The visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week may well have been the turning point that it was described as. A number of things appear to be happening in quick succession. The CIA has had a sniff around the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, a large piece of very bent and very secret helicopter has been returned to the Americans, and now there is talk of an operation in North Waziristan. There has never been any shortage of talk about such an operation but it has hitherto been accompanied, on Pakistan’s side at least, by minimal activity. It must be noted that the Pakistani authorities have never directly refused to conduct such an operation, and have consistently said that, if they ever did, it would be on their terms and according to their own agenda. It could now be that there is a convergence of interests – Pakistan’s and those of the US – that would make an NWA operation to our advantage.
Reports speak of a ‘careful and meticulous’ operation in the NWA, with the air force going in first to soften up targets which will already have been identified, followed by a boots-on-the-ground operation. Intriguingly, the reports speak of the possibility of a joint operation with allies as having been discussed during the Clinton-Mullen visit. Such an eventuality would be fraught with a range of complexities. If these were joint operations with the Americans (the only likely ally with whom such an operation would be conducted) they could ignite a political and social explosion. With the collateral damage inflicted by the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan regularly outraging public opinion, imagine the effect of Americans on Pakistani soil ‘mistakenly’ killing a group of civilians including women and children. Quite apart from what might blow up on the civil front, issues of command and control and intelligence-sharing may make this a step too far and too soon considering the fractured state of relations between Pakistan and the US. From its own perspective, Pakistan’s forces have good reason to go after Hakimullah Mehsud who is believed to have headquartered himself in the NWA after he was driven out of his previous base in South Waziristan. He has spread death and destruction across the country, not just in his homeland of the tribal areas. He has terrorised large parts of the population and those acting on his behalf have killed many hundreds of innocent civilians. It remains to be seen if the talk turns to reality and the mountains of the NWA are cleansed.
By thanks to The news International