The bombardment of houses in Bajaur agency of Pakistani tribal areas by US has opened a new dangerous chapter between the two countries and will further fuel the Afghan resistence against foreign occupation of their country. First the brief facts; on the night of 13th Jan a complex of tribal homes in Bajaur agency was targeted by US forces operating from Afghan territory. 18 deaths were reported, including 4 women and 6 children;8 dead were men. The US statement after the bombing said that the attack was meant to target Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No 2 commander of Al Qaeda and the strategic master mind. Sources disclosed that the prime target was not killed and that the information leading to the attack was based on erroneous intelligence. According to another source two of the stalwarts for the Movement for Shariat E Mohammadi in Malakand Agency in 2000 and latter, Maulana Faqir Mohammad and his close colloborator Maulana Liaquat, were both present that night in Damdola, the center of this activity.
The Pakistani authorities had earlier destroyed the house of Maulana Faqir for having sheltered an Al Qaeda operative Faraj Al-Libby, who was involved in the foiled assasination attempt on the Pakistani President, Gen Musharraf in Rawalpindi. Another puzzling point is the difference between the alleged dead, who are supposed to be 18 but the freshly dug graves are only 13? Who were the other 5 and where are their bodies? Or is the body count wrong and the dead are only 13? If there are 5 dead bodies missing then this is favourable to the US presumtions.
On the night of 7th Jan, another US attack reportedly took place on the Saidgi village in N. Waziristan. Sources disclose that in this attack both drones and helicopters were used. 8 persons were killed in this attack on the house of Maulvi Noor Mohammad, a local supporter of the Taliban. Reportedly two men were also flown away in custody by helicopters from this area for interrogation by US forces. It may be noted that N. Waziristan is the focus of intense military activity. Pakistani military out posts are being attacked with regularity by the local Taliban and the casualties have been high on both sides. But there is an accompanying but unnoted tragedy taking place and not commented upon by the media; it is the depopulation of the dense Tochi river valley. This has vast strategic and policy implications. The land is being left to the fighters; the same sort of depopulation that took place in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam prior to its domination by the Viet Cong; the land is by default being left to the Taliban. If civil society is not allowed to remain, it is playing into the hands of the very peple whom the government wants to discomfit. It is an erroneous strategy, which will strengthen the Taliban and help them re-group in a region, which will become a hornets nest difficult to control either by the US or Pakistani forces in the days to come. Areas like the Tochi valley with parts of S. Waziristan are likely to become the resource base of a rebel Islamic government in the near future with its own laws and courts – the very things that the present operation are preventing from arising. The existing startegy is thus obviously flawed.
The US action has also opened trouble some issues for the Pakistani government; people in the street are commenting that if the military cannot defend the sovereign boundaries of the state then what is it good for? The actions also bring out openly the difficulties of US unilateralism for allies; however it is open to question whether the US has the financial resources to maintain such an expensive policy inAfghanistan and Iraq? One thing is certain; as the political frustrations mount within the US the more will be the pressure on the US military to do something spectacular to prop the sinking ship of US policy – unfortunately, valuable lives will be lost in this power play. It is also certain that such policies will encourage and strengthen those very elements that US & Pakistani policy wants to eradicate. The negative impact on the districts of NWFP will not be long in coming. The security climate in Pakistan will very unhappily, deteriorate. With the increasing insurgency in Baluchistan and its alleged link with the current state of affairs in Iran, are we witnessing the first signs of future regional trouble threatening Pakistan’s sovereignty?