The South Asia Channel

Pakistan and America: fast friends?

If claims that Faisal Shahzad attended explosives training camps in Waziristan are true, his case could test the apparently cordial working relationship between Pakistan’s Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and his U.S. counterparts, Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen. So far, Pakistan has managed to deflect incessant U.S. pressure for large-scale military actions in ...

If claims that Faisal Shahzad attended explosives training camps in Waziristan are true, his case could test the apparently cordial working relationship between Pakistan's Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and his U.S. counterparts, Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen. So far, Pakistan has managed to deflect incessant U.S. pressure for large-scale military actions in North Waziristan, a stronghold for the Haqqani network, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan fighters led by Hakimullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur; and other commanders, along with Arab and Uzbek militants. North Waziristan is a vicious, deadly beehive of militancy, where even the Pakistani military is insecure, burned by incidents like last fall's ambush of a military convoy in Hafiz Gul Bahadur's territory in which some 35 Pakistani soldiers were killed, according to military sources, and last month's attack in the same area which left seven troops dead.

As many as 15,000 troops are deployed in North Waziristan, but they seem to be relatively ineffective, as demonstrated by the kidnapping and murder there of Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence officer with close links to the Taliban, by a previously unknown militant group calling itself the "Asian Tigers." This incident underscores the volatility of the area and indicates divisions among various factions of the militant groups operating in North Waziristan.

As Pakistani and U.S. officials interrogate Shahzad's father in Peshawar, many in Pakistan are wondering if this is the hour of reckoning that will finally force the Pakistani military to take decisive action in North Waziristan. Although Kayani has repeatedly said North Waziristan will not be a "steamroller operation," the agency is once again suspected to be at the heart of a plot to attack the United States. Pakistani action -- or inaction -- there is likely to determine the course of U.S.-Pakistan relations now more than ever before.

If claims that Faisal Shahzad attended explosives training camps in Waziristan are true, his case could test the apparently cordial working relationship between Pakistan’s Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and his U.S. counterparts, Gen. David Petraeus and Adm. Mike Mullen. So far, Pakistan has managed to deflect incessant U.S. pressure for large-scale military actions in North Waziristan, a stronghold for the Haqqani network, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan fighters led by Hakimullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur; and other commanders, along with Arab and Uzbek militants. North Waziristan is a vicious, deadly beehive of militancy, where even the Pakistani military is insecure, burned by incidents like last fall’s ambush of a military convoy in Hafiz Gul Bahadur’s territory in which some 35 Pakistani soldiers were killed, according to military sources, and last month’s attack in the same area which left seven troops dead.

As many as 15,000 troops are deployed in North Waziristan, but they seem to be relatively ineffective, as demonstrated by the kidnapping and murder there of Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistani intelligence officer with close links to the Taliban, by a previously unknown militant group calling itself the "Asian Tigers." This incident underscores the volatility of the area and indicates divisions among various factions of the militant groups operating in North Waziristan.

As Pakistani and U.S. officials interrogate Shahzad’s father in Peshawar, many in Pakistan are wondering if this is the hour of reckoning that will finally force the Pakistani military to take decisive action in North Waziristan. Although Kayani has repeatedly said North Waziristan will not be a "steamroller operation," the agency is once again suspected to be at the heart of a plot to attack the United States. Pakistani action — or inaction — there is likely to determine the course of U.S.-Pakistan relations now more than ever before.

Imtiaz Gul heads the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. His book The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier is due out in June.

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