View Full Version : Fighting a formidable enemy By Adnan Adil - 19 March 2016

19th March 2016, 12:07 PM
Terrorism in Pakistan has become quite complex; the military operations in the north-western tribal belt did not fully eliminate militants but dislocated many of them to their new bases across the border in Afghanistan, where they have joined forces with other anti-Pakistan elements.

The recent terrorist attacks show that we are up against a formidable enemy that has proved time and again that it can outsmart our national security establishment and endure intensive, prolonged military offensives.

Up to the first week of March this year – not counting the Peshawar attack this week – 97 civilians and 71 security officials have died in several incidents of terrorism across the country, especially in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

Although the frequency of terror incidents and the associated death toll have declined over the past year compared to the previous years, the level of terrorism is still quite alarming. In 2015, as many as 630 civilians and 318 security personnel were killed in terror incidents.

The terror conglomerate comprising the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is angry at the Pakistani state, which frustrated its plans for establishing its brand of caliphate first in Fata and Pata and then in the rest of the country. The conglomerate is waging a ‘jihad’ against the ‘infidel’ Pakistani state.

After military operations destroyed the bases of these organisations in the country’s north-western tribal region, they moved to the bordering areas of Afghanistan, including the Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar provinces. After Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Afghanistan has become the bastion of terrorists, from where they have been planning and carrying out major attacks in Pakistan.

Leads to all major incidents of violence in Pakistan end up in Afghanistan. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah recently said that the main suspect in the murder of former Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada could not be arrested as he came from and fled to Afghanistan. He also said that former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s abducted son Ali Haider Gilani has been kept in Afghanistan.

A difficult mountainous territory stretching 2,250 kilometres along the Pak-Afghan border is the main advantage for terrorists. The porous border that runs from the Hindu Kush and the Pamir mountains allows unhindered cross-border movement, regardless of security measures at key border checkpoints.

Opium cultivation and drug trafficking in Afghanistan is another boon for the terrorist conglomerate. Opium is Afghanistan’s biggest earner and turns in nearly three billion US dollars in revenue each year, according to Un estimates. Many senior officials in the Kabul administration are also part of the deeply entrenched drug networks. The Afghan army, which is professionally inexperienced and divided on ethnic lines, is too weak to take on the drug syndicates.

Matters have been further complicated by the fact that the foes of Pakistan have joined hands in Afghanistan. The anti-Pakistan lobby in the Kabul establishment, particularly in Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), has joined hands with TTP and RAW. This combine is waging a proxy war in Pakistan under the garb of so-called religious terrorism.

A hint of the NDS-TTP linkage surfaced in 2013, when a spokesperson for former Afghan president Hamid Karzai described senior TTP leader Latif Mehsud as a ‘major asset’ of the Kabul administration. At that time, the US troops had captured Mehsud when he was travelling in the company of Afghan intelligence officials.

The Pakistani state cannot fully defeat terrorism unless the bases of terrorists are dismantled in Afghanistan. It will be naïve on our part to expect that India will discontinue its covert operations against Pakistan via Afghanistan, for the time being at least.

Our security establishment needs to enhance its human intelligence in the problematic areas in Afghanistan to take targeted actions. Steps should also be taken to neutralise and win over the anti-Pakistan elements in the Kabul establishment. It is the responsibility of our security establishment to find innovative ways to seal off the treacherous Pak-Afghan border. Although it is an uphill task, some sort of measures can be taken to minimise the infiltration of terrorists from across the border.

As a last resort, Pakistan may also consider carrying out air strikes on terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Apart from the issue of technical capacity for conducting aerial strikes in difficult mountainous areas, this kind of operation will require international support. Pakistan can take this drastic step only if the international community allows such strikes, through a tacit agreement if not a formal resolution.

The days of a peaceful western border are gone. We need to accept the new reality and brace ourselves for long-term deployment of military and paramilitary forces on the western front. It is wishful thinking that the western tribal region will return to the calm and quiet of the good old days. This is not possible, at least in the near future.

Afghanistan is likely to remain a problem for Pakistan for a long time. Pakistan needs to have a long-term security strategy to fight a resilient enemy on the western border. We are in for the long haul in the fight against terrorism. The job will not be over with the military operations in the tribal region.

The overhaul of the internal security agencies, the police and the criminal justice system are no less important. Enhanced coordination among a plethora of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies is key to pre-empting deadly attacks, such as the one in Charsadda. Those who are ignoring the roadmap given in the National Action Plan are playing with the lives of 200 million people.