Monday, September 28, 2009

Pakistan, Waziristan and How to Fund a War.

Pakistani military leaders are weighing their options on opening up a large-scale offensive against Taliban militants in the Waziristan region. Waziristan straddles the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and this lawless tribal region is home to the leadership structure and cultural centre of the Taliban militants. While ISAF coalition soldiers battle the Taliban across the border, senior Pakistani Military decision-makers must gauge what effect if any can be produced by their nation’s underequipped and undertrained armed forces in what would doubtless be a brutal and protracted campaign.

Since the death of Beitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban to an American MQ-9 Reaper drone strike in August, there were questions raised in the international community about the ability of the Taliban to operate with even the most basic organization. Mehsud was widely regarded as the ‘glue’ which held together the ‘Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’ forces together and his death was regarded by many as the end, at least for a short while of their military capacities. Recent suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan have raised concerns that the period of disorganization has passed and whether the TTP is going to be a resurgent movement in Waziristan.

The Pakistani army also has the lessons learned in its recent Swat valley campaign. Their soldiers contended with sinking morale, desertion and heavy casualties in the face of typical asymmetrical guerilla tactics, which included roadside bombings with improvised explosive devices and ambushes. Entering Waziristan, unlike the relatively easily contained Swat river valley will involve a massive movement of troops and material, serious dedication to logistics and command and control networks if they are to emerge victorious over an enemy who spends the majority of his time masquerading as a civilian.

The Obama administration meanwhile, has been establishing precedent for the provision of significant military support for Pakistan's war effort. In May, his administration pushed for a Pakistan Counter-insurgency Capability Fund of around $400 million USD. This inflow is going to be ramped up to about $US700 million by 2010. One of the major challenges in funding Pakistan to support its COIN (counter-insurgency) operations is that any military support it receives can also be employed to threaten its long-time adversary, India. With military exchanges between these nuclear powers a prominent factor in modern history and the history of the region, any support given to Pakistan is undoubtedly going to draw criticism from the Indian government.

Reuters India: Interview- Pakistan still considering Waziristan options
Sydney Morning Herald: US to bolster Pakistan's Taliban fight.

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