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In Its Own War on Terror, Pakistan Piles Up Heavy Losses

Pakistan's Army Has Lost Roughly Twice as Many Soldiers in the Conflict with Taliban Fighters as the U.S.
Cpl. Hamid Raza, right, helps Cpl. Mohammed Yakub at a Rawalpindi hospital full of casualties of Pakistan army battles against the Pakistani Taliban. Each day, Cpl. Hamid Raza helps strap Cpl. Mohammed Yakub to a physiotherapy bench, lifts it and wipes the sweat off his bewildered comrade's forehead. Eyes darting, Cpl. Yakub often screams and grunts through the procedure, flailing his hands.
"Traumatic head injury," Cpl. Raza says softly. "He realizes it's me, and he tries to speak, but he can't. He can't eat, he can't talk, he can't remember the words."
Both men are fortunate to be alive. A year ago, a Taliban roadside bomb hit a truck ferrying Pakistani soldiers from Cpl. Raza's 18th Punjab Battalion after a troop rotation in the North Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan frontier. Seventeen men were killed, and only a handful survived. It was their first home leave.
The Pakistani army has lost roughly twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the U.S. It is a toll that keeps rising as American forces prepare to withdraw from next-door Afghanistan by December amid an intensifying war on both sides of the border.
In Washington and Kabul, officials often accuse Pakistan of being a duplicitous and insincere ally, charges fueled by alleged covert aid to the Afghan Taliban from some elements of the Pakistani security establishment. In 2011, the then-chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, described the Haqqani network, a group of insurgents operating from bases in North Waziristan who are affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, as a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Pakistan's government denied the accusation.

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  • Murky as this war is, one fact is clear: The price ordinary Pakistani soldiers pay in the struggle against Taliban fighters is real and high. Since Pakistan's army began moving into the tribal areas along the Afghan border to confront the Pakistani Taliban in 2004, more than 4,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed and more than 13,000 injured, according to military statistics.
    By comparison, the U.S. has lost 2,315 service members, just over 1,800 of them killed in combat, in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
    Many Pakistanis complain that their efforts aren't sufficiently appreciated by the U.S. " 'Pakistan is not sincere, Pakistan is not doing enough'—these are buzzwords that I hate so much. They don't see the sacrifices that are being made," says retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's former national-security adviser and ambassador to Washington. "It's a heavy toll. We have not lost so many military people in any other war before this."
    Just last month, the Taliban executed 23 Pakistani troops they had captured, prompting the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to suspend tentative peace talks with the militants. That bloodshed followed several deadly attacks in January, including a bombing of a convoy heading to North Waziristan that killed 26 and a blast that killed eight soldiers here in Rawalpindi, just a few hundred yards from the army's headquarters.
    Though the Pakistani Taliban, known formally as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, recognize the spiritual authority of Afghan Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, they operate separately. The ISI, an arm of Pakistan's military, provides considerable support to the Afghan Taliban, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. The Pakistani Taliban, by contrast, consider the Pakistani state as their main enemy and attack military and ISI targets.
    Much more closely aligned with al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban have also attempted attacks on U.S. soil, such as a 2010 failed car bombing on New York City's Times Square.
    Both the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani network are based in North Waziristan, the only one of Pakistan's seven tribal regions on the Afghan border that has yet to be cleared by the military. The U.S., which provides billions of dollars to fund the Pakistani military, has repeatedly pressured Pakistan to launch an operation against both groups in the area.
    The Pakistani Taliban's recent spate of deadly attacks on army targets is making a military operation to retake North Waziristan increasingly likely once the snows in the mountainous region melt in the spring, diplomats and analysts say. If it happens, the Pakistani army would face a formidable enemy there.
    Pvt. Mohammed Ali lost a leg to a Taliban mine. Yaroslav Trofimov / The Wall Street Journal
    Lt. Aqib Nawaz, 23, had his shoulder and back peppered by shrapnel from a Taliban mortar that targeted his outpost in the tribal areas. "They were very persistent, and tactically, they were very sound," he says, with grudging respect.
    Though the Pakistani army is present in bases in North Waziristan—some just a few hundred yards from Taliban compounds—soldiers rarely leave the bases except for resupply convoys. Officials say they currently don't have enough manpower in the region to mount offensive missions.
    The convoys, such as the one Cpl. Yakub and Cpl. Raza rode in last year, are regularly ambushed or hit with improvised explosive devices and land mines.
    "Every day, without fail, the Taliban would attack—with snipers, with rocket launchers. There is no guarantee that you go to these areas and come back alive," Cpl. Raza says.
    The luckier victims of such attacks arrive in the halls of the Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Rawalpindi. The Wall Street Journal was provided rare access to the modern hospital, its rooms packed with amputees, some missing as many as three limbs.
    In addition to their physical wounds, Pakistan's injured soldiers, like U.S. Vietnam veterans in an earlier era, must deal with a society that doesn't always appreciate their service. The conflict with the Taliban pits soldiers against fellow Muslims and fellow Pakistanis, and against a sizable segment of the public that views the war in the tribal areas as imposed by the U.S. and counter to Islamic values.
    "The soldiers are very obedient, very patriotic, but at some level, they are conflicted as to why they are killing Muslims, why they are killing their own people," says Rizwan Taj, a psychiatrist who often treats patients from tribal areas that teem with Taliban. Pakistan's army is focused mainly on India, Dr. Taj says, and its soldiers "are not psychologically, mentally trained for internal disturbances."
    In November, Munawar Hassan, the leader of a major Islamist political party that sits in the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said that Pakistani soldiers killed in battle against the Taliban couldn't be considered martyrs because they fought on America's behalf. He described as a martyr instead Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed that month in a U.S. drone strike. The Pakistani military denounced Mr. Hassan, demanding an apology but getting none.

    "I was very hurt by his statement," says Pvt. Mohammed Ali, a patient in the Rawalpindi military hospital. "What we are doing is protecting our country, putting our lives on the line for our mothers and sisters."
    A soldier with Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry, Pvt. Ali, 28, lost his right leg during a clearing operation in the Kurram tribal area in 2012. He has had three surgeries since then.
    "The Taliban would fire rocket-propelled grenades and attack at night, never showing themselves," he says. Following one of the patrols, which involved a gunfight, Pvt. Ali was returning to his base. He stepped on a freshly planted Taliban mine.
    "I didn't lose consciousness after the blast, and the other soldiers carried me down on a stretcher," he recalls.
    A fellow amputee, Pvt. Ali Rehman, 21, had just arrived in the Kurram area when his unit was sent to retrieve the body of a soldier killed by the Taliban higher up in the mountains. "We were going through the valley in an open-backed vehicle, and that's when we struck an IED," he recalls. The explosion sheared off his right leg.
    Amputees are usually able to serve in a desk job in the military once fitted with prosthetic limbs. The military hospital in Rawalpindi provides some of the most sophisticated such devices, says Maj. Zaheer Gill, its specialist of rehabilitative medicine.
    If an army offensive in North Waziristan kicks off this spring, the hospital is likely to deal with a fresh wave of patients. Despite their numbers, the men treated here are just a fraction of the toll. "The most seriously injured rarely survive," Maj. Gill adds, "and never even reach over here." All we can do is pray to god to keep our japans safe. they are the bravest amongst us pakistanis willing to sacrifice their lives and bodies so we can live in peace. i hope our veterans are treated good unlike veterans here in america.
    Really painful to see these brave young men maimed like this at such a young age while mullahs make disturbing statements denouncing their sacrifice.
    How can you compare losses by US with Pak Army, our bastards are our own people who can come to our army post say Salam dua and then blow themselves up.
    Salute to the braves who put their country before themselves
    Soldiers are being needlessly killed. But who is to blame for this sordid state of affairs?
    1. Musharraf - for allying with the US of A in its own war on terror, for its own national interests, not Pakistan's. But Mush joined them for reasons best known to him. All this talk by Bush and his neo-cons of Pakistan being 'bombed back to the stone age' if he didn't join them in the WOT, is utter rubbish! But Mush seems to have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker and signed on the dotted line perhaps with trembling knees.
    2. Pakistan - using terrorism as state policy. Even Kayani had mentioned to his US counterpart that some militant organizations (Afghan Taliban, LeT, JeM etc) are his 'strategic assets' and therefore not in national interest to disband them. They are also to be used against India in the event of a war. So there are the 'Good' terrorists like the Afghan Taliban (Haqqianis, Omars, LeT, JeM etc) and the bad ones (Pakistan Taliban).
    Unless and until ALL terrorist groups including the so called 'good' ones are neutralized, things will go from bad to worse, because all of them are linked by an umbilical chord. They all support each other by varying degrees, though their ideologies and objectives may differ.

    This paranoia of gaining 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan by installing a pliable puppet government in Afghanistan with the Afghan Taliban at the helm, as well as keeping Kashmir on the boil with home made terror groups is Pakistan's undoing. This mortal fear of the Afghan Army and the Indian Army enveloping Pakistan from the West and the East thereby threatening its security is reason why the Establishment is backing certain terrorist groups which needless to say are gradually deserting their ranks and joining groups inimical to Pakistan's interests.
    Unfortunately, chasing this mirage of 'strategic depth' has resulted in more soldiers dying and getting maimed every day. And that's a tragedy. The bottom line is that linkages with all terror groups need to be severed. But that is easier said than done - a herculean task. It's like shutting the stables after the horses have bolted.
    It is sad that more that 4000 Pakistani service members have been killed and over 13000 injured in the fight against the terrorists. General Austin, US CENTCOM commander, in his recent visit to Pakistan also acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistani security forces and the terrible losses Pakistanis have suffered due to terrorism and violent extremism. 
    General Austin said of his visit: “We had a good meeting and a candid discussion. Pakistan’s senior military leaders clearly understand their country’s important and unique role in promoting security and stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region as a whole.”
    We understand that one death or one injury does not only affect that individual but the whole family. In many cases the whole extended families. Terrorism is a curse that has plagued the region for almost three decades. This has to end soon. We stand by Pakistan in its efforts to bring about sustained peace so people of the region can take a sigh of relief. Our message to the terrorists is also plain and simple, give up your evil agenda and join the mainstream so the people of the region can prosper and live in relative peace. Would you not agree?
    We agree but, we want more official support from your government not just here in the net, we want more Helicopters, more Media support in your Nation for the Pakistan Army (at CNN etc), we want modern equipment and vehicles for our Soldiers like your are providing it to the Afghan National Army to fight a war which your Government started 2001 on our Borders ! Thats it, take it !
    You are begging to Centcom on a forum....pathetic
    Far from the glare of the media, soldiers of Pakistan Army make the ultimate sacrifice.
    Mustafa was associated with the 8 Punjab regiment while participating in a military operation in Khyber Agency’s Tirah Valley, which fell to the combined forces of the Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Islam. 
    “For me, Mustafa is everywhere, he never left us. Our 7-year-old daughter Rameen is proud of her father’s martyrdom,” says Sadia Mustafa, widow of Major Mustafa Sabir, who embraced martyrdom last week during clashes with militants in the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency among other 23 military personnel. Rameen talks tirelessly about her father, and misses him badly, especially when she remembers how he would take her for ice cream.
    The wounds are still raw, but this brave woman dares to share her pain. “We are proud of his martyrdom; Allah granted him what he always prayed for. In accordance with Mustafa’s wish, I want to give my children a quality education so they can also serve their homeland just like their father.”
    The valiant Mustafa who had served on key posts such as Siachen, South Waziristan and Swat, was born on September 19, 1978 in Faisalabad. He had joined Pakistan army in 1998 as a commissioned officer and was also part of United Nations peacekeeping mission for Congo.
    Sadia said her husband was a brave soldier like his colleagues, adding that she calls up her husband’s unit officials on a daily basis to inquire about their well being.
    A decisive operation has been launched against militants in the Tirah valley by Special Services Groups (SSG) forces along with regular troops, during which at least 23 troops have been killed along with local lashkar men. Scores of militants have also been killed.
    According to statistics released by ISPR, around 2,400 personnel lost their lives and another 6,500 were wounded just in 2009-2010. In comparison, US/Nato forces in the region combined had a casualty figure of approximately 1,600. This shows the high price being paid by the Pakistani nation to eliminate terrorism. Sadly, it is a sacrifice that is rarely acknowledged and even in Pakistan, we rarely hear of the names behind the numbers.
    One such name is of Captain Waseem -u- Din Razi. Just about a month ago, on the 5th of April, this brave son of Pakistan embraced martyrdom in the Tirah Valley.
    Born 29 April 1987 in Karachi, Captain Waseem was a gutsy young commando of the SSG who, since his passing out, had participated in many furious military actions including the Swat operation.
    As if guided by an inner intuition, Waseem this time paid a short visit to his ancestral home in Islamabad to seek permission for going for Jihad in the line of duty, before the last mission of his life. “It is binding upon us to seek permission from parents before proceeding for Jihad,” he had said. After acquiring that permission from his mother, he loudly said goodbye to all, briskly walked to the vehicle waiting outside his home, and never looked back.
    He had promised his mother to call when he reached the operational area. When he did, his mother asked where he was. He replied, “I have reached the place where I was supposed to be”.
    During the Swat operation, says his family, Waseem had moments where he questioned what he was doing: Is it okay to fight against our own brothers? He would wonder. But when he encountered the opponents on the ground, he found that the militants, who claimed to be fighting for Islam, were themselves violating Islamic injunctions. Waseem was disturbed at their brutality, their executions and hostage-taking and their acts of forcing young girls to marry them against their will. Since then, Capt Waseem Shaheed very devotedly started seeking inspiration from the guiding principles of religion, and had a clear understanding of the concepts of martyrdom and Jihad. He knew that this was his war, and in the valley of Tirah, he gave his life fighting it.
    Courtesy: Wall Street journal
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