Pakistan is unlikely to take strong military action against the terrorists as desired by the Obama administration because it is not willing to forgo the option of using extremists as “tools” against India after the US leaves the region, a prominent thinktank said on Saturday.
“The issue is not just one of capability. It is also about intent and Islamabad’s strategic imperatives,” said Stratfor in its latest news analysis of the region.
The Obama Administration is pressing the Pakistan Army to take strong military action against the terrorists.
“The Pakistanis realise that the United States and its Western allies aren’t looking at a long—term military commitment to Afghanistan. Therefore, from Islamabad’s point of view, it makes no sense to go after those militants fighting in Afghanistan,” it said.
“Doing so would not only exacerbate the insurgency within its own borders in the short term, it would also create a much larger cross-border mess for Islamabad to deal with long after Western forces leave the region,” Stratfor said.
“Furthermore, Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are tools Pakistan can use to roll back Indian influence in Afghanistan, which has increased significantly in the last eight years.
Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan will undertake the kind of action that the United States wants, because it would be tantamount to national suicide,” it said.
Stratfor said the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates -- leading a 125-member delegation -- flew into Islamabad from India, where he made statements that fuelled Pakistan’s fears.
Mr. Gates had said India is unlikely to use restraint if Pakistan-based militants should stage another attack like those seen in Mumbai in November 2008.
“Then, in a rare move, the top US defence official authored an opinion piece in a leading Pakistani daily (published before his arrival in Islamabad) saying there is no difference between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban,” it said.
Mr. Gates also had said he would ask Islamabad to expand its counter-jihadist military offensive to North Waziristan, an area in the tribal belt with largest concentration of Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda elements and is not being targeted by the Pakistanis, the intelligence think tank said.
“The Pakistanis quickly responded by saying they had no plans for any operations beyond their current engagements in the next six to 12 months,” it said.
The country’s military spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, said it would take that much time to stabilise South Waziristan before Pakistani forces moved on to new fronts.
There is no doubt that Pakistan cannot fight all types of Islamist militants in different areas at the same time.
The Pentagon’s press secretary, Geoff Morrell, acknowledged that much when he told reporters that Pakistan’s military is “operating at a higher operational tempo than it has in recent memory and they are being stretched very thin, as our military is for that matter.”