The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Pakistan Army assault on Warziristan Taliban forces begins

Apparently we’re looking at three columns of troops, about 30K in number, with air and artillery support against somewhere between 10 to 25K Taliban and allied groups.  The army has said that they figure everyone in the area is Taliban or supporters since everyone else should have left, but al-Jazeera is noting that the population is about 500K, and only 150K or so have left.

The obvious model for the Taliban to use is the Hezbollah model, so successful against the Israelis during the last Israeli attack on Lebanon.  However Pakistan forces are a lot more willing to take losses than Israelis, and I can’t imagine the Taliban have the discipline, iron-clad secrecy,  and technical chops of Hezbollah.  Let alone years to build up a bunker/comm/tunnel network.

That said, if I were the Taliban and I’d decided to fight, certainly I would be trying to copy Hezbollah.  Heavy heavy dig in, well camouflaged.  They have to blunt the enemy’s air power, channel them into killing fields, and make it into a morale battle (the one place where they had better have an advantage, if they hope to have a chance in hell of winning.)

The army stating they consider everyone remaining a Talib or a supporter means they don’t intend to let the Taliban go to ground in the population—they’ll kill civilians if necessary.

Isolate – concentrate – annihilate.  The anti-guerrilla playbook.

We’ll see if the Taliban is playing by that book.

My bet is on the army, at least for the duration of the operation (they’ll get cut up by pinprick attacks later).  But if they lose the operation outright, it will be fascinating.


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  1. had been wondering

    i had been wondering for some time why pakistanis would kill other pakistanis after the battle(s) in the northwest frontier.

    i had forgotten about TRIBES and TRIBAL affiliation ( as here in the usa after the white man exterminated the Native Americans the tribal identification totem was pretty much lost ).

    i tripped across this at Informed Comment and it all came clear to me.

    The Pakistani Taliban upped the stakes in their life or death struggle with the Pakistani state by hitting not only their traditional targets, such as Kohat in the northwest, but striking at the heart of the state’s security apparatus in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province. There is a sense in which the Pakistani army’s struggle against the Taliban is increasingly an ethnic war between radical Muslim Pashtuns and more traditionalist or secular Punjabis. ( Punjabis are 55% of the population and dominate the army; Pashtuns are more like 12% of the population and disproportionately rural and poor ).

    i keep forgetting that artificial boundaries designated by a sign/post stuck in the ground and lines drawn on maps do not mean a thing when it comes to TRIBES and TRIBAL Affiliation.

    at this juncture, i hope that the Pashtuns annihilate the pakis.

    any group allied / supplied / on the take / being bribed with/by the usa deserves to have its collective a** kicked.

    i always root for the underdog – always.

  2. who pays for all of this

    wonder if this bothers India ( or China or Russia or Iran ).

    and just look at the HUGE amount of $$$$$$ involved !!!

    the usa military / industrial complex ( with the always able assistance of congress ) is laffing its collective ass off all the way to the bank ….

    and as you read this, substitute the word for VietNam for every mention of Pakistan.

    WASHINGTON, DC 16 October 2009 – The Pentagon is ramping up delivery of military equipment long sought by the Pakistani army to fight militants, USA officials said on Friday.

    Some $200 Million worth of equipment and services already in the pipeline for Pakistan has started to arrive but officials declined to provide full details, saying many of the more sophisticated items were classified.

    Some programs have run into resistance from Islamabad, which is wary of appearing too close to Washington, they said.

    The USA military aid is meant to help Pakistan mount a long-awaited ground offensive against Taliban fighters in their South Waziristan stronghold along the border with Afghanistan, where USA and NATO forces are fighting a growing insurgency.

    Hit by string of brazen militant attacks in the past 11 days that have killed about 150 people, Islamabad says a ground offensive by its troops is imminent.

    “Each one of these attacks is troublesome,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “But the Pakistan government remains committed to addressing the threat there.”

    Direct military aid from the Pentagon, officials said, would come on top of the equipment that Pakistan receives through normal foreign military sales overseen by the State Department. Officials say those sales vary year to year but generally total around $300 Million annually.

    USA government aid is a highly contentious issue in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment runs high, and Islamabad has thrown up obstacles to some of the Pentagon’s proposals, including one to expand counter-insurgency training for the Frontier Corps paramilitary force, officials said.


    Underscoring those sensitivities, when President Barack Obama signed legislation this week giving $7.5 Billion in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan over five years, he did so behind closed doors after Pakistani critics said provisions in the law violated the country’s sovereignty.

    While pointing to growing military-to-military cooperation to counter the threat militants pose to the nuclear-armed state, USA officials say many of Pakistan’s top commanders remain focused on expanding conventional capabilities to counter long-time foe India.

    “It is frustrating,” one official said. “We want to do more.”

    A special counterinsurgency fund approved by Congress earlier this year gave the Pentagon the authorization to speed delivery of military equipment to the Pakistani army.

    Pentagon officials say equipment provided under the program can be delivered quickly because it bypasses normal “peacetime” rules governing foreign military sales that can take three to five years to process.

    Congressional aides say the $200 Million worth of equipment and services in the pipeline can arrive more quickly, in as little as 60-90 days, because much of it is not sophisticated and comes from readily available supplies.

    In contrast, the delivery of F-16 fighter jets has been held up for years because it depends on production line schedules.

    Another $200 Million worth of equipment for fiscal year 2009, which ended on 30 September 2009, remains available for Pakistan, and the Pentagon plans to nearly double the amount of direct military aid for fiscal 2010 to $700 Million, officials said.

    Shipments in recent months have included hundreds of night vision goggles, day and night scopes for rifles and radios to improve communications, as well as thousands of bullet-proof vests. Officials said armor-plated all-terrain vehicles were a priority item.


    Pakistan has requested precision-guided weapons as well as pilotless “drone” aircraft, whose increasing use by the CIA to attack Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Pakistani tribal areas has fanned anti-American sentiment.

    Pentagon officials refused to release the list of the items authorized for Pakistan or to comment on the drone request. But many USA lawmakers are skeptical of Pakistan’s intentions and transferring drone technology would face Indian resistance.

    Officials said a portion of the $200 Million currently in the pipeline was already being used to overhaul Pakistan’s fleet of Mi-17 helicopters, critical for the planned operation in the mountainous Waziristan region.

    Officials acknowledge getting the Mi-17s to Pakistan has been a difficult and time-consuming process. They are in short supply and the ones Pakistan has now have been heavily used in other operations and poorly maintained, the officials said.

    To free up just 10 of the helicopters requested by Pakistan in June and July, the Pentagon had to “borrow” two from a training program for the Afghan military, sources said.

    “We are doing everything within our power to assist Pakistan in improving its counter-insurgency capabilities,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright said.

    He said the counterinsurgency fund “put military assistance to Pakistan on a wartime footing,” much like the way the United States supplies the security forces of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  3. what does the P stand for

    for the past two or three or four weeks, the morning radio program from npr has been breathlessly and incessantly reporting and debating about all things military and pakistan and taliban and on and on like they knew something about what was going on there or about to happen.

    it made me second guess myself as to what the P in npr stands for.

    for quite some time i thought the P stood for PROPAGANDA as in national PROPAGANDA radio

    then i thought it stood for PENTAGON as in national PENTAGON radio

    but now it seems to stand for PAKISTAN as in national PAKISTAN radio

  4. @ what does the P stand for;

    I have about had it with NPR as well. Their sophomoric style of the anchor, ever so patronizingly, asking the reporter an obviously staged question; and then the reporter giving the obviously staged/scripted answer. Garbage in, garbage out. Amy Goodman is top notch on Democracy Now.

  5. Back on point/topic;
    “My bet is on the army, at least for the duration of the operation (they’ll get cut up by pinprick attacks later). But if they lose the operation outright, it will be fascinating.”

    Given the Pashtuns are the toughest fighters in the world (tougher than the North Americans as well) and a past reluctance on the part of the Pakistani army to fight; that might be a good bet, but one I wouldn’t make. I’m not sure technology alone is yet enough.

  6. Lex

    I was under the impression that NPR stands for Nice Polite Republicans.

  7. At least 18% of all babies born in Fallujah hospital born with deformities

  8. jbaspen

    Ian, I do not pretend to be a “Military Expert” (and, in light of what’s happened to the U.S. over the last eight years, that’s almost an oxymoron, any way). But, something just doesn’t smell right to me here. The Pakistani military has been “preparing” for this offensive for months. I think that few would argue that Pakistan’s senior military officers do quite well for themselves. Meanwhile, the United States has been proferring billions in military “aid” and so-called “domestic” assistance. And, just where is all this money going to ultimately end up?
    This whole “Operation” smells of a gigantic “Bribe” to Pakistans senior military officers to put on a show of force.
    In the Fall of 2001, the United States military found itself in Northern Afganistan (as in Kuwait in 1991) the beneficiary of staggering good fortune. Another 3rd World Army with no air power or anti-aircraft capability, stuck in WW I style tenches. The Taliban of course, were trying to finish off the the so-called Northern Alliance. With unrivaled American air power, the result was rout and frightful slaughter. In their nearly thirty (30) years of fighting both the Russians and (now) the Americans, the Taliban have avoided “set-piece” battles. And, like America’s “big” set-piece battles in Vietnam – Junction City, the Cambodian “Parrot’s Beak” salient, Khe Sanh, an unconvential enemy has a frustrating habit of doing their best vanishing act in the face of overwhelming conventional firepower.
    I wonder how much it REALLY ($$$) took to convince the Pakistani senior officer corps to stage this monsterious operation? Elite British boarding schools for their kids?
    Neocon induced craziness.

  9. Mike

    “the Hezbollah model, so successful against the Israelis during the last Israeli attack on Lebanon.”

    Funny line. I assume you’re being sarcastic and/or facetious. The reality is that Hezbollah was soundly defeated by the Israelis, and since then have not been considered a viable military force. Getting your entire country bombed is not anyone in the real world’s idea of victory. And there’s no way they would dare to launch any more attacks. It’s tragic that Israel has been forced to resort to violent means to defend itself, but you’ve gotta admit that it’s been effective.

  10. Gee, and I’d hoped I’d found a sight immune from flame wars. Who let the kids in here?

  11. Ian Welsh

    Couple of comments deleted. Keep personal attacks off the site please.

    I’m not being sarcastic at all. Israel’s goals for the invasion were stated as destroying Hezbollah and getting the two kidnapped soldiers returned without a hostage exchange. They got neither, and while they did plenty of bombing in the ground war they were defeated by Hezbollah and they never managed to stop the missile attacks, despite claiming they could. Very few people expected Hezbollah to be able to defeat them on the ground. Hezbollah is more powerful inside Lebanon and more popular outside Lebanon in the Muslim world than it was before the Israeli attack. The last year or so I’ve seen a lot of people trying to claim Israel won, this is revisionism.

    Americans in particular always overestimate the effects of air power.

    As for “defending themselves”, let’s not go down that route.

  12. Tina

    jbaspen – I think of the money as a bribe too. I was wondering if Pakistan deliberately waited so long to start the assault. They say it will take 6-8 weeks to clear the area, however if they are unable to they can say we will have to wait for the snows to melt before going back in. They gave themselves an easy out in case the militants keep the upper hand.

  13. Ian, thanks for keeping it adult.
    And; “Israel’s goals for the invasion were stated as destroying Hezbollah and getting the two kidnapped soldiers returned without a hostage exchange. They got neither, and while they did plenty of bombing ub the ground war they were defeated by Hezbollah. Very few people expected Hezbollah to be able to defeat them on the ground. Hezbollah is more powerful inside Lebanon and more popular outside Lebanon in the Muslim world than it was before the Israeli attack. The last year or so I’ve seen a lot of people trying to claim Israel won, this is revisionism.”

    “Americans in particular always overestimate the effects of air power.”
    I agree 100%; which is why I have my doubts about Pakistan’s chances of a meaningful victory.

  14. Lex

    I think that the Pakistani Army could win this if it wants to, but that’s the question…does it really want to? Is the whole government–especially the ISI–really interested in finishing the job? If history is any guide, then we’ll have remain skeptical. The other question is how ugly Pakistan is willing to let this get? There’s a point where the operation will, even if successful, cause as much harm as it does good.

    And i’m terribly curious about the reports that Western forces have vacated the border area in Paktika…

  15. No More Lies

    “… personal attacks off the site please.”

    the comments were not personal – we were attacking the LIES and BULLSH*T spewed by the zionists and the isrealis and their lackeys.

    and why hasn’t the comment made by mister mossad / shin bet boy / zionist spinmeister been deleted ??? that garbage is the most offensive stuff on the planet.

  16. Lex

    The comment by Mike was responded to and called out for its inaccuracies; it was done in an adult fashion because Mike made the comment in an adult fashion.

    See how that works, No More Lies? Act like an adult and you’ll be treated like an adult.

  17. ^ I’ll second that.

  18. Me

    Pakistan is playing hide and seek with the world and are using Taliban fear to get money from the US and Western countries. It’s time to divide Pakistan and stop this foolish game they are playing…

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