South Waziristan: Operational Analysis

This map modified from The Nation, Pakistan

Those of you not familiar with the area and the operational strategy of the Pakistan army may benefit from this brief operational analysis.
The Pakistan army is conducting Advance-to-Contact operations on three axes:

  • East: Jandola-Kotkai-Sararogha axis.
  • South-West: Wana-Shakai axis
  • North: Razmak-Makeen-Sararogha axis.

The purpose of an Advance-to-Contact operation  always is to move into the hostile territory, seek resistance, clear it, and then consolidate cleared ground. All these actions are meant to enable the reduction of the ultimate  ‘enemy’ position: Sararogha.

The three advancing columns should eventually link up around Sararogha, and, having cleared and consolidated the three major approaches to the area, the final battle will then be fought for the capture of Sararogha, the Taliban strong-point.

At this point, one can say that this is a brilliantly conceived operation and is progressing quite well toward its final tactical objective. Since the troops are establishing posts of captured heights, one could surmise that this operation is aimed wresting control of the area from the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) and not just a show of force. Once could also assume that the operation will continue as the popular will is in favor of the military action.

What the United States Must Do:

  • First of all, start insinuating in the policy statements that the Pakistan Army has undertaken this operation under pressure from the US. This might gain some political points for the current US administration, but will end up eroding the popular support for the Pakistan army.
  • It is crucial at this time for the US to provide necessary equipment to the Pakistan army without any strings attached. The Pakistan army could use more of these: helicopter gunships, communication interception equipment, IED detection and clearing equipment.
  • Also, massive aid will be needed to provide for the people displaced due to the military operation.
    The Internally Displaced

    (Another good resource on the Waziristan offesnive).

I will continue writing on this. For any further questions, feel free to comment  and I will be happy to provide more details.


Of Oil Tankers and Collateral Deaths

UN AfghanistanIt is now clear, as per the latest statement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal–the US commander in Afghanistan–that all those who died in the NATO bombing of hijacked oil-tankers were not Taliban, and that some civilians were also ‘wounded’ there. I am sure we will be told pretty soon that some civilians also died in this bombing. During the early phases of the coverage of this event, the US media were all in agreement that the bombing had killed Taliban fighters, all ninety-five of them, and that there were no civilians in the area.

Even my liberal NPR station repeated the same hackneyed assertions. Though no one pointed out as to how was it ascertained by the NATO and the US forces that there were “no civilians” in the area. This has now become a pattern in reporting about all deaths in Afghanistan: they are either considered militant deaths or written off as deaths of those in league with the Taliban.

In this case, though, the claims were ludicorous from the very beginning: stupid as Taliban might be, they are not so stupid to employ ninety five of their foot soldiers in stealing oil from oil-tankers.

While the current US administration is focused on winning the war in Afghanistan, their statements still remind me of the Bush administration. It seems for the commanders in Afghanistan killing a few Taliban, even if the action kills quite a few civilians in the process, is an acceptable strategy. And this is made possible because there is neither an outrage from the US public nor any worthwhile investigative coverage by the US media, even when, according to a UN report, the percentage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose 40% in 2008.

It will probably serve the US and Afghan interests better if the lives of Afghan civilians were considered just as precious as those of their American counterparts, or else the distrust and hatred of United States will continue to increase.

Link: Afghan Victims Memorial Project

Commentaries Editorials Religion

Climbing Mount Hira

The Prophet and His Message : “Force when necessary, love all the time.”

(Naguib Mahfooz)

photo-thumbOn a hot July afternoon in 1991, I climbed Mount Hira. Compared to towering Himalayas of Pakistan, Hira is no giant, but the climb was made hard by my pilgrim’s sandals and the intense heat. It is a barren, forbidding mountain, a place to go to if you want to be alone. After about an hour’s climb I reached the hidden cave: cave of Hira. I had probably traced the footsteps of the prophet who used to climb this mountain to seek solace in the womb of the cave. This is where he walked, the last of the prophets, the orphan, the perfect being, the savior of all worlds, known and unknown. The experience was elating and terrifying: it is not easy to walk the path of the prophets. When you reach the cave, you have to stoop low to enter; there is place only for one person in there. Entering the cave is like leaving the world behind, like entering a parallel universe. I prayed there, two rakkat’s of naf’l. And then it struck me: I have probably rested my forehead at the very spot where the prophet might have, fourteen hundred years ago. This is where it all began, fourteen hundred years ago. A man entered the cave as a deeply troubled, introspective forty-year old, and came out as the savior of the universe. Quite a transformation.
In that cave one evening, the Muslim historians inform us, Angel Gibreel, God’s messenger to the prophets, revealed himself to Muhammad. The prophet was terrified, for the angel’s stature covered the entire universe, North, South, the East and the West. And then Gibreel said the most profound words in human history. He said: Iqra, read! “I am unlettered and cannot read” the prophet replied. Gibreel said again: Iqra bisme rabbe kalla zi khalaq, Read in the name of your God, who created you! The prophet repeated the verses, which became the first installment of a revelation that would last for twenty three years and would eventually become the Qur’an. We know this story, for it is included in all our records. But there is another part of it that we mention in our histories, but then chose to forget.
When the prophet left the cave that evening, he was shocked. He had seen and experienced something unbelievable; he had been given a burden that the “mountains had refused to carry.” So when the prophet reached his home, he was shaking. It was Khadija-tul-Kubra, his wife, who reassured him, who covered him in a blanket, consoled him and gave him her seal of acceptance, she said la takhaf, don’t be afraid. This is the story, for when the prophet of God was unsure of his mission and terrified of having faced the unthinkable, the kind words of Khadija restored his confidence in himself: she was the first convert to Islam. Let us not forget that. It was also Khadija’s wealth that enabled the prophet to focus more on the inner turmoil instead of wasting his energies on the day-to-day struggles of existence. Let us not forget that either.
The Saudis, who discourage pilgrims from climbing Mount Hira, will have you believe that the only true Islam is the one sanctioned by their King and their Mullahs. Don’t believe that either, for in Islam there is no room for absolute kings, nor is there any place for self-appointed interpreters of the tradition. The Saudis will also have you believe that women need to be secluded, hidden, and silenced, and that men have a right to have four wives as long as they can provide for them. The Saudis will have you believe all these things because through the accident of time and space, they have somehow ended up with the custodianship of the holiest places of Islam, which gives their assertions greater legitimacy. But find me a justification for hereditary kingship in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the prophet, and I will probably hear them out.
So what was Muhammad’s message? What’s the essence of it? Where to look for it? What was he sent for as last of the prophets? The Qur’an tells us that Muhammad was sent as a gift to the world as Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen, as blessing to all the worlds. This means that for all practical purposes his example is the one that every Muslim must cherish and emulate. His main message was to remind the world of one basic truth: La ilaha illallah he Muamad ar rasulallah, there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. These are the two basic conditions for becoming a Muslim: There is but one God and that Muhammad is his prophet. A belief in God is inextricably liked with a belief in Muhaammad’s prophethood, and hence by extension the more prophet-like a Muslim is the better Muslim he or she becomes. Foregrounding the prophet serves an important function: it makes the relationship of humans and God, a relationship of love and not fear, for Muhammad, after all, is God’s Mehboob, His beloved. The Sufis understood this, and their branch of Islam is full of love, the Saudis have eliminated this from their tradition, hence the harshness of their world-view. I will say Muhammad’s message was love: Love of humankind.