Taking the Gloves Off: Zarb-e-Azb on Mullah Mansour

By Dr. Asim Yousafzai

The gloves are finally off, Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mansour got fried by a Hellfire missile from a US reaper on Saturday afternoon. He was being tracked as he entered Pakistan from Iran. Last year Mullah Mansour narrowly escaped another attempt on his life. Initial reports indicate the strike took place well inside Pakistani borders in the village of Ahmad Wal located in the restive Balochistan province where a serious insurgency of its own has been going on since 1948. Mullah Mansour ascended to power in Quetta last year through a fierce succession battle after it was finally revealed that Mullah Omar has been dead for more than two years.

Map showing location of Pak-Afghan border, Ahmad Wal and Pakistan’s nuclear test sites.

The weekend drone strike has put Pakistan under a new spotlight and its commitment to fight terror of all hues is again being questioned. Mullah Mansour was a longtime Pakistani resident and a citizen since 2002 under the name Wali Muhammad. He initially received his Pakistani passport in 2006 and traveled widely in the region. Mansour was a frequent flyer!

Does the latest strike indicates a US strategic shift on Pakistan or was this a one time tactical victory is yet to be seen, however, it definitely indicates Washington’s urgency to eliminate terror and deny terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

While there are serious discussions going on at Capitol Hill regarding Pakistan’s commitment to fight terror in all its manifestations, there are more serious questions about Zarb-e-Azb, the on-going army operation in Waziristan tribal belt along the Pak-Afghan border.

Army spokesperson Gen Asim Bajwa claims that 3400 terrorists, a surprisingly even number, have been killed in this operation which started in June, 2014. He also claims that 90% of the terrorists’ hide-outs have been cleared, yet terrorists have been crossing the border at will and are the main reason Taliban attacks in Afghanistan have increased since the operation started. All these claims are not supported by the facts on the ground; most terrorist leaders have either been killed or captured outside of Waziristan in US special operations or drone strikes.

 

Terrorist Origin Found Dead/Alive
Mullah Akhtar Mansour Afghanistan/Taliban Pakistan
Osama Bin Laden Saudi Arabia/Alqaeda Pakistan
Mullah Omar Afghanistan/Taliban Pakistan
Adnan el Shukrijumah Saudi Arabia/Alqaeda Pakistan
Khalid Shaikh Muhammad Pak/Kuwait/Alqaeda Pakistan
Baitullah Mehsud Pakistan/TTP Pakistan
Hakimullah Mehsud Pakistan/TTP Pakistan
Badruddin Haqqani Afghanistan/Taliban Pakistan
Sangin Zadran Afghanistan/Taliban Pakistan
Aafia Siddiqi Pakistan/Alqaeda Pakistan
Ayman AlZawahiri Yemen/Alqaeda Unknown

Interestingly, Pakistan Army is not disclosing any details of the operation and the entire Waziristan area is a no-go for national and foreign media. Local residents have all been evacuated and they are living as IDPs in the nearby town of Bannu where they are faced with harsh conditions. I pose these questions;

  1. Where are the 3400 terrorists killed and in what manner were they killed?
  2. What are the nationalities of these terrorists and how did they get there?
  3. How did the Haqqani Network terrorists escaped Waziristan before the start of the operation?
  4. Taliban are all Muslims, who offered their funeral prayers in the absence of local residents?
  5. If Taliban fighters offered their funeral prayers, why were they not arrested and presented before the media?
  6. Where are these 3400 terrorists buried?
  7. Where are the wounded?
  8. Why are there zero civilian casualties?
  9. Are they buried in individual graves or in mass graves?
  10. Why is the remaining 10% of the area taking so long to be cleared of terrorists?

Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered when operation Zarb-e-Azb finally comes to an end.

Pakistan Army and Air Force have been using F-16 jet bombers to target suspected terrorists and by no means jet strikes are more precise than drone strikes. US drone strikes created a huge public backlash especially from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreeke Insaf, but he is mum on the displacements and damages caused by Zarb-e-Azb.

It appears like Pakistan wants the F-16 fighter jets more as a deterrence against India, rather than a fighting tool against the terrorists. Haqqani Network fighters are purportedly living comfortably in Para Chinar, a tribal region adjacent to Waziristan and Taliban leadership is residing and meeting in the suburbs of Quetta, capital of Balochistan. Haqqani Network is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks inside Afghanistan and has only been targeted by the US, without any Pakistani assistance.

In order to bring some semblance of peace to Afghanistan, Pakistan must play its role in eliminating major terror networks otherwise it will be a long nightmare for the US to exit the region.

Dr. Asim Yousafzai is a Washington DC based geo-political analyst and author of the book “Afghanistan: From Cold War to Gold War”. He can be followed @asimusafzai

Dr. Asim Yousafzai

Dr. Asim Yousafzai is a Washington DC based geo-science professional and regularly writes on technical and geo-strategic issues. He is the author of the book “Afghanistan: From Cold War to Gold War”. He is also an AP editor. He can be followed @asimusafzai

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