The Taliban have not been defeated

Published: June 26, 2012
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The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in senior intelligence postings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

The writer is a retired brigadier who has served in senior intelligence postings in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) media cell of South Waziristan has released a video showing the planning and execution of the attack on the Bannu Jail. In the video, Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman revealed the TTP manifesto, which they claimed is to be implemented through armed jihad. The salient message of the speeches is that democracy is a system that was brought about by non-believers and that the TTP wants to change this — through use of force. The party claims that those who are dispensing justice through this legal system are kafirs and that those who committed crimes against the Lal Masjid and the Taliban in Swat shall not be forgiven. The TTP will fight the government of Pakistan until it achieves its final victory; it believes that the judicial, executive and legislative branches have failed and that sharia is the only system that can salvage Pakistan. There is not even a single word in the video spoken against the occupation of Afghanistan. Those who think that the Taliban will lay down its arms upon withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan need to reevaluate their assessment.

While people and the media were recently focused on various scandals — the disqualification of the prime minister, judicial activism and loadshedding — the Taliban took control of part of Tirah. More than 30 people were killed in bomb blasts at Landi Kotal and Kohat. Seven soldiers were beheaded and many were killed in cross-border attacks by Maulana Fazlullah’s group in Dir. The message is loud and clear: the Taliban have been weakened by army operations but they are not finished and are capable of striking back. The Afghan Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and Islamist extremists took control of Timbuktu, Mali in April 2012. In both countries, the national armies had disintegrated and there was no organised force to fight the insurgents. In our case, the armed forces are preventing a takeover by the Taliban; but they need the support of the nation to fight these terrorists.

Pakistan now has an indigenous terrorism problem, not entirely related to the war on terror. Those who trained jihadists to liberate Kashmir could not visualise that these same assets would one day turn around and fight against our army. The issue of terrorism is a complicated one and no longer linked to the presence or exit of Nato forces from Afghanistan. In fact, we can deal with them more effectively in the presence of Nato forces in Afghanistan. Once the world is no longer focused on terrorism, defeating the Taliban is likely to be an uphill task. The recent statements of US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and other officials of the Obama Administration on our role as an ally in the war on terror should be taken seriously. Nato trucks have used our routes for more than 10 years and the losses suffered by Nato when using alternative supply routes are not positive gains for anybody. Pakistan is likely to be a loser if it continues with its policy of denying supply routes to Nato and pursuing a policy of non-cooperation in the war on terror.

The present coalition government may be one of the weakest in our history. Besides its own incompetence, bad governance and corruption, it has been hounded by different forces since 2008. The government has been fighting these forces and trying desperately to complete its term at all costs. And in this process, the most affected people are common men. Corruption, bad governance, Balochistan, Karachi, the killing of Shias and loadshedding are serious issues, no doubt, but terrorism is the most dangerous challenge confronted by this country. A destabilised and anarchic Pakistan will embolden the Taliban and make the people of this country more vulnerable to terrorism. To avoid isolation in the world community and to deal with our own issues of terrorism, all political parties represented in parliament and the army leadership should take a collective, pragmatic decision on our future role in the war on terror.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Jun 26, 2012 - 11:24PM

    There has always been a deliberate propaganda to classify Taliban as freedom fighters and exclusively native afghans. This is done with an agenda by the promoters and sympathizers who are vociferously anti American. It’s pakistan army responsibility to communicate this to the nation that this war is ideological and it has nothing to do with occupation. The emergence of Taliban was always inevitable since the inception of original Taliban in 1996 which had its 67% of force from Pakistan. Ahmed rashid has documented this comprehensively in his 2001 book called Taliban. He predicted the emergence of TTP and it’s campaign against Pakistan. Unfortunately he is one of those who are banned to give lectures in public and universities due to GHQ pressure. Hope the day will come when his books will be part of our curriculum in order to challenge this false narrative

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  • faraz
    Jun 26, 2012 - 11:36PM

    Multibillion rupee 500,000 Jihadi enterprise nurtured during past 3 decades always needs a raison detre. After US-NATO exit, they won’t dismantle themselves and go home. They will create a new issue to perpetuate their existence and earn legitimacy in the masses. Their propaganda machine will have no problem in shaping the views of the already indoctrinated masses.

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  • Jalib
    Jun 26, 2012 - 11:47PM

    Marvelously written Brigadier General. I hope that the leaders in the corridors of power listen, but much more importantly I hope the people of Pakistan listen. A few weeks ago, David Ignatius of the Washington Post who certainly has much more of a nuanced understanding about Pakistan’s problems than most analysts in his country said much the same. This was (& perhaps still is) the beau ideal moment for Pakistan to finally solidify its writ in lands where this writ has evaded us. Of course there needs to be hullabaloo raised about this internationally to convince the world that Pakistan needs a cornucopia of help, because without hammer and anvil from the other side of the Afghan border Pakistan cannot decimate this threat which will simply retreat into Afghanistan to fight another day, as the formerly Swati terrorists have shown us. In short a change of strategy is needed on our side, and much more technological, intel, backup and monetary support from NATO.

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  • BlackJack
    Jun 26, 2012 - 11:48PM

    Excellent piece. It is important that people of Pakistan understand that the Taliban is not going away regardless of what happens in Afghanistan. Once they realize that these murderous savages are here to stay, they may appreciate the seriousness of the threat and stop romancing political leaders whose philosophy dictates sympathizing with people who behead your soldiers and posturing against your allies who are doing what you should be doing yourself.

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  • kaalchakra
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:01AM

    So the army is now trying to convince the masses to allow NaTO shipments? Has a deal been struck to save the interests of the military? People seem to be like proverbial monkeys who stand up (against NATO) when told to stand up, and sit down when told to sit quietly.

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  • LionOfPunjab
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:18AM

    Err.. You should delivering this lecture in front of kakul academy crowds..given that you are an ex-service man..who are responsible for all of these jihadi blow back. Listening to my elders talk about joys of being pre-zia pakistani, i sometimes wish the clocks can be turned back to that era.

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  • Ejaaz
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:38AM

    Democracy is man made system that has no place in the Fort of Islam. We can only live with Sharia. The minor issue of who will define that Sharia will get sorted out soon enough between Egypt, Turkey and Iran.

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  • gt
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:49AM

    It is interesting that these opinions are coming from Brig. Gen. Asad Munir, and represent quite a change from his earlier stance that was hawkish, reflecting the usual attitudes to be expected from the GHQ.

    Given his antecedents, should his suggestions here be taken to mirror a certain body of opinion in the GHQ as well?

    If so, the next question would be: if the GHQ is a major influence in shaping Pakistan’s policies re: the US, NATO, Afghanistan, India, etc., why has the moderation and reasonableness evident in Brig. Munir’s assertions not been markedly evident in the actions arising out of the GHQ’s promptings?

    The recalcitrance over the NATO supply route question would be one instance where the GHQ’s will would appear to be at odds with Brig.Munir’s prescriptions. The support for various “friendly” Taliban, and the insistence on separating the Taliban into “friendly” and “hostile” camps [in spite of evidence for cross-linkages] would be another example.

    Either Brig.Munir is sharply deviating from the GHQ line, or his thinking represents a faction which is not being heard. It would be interesting if he could frankly address the points raised here without fear or favor. Thank you.

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  • Sherlock Holmes
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:55AM

    A sense of Deja vu again. After Nato leaves in 2014, Taliban will take over Afghanistan and Pakistan will recognize their government, as in 1996. Be prepared to face a spread of anarchy all around the region and beyond, post 2014.

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  • elementary
    Jun 27, 2012 - 1:49AM

    And why have Taliban not been defeated? ,despite the all effective drone strikes and all encompassing ,all collaborative war on terror, for the last ten years?.
    Simple rule is if you are not winning a war– change your tactics and rethink your strategy.More of the same is just insane.

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  • gp65
    Jun 27, 2012 - 2:29AM

    The good brigadier has mixed up 2 distinct issues:

    The jihad infrastructure in Pakistan which has given birth to TTP who currently only targets Pakistanis (both civilians and security personnel). The latest beheading of soldiers was done by this group. The author makes the valid point that TTP is motivated by coming into power in Islamabad and implementing their own version of sharia and displacing the democratic elected government and Pak constitution both of which it claims are un-Islamic.

    Whether Pakistan should provide support to NATO/ISAF in dealing with Afghan Taliban and Haqqanis whose targets are Afgan civilians and/or ISAF/ANF forces.This support can take several forms i.e. clearing safe havens to Haqqanis and Afghan Taliban (though N Waziristan operation if needed) and/or opening supply land routes to NATO.

    Issue 1 i.e. jihad infrastructure in Pakistan can be addressed WITHOUT necessarily reopening supply lines for NATO/ISAF. Linking the 2 issues causes unnecessary confusion. While I believe that it is in Pakistan’s own national interest to open these, I can understand that there are people who may feel differently. I do not however see what national interest is served by failing to address issue no. 1. While it is true that the Pakistan army does go after TTP, no-one is addressing the root cause i.e. dismantling the jihadi infrastructure in Pakistan.

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  • gp65
    Jun 27, 2012 - 2:31AM

    @Ejaaz: “Democracy is man made system that has no place in the Fort of Islam. We can only live with Sharia. The minor issue of who will define that Sharia will get sorted out soon enough between Egypt, Turkey and Iran.”

    I see democracy is man made and interpretation of sharia by Iran/Egypt/ Turkey is not man made?

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  • gp65
    Jun 27, 2012 - 2:51AM

    @kaalchakra: “So the army is now trying to convince the masses to allow NaTO shipments? Has a deal been struck to save the interests of the military? People seem to be like proverbial monkeys who stand up (against NATO) when told to stand up, and sit down when told to sit quietly.”

    This is the first time in 6 months that I agree with one of your comments. It does appear that the army has been manipulating the emotions of Pakistani people to use as a negotiating tool with Americans.

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  • gp65
    Jun 27, 2012 - 4:55AM

    @Sherlock Holmes: “A sense of Deja vu again. After Nato leaves in 2014, Taliban will take over Afghanistan and Pakistan will recognize their government, as in 1996. Be prepared to face a spread of anarchy all around the region and beyond, post 2014.”

    Afghan Taliban may take over again – but maybe not. Also last time only 3 countries had recognized Afghan Taliban, KSA, UAE, Pakistan. With the history of Afghan Taliban’s support for Al Qaeda, thy will not get support from KSA again (unless they come back as part of an election process rather than civil war).

    Pakistan will also have very different consequences of supporting a terrorist state/organization after 2014. Hopefully its establishment and civilians are wise enough to figure that out.

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  • Pashtun voice
    Jun 27, 2012 - 4:58AM

    Munir sahab – I agree with you 100%. We need to strike back at the Taliban hard. We cannot and should not try to talk to them from a point of weakness. We hit them hard and when our boot in on their neck negotiate. We cannot let the right wing media, who are more interested in ratings, dictate the terms on how to deal with these beasts. The right wing media is full of JI sympathisers and tends to portray everything anti Taliban as being pro American or pro West. We have to GET THESE PEOPLE off the airwaves for a start.

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  • Shehzad Shah
    Jun 27, 2012 - 5:24AM

    Well written Brigadier sahab. Coming from a man like you it has only greater credibility. I hope Imran Khan will read this piece. I doubt it’ll make a difference to his thinking though..

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  • vasan
    Jun 27, 2012 - 6:16AM

    Why have Taliban not been defeated?? Who is fighting them?? The pak army whose many foot soldiers are sold on the Taliban/AQ idealogy is the force fighinting the TTP. Then how can Taliban be defeated. We had instances of the Pak soldiers refusing to fight or fire on the militants. We have instances of army not willing to fight and struck deals with the militants. How, then, TTP can be defeated.

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  • Zalim Singh
    Jun 27, 2012 - 7:28AM

    you can say that again.

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  • Khalid Munir
    Jun 27, 2012 - 8:32AM

    Country needs the leadership to have a thorough delibration on what our stance should be. Excellent

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  • Asad Malik
    Jun 27, 2012 - 9:23AM

    Excellent article clearly explaining what our main priority should be at this time. We can all live with electricity for a while but living in the stone ages like the Afghans during the Taliban Government is unacceptable.

    We need to cleanse our cities and our western border of all extremists. Boot all the Afghan refugees and mine and close the western border with Afghanistan to stop further cross border raids.

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  • gp65
    Jun 27, 2012 - 9:45AM

    @Ejaaz: “Democracy is man made system that has no place in the Fort of Islam. We can only live with Sharia.”

    True democracy is man made and per your belief system Sharia maybe God given. Even so the interpretation of sharia that you expect to be done by Egypt, Iran, Turkey is surely man made?

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  • Feroz
    Jun 27, 2012 - 11:14AM

    Seeing a very sensible piece from Khaki uniform in a long time.

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  • Nazir Ahmed
    Jun 27, 2012 - 11:30AM

    @vasan:

    “We had instances of the Pak soldiers refusing to fight or fire on the militants. We have instances of army not willing to fight and struck deals with the militants. How, then, TTP can be defeated.”

    For heaven’s sake do not spread lies. This has never happened although some elements supporting Taliban wish it happens. The Army is struggling to counter this threat and can only succeed if it gets whole hearted support from the nation. In countless skirmishes, the Army jawans have found out how great Muslims the Talibaln are or how much their ideology is convincing or practical. So there is no question of the Army men refusing to obey commmands even at the cost of lives.

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  • abhi
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:08PM

    @Ejaaz
    so are we going to see a big religious war between Egypt, Turkey and Iran? Hope not.

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  • BlackJack
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:41PM

    @gp65:
    Ejaaz’s comments may be tongue-in-cheek (based on previous comments) – and I find the introduction of Turkey to that list to be bitingly insightful; I could be wrong.

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  • mateen
    Jun 27, 2012 - 12:45PM

    Future will decide how long Pakistan and its masses has to pay for supporting mindless fanatics in Afghanistan. This future is not remote and likely to spread its venomous testicles very soon once NATO leaves Afghanistan. One can foresee the fate of Cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar quite similar with Kabul of Taliban era. We to criticize Govt for its failures, rarely point out its major failure in eliminating terrorists who are the worst creatures even witnessed.

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  • bangash
    Jun 27, 2012 - 7:51PM

    This is very sad. Pakhtuns will continue to suffer from the dirty games of Pakistani establishment.

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  • Ejaaz
    Jun 27, 2012 - 9:18PM

    @gps65. @abhi:

    We were unable to define who is a Muslim because the mullahs could not agree. This was way back in 53. Shia wanted and got an exception to zakat deduction from bank accts because of difference between Jafferia and other schools “Sharia”. Today Imran khan wants Islamic welfare state, ie Sharia. Mullahs will have field day with that. They agree less than they did in 1954.

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  • Jun 27, 2012 - 9:36PM

    No one can deny the fact that from day one our goal has been to free the region of terrorism. Terrorism has plagued that part of the world for a very long time. Working together with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have been able to curtail their attacks and damage the terrorist organizations to a point, but there are still some remote pockets from where they regroup and attack. A few unfortunate incidents in the last year or so have put some mistrust between both of our governments. We have to quickly resolve these few issues and get back to our common goal of eliminating the few remaining groups of these enemies of peace. In the past, we have tasted success against much larger groups through joint cooperation. We need to focus our energies back on these few militants who are bent on destroying what we have achieved over a decade. Unless we get together and neutralize the remaining few groups of terrorists, peace will remain challenged in the region.

    LTC T.G. Taylor
    DET-United States Central Command
    http://www.centcom.mil/ur

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  • niaz
    Jun 28, 2012 - 12:55AM

    Writer was one of those in Musharaf government who readily decided to take a U turn on a phone call without fully realizing the impact of such decisions on Pakistans internal security. The whole article revolves around that and speaks of a nostalgia, that he may have from Musharaf days when dollars were flowing in for ” rent an army” kind of thought process. However, the impact of sending army in Wazirastan was grave as militancy rapidly spread through whole Pakistan and Taliban terrorists started doing suicide bombings. 6,000 soldiers, none of them, I guess, being writers brother or close relatives lost their lives along with 35, 0000 civilians ( who are forgotten) and what we have got is now a rebbound in insurgency. So he is now proposing to walk that line again. If we could not defeat Taliban then, how we will do it now? Have we got some magic bullets or weaponary?. The 10 yrs of war in north west badly exposed weakness in Pak armys strategy. An area, where armour divisons could not roam around freely and inelligence net work was hardly working in harmony with other branches of militart, the poor infantary divison had to take the tool from frequent ambushes and bomb blasts. The airforce could not perform coordinated missions and targets were often missied by ridiculous distances. The units posted in northwest , wheter we admitt it or not have started showing up signs of fatigue. One or two more years in to it, their performance is likely to decline further. There is no military solution to it. With due respect, if you want to defeat an ideology, you have to present a better one and convince the awam about it.

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  • kaalchakra
    Jun 28, 2012 - 8:20AM

    “Munir sahab – I agree with you 100%. We need to strike back at the Taliban hard.”

    Pushtoon Voice, there is a certain charming, perhaps childish, naivety in your post, which is ultimately heart-breaking. Pushtoons will continue to suffer indefinitely because they have no option but to persist in their naivety.

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  • Imran
    Jun 28, 2012 - 10:38AM

    Dear All
    The emergence of taliban in pakistan is the result of weaknesses within pakistani government and armed forces but it is also the reaction of injustice in the world. Had the world community taken serious steps to solve the issue of kashmir in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, the taliban would have never found its place in our society. Till the time the bias exist within the ranks of United Nations against particular communities, the threat of taliban and alqaeda would always be there.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan
    Jun 28, 2012 - 10:53PM

    @Imran: “The emergence of taliban in pakistan is the result of weaknesses within pakistani government and armed forces but it is also the reaction of injustice in the world. Had the world community taken serious steps to solve the issue of kashmir in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, the taliban would have never found its place in our society.”

    So it looks like you are saying that you are willing to allow your country to be torn by TTP because Kashmir issue is unresolved nstead of pushing your interiror ministry and Rangers to rid the country of these terrorists?

    Oh and Al Qaeda does not care about Kashmir, They care about Middle East and Israel. You can make up whatever you want – doe snot mean people will believe you. Secondly EVEN if Western countries believed your fib that AQ will not go away until India allows Pakistan to have its way on Kashmir – they have no leverage on India to make it do what they want.

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