Blitz will aim to tame Pak­istan’s Wild West

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY SARA A. CARTER

Pak­istan’s for­eign min­is­ter said a planned new of­fen­sive against mil­i­tants in the law­less bad­lands on the Afghanistan bor­der will be more am­bi­tious than any other in his na­tion’s his­tory and that se­cu­rity forces in­tend to take the area, hold it and in­te­grate its im­pov­er­ished tribal pop­u­la­tion into main­stream so­ci­ety.

Makhdoom Shah Mah­mood Qureshi told ed­i­tors and re­porters at The Wash­ing­ton Times on Oct. 7 that Pak­istani forces are poised to move into South Waziris­tan once they re­ceive mil­i­tary re­sources promised but not yet de­liv­ered by the United States.

South Waziris­tan

is one of seven Pak­istani tribal zones, a mil­i­tant-held Wild West that was never paci­fied by Bri­tish colo­nial­ists nor by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment af­ter Pak­istan’s birth in 1947. Sev­eral at­tempts by the Pak­ista­nis since 2004 to root out the Tal­iban and al Qaeda from the area have been em­bar­rass­ing fail­ures, end­ing in short­lived “peace agree­ments.”

Mr. Qureshi said the sit­u­a­tion had changed since democ­racy was re­stored to Pak­istan in 2008 and that the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary were now united against the mil­i­tant threat.

“We in­tend to drive them out; we in­tend to clear the ter­ri­to­ries of sanc­tu­ar­ies; we in­tend to hold that ground; we in­tend to amal­ga­mate that area into main­stream Pak­istan,” he said.

“We in­tend to ini­ti­ate and al­low po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in that area, which they were de­nied in the last 60 years. We in­tend to give the [tribes] their due in so­cial, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. We in­tend to en­gage with them and we in­tend to de­velop those ar­eas.”

Mr. Qureshi, who is in the United States for talks on aid for Pak­istan, said the tim­ing for the start of the of­fen­sive “will de­pend on the avail­abil­ity of our re­sources,” such as night-vi­sion equip­ment and he­li­copters. “Now, [the U.S.] wants quick de­liv­ery. Give us the re­sources to move at a faster pace.”

Mr. Qureshi said his coun­try, un­like Afghanistan, does not re­quire U.S. “boots on the ground.”

Pres­i­dent Obama is weigh­ing whether to send more Amer­i­can troops to Afghanistan be­yond the 68,000 who will be there by the end of the year. On Oc.t 7, he met with his top for­eign pol­icy and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers to fo­cus on the sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan.

Mr. Qureshi would not give an opin­ion about whether more Amer­i­can forces are needed for Afghanistan, but said he thinks Mr. Obama will de­cide by the end of this month or early next month. He said Mr. Obama should share his de­ci­sion with Pak­istan be­fore it is an­nounced.

The for­eign min­is­ter, who met with Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on Oct. 6, as­serted that de­spite past dis­agree­ments, Pak­istan is the “most im­por­tant ally” in the re­gion for Wash­ing­ton.

“We have been your con­sis­tent foul-weather friend,” Mr. Qureshi said, not­ing Pak­istani’s sup­port for the cam­paign to ex­pel Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Once again, he said, “Pak­istan is go­ing to be crit­i­cal to your suc­cess and fail­ure in Afghanistan.”

The Pak­istani peo­ple need to be re­as­sured that the U.S. is mak­ing a “long-term com­mit­ment” to the re­gion and is not go­ing to aban­don it as it did at the end of the Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion of Afghanistan, he said.

Mr. Qureshi said Pak­istan sup­ports and ap­pre­ci­ates new U.S. leg­is­la­tion that will give Pak­istan $7.5 bil­lion in eco­nomic aid over five years. The bill has been ap­proved by Congress, and White House spokesman Tommy Vi­etor said he ex­pects the pres­i­dent to sign it “fairly soon.”

Mr. Qureshi called the leg­is­la­tion “the first demon­stra­tion of en­gag­ing with the peo­ple of Pak­istan” and said it would sup­port ur­gent needs in ed­u­ca­tion, health and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Pak­istan For­eign Min­is­ter Makhdoom Shah Mah­mood Qureshi

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