taliban leadership in Quetta is based not only on resources and priorities, but on the Pakistani military's assessment of its long-term interests in Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves

By: Brant

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