Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Terrorism Mess in Pakistan (Part-3) - Militant Strengths vs State Weaknesses

By: Shah Zalmay Khan
When I started writing part-1 of this blog two days back, I thought of wrapping it up in 3 parts (with part-3 about the solution) but now I feel another dimension needs to be addressed before moving towards the solution part. So today I discuss the strengths of militants and weaknesses of our State/security apparatus.
Part-1 of this blog is HERE.
Part-2 can be read HERE.
Part-4 (last part) is HERE.
Part-3: Militant Strengths vs State Weaknesses
Before we move to the solution part, we need to underscore the key strengths of militants and the core weaknesses of our state / army / FC / police etc.
1) The militant foot-soldier is clear; the State foot-soldier is confused. Yes thats true.
When militants attack security forces, they do so with full zeal and clarity of mind. They have been told that Pakistan is fighting the American war (with American CSF $$$). That it was Pakistan which got hundreds of thousands of Afghans killed since 9/11 by giving the USA logistic routes and airbases. That it is Pakistanis state which tacitly approves & allows drones hitting tribesmen in FATA (even Pakistani airbases like Shamsi are/were used to launch drone sorties in Pakistan and Afghanistan). That the ISAF/NATO forces killing Muslims in Afghanistan and also in FATA (by drones) are being supplied weapons/food etc via Pakistan (NATO supplies) and Pakistan is getting $$$ in return for their blood. They are very clear in their ideology and think they are waging a jehad against the USA and its allies (Pakistan's state/army/FC/police etc).
On the other hand, the army/FC/police soldier on ground is confused about this 'Our War'. He is confused because he sees the Americans paying for 'Our War' via CSF. He sees the American officials visit Islamabad like 'Bosses' and dictate our rulers/Generals to 'Do More'. He sees the US diplomats and Generals 'order' Pakistan to launch operations in North Waziristan or elsewhere.
It is this 'Militant Clarity vs Army confusion' that is partly responsible for the unusually high casualties of security forces in FATA. During attacks on security posts or ambushes, many soldiers lose their lives just because they shirk for a split-second and think before firing at 'own Muslim brothers' for a foreign war - and the few seconds delay causes them their lives. This is a war dammit and the side with absolute clarity of mind prevails. It is no rocket science. Is it? :(
2) Militants are own people & the State is alien. Surprised? Don't be. This is exactly the ground situation in FATA.
A militant taking part in an IED attack or ambush at dawn will simply shed or hide his weapons and become, by noon, a common tribesman like the thousands around. He can be anywhere; in the mosque, bazar, playground, crop field or in the mountains; can use any mode of transport; mostly speaks the local Pashto dialect. This gives them great manoeuvrability. There is no way anybody can distinguish him from the peaceful tribesmen, unless there is a strong ground intel network (which is not the case sadly). 
On the other hand, the State foot-soldier is wearing a peculiar uniform; is limited to identifiable forts or posts; travels in identifiable vehicles; speaks an easily identifiable language/dialect (Urdu or non-tribal Pashto). In short, militants are very hard & confusing targets for the State while State soldiers are a very easy & clear target for militants.
3) Militants have an always open escape route - Afghanistan. This is by far one of the biggest strengths of militants (and State's weakness). FATA has a 1000 km long border with Afghanistan. All FATA agencies (except Orakzai) share border with Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is where they find refuge when the going gets tough on this side of the Durand. Militants of TTP-Darra and Khyber find sanctuary in Ningarhar/Paktia. Militants of TTP-Mohmand, Bajaur, Dir and Swat found refuge in Kunar and Nuristan. And in case North Waziristan becomes unsafe for them, militants of TTP Waziristan/Kurram will comfortably find sanctuary in Khost/Paktia/Paktika. Now all these militants are a bigger nuisance than before. Fazlullah has gained much more strength than before. Omar Khalid has gained more strength now that they don't fear presence of State across Durand.
4) Militants are fighting a war (guerilla war) that they are masters of; under 'home ground' conditions of weather and terrain; in a region they know like the back of their hands; with weapons (IEDs, Suicide Bombers, Ambushes) that are ideally deadliest in such situations.
On the other hand, the security forces are fighting a war they are NOT trained or equipped for; in hostile weather & terrain conditions; in a region that is practically 'Alien Land' to them; with weapons (Jets/Tanks/Artillery) that are practically useless in such situations (In fact these weapons are counter-productive as they cause severe collateral damage thus giving the militants more recruits blinded by revenge instinct).
5) Militants rule the night - while the State looks on. Confused? Don't be. This is the bitter reality of FATA and similar guerilla combat theatres.
While at day time, the army/FC/police may be 'the Bosses' - its practically the militants' writ at night. Militants make their movements at night while movement of security forces almost ceases from dusk to dawn. Security posts and forts in remote areas and even in peripheral areas of cities are attacked at night. IEDs are mostly planted at night (to be detonated in the day). Tribesmen and locals who support the security forces are 'punished' by attacking their houses at night (when they are helpless).
6) Militants defend their supporters - while the State failed to protect its supporters.
The State encouraged tribesmen to form peace committees / lashkars against the militants and pledges support to them. However, once the peace committees are formed they are literally left at the mercy of militants who are much better organized, equipped, armed & trained than the rag tag peace committees. Thousands of lashkar volunteers have been killed mercilessly by the militants - from Bajaur to Waziristan and Dir to Peshawar. Sad part is that army/FC/police never reach to their aid when they are under attack. This demoralizes the people who are against militants & they stop supporting the State.
On the other hand the militants always come to rescue of their supporters. When militants in one village are attacked, their colleagues from other villages or even other agencies come to their rescue.
7) Militants need very little technology to fight their war and are using it to the full (Cellphone-operated IEDs, Remote bombs etc). On the other hand, security forces need sophisticated technology to fight this war which unfortunately is not available or unimplementable due to lack of adequate training/maintenance (Night-vision helicopters / goggles / UAVs / Jammers etc).
8) Militants need to be lucky only once-in-a-while (out of 4-5 plans, even if 1-2 succeed, they are fine with it). However, the security forces have to be lucky every time (to avoid casualties) and very unfortunately, luck does not seem to be on our side at all :( .
9) The nurseries of militancy in Punjab (seminaries & sectarian/jehadi outfits) operate with impunity. Hate literature is mostly printed in Punjab & distributed across Pakistan among students of seminaries. Mullahs / Allamas of all sects spearhead their hate campaigns from Punjab or Karachi. All this while the State either looks a silent spectator or worst still, allies with some of the elements (like the notorious alliance of a ruling party minister with LeJ in Punjab).
10) Militants have sneaked into the settled areas of KPK & other provinces especially major urban centres like Karachi and have found accomplices (or at least sympathizers) here. This is in part due to our govt's image of being 'US puppets' and the notion that we are fighting this US war for $$$ and in part due to presence of the sectarian outfits.
The State on the other hand is practically sleeping. The law enforcers (police) in settled areas especially urban centres like Karachi are least prepared for this war. Most police officials are political appointees or they have 'bought' police jobs just for the quest of 'Oopar ki Aamdni'. Many are themselves involved in crimes ranging from extortion to kidnappings to drug rackets to sectarian or political target killings. These law enforcers simply don't have the vision, guts, capability, motivation, weapons, equipments or training to fight the highly-trained and motivated militants.
To sum it all - the militants are using their own core strengths as well as capitalizing on the State's weaknesses to gain more power and are proving themselves more and more deadly by the day.
Keeping this whole scenario in view, isn't it astonishing that some so-called 'analysts', some politicians and retired generals are trying to sell us the argument that an operation in one agency of FATA i.e. North Waziristan is the ULTIMATE SOLUTION. Are these proponents of North Waziristan operation ignorant of the scale and nature of militancy or deliberately want to plunge Pakistan deeper into the swamp of terrorism?
This is a question for all of us to ponder.
Now that we know the origin of FATA's terrorism war (Part-1); know the players in this militancy game (Part-2); know the strengths of militants and our weaknesses (Part-3), we can move towards the solution part (Read Part-4 here).
The writer is a tribesman from Bajaur Agency (FATA) and tweets at @PTI_FATA .
(No official association with PTI)

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official PTI webpage and is run by a group of volunteers having no official position in PTI. All posts are personal opinions of the bloggers and should, in no way, be taken as official PTI word.
With Regards,
"Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf FATA Volunteers" Team.

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