Thursday 18 August 2011

Understanding the Pak Army offensive in Kurram

A timely report from Jeffrey Dressler at the Institute for the Study of War on the Pakistan Army's current offensive in Kurram in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) says that the insurgency in Afghanistan's Eastern region is likely to benefit from the action.
Dressler explains that the action is aimed at curbing the activities of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose supporters have been involved in the capture and murder of Shias living in the region, while giving more freedom to the Haqqani network to launch attacks into Afghanistan.
The Shias live in parts of Kurram that control access to Afghanistan, which explains why the Haqqani network - which is strongly supported by the Pakistani military - spent months negotiating a peace agreement with them so that the Shias could travel safely through surrounding Sunni areas - in exchange for transit rights for Haqqani fighters to Afghanistan. Unlike the TTP, which directs much of its activities towards the Pakistani state, the Haqqanis are oriented towards fighting in Afghanistan and rely heavily on the Pakistani Army and ISI for political and financial support.  Their agreement with the Shias was put in jeopardy by the actions of local TTP commanders who continued to target Shias for purely sectarian reasons.
Dressler points out that the Pakistani military action is targeting only selected pockets of militants, while groups that have recently declared a truce with the Pakistani military or are aligned with elements of the security establishment are allowed room to expand. These include, for example, Fazal Saeed's group. Saeed - who has added the name Haqqani to his own - announced in June that he was defecting from the TTP and setting up a new organisation - see my report on this development here. He denounced the TTP for using suicide bombers to attack "mosques, markets and other civilian targets" and said he was redirecting his followers to cross the border and fight in Afghanistan.
Dressler makes it clear that the Pakistani military has little interest in curbing militancy in the region. It is simply taking on those elements of the TTP that have turned on their former mentors, solely in order to strengthen the insurgency in Afghanistan.

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