Mixed feelings, always. The Americans are now optimistic, now not so. That state of mind comes from the one-step-forwards-two-steps-back nature of the conflict in Pakistan. Despite some of the worst violence since the initial invasion of Afghanistan back in 2001, the White House review of the war concluded that some positive developments had indeed taken place in the Taliban strongholds. But not enough to become complacent about. The review categorises the said victories as fragile and reversible.
The American assumption that senior Al-Qaeda leaders are in Pakistan would be far more distressing for Pakistanis than the belief that the said leaders are not as comfortable as they were when they first supposedly reached the country. The report comes at a time when the Obama administration is under pressure from the American public to show an effective exit plan for an increasingly unpopular war. Progress with Pakistan, which the Americans perhaps correctly perceive to be central to the problem, has not been to their liking. To that end, the US military has yet again articulated its desire for a military operation in North Waziristan by the Pakistan army. Admiral Mike Mullen has reportedly conveyed the same to Gen Ashfaq Kayani. The demand has been met with the same stock response: it will be done when the time is right.
Much has been made by foreign policy wonks and the local media about the drone attacks in the tribal areas. They are rightly perceived as an infringement on our sovereignty. But the eradication of militancy in the tribal areas is the declared policy statement of our political government. The bulk of the drone attacks that take place in the country are in North Waziristan, almost none in the South, where the Pakistan army has been engaging the militants. If we can, in one fell swoop, stop both the drone attacks and do something about the militancy, we should not take more time than is absolutely necessary for an operation in North Waziristan.