Towards the end of his unenviable military career, a representative of the Bush legacy Admiral Mike Mullen was recently overwhelmed by the pre-retirement syndrome and thought it fit to assume the title of supreme commander of the Pakistani armed forces, while declaring it to the US media that Pakistan is about to launch an offensive in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). Courtesy demanded that such an announcement should have emanated from Pakistan. No wonder, there is so much scepticism about its ownership of the so-called war on terror among Pakistanis. Thanks to Operation Geronimo, our leadership no longer enjoys blanket trust of the public in the context of handling this war, whereas Admiral Mullens utterances triggered a nationwide protest against any (mis)adventure in North Waziristan. Washington has launched an all-out campaign to capitalise on the embarrassment incurred by Pakistans military leadership in the wake of Operation Geronimo; one of the advantages it wants to accrue is to push the security forces into yet another black hole - North Waziristan. The reports appearing in the US media suggest that an understanding about this operation was reached at during the recent visits of Senator Kerry and Admiral Mullen to Islamabad, while Secretary Clinton had refused to come unless a prior assurance was given that her wish list has been acceded to in totality. Needless to say, the fallout of a misadventure in North Waziristan is likely to accentuate the ongoing chaos in the country, embarrassing the government with the PNS Mehran like incidents of terrorism against sensitive installations. The people would have a snowballing sense of insecurity; credibility of the armed forces would further erode among the masses; the detractors will have enough reason to drum up frenzy about the security of Pakistani nukes and prompt the Americans to intervene and seize them. A section of the American intelligentsia has since long been advocating that unless the Pakistani leadership is embarrassed and discredited thoroughly and repeatedly, both domestically and internationally, it is not likely to change its nuclear policy. It seems that Washington has adopted this notion, as its state policy and is incrementally implementing it. During the previous week, indicators of a full-scale military operation started to appear. For instance, humanitarian agencies working in the area of intended military operation were asked to brace up for the relocation and rehabilitation of up to 3,65,000 displaced persons. Almost simultaneously, the army removed or relocated the check posts on the Bannu-Mirali road that sent shockwaves in North Waziristan generating a perception that a South Waziristan or Malakand style operation was in the offing. However, Pakistans military says it has no immediate plans to launch a full-scale offensive in NWA. This was confirmed by a top military commander in Peshawar, who said: We will undertake operation in North Waziristan when we want to.We will undertake such an operation when it is in our national interest militarily. The government officials have also denied the media reports about the operation. The government has not made any commitment with the US on Waziristan operation, a Foreign Office official recently said, while briefing the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He added that Pakistan alone will decide the timing of the NWA operation. Islamabad has so far been resisting Washingtons demand on this issue because of genuine reasons. Undoubtedly, resource constraint has been holding back Pakistan from undertaking this operation and the situation has not yet improved, even the reimbursement of Coalition Support Fund has been bumpy. Besides this, the armed forces are not adequately equipped to undertake another military campaign. According to an estimate, about 10,000 militants are stationed in NWA. There have been reports that around 500 Western militants, almost half of them of German origin, are undergoing training with various groups based in the agency. Presently, most of them do not intend to target Pakistan and their focus is on Afghanistan. However, any premature operation by our military would force them to turn their guns towards Pakistan. Pakistan too has already deployed 1,40,000 troops on the Western border. But defence analysts believe that additional troops will have to move in for the operation to succeed; this would result in diluting the military presence in other areas. Today, the people of Pakistan understand the dynamics of the Afghan war much better than the Swat days. They perceive it as a monster with a multiple agenda of which too little is a public knowledge, while the remaining is a dubious dirty game. Unlike Malakand and Swat operations, unfortunately, no effort has been made to evolve a national consensus for such an activity in North Waziristan. Remember our militarys success in Swat and South Waziristan does not guarantee a similar outcome in the NWA. Apparently, there is no scope for a full-blown conventional war-like operation in North Waziristan. The military strategy will need to focus on objective-specific special operations to neutralise pre-designated targets. Also, before starting such operations, the intelligence network would require a matching capacity enhancement. At present, North Waziristan is an 'intelligence black hole. Hopefully, the national leadership will not sleep walk into the trap; it must understand that the masses do not have an unlimited patience for more Abbottabad and Mehran like fiascos in future. Any disproportionate use of force in North Waziristan would make PNS Mehran like incidents a frequently recurring phenomenon. More so, the fallout would lead to further destabilisation of Pakistans heartland. n The writer is a retired Air Commodore of the Pakistan Air Force. Email: khalid3408@gmail.com