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What is the manpower of the army versus the Taliban

soldier

There are two divisions – or 28,000 soldiers – of Pakistan’s army already deployed on the edge of Waziristan. In addition the Frontier Corps – the paramilitary force made up of recruits from tribal areas – is likely to support army operations.

The number of militants is far harder to estimate. An army spokesman recently estimated their strength at between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters.

In South Waziristan Hakimullah Mehsud heads what is thought to be the largest militant force with an estimated strength of more than 15,000 armed men – although the “hard core” of his fighters is much smaller.

The western stretch bordering Afghanistan is the territory of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe. But the operation discussed at the moment is confined to the Mehsud area.

Analysts say estimates for the number of Uzbek fighters in South Wazirstan varies from 500-5,000.

What would the likely tactics be?

If the military goes in with full force, the militants are likely to disperse rather than attempt to hold territory, analysts say.

They will almost certainly engage in guerrilla warfare. With their knowledge of the terrain they are likely to launch ambushes as has been the case in previous years.

But a lot depends on military tactics. Previously, the military has not had a clear strategy when venturing into Waziristan.

This time round – after the success in Swat – troop morale is likely to be high.

For the army’s part it would have to hold the roads and the main towns. Currently the Mehsud-dominated centres of Ladha, Makeen and Sararogha are virtual no-go areas.

A primary military target would be to take control of the heights and put up outposts. They will also go after mid- and high-ranking Taliban commanders.

What has happened in past encounters?

Waziristan was just as dangerous for the British from the 1860s onwards.

British forces would make gruelling expeditions into the area following audacious attacks from Waziristan tribesmen in British-ruled territory.

More than a century later and it was not much easier for the Pakistani army.

In 2004 the Pakistani army suffered heavily at the hands of Wazir-affiliated militants.

There is a possibility that a military offensive against the Mehsud group in South Waziristan could draw in to the conflict militant groups based in the Wazir tribal areas of South and North Waziristan.

These groups are currently part of an al-Qaeda-affiliated network who have so far concentrated on fighting inside Afghanistan. They have “peace agreements” with the Pakistani army.

October 14, 2009 - Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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