Will Kayani move his men into North Waziristan?
Are Americans losing patience with Pakistan? Looks like. But how far can they go to discipline a slippery ally in fighting terrorism that announced its arrival in Times Square the other day?
Bomb-maker Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American son of a retired Air Vice Marshal of Pakistan Air Force, has since come to be known as a Tehrik-e-Taliban recruit. He visited his instructors or handlers in the tribal North Waziristan (bordering Afghanistan) where the Pak Army hasn’t yet moved its troops to flush them out.
The Americans want Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to go after the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in that part of Waziristan bordering Afghanistan. But will he? It was rumored in the initial phase of the Pak Army offensive in tribal areas that the strategy wasn’t as much to take the Taliban (Al Qaeda) out as to let them escape to the North.
This brings one to the options available to the Obama Administration to make Kayani fall in line. Will the President consider boots-on-the-ground? In other words that means deploying American foot soldiers in a country where US-bashing is a thriving political industry.
Reports hint at the possibility. But that’ll be extreme action with no surety of success and serious possibilities of co-lateral damage in body-bag terms. If that happens, Obama’s image within the US will be as pathetic as the US’s in Pakistan.
A senior British diplomat once justified to me the use of Drones to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Pak territory. He admitted to massive loss of innocent local lives and resultant growth in popular support for so-called jehadis who were killed but in ones and twos.
The strategy was to avoid arrival of body bags in the US and NATO countries where support for the war on terror has dwindled beyond recognition. “We couldn’t risk physical combat on a terrain suited to the adversary,” he argued.
We all now know that the strategy to fight a war without laying down lives has bred rather than eliminate terrorism. What then can Obama realistically do to make Kayani fall in line? Cut or curtail the $7.5 billion promised over five years but predicated — on paper at least — on Islamabad’s delivery on counter-terrorism?
Tame and of limited value, such a squeeze would hardly address the threat posed to American homeland by Pak-based terrorists. It wouldn’t also be sustainable unless, of course, Washington alters radically its strategy to hand over baton to Pakistan in the post-surge-and-withdrawal phase.
So, Obama’s caught in a cleft. He can count only on his luck. And the hope that another car bomber or airborne killer gang doesn’t make it to the American shores. Good Pakistanis can help him. But is Gen. Kayani one among them? India has no experience of that goodness. Not yet.