Taleban in Turmoil

Terrorism can never be tackled by half-measures. That is one good reason why now the Pakistan security forces and the US army commanders should further coordinate their efforts to crush the violent Taleban insurgency that threatens to destabilize the political establishment on both sides of the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They must strike hard and strike now.

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Published: Mon 10 Aug 2009, 9:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

With the Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan, or Pakistan’s Taleban Movement, already in turmoil (following the reported killing of its leader Baitullah Mehsud in an American drone attack) here is an opportunity to launch an effective and aggressive campaign against the common enemy.

The assumption, of course, is that there is equal political willingness both in Islamabad and in Washington to counter the common enemy. It must also be kept in mind that irrespective of who now leads the militants coalition after Mehsud, it is certain that neither the focus of their terror nor their targets would change. And the prime target in this particular case is Pakistan itself.

The only ideology of terror groups like the Taleban or Al Qaeda, with which it is closely affiliated, is to spread terror and gain control by coercion. Baitullah Mehsud knew this well and that was why he quickly notched up such a series of spectacular ‘successes’ – including allegedly the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the bombing of Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and scores of suicide attacks elsewhere.

The theory that with Pakistan’s Taleban now splintered and in disarray, it might be somewhat easier to dismantle the shadowy may eventually prove to be only partially right. And that, because it’s infrastructure and resources within the rugged tribal areas of south Waziristan remain largely intact. So does its mountainous stronghold and support base on both sides of the border.

But, for the moment, the advantage does lie with those masterminding the counterterrorism offensive in the region. And to ensure that it is not lost, the Pakistan political and military command will have to decide, and swiftly, whether the time has come to launch the long-promised ground attack against the militants.

This, at least according to one former US State Department’s South Asia intelligence analyst, “will be a real test of Pakistan’s intentions.” However, there is also the fear, that if this ‘fleeting opportunity’ is missed, whoever takes over Mehsud’s mantle might decide to launch “a couple of spectacular terrorist attacks” – merely to motivate and boost the morale of rank and file militants. That would be catastrophic and all possible precautions must be taken to guard against it. A strong counter offensive in this case would be the best defense.

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