Saturday, November 14, 2009

Interview with a Taliban Suicide Bomber

How does one go about gaining this worldview anyway?

The war we are losing

For the last four weeks, the Pakistani armed forces have been hard at work in South Waziristan  targeting the "roots" of Taliban insurgency. These weeks has also been the most violent  in this country's history, with more than 2000 civilian deaths alone from car bombs and suicide attacks in busy market places, army headquaters, a university and just recently an ISI building. And it looks far from over.

When the offensive began, I was doubtful of its success in dealing with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliated organizations. There had just been a brazen attack on the army GHQ in Rawalpindi and the airwaves had been filled with talk about the "Punjabi Taliban". At that point in time, many still believed that this was just a last ditch attempt by the Taliban to target the military forces. The last four weeks of violence have rendered this interpretation false.

Many questions are also emerging about the credibility of military intelligence. The South Waziristan offensive was launched on the basis of intelligence which indicated this region as being  "Taliban HQ". Following this logic one would expect there to be fierce fighting for Taliban strongholds such as Sararogha and Kotkai.  This is not the case. In fact Taliban casualties are nowhere near its 10,000 or so estimated fighters. Interestingly,  prior to this offensive regions such as Mohmand and Malakand were also considered as Taliban stronghold. But this was not the case as shown during rmilitary action.

There may also be doubts as to the effectiveness of the military strategy involved. In a pre-offensive briefing, military spokesperson remarked about its strategy to prevent cross-border hoping, noting that troops had been deployed to the border region to intercept militants on that end. When questions were raised about the possibility of militants escaping via North Waziristan, no concrete response was given.Considering  the geographical range of recent attacks, there is no doubt that the Taliban have moved on beyond the NWFP and FATA region. From Swat to Mohmand and Bajaur and then South Waziristan , the military seems to be one step behind, following the Taliban trail instead of predicting its next moves. In addition, it continues to engage in traditional warfare against an enemy employing guerrilla strategy. And it shows.While the army employs its might in South Waziristan, the rest of the country burns.

It is very clear that the TTP and its ilk pose an existential threat to Pakistan. However, we have yet to engage in intelligent warfareat a time when we can least  Only 1/3 of our troops are participating in this offensive, while the rest remain at the Indo-Pak border. And this is not likely to change anytime soon, despite the fact that Taliban attacks occur everyday. It has become readily clear, we are losing this war.