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Pakistan army faces black hole in Waziristan

Pakistan's military faces near impossible odds to smash Taliban networks in South Waziristan South Waziristan (Urdu: جنوبی وزیرستان) is the southern part of Waziristan, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and covering some 11 585 km² (4,473 mi²).  on impenetrable terrain infested in·fest  
tr.v. in·fest·ed, in·fest·ing, in·fests
1. To inhabit or overrun in numbers or quantities large enough to be harmful, threatening, or obnoxious:
 with some of the most dangerous militants in the world, analysts say.

Riding on a wave of popular support after a relatively successful operation against the Taliban in the lush Swat Swat (swät), district of the Malakand division, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Saidu Sharif is the capital. The largely inaccessible region is reached by air and through mountain passes from the south and east.  Valley, commanders have spent months drawing up battle plans to take on Waziristan.

But South Waziristan will be a far tougher nut to crack given its fiery warrior culture -- its tribesmen famously resisted the British in the 19th century -- and its mountainous terrain of goat tracks, caves and thick forest.

"War in Waziristan The War in Waziristan is an armed conflict between the Pakistani Army and Waziri tribes allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It began in 2004 when tensions rooted in the Pakistani Army's search for al-Qaeda members in Pakistan's mountainous Waziristan area (the Federally  will not be a simple one, it will be more difficult than Swat," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a tribal affairs expert, told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. .

"Waziristan is like a black hole. Troops already suffer from a lack of intelligence. Even the army describes Waziristan as an intelligence black hole," Yusufzai said.

South Waziristan is part of Pakistan's lawless northwest tribal belt where US officials believe Al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden Osama bin Laden: see bin Laden, Osama. , fled with thousands of Taliban diehards after the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The enemy is battle-hardened and well-trained. The military lacks vital air assets and sophisticated counter-insurgency expertise. Central Asian fighters, Arabs and north Africans are among those hunkered down in Waziristan.

There is no border demarcation, allowing militants to escape into neighbouring Afghanistan or vanish in a district bigger than Lebanon whose 600,000 population is dominated by the Mehsud and Wazir Wazir may refer to:
  • Wazir (tribe), a Pashtun tribe in Waziristan
  • Haji Wazir, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
  • Vizier, a high ranking official

The heavy snowfalls of winter looming in the next two months pose another constraint on the army, with commanders outlining a window of just six to eight weeks to complete the operation.

Pakistan's weak civilian government promised a big offensive months ago. US and domestic pressure on the military to act has intensified after a blizzard of militant assaults that have left more than 170 people dead this month.

But a rushed military operation in response to the embarrassing militant attacks, which exposed grave security lapses, may be counter-productive.

"Dealing an effective blow to Taliban needs a good strategy, a premature army operation will create a lot of problems," Mahmood Shah, a former security chief for Pakistan's seven tribal districts, told AFP.

The military says the operation will be limited to strongholds of Baitullah Mehsud Baitullah Mehsud is a leading Taliban commander in Waziristan.[1][2] The Waziris are a tribe whose home spans the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. The Mahsud are one of the four sub-tribes of the Waziri. , the warlord warlord, in modern Chinese history, autonomous regional military commander. In the political chaos following the death (1916) of republican China's first president and commander in chief, Yüan Shih-kai, central authority fell to the provincial military governors  killed by a US missile who turned Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP TTP (thymidine triphosphate): see thymine. ) into the most active killers of security personnel and civilians in Pakistan.

"The Taliban will fight a guerrilla war. The military should put the emphasis on capturing the command structure or destroying it, otherwise they will make a network again," said Masood Sharif, former chief of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau.

The TTP is thought by the military to have 10,000 to 12,000 fighters in South Waziristan. Experts say a successful operation should have been preceded by harder bargaining to divide and rule among Pakistan's Pashtun tribesmen.

The doughty dough·ty  
adj. dough·ti·er, dough·ti·est
Marked by stouthearted courage; brave.

[Middle English, from Old English dohtig; see dheugh- in Indo-European roots.
 tribesmen are veterans of every major campaign in the region, including the legendary 1980s Afghan war against the Soviet Union.

"An operation against a guerrilla-type Taliban force should be selective and intelligence-based. Political work in the area and winning the confidence of tribesmen is also required," said Yusufzai.

The second largest tribe dominant near the Afghan border, the Wazirs, have an agreement to remain technically neutral. But only a small faction of the larger Mehsud tribe has signed a peace agreement with Pakistan's government.

Government officials in the northwest say deals have been struck with a limited number of elders in South Waziristan and with leaders in neighbouring North Waziristan to remain impartial in case of a ground offensive.

But numerous operations in northwest Pakistan have met with limited success, costing the lives of 2,000 troops since 2002.

Waziristan offensives in 2004 and 2005 ended with peace agreements that critics said gave militants breathing space to re-arm.
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Publication:AFP South Asian Edition
Date:Oct 18, 2009
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