By Malik Ahmad Jalal* –
On a visit of Pakistan in July, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen acknowledged the success of the military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan and Swat. However, the highest-ranking U.S. military commander also expressed concern that Pakistan’s reluctance to fight the formidable Haqqani Network in North Waziristan is undermining the US efforts in Afghanistan. The U.S. pressure on Pakistan to “do more” is likely to increase as the Obama Administration views the dismantling of the Afghan Taliban in North Waziristan as crucial to its exit strategy in Afghanistan. This view has been strengthened after evidence emerged of connections between the failed attempt to blow up a car bomb in Times Square with militants in North Waziristan. Still unclear is whether Pakistan’s reluctance stems from a genuine lack of capacity to expand operations into North Waziristan or a lack of political will.
The Pakistan Army consists of nine “Corps.” The three most important Corps are the elite Strike Corps I and II stationed along the international border with India and the X Corp with responsibility for Kashmir. The 37th Mechanized Infantry Division of I Corp and the 19th Infantry division of X Corp are currently deployed in Swat while the 14th Infantry Division of II Corp is battling the Taliban in South Waziristan. This means that one-third of the Pakistan Army’s offense-defense capability against India has been diverted to participate in the war on terror. This is in addition to two out of three divisions of XI Corp, based out of Peshawar, which are conducting operations in South and North Waziristan. All these regular forces are joined by the 700 strong Zarrar Battalion of the Special Services Group, the Pakistani Green Berets.
In addition, paramilitaries such as Bajaur, Dir and Tochi Scouts numbering in excess of 21,000 men are fighting alongside the regular army. This takes the total manpower deployment for action against the TTP to more than 170,000 troops and paramilitaries.
While maintaining the offensive against the Taliban, the Pakistan Army has the difficult challenge of securing cities from the Taliban’s counter attacks. Due to the proximity of the tribal areas to Peshawar and the garrison town of Rawalpindi, the Taliban have hit the Pakistan Army’s hinterland with impunity and devastating impact. On October 10, 2009, nine militants stormed the Army’s general headquarters, killing 22 people, including a brigadier general, and briefly holding 56 hostages. Then on December 4, militants launched a coordinated attack on a mosque within an army compound that led to the death of a major general commanding an armor division, a brigadier general, two lieutenant colonels, and two majors.
The acute vulnerability of the Pakistan Army’s base to the relentless attacks by TTP is also made evident by the fact that there were 497 bombings in various parts of the country during 2009 alone; 80 of these were suicide bombings. Peshawar, the base for the IX Corp that is leading the operation in the tribal areas, suffered over 65 bombings, including 20 suicide attacks.
As a result of the real and constant threat of terror attacks, Rawalpindi and Peshawar have become heavily militarized with soldiers stationed every five hundred meters and most government offices barricaded with re-enforced concrete walls. In addition to constituting a sizeable financial burden, these measures are draining the manpower of the Pakistan Army, which is already stretched due to operations in Swat and Waziristan.
Moreover, in addition to the loss of human life, there is the social, psychological and financial impact of the displacement of the local population due to the military operations. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) more than 420, 000 persons have been displaced from South Waziristan alone. Rehabilitation of the displaced persons and securing territory to prevent re-infiltration by TTP will be a long-term challenge for the Pakistan army. This makes any operation in North Waziristan operationally and logistically even more difficult.
All this points to the reality that Pakistan requires greater effort on part of the US and multi-lateral institutions to build its capacity for the humanitarian relief effort.
The current training of paramilitaries such as the Frontier Corp by U.S. Special Forces, as well as communication and technical advising should be sustained on a long-term basis. This will develop the paramilitaries into a more disciplined and formidable fighting force that can execute day-to-day tactical operations and relieve pressure from the Pakistan Army to focus on the large-scale strategic operations.
A similar training scheme should be initiated for the Rangers and the anti-terrorist police force that should be spearheading operations against the extremists in the urban areas. Such an anti-terrorist force, supported by an established intelligence network, is key to maintaining security in the Pakistan Army’s hinterland, which the Taliban will disrupt to undermine military action in the tribal areas.
There should also be renewed focus on initiating a Professional Military Exchange (PME) that brings national security fellows in America together with the most promising officers of the Pakistan Army. This will develop long-term relationships and understanding that Admiral Mullen has emphasized as key for U.S. national security interests.
The Times Square terrorist plot earlier this year underscores the American interest for continued vigilance against terrorist groups operating from the border areas of Pakistan. At the same time, the Afghan War Diaries disclosed by WikiLeaks have raised questions about whether the Pakistan Army is a consistent partner in the war on terror. However, U.S. army officials who have been privy to these intelligence reports all along have accepted that the Pakistan Army is doing its best against a formidable enemy that has stretched its resources and capabilities. A statement by General Petraeus, in which he recognized that, “Given the way the military is stretched, it’s understandable that poking more short sticks into hornets’ nests becomes a difficult proposition,” is an acknowledgment of the Pakistan military’s progress and the challenge of further expanding military operations. What Pakistan needs is long-term and sustained U.S. engagement to create greater trust and understanding of one another’s strategic interests while providing technological, financial and training support so that Pakistan can solidify the military gains and build the capacity to establish the government’s writ across the country, including in North Waziristan.
* Malik Ahmad Jalal is a 2011 Masters in Public Administration in International Development candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to joining Kennedy School, he worked as an investment banker in London and a member of the think tank, The International Institute for Strategic Studies. He will also be contributing a companion article entitled “Why Pakistan Won’t,” analyzing the willingness of the Pakistan Army to take on militants in North Waziristan.
 The International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The Military Balance 2010: The annual assessment of global military capabilities and defense economics.” February 2010, 337.
 The International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The Military Balance 2010: The annual assessment of global military capabilities and defense economics,” 338.
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