News Analysis |
In an intense gunfight on Saturday, the 22nd September, 9 terrorists were killed and 7 members of our armed forces, including an officer, were martyred in North Waziristan, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in its statement. The servicemen who embraced martyrdom include Capt Junaid, Hav Amir, Hav Atif, Hav Nasir, Hav Abdul Razzaq, Sep Sammi and Sep Anwar.
The operation was launched after intelligence was received that a group of terrorists had infiltrated into Pakistani territory from across the border and were probably hiding in a compound. An IBO or Intelligence-based operation was launched consequently. The statement by ISPR further said that the area had been cleared of terrorists and the dead bodies of those killed were being identified.
Intelligence based operations are different from the usual military operations in that the application of force in IBOs tends to be more precise. There’s little chance of collateral damage. Special Forces may be employed for intelligence-based operations. There usually isn’t a need for heavy artillery or military hardware that’s useful for more conventional military operations. The armed forces of Pakistan and the Pakistan army, in particular, have become better and better in planning and executing intelligence-based operations over the past few years.
The foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, visited Kabul this month in his first tour abroad for a one-day trip. This shows the importance Pakistan attaches to having a peaceful and friendly relationship with its neighbours.
The militaries of other countries-case in point, Russia-have trained with Pakistani security forces to learn from their valuable experience in IBO’s and counter-insurgency. The fact that the terrorists killed in the operation on Saturday crossed over into Pakistan from Afghan territory speaks to a larger geopolitical state of affairs. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is very porous. Monitoring all possible entry and exit points across the border is next to impossible.
Furthermore, the Afghan government seems either incapable or unwilling to take steps to man the border within their territory. The government in Afghanistan barely seems to be able to manage its capital and a few surrounding districts. As much as 48% of the territory of Afghanistan is said to be under Taliban control. The other 52% is not entirely in the control of the government either. Thus, terrorists the likes of which were killed on Saturday manage to pussyfoot into Pakistani territory every now and then.
It is not that there are safe havens in Pakistan for terrorists to find sanctuary in. According to a number of quarterly reports by the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, terrorist incidents have been on a sharp decline in Pakistan in recent years. In 2017, there were 21% fewer deaths as compared with 2016. Similarly, in 2016 there were nearly half as many casualties as compared with 2015. Operation Zarb-e-Azab was a highly successful operation conducted by the Pakistan Army that cleared virtually safe havens or hideouts occupied by terrorists in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
The fact that the terrorists killed in the operation on Saturday crossed over into Pakistan from Afghan territory speaks to a larger geopolitical state of affairs. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is very porous.
Those were managed to evade such military operations seem to have escaped into Afghan territory through the porous border from where they are sometimes able to sneak back in. The border, or the Durand Line as the government Kabul may like to call it, has remained contentious ever since Partition. The only reason for this ‘contention’ are irredentist claims made by the sitting government in Kabul throughout the last 50 years or so. Kabul refused to recognize Pakistan at first, laying a claim on a large chunk of Pakistani territory in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and FATA. That being said, the Afghan government finds itself isolated at global forums in taking issue with the territorial integration of Pakistan.
Even the US, which foots the bill for Kabul, refuses to toe this line. Some observers point out that Kabul, with help from New Delhi, has supported separatists and terrorists in Pakistan not just in recent years but during the 1960s and 1970s as well. Violent extremists finding sanctuary in Afghanistan to organize and plan attacks in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon. It is for this reason that Islamabad maintains Afghan refugees must return to their home country. Other than the economic implications of having to cater to the needs of millions of people, there are legitimate concerns that terrorists are able to find sympathizers within this population.
Time and again, the perpetrators of high-profile terrorism incidents have been identified as Afghan. Islamabad has repeatedly granted extensions for the return of Afghan refugees. The government of Pakistan is making efforts to find a political solution to the issue of cross-border terrorism. IBO’s like the one on Saturday are necessary to stop terrorist attacks and save lives. However, they are not sufficient in and of themselves to provide a lasting solution to this problem.
The foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, visited Kabul this month in his first tour abroad for a one-day trip. This shows the importance Pakistan attaches to having a peaceful and friendly relationship with its neighbours. The country that benefits most from stability in Kabul other than Afghanistan itself is Pakistan. Through a series of military operations, the Pakistan Army has cleared out all terrorists and their hideouts within the country. It is the Afghan government needs to manage its side of the border effectively and remove terrorist sanctuaries if enduring peace in the region is to be achieved.