Financial Times correspondents Matthew Green and Daniel Dombey discuss the implications of a military campaign against al-Qaeda fighters and Afghan warlords in Pakistan's North Waziristan province.
Razor-edged peaks, forgotten valleys and fortress-like farmsteads scroll past in a vista of terrain that could have been designed for guerrilla war. There is no better place to see the challenge Pakistan faces in fighting militants than the spot next to the machine-gunner in an army helicopter flying into Taliban country.
The crew fling open the doors to watch for insurgents sheltering in orchards far below. Hands sheathed in leather gloves against the cold, the gunner keeps vigil.
Washington is desperate for Pakistan to broaden its campaign into the province of North Waziristan, perhaps the chief haven for al-Qaeda fighters and Afghan warlords staging cross-border attacks on Nato forces. Pakistan's generals are elusive about their intentions, pointing out that they have sacrificed more troops in these tribal areas than America has lost in Afghanistan. “Everywhere there are reasons to go in, and there are reasons not to go in,” says Lieutenant-General Asif Yasin Malik, a Pakistani commander visiting a base perched in the highlands of Orakzai, scene of the army's latest offensive. “It's a question of timing.”