Unprecedented successes in NWA are reflective of the professional acumen of Pakistan Military. Whole nation stands with our valiant armed forces and are proud of the lionhearted officers and men in uniform who are fighting audaciously and courageously to eliminate the terrorists. Effects of the successfully on-going operation are quite visible as terrorists are on the run. Many of them have surrendered, some are ready to discontinue activities against the state, and some are trying to take refuge in cowardly acts like attacking women and children. The carnage of innocent children in Army Public School, Peshawar is case in point.
Clad in white shalwar qameez and a grey dastaar, Ayub Dawar, with shuffling gait and gnarled hands, was walking with the help of a stick outside Sports Complex in Bannu. The weather was humid with abnormally high temperature and scorching heat this July. It had been more than a week that I was in Bannu to cover military operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) as well as to meet Temporary Displaced Persons (TDP) who had reached Bannu, the city adjacent to NWA. Ayub, 70, his beard reddened with hina, shared his story in half Urdu-half Pashto about how he managed to build his house in Shawal years back. “I worked as a labourer for twenty years in Saudi Arabia, saved every penny and built a big house in my village. It was peace all around. Then the militants came...” It seemed as if his memories both warmed as well as haunted him, sometimes drawing a smile and other times a tear.
When I asked him how long had he been standing in this long queue to get rations, he preferred to answer me with a reason, “I came here last night at 9 p.m. and it has been twenty hours now. But we understand the compulsions of the government and are happy with this arrangement as long as we know that a massive operation is going on in NWA, and soon our area would be cleansed of terrorists and we shall be heading back to our lush green fields.” Visibly disturbed and tired of camp life, Ayub was one among approximately a million TDPs who had left their homes in the wake of the military operation against terrorists. Dawar was hopeful about a safe, secure and prosperous future as a result of these operations. To my surprise, despite being resident of a far off village, Ayub knew much about the ‘dialogue’ between the government and banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under the slogan, “Give Peace a Chance”. He was critical of this dialogue and to him, it was a futile effort that gave TTP more time to continue with their atrocities in the area.
Pakistan is fighting war against the menace of terrorism for over a decade now. Our society has suffered hugely due to worst security situation in addition to the loss of image at international arena. The war against terrorism, being led by Pakistan Army and other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), has seen many ups and downs during all this time. As per editorial of Hilal Magazine (English), July 2014 issue, from 2004 to 2014, some 475 major and 133 minor operations have been launched to clear Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Malakand Division including Swat, and South Waziristan, Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai Agencies.
NWA is among the seven Agencies of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), established in 1892 with its headquarters in Miranshah. Its population is divided into three tribes: Wazirs forming the biggest part, Dawars are 35% and Mehsuds form 5% of the total population. But unfortunately, over the time, NWA had become the hub of terrorism as many terrorist attacks executed within soil of Pakistan were believed to be initiated from there. As a result, need was felt to carry out a military operation in this Agency. Despite efforts by the government to give peace and reconciliation a last chance, 20 major acts of terror were conducted between January 29 and June 8, 2014, in which 195 Pakistanis lost their lives. This bears testimony to the fact that terrorist organizations were never sincere to achieve peace through dialogue process.
Despite guarantees, the barbarians beheaded 23 Frontier Corps (FC) personnel mercilessly on February 16, 2014. Video of this incident released by TTP went viral on electronic and social media. Prior to this, 13 police commandoes were killed on February 13, 2014 when a bomb planted in a vehicle exploded outside Police Training Centre, Razzaqabad, Karachi. Suicide bombing of the FC personnel near the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar and decapitation of FC personnel wove a narrative of unprecedented use of violence. Immediately afterwards, TTP announced a month long ceasefire but continued their activities on one pretext or the other, finally attacking Karachi Airport on June 8, 2014, that proved to be the decisive moment to initiate operation in NWA.
Eventually, as a last resort and on the directions of government, Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Shareef set off a full-fledged operation against the militants. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched to target all the terrorists’ outlets without any discrimination, local and foreign, hiding in the sanctuaries in NWA.
On June 15, 2014, Operation Zarb-e-Azb commenced from the headquarters of NWA, Miranshah, once considered as the hub of militants. The operation continued and was extended to the important town of Mir Ali; on the other end, forces moved towards Digan, Boya and Datta Khel, being the central areas where terrorists’ command and control centres were located. Militants in these areas were first targeted by air strikes and afterwards, ground operations were carried out. As per statistics released from time to time by Armed Forces’ media wing, ISPR, around 2000 terrorists have been killed during these operations.
Second-to-none, our brave soldiers are adding to the pride of this nation by sacrificing more and more. Since the launch of this operation, 197 soldiers have embraced shahadat in fighting this battle for Pakistan. Such a huge difference in the causalities between our forces and the enemy, has only been possible due to excellent military planning and perfect execution on ground, which our armed forces are known for. People of Pakistan must be satisfied as 90% of the areas have been cleared of militants in the second phase of operation. Miranshah, Mir Ali, Datta Khel, Boya, Degan and 80 km Khajori-Mir Ali-Miranshah road are among the areas cleared so far. Operation is still underway around Razmak, Shawal, Giryom, Shiwa and Spinwam.
Meanwhile, to support the main operation in NWA, Operation Khyber-1 commended on Oct 16, 2014 to strangulate terrorists and prevent them from fleeing away from west (Shahkot-Tirah Valley) to the east of Khyber (Bara and Jamrod). It also catered to sanitize Bara, Dogra and Spin Qamar, Jamrud Fort and Fort Sallop. These operations still continue with precise aerial strikes.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was planned to be concluded in four stages: strangulation, clearance, rebuilding, and handing over control to civil administration. First phase was completed successfully whereas second phase is in progress and the agency is being cleared of the militants and their hideouts and command and control centres are being attacked. Third stage will be to rebuild the areas affected, and in the last phase of the operation, control will be transferred to the civil administration.
Major recoveries were also made during first six months of this operation. 5898 rifles along with 1288422 rounds of ammunition were recovered from different areas of NWA. In addition to this, 2193 Sub Machine Guns and 577756 rounds of similar caliber, 274 Machine/Light Machine Guns, 314 Rocket Launchers and 4901 Rocket Grenades were recovered. More so, security forces also recovered huge cache of 104 Anti Aircraft Guns of 12.7mm and 14.5 mm caliber along with 218050 rounds ammunition. This does not end here as in successful search operations, 4391 Mortars, 9135 Mortar bombs, 3321 Hand Grenades, 4808 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and 1225000 kilogram of explosives were recovered by security forces.
Pakistan Army also seized 33 IED manufacturing factories, five rocket manufacturing factories, and seven ammunition factories. 186 tunnels/ hideouts/ caves used by terrorists for their underground movement and nine detention centres were also seized by Pak Army.
Unprecedented successes in NWA are reflective of the professional acumen of Pakistan Military. Whole nation stands with our valiant armed forces and are proud of the lionhearted officers and men in uniform who are fighting audaciously and courageously to eliminate the terrorists. Effects of the successfully on-going operation are quite visible as terrorists are on the run. Many of them have surrendered, some are ready to discontinue activities against the state, and some are trying to take refuge in cowardly acts like attacking women and children. The carnage of innocent children in Army Public School, Peshawar is case in point. Pak Army backed by the nation, is all set to eliminate every terrorist on this soil. Commenting on Peshawar incident, COAS said, “They have hit at the heart of the nation, but let me reiterate they can't in any way diminish the will of this great nation.” Complete political leadership, civil society, and even international leaders have expressed their grief over the incident. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while talking about this sad incident said, “Terrorism has become cancer which should be rooted out by all means… We must demonstrate total unity to eliminate terrorism.”
While the Operation Zarb-e-Azb continues on ground, we all should realize that it is not merely an operation; it’s rather a commitment to cleanse Pakistan of the scourge of terrorism once and for all. As the armed forces are engaged in defeating terrorists, we, the citizens of Pakistan, share a responsibility to transform the mindset that stems terrorism.
Despite hailing from a far-flung village of Shawal, Ayub Dawar also understands well about importance of elimination of terrorists and terrorism; through operation and through transformation. An operation can be conducted in NWA but how can some force conduct operation against mindset that supports ideology of TTP and which continues to exist in the masses in urban areas – some of them even clean-shaved and in Western attire.
In his twinkling eyes, framed by thick eyebrows, there was a ray of hope, but fears, too. “It [terrorism] has already carried off thousands; [we] can’t afford more!”
The writer is a journalist and works for a private TV channel.
(A perspective on Conventional Military Mobility in a Sub-conventional Theatre of Operations)
Written By: Brig Muhammad Khalil Dar
While flying over Shahur Tangi in South Waziristan Agency (SWA), one is irresistibly lured into imagining the ordeal of British Indian officers and soldiers who were ambushed by Mehsud fighters in April 1936. A total of seven officers and 45 soldiers were killed in a traditional merciless manner by tribesmen, besides setting ablaze the vehicles. One keeps wondering even having well passed over the gorge like defiles then why could not these series of daunting brick watch towers / posts prevent this massacre in a broad day light? History reveals that their current visible structure came after the ambush, not before it.
Soon after the World War-1 (WW-I), at the time when modern form of conventional forces was taking shape, a new set of exploitable weaknesses was also emerging in parallel. One such basic vulnerability was the growing dependency on road and rail move which was exploitable by the enemy operating on non-linear lines or under un-conventional setting. Skipping history, of course with a regret, but to save on time, we may restrict to post WW-I time frame and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) when the issue actually began to signify. Since, there is a common agreement on the socio-economic benefits of roads and rails, we may confine to military dimension only.
In pure military sense roads mean high mobility, hence, advantages in time and space, both tactical and strategic. For the post-WW-I military planners, motorised transport plying on roads provided the ability to employ 4.5" and 6" artillery guns firing a heavier shell than anything Waziristan had ever seen, hence, an overwhelming ascendency of firepower. A milestone was achieved in July 1930 when two and a half infantry battalions and a company of sappers were moved from Bannu to Razmak in 24 hours using lorries; a tactical mobility unthinkable hitherto. Addition of aerial power and wireless communication might have contributed to the confidence.
The bloody ambush at Shahur Tangi came as a jolt to face the stark reality. The event had exposed the exploitable vulnerabilities of the emerging modern structure of forces. British were quick to realize and it became abundantly clear that time advantage gained through mobility over roads was at the cost of surprise and flexibility. In other words, introduction of modern technology in Waziristan translated as a sharp decline in off-road mobility. There were no choices of routes, hence, less options to encircle and force a battle. On the other hand, the overwhelming advantages of fire power had conversely convinced the tribesmen to give up the tradition of chivalry, avoiding the pitched battles, and adapt to small and swift actions for which they were more accustomed to. British response by introduction of light tanks and aerial support, though, did improve the off road mobility of fighting columns but could not ensure decisive encounter.
To a veteran soldier who still remembered the good old days of 1860s and 1870s, it would have been a drastic decline in the fighting ability of military. By comparison the machine-assisted military was ending up in prolonged and indecisive campaigns. The campaign against Faqir of Ipi fought from 1936 onwards inconclusively lasted for 12 years involving mobilization of 40,000 troops. Whereas 1897 uprising only took two years to subdue despite being larger in scope and fought on horseback. The whole concept of increased tactical mobility would have looked questionable to him. Was it because that possibly motorized army snatched opportunity for personal initiative or any variation in minor tactics being hostage to stereotyped tactics of 'Road Open Days' (ROD). Or, was this relative ineffectiveness owing to the fact that regular units had grown ponderous and over-cautious with interdependent fixed support structures / mechanisms. The realization of the issue can be gauged by the question set for the 1933 prize-essay competition “the growing complexity of modern weapons, mechanisation and the increasing dependence of Indian columns on maintenance services in the field was explicitly linked to the declining effectiveness and relative mobility of the Indian Army”.
Soviet's frustration in Afghanistan is another example to touch upon. With the invasion force of 4 x Motorized Rifle and one and a half 'Air Assault Divisions' backed up by large fleet of aircrafts and helicopters, the objective looked doable if not difficult, especially given the inherent tactical mobility of the invading force. But they were soon to realize a bitter reality. Their under estimation of the criticality of protected roads to keep up the combat potential of their highly mobile force structure, resulted in a fatal loss of prestige. Sustaining mobile forces and maintenance of mobility emerged as a major challenge; hence, protection of roads became the highest priority. On the one hand, it dictated establishment of a series of fixed fortifications, strong points and firebases along the routes and, on the other hand, convoys became larger (100 - 300 vehicles) with 30% of vehicles devoted to security. Soon the Soviets were to rename the whole invasion as the "Highway War" (dorozhaia voina). Attempts to rely on rotary wing support to offset road-side vulnerabilities led to realization that extensive use of helicopters was not only difficult to maintain but was also wasteful, primarily due to penalties of payload at higher temperature / altitudes and high demands of fuel. One is compelled to wonder that restoration of mobility in mountainous country-side of Waziristan may be brought to own favour by going back in time and getting independence from fixed roads. But that may not be the logical conclusion as the adversary mainly or partly enhances its mobility through four wheel drive vehicles. He does so because of very loose and non-rigid small organizational structure; besides using numerous jeep-able tracks with honed driving skills.
By analysing the British, Russian and contemporary wars going on either side of Pak-Afghan Border, one reaches a single conclusion that there is no substitute to roads and road transport. Logical option left with us is to build more roads with numerous laterals to regain the flexibility of choice of routes, hence, gain surprise resulting in snatching the enemy initiative, thus reducing the vulnerabilities. Therefore, the current thrust of building roads holds the key to future, of not only the prosperity of the people but enhanced military applications, hence, may be kept at same pace for decades to come. So it is the 'war of roads'; the more roads will eventually bring the change to a level where fighting becomes meaningless. On the military side, another option is to re-organise in small, flexible, agile and task specific fighting parties. Across the border, large scale enhancement of various forms of Special Forces operating in small groups appears to be the natural response to the similar threat matrix. When the British raised Punjab Irregular Force (PIF) in 1850s, its main strength stemmed from its localized nature and job specificity i.e. not being burdened by the requirement to fight a conventional war, hence, on equal terms with the adversary.
When Neville Maxwell published his historic treatise in 1970, the title (India's China War) intrigued the reader and critic alike. The book soon became a best seller on the news stand and was adopted as a text book by staff colleges around the world including India. Much to her chagrin, India's accusations of the book being controversial and biased failed to dent the credibility of Neville's account. Indeed, the book was widely praised across a diverse range of opinions, including British historian A. J. P. Taylor, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as well as the Chinese premier Chou Enlai. However, in India, Maxwell continued to be demonized as hostile to the Indian narrative and received fierce personal attacks. Over time much light has been shed on the border war of 1962 by Indian and other writers. Much research work is now available including first person accounts and memoirs of distinguished Indian writers, both civilian and military, to substantiate Neville's authenticity. On the eve of the 'golden jubilee of India's Himalayan Blunder', as an Indian writer termed it, Neville Maxwell visited India in late 2012. Armed with recent research and fresh evidence, he spoke to the Indian media and think tanks extensively.
But first to the genesis.
China and India share a long border comprising three stretches across the Himalayas, separated by Nepal, Sikkim (an independent kingdom, later annexed by India), and Bhutan. As a colonial legacy, a number of border disputes remain unresolved, from Kashmir in the west to Tibet and Assam in the north east, between India on the one end and China, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh on the other. The India - China disputed border, the so-called Line of Actual Control, spans nearly across 3000 miles from Ladakh in the North West to Arunachal Pradesh in the North East. At its western end is the Aksai Chin region, an area the size of Switzerland situated between the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang and Tibet, which China declared as an autonomous region in 1965. The eastern border, between Burma (Myanmar) and Bhutan, comprises the present Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, formerly the North East Frontier Agency.
The Sino-Indian War, October 20 - November 21, 1962, is notable for the harsh conditions under which much of the fighting took place, with large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,250 metres (14,000 feet). It was a limited war in the classic strategic tradition; limited in scope and scale, as also in the politico-military aim, space, time and force levels employed by the two adversaries. It was confined to a remote region with strategic depth remaining unaffected on either side. It was marked for non-deployment of the navy or air force by the rival sides. But what it is most striking for is the sharp decline in relations between two brotherly countries, so declared by their leaders, descending into a full-scale border war in so short a time. Was it a clash of huge egos involved or a case of faulty perceptions that snow-balled into a border war? To fathom the real motives behind the sharp decline in relations, it may be instructive to analyze the events leading to the genesis of the dispute.
In his inaugural address to an independent India's parliament at midnight on August 14, 1947, India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had laid out a road-map of India's foreign policy parameters. Calling it India's 'tryst with destiny', the Indian leader had stressed India's commitment to peace as the underlying theme in her relations with the world in general and with her neighbours in particular. He warned, “… freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.”
In April 1954, India set forth the famous 'Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence', or Panch Shila, with China. Under the historic Sino-Indian Treaty on relations between India and the Tibet Region of China, India gave up her rights in Tibet, pledging non-interference without seeking a quid pro quo. To avoid antagonizing China, Nehru went as far as to assure the Chinese leaders that India had neither political nor territorial ambitions, nor did it seek special privileges in Tibet. Greeting his honoured guest Prime Minister Chou Enlai of China to Delhi, Nehru declared”Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” (Indian - Chinese Brothers). Earlier in May 1951, Tibetan delegates had signed an agreement recognizing Chinese sovereignty and guaranteeing that the existing political and social system of Tibet would continue.
Later, in April 1955, India played the lead role in calling the Bandung Conference in Indonesia and laying the foundation of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Addressing representatives from twenty nine Afro-Asian countries, Nehru pledged India's commitment to world peace and non-participation in the Cold War. Decrying both power blocs, he declared: “So far as I am concerned, it does not matter what war takes place; we will not take part in it unless we have to defend ourselves. If I join any of these big groups I lose my identity… It is with military force that we are dealing now, but I submit that moral force counts and the moral force of Asia and Africa (emphasis added) must, in spite of the atomic and hydrogen bombs of Russia, the U.S.A. or another country, count.”
The core principles of the Bandung Conference were political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality. For several years, Indian leaders – mainly defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon – sang the swan song of morality in world politics in all international and regional forums - ad nauseam. India's sermonizing was not taken well in the West: the US leadership, especially, was unamused. At Bandung too, the US diplomats had taken up cudgels openly with Indian delegates. The US delegate representative, Adam Clayton Powell, elaborated at length the American foreign policy which assisted the United States' standing with the Non-Aligned bloc. John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State (1953-1959), was in perpetual conflict with those non-aligned statesmen he found excessively favourable towards Communism, including India's Nehru and Krishna Menon. In one of his hard-hitting speeches on June 9, 1956, Dulles likened neutrality to the “worst form of prostitution”. He argued, "Neutrality has increasingly become obsolete and, except under very exceptional circumstances, it is an immoral and shortsighted conception."
Within months of the Bandung Conference – and as if to rebuke Dulles and the US – India invited top Soviet leaders, Prime Minister Bulganin and General Secretary Khrushchev, in late 1955, to a spectacular 14-day red-carpet visit to India and the disputed Kashmir. To the US media, the high-profile visit more than confirmed US apprehensions of India's hubris. Displaying rank opportunism, however, Nehru soon afterwards rushed to the US in1956 to offset the impression of a tilt towards the Soviet bloc. Lavishing praise for the US leadership of the 'free world', Nehru said, “To the people of India, I should like to say that the friendship of America is a treasure which we value and I am sure if these two countries cooperate, it would add to the peace of the world and will lead to our mutual advantage.”
In reality, India's preaching of world peace and non-violence was only a rhetoric to smoke-screen her increasing hegemonic designs in her neighbourhood. Earlier, she had air-lifted her military forces to forcibly occupy the disputed Kashmir while simultaneously pledging the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In a broadcast to the nation on November 3, 1947, Nehru had brazen-facedly stated, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.” Later, India forcibly annexed the states of Hyderabad, Junagarh, Manavadar and Sikkim under the guise of police action or merger in naked violation of international law and complete disregard of the Will of the people of these states.
With China too, India did not take long to bare her claws. In characteristic Machiavellianism, she launched a clandestine 'soft' operation to instigate the Tibetans to revolt. Within two years of signing the Sino-Indian Treaty on Tibet, she surreptitiously 'invited' the young Dalai Lama to visit India in 1956 under the guise of participating in the 2500th anniversary celebrations commemorating the Enlightenment of the Buddha. To utter surprise of China, he subsequently 'sought' asylum in India. Chou Enlai visited India later that year and sought Nehru's personal intervention to persuade the Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa on the assurance of implementation of the 17-Point Agreement by China in good faith. Nehru promised to intercede; but did precisely the opposite. The failed uprising in Tibet was employed by Nehru as the game-changer. Worse was to follow…
(To be Continued…)
Pakistan Army launches 'Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad' across the country. The operation aims at indiscriminately eliminating residual/latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made thus far and further ensuring security of the borders. Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy, Civil Armed Forces (CAF) and other security/Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) will continue to actively participate and intimately support the efforts to eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.
The effort entails conduct of Broad Spectrum Security/Counter Terrorism (CT) operations by Rangers in Punjab, continuation of ongoing operations across the country and focus on more effective border security management. Country wide de-weaponization and explosive control are additional cardinals of the effort. Pursuance of National Action Plan will be the hallmark of this operation.
Afghan Embassy officials called at GHQ. Given list of 76 terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. Asked to take immediate action/be handed over to Pakistan.
As part of ongoing countrywide Operation Radd-ul-Fassad, FC and intelligence agencies conducted a joint targeted operation in Killi Shah Karaiz near Loralai, Balochistan on February 22, 2017 against TTP/JuA network led by Wahab Zakhbail. 23 IEDs were recovered during the operation. Reportedly, the IEDs were transported to the area by TTP elements to target LEAs vehicles and Loralai University buses carrying students. Timely action of LEAs averted a major terrorist incident.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad continues across the country. Punjab Rangers conducted over 200 search operations in various areas of Punjab including Karor, Layyah and Rawalpindi. Suspected houses, madrassas and shops searched. 4 terrorists were killed in exchange of fire while over 600 suspects including few Afghans apprehended. Jihadi material and weapons were recovered. Few facilitators of Jamat-ul-Ahrar were also arrested.
Pakistan Army, Pakistan Rangers Punjab and Police established joint check posts on M-1 and M-2 (Motorway) to enhance security and surveillance.
During sanitization of village Shirrani, Datta Khel, North Waziristan Agency, Army troops recovered another huge cache of arms and ammunition which had been left behind by terrorists.
We Shall Defend and Respond
During an intelligence based operation in Mullagano area, Jani Khel, FR Bannu, 4 terrorists were killed. During an exchange of fire with terrorists an officer Lieutenant Khawar and Naik Shehzad embraced Shahadat.
IBOs and combining operations are in progress across the country including Punjab. Over 100 terrorists have been killed and sizeable apprehensions have also been made.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad continues across the country. Pakistan Rangers Punjab conducted search and sanitization operation in DG Khan, Rajan Pur, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Attock.
Intelligence agencies are making progress to unearth networks behind recent terrorist incidents.
No cross-border/unauthorized entry will be allowed into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Security forces have been given special orders in this regard to have strict watch all along the border.
Terrorists’ hideouts of Pak-Afghan border have been effectively targeted.
COAS said, “Army is for security of people of Pakistan against all types of threats. Nation to stay steadfast with full confidence in their security forces. We shall not let the hostile agenda succeed whatever it may cost.”