Pakistan’s Next Fight

NEW YORK – The terrorist sanctuary in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan’s tribal frontier with Afghanistan is coming apart. It took a while for the Pakistani Army to move against the region’s rising violence and chaos, but its campaign in South Waziristan is making progress.

The campaign’s immediate impact consists in Pakistan’s determination to establish its authority in the area. But the window for the military to fill the power vacuum will be open only briefly. The terrorists have shown before that they can take a punch, strike back, and even rebuild their networks.

Indeed, even as the Pakistani Army launched operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) in October, a dozen devastating terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s major cities demonstrated the reach of the South Waziristan militants. In a few instances, senior army and intelligence officers were targeted outside their homes in Islamabad, despite extensive security measures in and around the capital.

The October 11 attack on Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi was the most daring of all – and sent shudders across the military command, because the terrorists knew the layout of the military and security buildings. But this inside knowledge also worked against the militants, because it demonstrated what was at stake for the country at large. No large street protests against the military operation in South Waziristan have been reported from anywhere in Pakistan.