Tuesday, August 18, 2009

War of attrition?

Dawn just reported that the army will need several more months to launch a ground operation against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in South Waziristan. It cites Lieutenant-General Nadeem Ahmed who addressed the press after meeting with Richard Holbrooke, America's point person for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lt Gen Ahmed gives a whole bevy of reasons including shortage of equipment and the lack of availability of planes, which are currently in use in Swat, and so on.

But Lt Gen Ahmed also talks about creating the right conditions before a ground operation. His direct quote in Dawn is "Once you feel that the conditions are right and you have been able to substantially dent their infrastructure and their fighting capacity, then you go in for a ground offensive." To achieve these optimal conditions, the army seems to have laid siege to South Waziristan, blocking roads, bombing militant hideouts and such.

I sincerely hope that the army is keeping in mind the human consequence of this approach. A war of attrition will disproportionately affect civilians in South Waziristan. Adopting such an approach just days after the collective punishment clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation was substantially diluted is extremely unfortunate. With ominous reports emerging of extrajudicial killings by the army in its Rah-e-Rast Operation in Swat (see here and here), another ethical and human rights crisis is the last thing it should be courting.

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