Syed Saleem Shahzad reports in the Asia Times:
An all-out battle for control of Pakistan’s restive North and South Waziristan is about to commence between the Pakistani military and the Taliban and al-Qaeda adherents who have made these tribal areas their own.
According to a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, the goal this time is to pacify the Waziristans once and for all. All previous military operations – usually spurred by intelligence provided by the Western coalition – have had limited objectives, aimed at specific bases or sanctuaries or blocking the cross-border movement of guerrillas. Now the military is going for broke to break the back of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area.
The fighting that erupted two weeks ago, and that has continued with bombing raids against guerrilla bases in North Waziristan – turning thousands of families into refugees and killing more people than any India-Pakistan war in the past 60 years – is but a precursor of the bloodiest battle that is coming.
Lining up against the Pakistani Army will be the Shura (council) of Mujahideen comprising senior al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders, local clerics, and leaders of the fighting clans Wazir and Mehsud (known as the Pakistani Taliban). The shura has long been calling the shots in the Waziristans, imposing sharia law and turning the area into a strategic command and control hub of global Muslim resistance movements, including those operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“All previous operations had a different perspective,” the security official told ATol. “In the past Pakistan commenced an operation when the Western coalition informed Pakistan about any particular hide-out or a sanctuary, or Pakistan traced any armed infiltration from or into Pakistan.
“However, the present battle aims to pacify Waziristan once and for all. The Pakistani Army has sent a clear message to the militants that Pakistan would deploy its forces in the towns of Mir Ali, Miranshah, Dand-i-Darpa Kheil, Shawal, Razmak, Magaroti, Kalosha, Angor Ada. The Pakistani Army is aiming to establish permanent bases which would be manned by thousands of military and paramilitary troops.”
According to the security official, an ultimatum had been delivered to the militants recently during a temporary ceasefire. The army would set a deadline and give safe passage into Afghanistan to all al-Qaeda members and Taliban commanders who had gathered in Waziristan to launch a large-scale post-Ramadan operation in Afghanistan. They, along with wanted tribal warrior leaders, would all leave Pakistan, and never return.