1a8bacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4Pakistan unnerved at its part in Obama's strategy in Afghanistan0a8bacf85fa58210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____Pakistan unnerved at its part in Obama's strategy in AfghanistanThe new surge could force the Pakistani army to take on militants it prefers to keep as allies and threatens further instability.<p>ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's military has little choice but to extend its anti-terrorist operations to North Waziristan tribal agency, the last bastion of al Qa'eda and its sympathisers in the country, but is unnerved at the prospect of US covert operations being extended to the western province of Balochistan, independent analysts said.
Unveiling the United States' exit strategy from Afghanistan on Tuesday, Barack Obama, the president, described the US partnership with Pakistan as being "inextricably linked" to success in Afghanistan, and listed it as one of three prongs of the new strategy, along with deployment of 30,000 extra US troops, and the building of Afghan civilian and military capacity.</p>
<p>Mr Obama, deftly but clearly, outlined his expectation of enhanced military action by the Pakistani government against al Qa'eda and Afghan Taliban militants based in remote border territories, although he refrained from publicly going into specifics that would have embarrassed his allies in Islamabad.
"We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location in known and whose intention are clear," he said in his address to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York.</p>
<p>However, those specifics - the presence of al Qa'eda leaders in North Waziristan and the Afghan Taliban leadership in Quetta, capital of Balochistan province - had been clearly spelt out in a letter from Mr Obama to Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, in November, the contents of which were leaked to the US media.
Independent analysts said a surge in US military activity in Afghanistan would have to be matched by Pakistani security forces, whose ongoing operation in South Waziristan tribal agency, the headquarters of the Pakistani Taliban, has had the limited objective of re-establishing the writ of the state in areas taken over by militants.</p>
<p>The analysts said that, rather than engaging in a bloody final confrontation with the estimated 15,000 militants, which would have come at the cost of several thousand dead troops, the Pakistani military was only depriving them of bases of operations.
That strategy forced the mass of militants in South Waziristan to fragment into small units as they withdrew to the neighbouring Orakzai and Khyber tribal agencies.</p>
<p>The analysts said military strategists were wary of simultaneously deploying troops and hardware on multiple fronts because of the pressure it would place on its resources, particularly at a time when soured relations with India had made the defence of Pakistan's eastern border a priority.
"Pakistan's situation will be aggravated [by the US surge] because the army will also have to move into North Waziristan," said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a liberal think tank based in Islamabad.</p>
<p>However, the army's preferred regional strategy is focused solely on Pakistani interests and has, to date, largely sidestepped the major US concerns - attacking Afghan Taliban networks in the tribal areas, the analysts said. One reason Pakistan has been reticent to acquiesce to US demands is because it has a limited number of "strategic assets" it can deploy as a hedge against the emergence of a hostile Afghan government - a nightmare scenario for defence planners in which Pakistan would be sandwiched between protagonist states on two fronts, instead of the one with India.</p>
<p>The administration of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, depends on the support of ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara politicians, all of whom are hostile to Pakistan because of its historical support of the Taliban, dominated by ethnic Pushtuns, many of whom have property and relatives in Pakistan, and hold dual citizenship.
Those "assets" include key Afghan players, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful ally of the Taliban whose son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, resides in North Waziristan and has been declared "caliph" by militant groups in the tribal agency.</p>
<p>Mr Haqqani is, security sources said, also playing a key role in Saudi-led negotiations with the Taliban seeking a political settlement in Afghanistan, something the US and Britain have said they would accept.
As long as the Haqqani network and other militant commanders in North Waziristan refrain from engaging Pakistani forces, and agree to form tribal militias to expel all "foreigners" who refuse to leave the agency, a lid could be kept on the situation, at least from the Pakistani perspective.</p>
<p>But the so-called Haqqani Network remains among the most potent threats to Nato forces in eastern Afghanistan and, according to inside sources, has called up hundreds of veteran fighters, who had retired to the southern Pakistani metropolis of Karachi to focus on raising their families, to counter the influx of US forces across the border from the tribal areas.
However, the US has now signalled its intention to expand its area of focus south of the Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan's tribal areas.</p>
<p>Robert Gates, the US secretary of defence, told Congress last week that many of the extra troops would be deployed in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold that borders Pakistan's Balochistan province, where Mullah Mohammed Omar and a council of senior commanders are reportedly based.
The analysts said that this would translate into US military and intelligence resources, including satellite and drone-mounted surveillance, and covert forces, being deployed along the border with Balochistan, where the already complex situation has been muddied by a low intensity insurgency by secular separatists, many of whom have taken refuge in Afghanistan, Pakistan has repeatedly complained.</p>
<p>Independent analysts agreed that the conflict in Afghanistan is about to enter a decisive phase, but said declining public support in the US and Europe, and forthcoming elections there, had left open a window of opportunity for the Taliban.
"The three-pronged strategy he proposed can fail on more than one count. The success of his strategy will depend not on the additional US or Nato troops, but the ability of the Taliban to disrupt Mr Obama's desired outcome," said Aamir Ghauri, editor of <i>The Asian Journal</i>, a London-based weekly newspaper.</p>
<p>"US body bags, the length of the US military presence, and the billions of dollars needed to buy or defeat opponents will ultimately determine whether his strategy works or not."