Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 12, 2009

Swat is not Waziristan

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 12, 2009


Swat is the northern most green.  North and South Waziristan are the most southern greens.  There is roughly 200 miles between the areas.

Pakistan’s military has demonstrated significant capacity in retaking Buner.  The current operation in Swat is nothing short of all-out war.  A senior Pakistani security official says, “the operation will continue until we wipe out Taliban from the areas.”

The very aggressive operations North of Islamabad are in stark contrast with years of tolerating  tribal, Taliban and al-Qaeda control of Waziristan along Pakistan’s shared border with Afghanistan.  It is there that US drone attacks have focused.

Since mid-April  militants operating out of Swat have taken action understood as directly threatening the Pakistani state.  The newspaper DAWN, explains, “the situation seems to have changed now after the Swat militants apparently shot themselves in the foot by going back on their commitment on the peace deal even after their main demand for the Sharia regulation was met, virtually rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and its superior courts, and continuing barbaric killings and other activities to enforce their own brand of Sharia that only caused revulsion at home and abroad.”

Despite the extraordinary human cost of the current campaign, Pakistani political sentiment — within both the military and the broadest base of civilians — seems to support the current campaign to eradicate Taliban militants to the North.  But prospects for a similar effort in the West seem unlikely.

SECOND UPDATE:  Well, the Pakistani President begs to differ with my conclusion.  On May 17 he told the Sunday Times, “We’re going to go into Waziristan, all these regions, with army operations. Swat is just the start. It’s a larger war to fight.”

UPDATE:  On May 13 the BBC produced a new map displaying the current state of play in Northwest Pakistan.  Please visit the BBC website for many more helpful details than are shown below. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8046577.stm


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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 12, 2009 @ 8:13 am

How do various Pakistani ethnic and religious groups do in the Pakistani military? Is the military largely pathans still as under the RAJ? Is this battle really just the traditional flatlanders vis a vis hill people?

Comment by Quin

May 12, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

There is some the traditional rural vs. urban at play. Also, this encroachment by the Taliban was coupled with some Mao like pronouncements on land distrbution etc… With their announced intention to govern the valley, this looked like a textbook expansion of an insurgency from its rural roots into more developed areas. It now appears to have backfired and raised the ire of the Pakistani Army and some portion of the country’s populace. From what others are saying/I am reading, it appears that for the moment the army enjoys popular support.

I once heard someone say the best anecdote for turning someone against the Taliban is having them live under them for a couple years. Maybe all it took was a few months in the Swat valley coupled with their flagrant violation of the “truce” they had struck earlier with the government.

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