Afghan offensive: Grand plans hit rugged
reality By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The plan to eradicate the Afghan
resistance was straightforward: US-led coalition forces
would drive from inside Afghanistan into the last real
sanctuary of the insurgents, and meet the Pakistani
military driving from the opposite direction. There
would then be no safe place left to hide for the Taliban
and al-Qaeda remnants, or, presumably, for Osama bin
Laden himself. The plan's implementation began with the
launch of operation "Mountain Storm" around March 15.
the insurgents have a plan of their own, which they have
revealed to Asia Times Online. Conceived by foreign
resistance fighters of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab
origin, it is a classic guerrilla stratagem that
involves enmeshing the mighty military
the United States and its allies in numerous local
conflicts, diverting them from their real goal and
dissipating their strength.
plan, too, has been put into effect, and the fierce
fighting in Pakistan's tribal agency of South Waziristan
last Tuesday, when resistance fighters and their tribal
sympathizers took on the Pakistani military and routed
it, was an early manifestation. Now Pakistan must quell
its own rebel tribespeople before it continues to help
the US with Mountain Storm. Indeed, Pakistan is
attempting just that, on Thursday launching a "full
force" operation in South Waziristan, using artillery
and helicopter gunships. At the same time, tribal
opposition to the Pakistani military has spread to North
Waziristan - all according to plan, it seems.
an exclusive meeting with Asia Times Online, a prominent
planner of the Afghan resistance spelled out the
strategy. Pointing to a hand-drawn map, the insurgent
indicated an area he called "Shawal". Technically
speaking, "Shawal" falls on the Afghan side of the
Durand Line that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan.
(Editor's note: The border area inside North Waziristan
is also called Shawal.) In reality, "Shawal" is a
no-man's land, a place no one would want to go to unless
he were as tough as the local tribespeople, a guerrilla
fighter taking on the US, or, perhaps, Osama bin Laden.
Shawal is a deep and most dangerous maze. The insurgent
described it thus:
"One crosses the first
mountain and sees a similar mountain emerge and after
crossing another mountain he feels a spin in his head
and thinks the whole world in this area is the same and
leads the way nowhere."
This is the last safe
haven for the Afghan resistance, from which they launch
attacks on coalition forces and the Afghan government,
and to which they return to regroup and receive
sustenance from the locals. And this is the kind of
terrain the US and its allies will encounter in their
drive to occupy "Shawal" whether they come in from the
Afghan side via Bermal, or from the Pakistan side via
South or North Waziristan.
Those who are
masters of this maze can raid the Afghan provinces of
Ghazni, Paktia, and Paktika. The only masters are people
of the Data Khail and Zaka Khail tribes and the
insurgents who base themselves there.
Khail and Zaka Khail have a long history of defiance and
have never capitulated to any intruder. The tribesmen
are as tough as the terrain, and they have been known
for centuries for their strong bonds of loyalty, such
that "even an enemy who requests shelter would be given
it". These two tribes are now the protectors of the
Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters based in "Shawal". By
occupying the area, the US hopes to deprive the
insurgents of the tribes' crucial support. Forced to
flee, the insurgents would eventually fall into the
hands of the United States' local proxy networks of
anti-Taliban tribes and warlords. Such is the plan.
In response, the insurgents have decided that
instead of avoiding confrontation with the coalition
forces as they have previously, they will meet them
head-on in this unforgiving landscape, while diverting
their attention with attacks and harassment in other
The Pakistanis, under intense US pressure
to help out, and as of this week's visit by Secretary of
State Colin Powell the recipients of even more US
military largess (see Pakistan as key non-NATO
ally), are already bogged down in South
Waziristan. Sources in Wana, headquarters of South
Waziristan agency, tell Asia Times Online that a full
brigade of the Pakistani army, along with paramilitary
troops and backed by artillery, helicopters and two
other aircraft, is now attacking tribal positions in
Kaloo Shah, Sheen Warsak and Azam Warsak. Sources say
that the targeted Wazir tribes have asked neighboring
tribes to join the fray.
And as predicted by
Asia Times Online (How the US set Pakistan aflame,
March 18), the South Waziristan fighting has spread to
other areas. According to latest information, an attack
on Pakistani troops in North Waziristan has killed a
major and several soldiers. The incident, near the
"Shawal" area, means the Pakistani army has a new,
simultaneous problem to deal with, and their advance has
been stopped. The operation that began as a hunt for
Osama bin Laden has already degenerated into sideshows
against rebel Pakistani tribespeople.
Afghanistan, US-led forces can expect increasing
hit-and-run attacks by local Taliban, who will then melt
back into the local population. While the troops engage
in house-to-house searches for the perpetrators, the
drive for "Shawal" is dissipated and slowed.
seems the insurgents' plan is already paying off. How
they go about building on their initial success will
become clear in the coming weeks.
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