Gauging the success of Pakistan's North Waziristan operation

Reuters

A Pakistani soldier stands by ammunition seized during a military operation against Taliban militants, in the of town of Miranshah, North Waziristan July 9, 2014.

Article Highlights

  • The ground phase of the operation in North Waziristan is progressing at a cautious pace.

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  • The North Waziristan operation will not be the end of terrorism in Pakistan.

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  • While some success can be recorded, course correction appears necessary.

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The Pakistani military launched its long-overdue offensive against militants in North Waziristan on June 15 with much fanfare. Public support for the operation, titled Operation Zarb-e-Azb, remains high, with many people in Pakistan believing this to be the operation to end all operations. The Pakistan Army touted the fight as Pakistan's own, as opposed to one undertaken at the behest of the U.S., and as one being prosecuted against militants of all stripes, both foreign and domestic. If the hype is to be believed, the Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan is in the process of striking a crippling blow against militants operating in the region, particularly the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its foreign allies such as al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

While there have surely been successes so far-and the mere fact that the operation is taking place at all is a marked improvement over Pakistan's previous policy of allowing one of the world's most dangerous militant safe havens to fester unmolested-the reality on the ground appears somewhat less optimistic. The ground phase of the operation in North Waziristan is progressing at a cautious pace; most militants fled the main combat zones far in advance of the operation; the government is facing a humanitarian crisis on a scale it is grossly underprepared for; and Pakistani policies of favoritism toward certain militant groups do not appear to have changed. Whether Pakistan has learned from the lessons of its previous military operations and is prepared to do what's necessary to make its gains in North Waziristan permanent, remains to be seen. 

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