Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pakistan Engages Mehsud Tribesmen (TTP) in Waziristan, Wins Major Victory

The Pakistani military has been engaged in pitched battle with fundamentalist tribal militias in South Waziristan for just over a week. The military claims that it is making headway, and its recent capture of a militant stronghold resulted in an elated pronouncement from a senior General that the militants were shaving their beards and laying down their arms in an effort to blend back in with a Civilian exodus from the region. Almost 30,000 soldiers are participating in a combined-arms operation using unmanned aerial drones, light armour, artillery, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing jets to pound insurgent positions. The goal is to make the insurgents position untenable, while simultaneously convincing the ‘Behsud Militia’ to lay down arms and submit to governance by the Pakistani authorities. This situation is complicated greatly by the ethnic composition of the Waziristan region, primarily ethnic Pashtun and deeply linked at a community level to Guerilla fighters waging another war on the other side of the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s recipient status of arms and funding from the United States causes a significant loss of support in the tribal regions and even serves to fuel the tribesmen’s animosity.

The Pakistani army’s initiation of a new offensive came as a direct result of the loss to the insurgency of towns in the Buner District, which lay only a few hours drive from Islamabad. Conflict between the tribal groups, Waziris and Mehsuds predominantly, implies that this is a good time to strike. The army is supporting its combat operations with airdropped leaflets and radio broadcasts on an FM radio channel “The Voice of Peace.” Unlike the previous Swat offensive, there is no indication that the exodus of refugee families from Waziristan is on the verge of causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Sources: army’s South Waziristan battle fails to win hearts and minds of tribesmen
Toronto Star- Westhead: This time, Pakistani media, public are behind the army.

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