ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s military has decided to scale up targeted operations against militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) with additional troop deployment after Eid, ahead of an imminent broader cleanup in that tribal area.

Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Friday chaired the monthly Corps Commanders Conference ostensibly to discuss ‘routine professional matters’ but reportedly the moot was largely consumed by the anticipated NWA operation. At the meeting that started at the General Headquarters (GHQ) at around 8pm and continued till late night, the commanders extensively discussed the modalities of operation in the agency bordering Afghanistan. Another important and connected issue was border coordination arrangements at Pak-Afghan borderlands.

According to informed security officials, the targeted operations in NWA would be kept as a Low Intensity Conflict, to be gradually scaled up after better target identification of the militants and augmenting the troops’ operational preparedness. The top military and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) commands would hold a crucial meeting by this month’s end or earlier next month to determine strategy for enhanced aerial strikes in the area while International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) authorities would be consulted for intelligence sharing.

As per the tactical plan, the offensive would follow a two-level security procedure, the officials said. In the first, the Army would adopt ground penetration strategy aiming at ‘engaging‘ and ‘securing‘ militants launching direct attacks on security forces and ‘threatening’ ground presence of troops. The second level would involve aerial strikes by the PAF jets and intelligence backup by the Isaf.

“Once our ground presence is augmented and land routes are secured, the operation would enter into level-two,” officials said. They termed enhanced border coordination as an essential component for the success of offensive in NWA.

“The area has to be secured to take on runaway militants who would try to flee across the border or the neighbouring tribal agencies. Foolproof security in the border region is only possible with the intelligence and technical assistance from Isaf,” the sources said.

In their Friday night meeting the commanders are said to have shared concerns over the resurgence of cross-border attacks from Afghan side into Pakistan. Thursday night some nine militants and two security officials were reportedly killed in an exchange of fire at Tripaman Heights, a military post in the Lower Dir. Increased security arrangements were taken at both sides of the Pak-Afghan border after Pakistan and the Isaf military authorities had affirmed their resolve “for coordinated action against terrorists on respective sides of the border who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region” following General John Allen’s visit to the GHQ earlier this month.

Reportedly, as decided during the Isaf Commander’s visit, Isaf’s Intelligence Component (IC) and Ground Operations Component (GOC) would be involved to jointly review security arrangements to stem and probe cross-border attacks including the Thursday incident.

Compared to the last month’s two-day Corps Commanders Conference that had discussed broader security and administrative matters, yesterday’s meeting focused the security issue, according to the officials, who also said that for a consolidated operation in NWA, additional troops would be deployed in neighbouring Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies as a backup arrangement.

Presently, one brigade and three infantry battalions of the 19th Infantry Division and six Frontier Corps wings are deployed in Bajaur while only one infantry battalion and six FC wings are deployed in Mohmand Agency, the security sources said.

“Additional brigades are to be moved to these areas as cover-up shield against runway militants,” officials said, adding that South Waziristan already had sufficient troops with four infantry brigades, 11 battalions, seven FC wings and a division deputed there.

The NWA currently has one division, five brigades, 12 battalions and 11 FC wings while additional troops would start reaching the area from alternate divisions after the Eid, security sources said.