Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Battle Continues as Gen. Kayani Visits Posts in Swat

Once again, security developments dominated press coverage of Pakistan on Thursday. According to Pakistan's Daily Times and The News, the Chief of Army staff [the new head of the military after Musharraf took off his uniform], General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that military operations, though part of the national effort, "are only a means to an end." Kayani made these remarks while visiting "forward" posts in Swat. According to news agencies, "Gen Kayani acknowledged the support of the people of Swat, which he said had helped the army restore normalcy to the area. Talking to local notables, he stressed the need for them to contribute to peace and welfare of the people."

Meanwhile, the LA Times reported the U.S. Pentagon is making plans to send military personnel to Pakistan to train the country's security forces, "taking advantage of promising ties with the country's new top general." The news agency noted, "The Bush administration has avoided using American troops in Pakistan because it would be deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis. The plans would limit the U.S. mission to instructing Pakistani trainers, officials said recently, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proposals are not final. Those Pakistanis then would train their country's forces." An anonymous Defense official told the LA Times, "The U.S. has to be careful of what it is doing inside Pakistan. If it becomes obvious, that's one of the things that could undermine the stability of the Pakistan government. It could provoke a response that could easily get out of hand."

Kayani has reportedly been a major influence behind these training efforts. Since Musharraf relinquished his army uniform, the new army chief has taken steps to redeem the military and move it "away from its focus on preparedness against rival India and toward fighting Islamic extremists." Much of the fighting has been concentrated along the border with Afghanistan, and the militant stronghold is located in southern Waziristan. On Thursday, BBC News ran an interesting article, entitled, "Why Waziristan Matters," discussing the implications of the region. BBC's Jill McGivering wrote, "The battle for control in South Waziristan is critical. It is described as one of the most important frontlines in the fight against Islamic extremism, a new proxy war." Militants in this area, she noted, "are drawn from a cluster of local tribes and embedded in local communities." Control of Waziristan, McGivering added, is key to controlling Afghanistan as well as stabilizing the northern regions of Pakistan. [Image courtesy of the Daily Times]

[Forgot to also note an interesting commentary in the Washington Post today by columnist David Ignatius on Kayani.]


Fahad said...

He's probably the most watched man in Pakistan. It will be interesting to see what role he is going to play post-Musharruf

he could be like Gen. Mirza Aslam Baig-- the COAS under Prs. Zia-ul-Haq and after the presidents death he held elections instead of trying to keep power--- or he could enter politics like Mushy

Jay said...

Waziristan will be key - whoever is the next US President will look for progress to be made there...while the US may not take any action against Pakistan if progress isn't made there, it will certainly affect the US' willingness to provide Pakistan with vital assistance.