More drone hits likely as Pakistan refuses NWA op

ISLAMABAD - The drone-hits in North Waziristan might see a notable increase after Pakistans military has conveyed to the US its refusal to launch NWA military offensive due to operational constraints. Two drone hits reportedly targeted some eight militant leaders in NWA region including a commander from Haqqani Network during the last couple of days. While North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has confirmed Haqqani Network commander Janbaz Zadrans killing in a Thursday drone-hit near Miramshah in NWA, no official confirmation or denial on Zadrans death, despite attempts, was received from Pakistan Armys media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). A foreign agency quotes an unnamed US official as confirming that Zadran was killed in North Waziristan, saying that his death makes him the most senior Haqqani leader in Pakistan to be taken off the battlefield. In a conversation with this newspaper by phone, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NATO military spokesperson in Kabul Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson termed the killing as 'significant blow to terrorist outfits in the region. We have received some authenticated information that a Haqqani militant leader was killed in Waziristan. The militant is identified as Janbaz Zadran Jamil. We hope that Janbazs killing would help pursuing the collective objective of Pakistani and the allied forces, elimination of terrorism from this region. It is a significant blow to terror elements, he said. Head of Afghanistans National Directorate of Security (NDS) Rahmatullah Nabil welcomed Zadrans killing in a drone-hit. This is a welcoming development. All those who are a threat to peace need to be taken to task, he told TheNation. Asked to comment on the killings of dozens of alleged Afghan militants at the hands of Pakistans security forces, Nabil said cautiously, It needs to be found out if they were militants and if they really were, then its good that they were taken out. Earlier, the NDS chief had expressed ignorance over the killings of Afghan militants in Chitral and Upper Dir during Pakistans security forces crackdown. The same day (Thursday) when high-valued terrorist from the Haqqani Network was reportedly killed, Pakistans Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held separate meetings with ISAF chief General John Allen and US Special Representative on Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman. While General Kayani had reportedly asked ISAF commander to act against Afghan militants that were repeatedly attacking Pakistans border areas, he had conveyed to Grossman that Pakistan was not in position to immediately launch NWA operation due to operational constraints evolving militarys intense engagements against Afghan militants besides its occupation in Sindh, Balochistan and the rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The advent of cold weather in Waziristan region that does not favour military action, at the moment, was cited as another prevalent factor. The timing of the recent drone hits, one in South Waziristan and two in NWA, is widely seen as against the backdrop of Thursdays meeting. The reported understanding between the US and Pakistan envisages targeting the Haqqani Network leaders through drone strikes. Defence analysts say that taking on the Haqqanis can work for the US as a doable option to a limited extent while an all out crackdown through drone strikes is not workable due to anticipated collateral damage to civilian population. Some days back, former senior diplomat Ambassador (r) Rustam Shah Mohmand had told this newspaper that US would target Haqqanis in Miramshah should it deem it fit. They are least concerned about collateral damage and they would target Haqqanis in the North once they are sure that Pakistan is not going for military offensive there, he had said. It is mostly believed that most of the militant sanctuaries in Miramshah, the headquarters of NWA, are located in densely populated civilian areas. Targeting those areas through drones could further enhance an already aggravated anti-American sentiment in Pakistans borderlands in particular and rest of the country in general. Going all the way with drones is never a feasible option for the US. They know that it would trigger the anti-American sentiment manifold. A lot too many civilians have already died alongside militants in Pakistans tribal terrain. Taking out civilians hand in hand with terrorists is a very undesirable thing to do. It would backfire, believed Norwegian defence analyst and social scientist Atle Hetland.

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