In ancient times, when armies, very small numbers compared to today's militaries, faced each other, one of the most coveted thrusts, among several battle tactics, was to get to the enemy's standard, the flag that symbolized the other side's fighting presence.
Losing the standard was highly demoralising for a side, not just because it was symbolic but also because the standard was always close to the commander, at the heart, and its fall meant the centre had fallen. The enemy force, away from the centre, even if largely intact, would generally retreat rather than putting up a fight.
Today's wars are more complex, non-linear affairs. Proximity has given way to remote targeting. We generally kill from a distance, sometimes across continents. The standards are gone but the concept hasn't. We now talk of Centre of Gravity (CoG) or key nodes. The war has become a multi-layered, multifaceted affair but somewhere lies that point which, when hit, will bring the war to an end. That point is the modern equivalent of the ancient standard.
For instance, nuclear targeting, in theory, purports to decapitate a state's civilian and military leadership and take out the infrastructure that would hold the state together and allow it to retaliate. Ditto for conventional aerial strikes, the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia being a case in point.
As I wrote elsewhere in 2009, “Air power theorists, in developing ideas about striking key nodes, have arrived at the concept of parallel war which is a function of simultaneous and coordinated operations against all the key nodes in the system and can only be conducted through an offensive air campaign since air power is the superior medium for prosecuting these operations.
“But the idea of parallel war must, and does, go beyond the use of air power. The vital need to hit and degrade the centre of gravity can be applied to all types of warfare, even the irregular war we are witnessing now…”.
However, irregular war posits a difficulty. Where does one find the CoG and the key nodes?
Answering this question is crucial for planners in developing a response at four levels: political, strategic, theatre and tactical.
At a time when the Pakistani military is engaged in Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, this question becomes even more important because it is linked to another one: how successful were the previous operations?
In fact, the question of success throws up yet another question: can the success or failure of operations in an irregular war be defined in Clausewitzean terms?
Additionally, in this kind of war the responding forces face another problem: the high degree of operational and organisational autonomy that these groups maintain. This is not a new model. Famous Egyptian journalist Mohamed Heikal in his book, Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat, writes:
“The new groups, such as that to which [Lieutenant] Khaled [Islambouli, who killed Sadat] belonged, were known as 'anquds, the Arabic for a bunch of grapes, each 'anqud being separate and self-contained, so that if plucked from the main bunch none of the other 'anquds would suffer, nor would the removal of one grape on a bunch affect the other grapes.” (pp.253)
This flexibility, combined with the increasing ability of these groups to find new recruits, makes them protean in nature. This means that simply finishing off a group or even many groups will not put an end to this war. Put another way, no leader, or leaders, or a group's core command constitute the CoG or the key nodes. The most that can be achieved in strikes, aerial or ground, that can take out a central leader or a few leaders is to get some respite that such degradation always brings. But those who are gone will be replaced by others, often more difficult to tackle than the previous lot.
A good example is the killing and capture, in the last 13 years, of hundreds of Al Qaeda leaders, big and small, including the top man, Osama bin Laden. The world is no safer today than it was when they were alive.
Corollary 1: physical elimination of leaders in this war, while necessary, is not a sufficient condition for winning it.
Corollary 2: tactical and theatre operations, while important, can only do this much and no more.
Corollary 3: the use of force, in order to translate into utility of force, will need to do more than just physically eliminate leaders and capture space.
Corollary 4: going into an area, in this case North Waziristan, and finding ammo and explosives and IED factories – rudimentary labs that do not require an elaborate infrastructure – while an important part of theatre-tactical operations, cannot ensure full control.
Corollary 5: success is to be determined by whether the idea has been degraded, if not entirely killed.
But how does one kill an idea? Can an idea be killed?
The CoG in this war, then, is not the leaders and fighters. It's not the physical infrastructure, which, in any case, will be very basic, nothing like the huge techno-centric command centres of the fictitious characters that James Bond has to neutralise in films.
The CoG is the idea that motivates people, regardless of whether such motivation is right or wrong.
The terrorist knows this too. [NB: I use the term 'terrorist' in a statist framework without getting into its definitional problems.] This is why, operationally, he will never work along a single axis (the term is used figuratively rather than in a literal, territory-specific sense) because doing so would deprive him of his advantage and allow the security forces to focus their strength, which is always the advantage of any superior force. Operating along multiple axes is the best bet for terrorist groups. Why?
This is how I argued the point in a 2009 article: “It [multiple axes] opens up several fronts for the security forces; it spreads them thin; it engages them in the periphery; it creates confusion; and, most importantly, the multiplicity of attacks, through media coverage, shows [the groups] to be more powerful than they really are.
“This last advantage is crucial from the terrorists' perspective. It begets them the psychological advantage; prevents a correct assessment of their numbers and outreach; shows the state to be incapable of addressing the problem and so on.”
Military operations, then, must be supplemented by planning at the strategic and political levels. In any war, “a strategic planner would like to engage the enemy in the periphery while keeping his own nucleus of operations intact and secure. By the same token, the enemy must avoid getting caught in a war of attrition in the periphery.”
Terrorist groups know this. Military operations have limited utility as a standalone exercise, even when conducting them becomes important. They end up extracting a heavier cost from the people than degrading the real enemy. This fact must not be lost sight of.
The utility of military operations must, therefore, be determined in the narrow context in which they are conducted. To expect of them anything more than theatre-tactical is to assign to them an objective they simply cannot achieve. Terrorist groups know this because it is crucial for their survival. The state and the people must appreciate this too, because it is equally vital for their survival.
The CoG in this war is the idea. The state has to fight the idea with an idea. That front requires bringing the state in sync with the society. Operations can merely provide the space to the state and society to do that.
The writer was a Ford Scholar at the Programme in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1997) and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. (2002-03). He is currently the Editor, National Security Affairs, at a private TV channel and contributes to several publications.
An eyewitness account of the terrorist attack at Khalid Aviation Base, Quetta and PAF Base Samungli on night 14/15 August 2014
It was an evening as usual in Quetta as I was retiring at my residence and was enjoying the programmes of Independence Day on TV. It was around 2135 hours that I received a call from HQ Southern Command (HQ SC) that I needed to report immediately at Khalid Aviation Base (KAB) Quetta in relation with a terrorist activity.
Being a Commanding Officer (CO) of Light Commando Battalion, I immediately passed instructions to my men and moved to the location of the incident. In the meanwhile I was informed that some intrusion by the terrorists had taken place both at PAF Base Samungli and KAB. The CO of a Punjab regiment, Lt Col Ahmed was also passed similar instructions who also immediately moved to KAB.
Upon reaching KAB and taking control of my area of responsibility, I came to know that the terrorists were spotted by few civilians while they were attempting to cut the outer fence of the base and making their way in. The locals residing nearby KAB, displayed responsibility and immediately passed this information to the authorities concerned. The information was conforming to earlier threats to KAB and Samungli base thus the entire security apparatus in the cantonment as well as Samungli base came to red alert.
I was told to cordon off the base from south, checking suspicious movement and stop any spillover of the terrorists towards the Cantonment. Meanwhile the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Maj Gen Aftab, Brigadier Rohail and Brigadier Aziz ul Hassan Usmani had been carrying the reconnaissance of entire base periphery. At the same time, the QRF of my unit was put on 15 minutes notice possibly for PAF Base Samungli.
In the meanwhile, troops from FF regiment were also assigned to carry out search from the intrusion site. As soon the troops led by Lt Col Waseem Iqbal and Captain Yasir approached the middle part of the fence, they were fired upon fiercely. The fire was so intense that it had hit Brigadier Usmani's vehicle, bursting its tyre, and a bullet also passed through the jeep of Maj Gen Aftab. It is important to mention about the valour of the Base Commander's driver who changed the burst tyre in minimum time amidst heavy exchange of fire and successfully brought the commander back to base.
This fire caused multiple bullet injuries to troops of FF regiment including Captain Yasir, however terrorists were fired back by soldiers of Punjab regiment. Enemy was in near vicinity and fire exchange was taking place from as close as 70 metres. The valiant sons of Punjab regiment led by its brave officers proved true to their salt. In this dual of extreme nerves they proved their professional mettle and hit the terrorists back with extreme courage and bravery.
Meanwhile Punjab regiment on inner cordon of the base was reinforced by troops of Punjab Light Commando Battalion led by Major Hassan in heavy volleys of fire. Moving forward I contacted CO of the Punjab regiment and coordinated the employment of my men with him. The best part was that no intrusion had been made by the terrorists into KAB. The fire fight continued till 0145 hours when the last of the big blasts was heard near inner fence. It was expected that all terrorists had been killed by that time. It was the same time that I received a call from Maj Gen Majid Ehsan who appreciated all the troops, took a stock of situation on ground and asked me for any further help in discharging of duties.
The situation and events at PAF Base Samungli were no different from KAB. The provost and intelligence tentacles provided the information of a suspicious vehicle with about 8 individuals parked within short vicinity of outer boundary of the base wall near Kili Khezi. Troops from FC Balochistan deployed outside the wall were assigned to check the vehicle. When the FC troops reached near the vehicle, the terrorists, of whom two were wearing FC uniforms started firing at them.
In the heavy exchange of fire, the terrorists spread out and started firing rockets, small arms and various other fire arms. They fired about 5-6 rockets into the air base which landed near main tarmac. Allah had been so kind that no harm was done and that few of those rockets didn't even explode. Three terrorists were killed during this encounter with the FC.
This was followed by a fierce fire fight between terrorists and own security guards on outer fence which resulted in multiple bullet and shrapnel injuries to own troops of the Punjab regiment and Defence Services Guard (DSG).
During this exchange of fire, Wing Commander Mehr Gul, rushed to the base main tarmac. Simultaneously Air Commodore Salman Bukhari moved troops of the Punjab regiment and PAF ground combaters to the boundary wall to tackle the expected intrusion. The terrorists had also made holes in outer boundary wall and were making efforts to enter the base. In the same situation, the terrorists got inside the boundary wall and were hiding near one of the washrooms of DSG living area.
At about 0130 hours, Wing Commander Mehr Gul and Wing Commander Ameed Ullah requested base Commander for employment of Punjab Light Commando troops at the air base since any further intrusion into the base could be disastrous. On the request of the Base Commander, an armed helicopter (heli) was sent to Samungli from KAB. The heli spotted few individuals hiding along boundary wall and fired upon them. The QRF of Punjab Light Commando Battalion comprising 40 individuals was moved to the Air Base at about 0245 hours. Snipers were deployed along the inner perimeter covering the fighter aircrafts while Captain Fakhar alongwith Wing Commander Mehr Gul climbed upon ADA pen (a high rise structure) for observing and locating the hidden terrorists. They successfully located the hidden terrorists through specialized NVGs and same information was shared with Major Atif and Captain Bugti of the Punjab regiment and PAF troops. These two brave officers were quick to respond and killed the terrorists.
By 0615 hours the situation had calmed at both bases. The assets had remained safe Alhamdolillah and there wasn't any fatal casualties to own troops except 14 wounded. In all, 12 terrorists had been killed including 6 who were wearing suicidal jackets. The terrorists had left behind a huge cache of ammunition and explosives. The national threat had been subdued with great courage and conviction and above all, with the united response of all our security forces.
Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, Commander Southern Command was continuously monitoring the situation at both places and was issuing orders for implementation at ground level. The follow up visits of Gen Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Chief of Air Staff, CM Balochistan Abdul Malik along with his ministers, IG police, and IGFC Balochistan to the wounded officers and soldiers raised the morale of the troops.
The success of the operation was a divine blessing indeed. The public grew more confidence in the forces and are certain that the security of Pakistan lie in safer hands. Timely help in shape of information sharing by the local population was indeed the most valuable asset in this operation.
We all should bow our heads to Allah Almighty in gratitude of the divine help in the thickest hour.
Pakistan Army has crossed the rubicon in its quest to slay the hydra headed dragon of terrorism. The Battle for North Waziristan is both, a watershed event and a defining moment in the counter terrorism history of the nation. It is a veritable paradigm shift that heralds a new approach and resolve in fighting a menace that had become a clear and present danger to the national security. Tomes have been written about the negative impact of this asymmetric war on national economy and social cohesion highlighting the baleful effect of this pernicious war. What has been lacking in our national discourse, however, is the pin pointing of the roots of this malaise. It is not the aim of this discourse to delve in the complicated causes of the phenomenon of local and regional terrorism since these are very well known by now e.g. governance vacuum, foreign occupation of Afghanistan, external abetment of militancy, and a misguided religious evangelism manifesting in the form of “Takfiri” megalomania. While a multi-dimensional approach to deal with the pervasive phenomenon of terrorism at prophylactic and curative level is de rigueur, it is essential to first take on the biggest bull in the China shop by the horns. That bull out to reduce our peace and security to shreds, is the phenomenon of extremism that nourishes the terrorists' narrative and strategy.
What nurtures the extremism is a distorted concept of Takfiri or rejectionist Islamic doctrine espoused by the misguided religious zealots. This doctrine gives a carte blanche to terrorists to kill in the name of religion making no exception for innocent Muslims and non-Muslims, including innocent women and children. Their apologists who masquerade as political religious groups cite their bestial violence as a natural human reaction to drone warfare and counter terrorism actions of our Western allies. That Islam as a religion of peace expressly forbids violence against the innocent civilians, women, children and elderly even in times of war is a fact lost on such zealots.
Islamic history is replete with examples of such misguided groups that took ritual worship to extremes while committing unspeakable atrocities against fellow Muslims in the name of religion. These extremists who can rightly be dubbed as the chips of very old block have their origins in a fratricidal antipathy generated between the mainstream Muslim community and the breakaway extremist rebels known as Kharijites challenging the legitimately constituted political order. This group first rebelled against the rightly guided Caliphs and subsequently kept rearing its head intermittently against 'Ummayads', 'Abbasids', 'Ottomans' as well as the present ruling dynasty in Saudi Arabia. The desecration of the Kaaba, the holiest shrine of the Muslims was done by the misguided Kharijites from Bedouin heartland of Arabia led by their purported Mehdi “Juhaimun” in 1979. The sacrilegious depredations of this band of extremists is well chronicled in the well researched book, “The Seige of Mecca” authored by Yaruslav Trofimov. Unfortunately for us our region was used in late seventies and early eighties as a proxy war battle ground between the USSR and the USA wherein the tool of religious motivation was employed to achieve the political ends of global powers. That created a class of warriors with an ethos that could later on morph into a violent religious evangelism through linkages with “Juhaimun inspired” global Jihadis. Taking up cudgels ostensibly on behalf of oppressed Afghans against foreign occupiers these groups had an agenda of their own as well as political ambitions. The Takfiri ideology imported from Middle East soon engulfed the local sectarian and tribal volunteers that metamorphosed into the present day “Kharjites” who consider it their religious and moral duty to kill and maim in the name of religion with the ultimate of objective of attaining political power. The local sectarian groups and religiously brainwashed people dissatisfied due to social injustice and bad governance become their willing accomplices in the absence of an alternative religious narrative.
Now what is that contending national narrative that the state had to offer in order to wean such people away from the path of extremism? The counter narrative to extremism required an unequivocal renunciation of distinction and getting all national institutions and segments of society on one page. A state that dithered where it had to act and prevaricated where it had to show gumption had no apparent moral strength and will left to confront those that rejected the constitution while preparing all the time to assail the ramparts of state power. The gullible population was left ideologically confused vis-a-vis the religious militants who started exploiting the public sentiments in their favour. What was more important, getting the narrative right first or forging a national consensus? To my mind it was getting the narrative right first followed by the attainment of consensus as it is the right message that ultimately becomes the medium to propagate one's ideas. While the militants and terrorists got their message across with metronomic regularity and evangelical clarity, the state for sometime appeared blithely ambivalent. For a while it looked as though the state had capitulated along with the media whose few anchors were brow beaten into broadcasting the terrorists' narrative live on prime time shows! As the well known writers on Asymmetric Warfare like Steven Metz point out that this war is not about asymmetry of material resources alone but the “Asymmetry of Will” that clinches the deal in the end.
The long drawn out talks between Taliban and the state representatives were also a manifestation of an asymmetry of will wherein the Taliban appeared imbued with an obstinate certitude vis-a-vis state flexibility to cede authority for peace. The scope of peace talks with the marauding occupiers of Pakistani territory should have been limited to one agenda i.e., vacation of the territory alongwith renunciation of militancy by TTP and its affiliates. The nebulous agenda of talks with the militants foundered on the rock of Taliban misanthropy and arrogance. This happened chiefly due to their xenophobic world view and medieval interpretation of constitutional provisions and state sovereignty. The palpable incongruity of the peace parleys resulted in a stalemate that forced the state hand to ultimately go for a military solution.
Why message becomes the medium in a battle of ideas needs to be understood before dwelling on the power of a cohesive national counter terrorism narrative. Shaping of a common counter terrorism narrative is all about battling the rival idea with a better idea along with employment of a better medium to communicate that idea. In other words it is all about taking the sheen off the mystique of terrorists as noble warriors fighting for a noble cause. The denigration of religiously buttressed identity nevertheless is a serious challenge as some the terrorists can conveniently drape their sinister motives into a noble religious raiment. In this battle of the narratives the terrorists would always try to conflate their temporal motives with a religious evangelism wherein the state would be challenged to de-conflict the two.
The state narrative therefore has to be well supported by a puissant legal and coercive regimen in order to be really effective. During the Irish war, the British government modified its criminal justice system to introduce speedy disposal courts known after the name of the jurist who suggested them i.e. “Diplock Courts.” The best police officer of the UK was put in charge of the counter terrorism war and the intelligence gathering was improved to identify, nab and punish the terrorists with celerity. The objective was to catch and treat the core leadership of IRA as common criminals with the ultimate objective to reduce the mystique of IRA militant cadres as noble freedom fighters. The state narrative targeted the criminality of the IRA militants demystifying their appeal as noble freedom fighters. When the people saw the militant cadre of IRA being jailed and hanged as common criminals, their mystique plummeted low feeding thereby the state narrative. This successful action backed narrative resulted in the Good Friday Agreement and the sustainable peace in Ireland.
So what does the Irish example tell us about our action backed narrative requirement? The answer is simple. We need a clear and loud narrative that there are militants out there encroaching both our lands as well as mental terrain whose interpretation of religious edicts is faulty and repugnant to the true message of Islam. That the tolerant, pluralist and syncretic version of Islam is far removed from the hate spewing sectarianism being touted by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and others of their ilk. The state narrative must clearly state that the concept of superior jihad is against one's “Nafs” and not against innocent civilians and the state institutions of an Islamic state. The narrative should have zero tolerance against religious obscurantism and with absolutely no space for exceptionalism”. The state must show enough gumption to reform those anti diluvian Madrassahs and their anachronistic syllabi that limit the professional choices of young students turning them into a readily available cannon fodder for militant cause. Liberal religious scholars under state patronage need to be co-opted in this endeavour. The action to back this state narrative requires establishment of special courts outside the purview of normal judiciary where the judges could prosecute the terrorists nabbed by the state apparatus speedily. When the terrorists of TTP and their sectarian acolytes are seen being hanged and serving serious jail time no media person will dare appease their egos on prime time TV again.
National consensus is an essential concomitant of a clear and bold national counter terrorism narrative. A counter terrorism narrative having zero tolerance for terrorists' narrative needs to be crafted with all the national institutions, i.e parliament, judiciary, media, intelligence agencies and armed forces on board. The narrative should include a clear exposition of state position on religious militancy and de-radicalization. This narrative should form an integral part of national security policy and inform all counter terrorism efforts at national level. The narrative needs to be sedulously cultivated through strategic communications employed by all state institutions and national media. Though there would be challenges in forging a national consensus in a divisive polity such as ours where opinions are divided on religious militancy, ethnic particularism and sectarianism, still the ability of national institutions in shaping this narrative cannot be underestimated. With armed forces, intelligence agencies, media, and parliament on one page the elusive national consensus on a counter terrorism narrative would be easily attainable.
It should be understood by all now that the pernicious phenomenon of terrorism cannot be fought with a kid gloves approach predicated on appeasement. When the state starts retreating in the face of religious or political extremism, the result is an ambivalence in society and weakening of national resolve to combat the menace. The failure to prosecute the terrorists by our judicial and political organs due to their legal incapacities and political expediencies have emboldened the terrorists who have been openly challenging state institutions in courts of law and media channels.
The inability to execute hardened terrorists convicted of heinous acts of terrorism languishing in jails who in many cases start challenging the state institutions themselves in courts of law, demoralizes the law enforcers. The delayed convictions and slow prosecution (as in case Lal Mosque extremists and Mumtaz Qadri etc) are two examples that give fillip to the extremist narrative in the society. According to T.V Paul in his seminal work, “The Warrior State,” the national narrative is a function of national purpose and priorities defined by the parliament. A “hyperactive real politic state that hogs a Hobbesian world view grounded in religious ideology encourages extremism while a development focused state encourages pluralism.” It's time the state redefined its national purpose in line with the regional and global national security imperatives predicated upon a developmental model strengthening thereby an anti extremist narrative that undercuts the sympathy for the terrorist cause.
The battle for FATA should be a metaphor for battle for Pakistan's soul. The extremist mindset and ideological confusions own over decades needs to give way to a national de-radicalization narrative through a symbiotic cooperation between armed forces, politicians, media and judiciary. Space needs to be wrested away from the sectarian extremists and hate peddlers through educational reforms and modification of religious curriculum in religious seminaries. All manifestations of extremism, i.e; ethnic particularism, sectarianism, sub-nationalist separatism or irredentism inspired nationalisms need to be confronted with zero tolerance. It's a tall order indeed, yet the only way out in the long run.
The account of a terrorists' attack on a Frontier Corps Post on Sep 16, 2014. The terrorists came from across the border, used Afghan soil, formed up and attacked this post located on Pak-Afghan border in North Waziristan Sector. The brave Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers fought valiantly and killed many attackers. The attack was repulsed and terrorists again fled to the safe havens inside Afghanistan.
Surrounded by high and rugged mountains of 'Koh-e-Sufaid Range,' Dandi Katch is a complex of posts on Pak-Afghan border guarding the entrance of road Dandi Katch–Spinwam through the Kaithu Valley and further leads to settled areas of Bannu and Thal. While 'Zinda' and 'Zangi' posts are located on high ridges on the shoulders of Kaithu River, 'Base Check Post' is low lying astride river on the road to check and process any movement across the border. The weather is extreme in both the seasons on these barren mountains including the valley comprising remote areas of Tehsil Spinwam, North Waziristan Agency (NWA). On the night of September 16, 2014, these posts were being manned by troops of fearless '124 Wing Tochi Scouts (Frontier Corps).' I was commanding the wing on that night. A smart and brave officer from Sindh province, Captain Zahid Ali, was the Company Commander and was present at Zinda Post. His men belonged to diverse tribes of FATA. A battery of medium artillery guns was also deployed at the near vicinity to provide fire support. On September 16, 2014, more than 500 terrorists, using safe havens inside Afghanistan, launched an unprecedented, determined and fierce physical attack on all three posts of Dandi Katch from multiple directions. I was immediately informed about the attack. Upon receiving the information, I contacted Captain Zahid and issued necessary instructions. I also ordered the Gun Position Officer (GPO), Captain Afzaal to engage targets with artillery fire in support of the posts under attack. I positioned myself in the Command Post and got in touch with superior headquarters as well as my troops and passed on necessary instructions. After few minutes, I was contacted by Captain Zahid, who in his confident voice on wireless set told me, “Terrorists have ringed my position and we are receiving heavy mortar and rocket fire from southwestern direction from the Elongated Ridge. But we are well positioned and will defend each inch of Pakistan.” As a Commanding Officer, I was much satisfied with the confidence level of my under command. I told him to stay resolute and keep the enemy off the post area. As soon as the rounds of artillery guns were fired upon the enemy, they reacted back and started firing with long range weapons. I heard the dreadful whistle of 107 mm rockets normally used for long range attacks. The enemy had started to target the Fort and the gun position with rockets. I instructed Captain Afzaal to ensure unhindered fire support to Dandi Katch and use different caliber of guns to engage probable rocket launch sites. I wonder who provides the terrorists with these long range sophisticated weapons normally used by armies. The terrorists attacked in waves on Zinda Post and partially destroyed the Observation Post (OP) and the bunker on southwestern edge. Lance Naik Abid, Lance Naik Hameed Akbar Khattak, Sepoy Jan Mohmand, and Sepoy Sajid Muhammad Bangash had already embraced Shahadat on Zinda Post. At this stage, Captain Zahid Ali launched a local counter attack, evicted the terrorists and regained the defence of the post. Meanwhile, Sepoy Rehman Ali Yousafzai embraced Shahadat while providing fire support to the counter attacking force with his automatic gun. A suicide bomber exploded 50 metres short of bunker on northern perimeter as he got entangled in the wire obstacles and Naib Subedar Said Nabi fired at him from close range. This JCO was also assisting us by directing the artillery fire and providing timely and accurate information which proved very useful in effectively neutralizing terrorists’ hiding in the folds of the ground. Captain Afzaal from 28 Medium Regiment (Artillery), engaged these locations using air burst rounds and forced them to quit their endeavours. The rocket site was eventually neutralized that took pressure off from the gun position.
The progress of attack on Zangi Post was stalled by 03.00 a.m. in the morning but the volume of fire from enemy was still intense. The combination of well-orchestrated automatic fire from all nearby posts and accurate artillery fire finally broke the will of attackers on Base Check Post and Zangi Post by 3:45 a.m. allowing them to provide close fire support to Zinda Post which was still under attack.
The terrorists wanted to capture the post at all costs as a last desperate effort to gain some notion of victory. Failing, they started the withdrawal at around 4:30 a.m. towards Zakir Khel, a border village of Afghanistan suffering heavy casualties; but dragging their dead with them.
During the mopping up activity with combat aviation support after the dawn, three dead bodies of the terrorists were found, one Afghan terrorist was captured alive but he was seriously injured and could not survive. Three AK-47 rifles, six grenades, eight magazines, two wireless sets and a night vision device (all foreign made equipment) were also recovered. Two days later, a wing from Tochi Scouts along with two infantry battalions conducted the clearance operation of Datta Khel village, where a local terrorist commander Amir Khatim, who had participated in the attack, also resided. He had fled to Afghanistan after the attack, however, huge cache of arms, explosives and ammunition was recovered from his residence.
The brave soldiers of 124 Wing Tochi Scouts carried out successful defence of the motherland in line with traditions of FC KPK. These brave sons of soil, night after night, and month after month stand vigilant to guard all the outposts in FATA and along Pak-Afghan international border; often under extremely challenging conditions.
Availability of sanctuaries and safe havens in border region of Afghanistan can continue to feed and fuel attacks on Pakistan. The Shahadat of soldiers saddens me as each one leaves behind an untold personal story; but September 16, 2014 will be remembered as a proud day in the history of FC KPK, and, for the brave sons of Tochi Scouts who taught enemies of Pakistan, a lesson they will never forget!