The operation, which follows the killing of Al Qaeda second in command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in a drone attack last week, may also signal a return to the relationship of the early 2000s when Pakistan handed over a string of high-profile Al Qaeda operatives to the US, according to Pakistani military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.
As the US deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 draws near, she argues, the Pakistani security establishment may be willing to give up Al Qaeda figures in exchange for getting the Afghan Taliban, with whom it has maintained good relations, a seat at the negotiating table.
“We have told the Americans we will capture Al Qaeda wherever we find them. If the Americans are worried about terrorism coming from this region then this gives them this peace of mind. We’ll eliminate Al Qaeda as long as they’re willing to do this trade-off with the Taliban,” she says.
But other analysts say Pakistan’s opposition to Al Qaeda, which views the Pakistani government as heretical, has remained strong over the past 10 years. According to Amir Rana, head of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Pakistan has captured some 1,500 Al Qaeda operatives since 9/11.