As the attention of Americans is turned toward the new administration in the White House and the ongoing effects of the Syrian refugee crisis, certain problems in other parts of the world slip under the radar. The war in Northwest Pakistan is one such problem.
Here are some facts about the war that most Americans are not aware of:
- Another name for the war in Northwest Pakistan is the war in Waziristan, after the region predominantly affected. Located in the northwest of Pakistan, Waziristan holds three federally administered tribes—the Wazirs, the Mehsuds and the Dawar.
- The war began in 2004. The Pakistan Army sought to drive out al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who were using Waziristan as a home-base to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
- The Taliban in Pakistan is allied with but not synonymous with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both forces, along with the Afghan Haqqani network and small branches of al-Qaeda, still occupy Waziristan. Terrorism in the region is the driving force behind the fighting.
- An attack in 2014 on the international airport in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest city, triggered the Pakistani government to a new onslaught against the terrorist groups. The attack killed 26 people and tainted the sacred image of the city.
- The military operation against the suspected terrorists was code-named Zarb-e-Azb, which was the sword used by the prophet Muhammad in an ancient battle. The retaliating airstrikes killed 140 suspects in Waziristan.
- Pakistani forces killed 376 rebels in the first 15 days of the government’s retaliation to the Karachi attack. The number of civilian casualties was not released to the public.
- The effects of the war on the civilians of Waziristan are kept tightly hidden from the public. What is known thus far is this: 500,000 residents have fled the region due to the war—some fleeing as far into Afghanistan, and others to eastern regions of Pakistan.
- The United States has been periodically involved throughout the war in northwest Pakistan. Between 2008 and 2013, the CIA completed around 400 drone strikes in Waziristan in order “to weaken al-Qaeda and to suppress Taliban fighters.” The attacks came after Obama ordered a new round of American forces into Afghanistan in 2009. The Pakistani government approved the airstrikes.
- When the war first launched in 2004, Pakistani forces had suffered three times the loss than the U.S. since the 2001 Afghanistan war on terror.
- For years, Washington and other allies called on Islamabad to join the fight in ridding the Waziristan region of rebel militants. Until the act of terrorism in Karachi, Islamabad was resistant. But even with Islamabad’s added assistance, civilians remain pessimistic of the terrorist groups leaving anytime soon.
In 2005, when the war had only started, the local Taliban and its allies declared to be in the “fight until the last man and the last bullet.” Thirteen years later, their determination to defeat the Pakistani government has held true.
– Brenna Yowell