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How to defeat Taliban?

Since past ten years, insurgency is tearing Pakistan apart. Despite numerous peace talks, cease-fires, and military actions, war rages on between Taliban fighters and the state of Pakistan.

TTP has a simple strategy of repeated pin-pricks and bleedings that, though small in proportion to the total force strength, sap the will of Pakistan as a nation to fight against them. They believe that slowly, the state will kneel down and accept their demands. To counter their strategy, Pakistan as a state needs to define some basic principles which shall then be used to chalk down a detailed counter-insurgent strategy. These basic principles are to be defined taking in account the power of insurgents, the viability of fulfilling their demands, the threat to general lifestyle of people from their demands and the strength of state.

Power of insurgents: 

Time and again, Taliban of Pakistan has shown that they are trained, fearless guerilla fighters and have the strength of destabilizing Pakistan any moment. They have presence in almost all cities of Pakistan; have sophisticated ammunition and many suicide bombers. From destroying Marriot hotel in Islamabad, to attacking GHQ and Mehran Naval base, they have done what a few decades back would have seemed impossible for any guerilla group to do.

The important question is whether they have put all their cards on table yet or not. Are they operating to their maximum capacity or they can create further panic if the fight is taken to their stronghold North Waziristan.

The answer to this question requires an analytic analysis of the pattern of attacks in Pakistan. More attacks happened in Pakistan when the public would expect them the least-for example during the recently held peace talks. Even when Bait Ulah Mehsud and the Hakim Ulah Mehsud were killed, and a major backlash was expected, less civilians and army jawans died as compared to last few weeks when we are ‘giving peace a chance’ and talking to ‘stakeholders’. This shows that Taliban operate to their maximum capacity during peace times. This also makes operational sense as they can regroup during these times and then launch major attacks. It can be safely concluded that they are working at their full capacity at this very moment.

Viability of fulfilling their demands: 

Since Taliban don’t accept our constitution, lifestyle and even the way we follow Islam, it is obvious that following their demands is not viable.

Threat to public from these insurgents: 

More than 50,000 Pakistanis have been killed by TTP. The threat to public therefore is alarming.

Strength of our state:

It is important to point out here that in such wars, the strength of state is not just measured by the strength of army. The strength of state depends on the combined effectiveness of army, police and judiciary. Although Pakistan has a brave and professional army, civilian controlled police and judiciary need improvement. The ‘Pakistan Protection Ordinance’ that was put into effect recently has strengthened the hands of these two institutions recently. The minimum punishment for terrorists involved in various crimes has been set at 10 years. The performance of police has also improved in last many years and many attacks have been foiled.

Our state now therefore is strong enough to face these insurgent groups.

In light of the background I have mentioned, it is logical to follow the Sri Lankan model of dealing with insurgents. After three decades of conflict, Sri Lanka’s government defeated the ethnic separatist insurgent group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), popularly known as the Tamil Tigers, in May 2009. In the Los Angeles Times, reporter Mark Magnier characterized the government’s victory as a “rare success story for governments fighting insurgencies.” In the same article, the retired head of India’s Sri Lankan peacekeeping force characterized the defeat of the LTTE as having turned conventional COIN theory on its head. Other commentators and bloggers have echoed these sentiments or used them to criticize the approach of countries like Pakistan.

Sri Lankan military and civilian leaders believe the application of these principles enabled the government’s victory:

  • political will,
  • Ignore domestic and international criticism,
  • no negotiations,
  • regulate media,
  • no ceasefire,
  • complete operational freedom to army,
  • accent on young commanders,
  • keep your neighbors in the loop,
  • Stop all external funding for terrorists.

Pakistan’s case is much better than Sri Lanka. Our army is much stronger and the insurgents have way less political support. Army operations against Taliban in Swat and Fata tell us that they don’t have the capacity to fight against a full scale army operation. They run away to a safer place whenever an operation is launched.

Therefore, if the same principles as Sri Lanka are followed, we can not only defeat Taliban and bring back peace but we can also unite as a nation and improve our image in the world. It’s time for politicians to show the will to fight these terrorists and for our foreign office to take our neighbor Afghanistan in the loop and force it to stop supporting terrorist groups (threaten for action by our air force in Afghanistan-just like the US uses the drones). It’s time to stop confusing the public with ‘give peace a chance’ lollypop and do what a state with half a million army and well equipped air force should do. It’s time to fight.

Slowly and gradually things will improve: we will tackle this menace, restore our pride and Pakistan will see peace again.

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