“They come at you in convoys...

Published: October 16, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

…And don’t stop until you kill them.” So said Brigadier General Sarhad Qadir, the Kurdish police chief of Kirkuk, Iraq, on BBC the other day, describing the frontal attacks mounted by ISIS/ISIL/IS (call them what you will), as it storms across Syria and Iraq despite the aerial bombardment launched by the ‘allies’, mainly the United States and Britain, with some support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Gen. Qadir goes on: “The armed groups can carry out attacks anytime and anywhere they choose because they are unhindered. These groups have grown so powerful that they can carry out attacks on the same location repeatedly.” He said it was “their increasing intelligence capabilities” that made the armed groups powerful, against security forces inadequately trained or equipped to adapt to the new tactics.

So there! The chickens of the imposed Middle East conflict: Iraq; Syria, et al, coming home to roost. In their eagerness to topple the Alawite regime in Syria, Arab countries and Turkey and the Western allies turned a blind eye to terrorists crossing their borders into Syria for years now. Indeed, there were reports that TTP terrorists from Pakistan were also making their way to Syria. Little wonder, then, that the TTP has accepted Abubakr al Baghdadi as “Amir-ul-Momineen”!

However, the critical question to ask is why the Iraqi Army was routed by the IS without, virtually, firing a shot? According to credible reports, the US spent $25 billion “training and equipping” the Iraqi security forces. Yet, four of Iraq’s 14 army divisions have already abandoned their posts and areas of responsibility, leaving their weapons and equipment behind, most of the soldiers disappearing into thin air, also known as deserting.

No wonder, IS (Islamic State, the name now preferred by the ISIS/ISIL) troops can be seen riding brand new army vehicles, including tanks and self-propelled artillery, bristling with weapons belonging to the Iraqi so-called army, which, incidentally, was hardly an ‘army’ at any point in history. Stories about the ‘elite’ or ‘crack’ Republican Guard during Saddam’s time were just that: mere stories spun together by the Western powers and an obliging press to show Iraq as a far bigger threat than it was. I remember embarrassing pictures of this ‘crack’ unit not even being able to march in step, most of its soldiers and officers grossly over-weight and badly turned out.

Coming to the present, whilst the troops in Baghdad (from which the IS is a mere 25 miles away) are still standing firm, even those on duty in the city’s extremely well-defended Green Zone come on duty with civilian clothes under their uniforms to do a quick runner at the first whiff of danger! One can only wonder at the ‘training’ imparted to the Iraqis and the quality of the manpower. I speak as one who has served with some of the finest soldiers in the whole world, so I can tell the enormous difference between our soldiers and theirs.

Yet, another critical question: whilst the Western powers are today bombing the IS as it takes over the Syrian city of Kobane on Turkey’s border, why did they not react when the IS (then known as the ISIL) were going about killing 1,700, yes 1,700, Iraqi cadets, mainly from the air force, rounded up from their academy located near Tikrit? Or when they reached a point only 30 miles from the Baghdad airport? Or when they were beheading Christians, even children?

But let us come closer to home and consider just when our own TTP will morph into the ‘IS in the subcontinent’ (ISIS), just as al Qaeda has already announced an ‘Al Qaeda in the subcontinent’ (AQIS)? Are we prepared for that eventuality, eh Gentlemen? For, after all, the ‘goodies’ are all here, in the Land of the Pure.

Just as I was ending this piece, news came in of the West finally recognising that Libya was well on the way to becoming a fragmented failed state adding the parts of North Africa, which are nearest to Europe to the list of dangerous countries that pose a direct danger to the West itself. I suppose this fact alone has opened the eyes of the world to the peril the jihadis represent.

Again, the eagerness of the French and the British in toppling Gaddafi, and then not doing enough to ensure its advance towards an orderly society has resulted in Libya’s present travails with the Ansar al Sharia taking over ever larger parts of the country, forcing the newly elected MPs who could find no premises in Tripoli to even hold a meeting of parliament, to escape to the Egyptian border where they are ensconced in a luxury hotel.

Indeed, there is so much in the Western press about the utter failure of all of the exertions of the West in pushing the Arab ‘Spring’, which has now turned into a deep, cold, dark, winter. Leave Iraq alone, where the IS will soon take over the entire country (unless stopped physically), note what NBC, the American news channel, has to say about Libya: “The militant violence in the oil-rich country threatens to destabilise the region, and prove a big embarrassment to the Obama Administration and other governments that helped topple Gaddafi.”

Let me end with a question that has to do with our own country: is it at all true that Imran Khan, whilst exhorting his followers, advised them not to go abroad for jobs in words that only an unquestioned messiah can utter? I could hardly believe my ears when I heard them. Could they have been dubbed into his speech? Here they are: “Whoever leaves the country and goes abroad to earn a living, will earn a living. He will find a job and work under salubrious conditions. But always remember, students, that a donkey remains a donkey even if he goes abroad; he does not become a zebra!” Truer words were never spoken, even I must admit.

By the by, I am a great donkey (khota) supporter. A more innocent, hard-working and loyal animal would be hard to find. Zebras are merely big cat and hyena food.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (25)

  • Oct 17, 2014 - 12:25AM

    The author has written a stark and true piece regarding ISIS. Sadly, everyone knows
    that the extremists are given a safe haven in Punjab by the current Govt. and his
    ‘brother’. As long as they leave THE FIRST FAMILY SHARIF and their businesses
    and business interests alone. Then, second priority, leave Punjab alone. Safe and
    secure. That’s all that matters to the rightful ameerul momineen, portege of Z-ul-H
    The rest of the country,..the Govt. does not have it’s writ anywhere. So, it does not
    gives a hoot. Because on paper and for IMF and other lending institutions purposes,
    every thing is fine. Peachy. Trudging along like troopers. With cooked books that only
    geniuses can concoct, to loot these lending institutions.Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Oct 17, 2014 - 12:37AM

    Most of the author’s articles are quite balanced – but I detect a whiff of ‘it’s the West’s fault’ in this write-up.
    So let me counter this by asking –
    1 – When the West supports dictators (a la Gadaffi, Asad) – there is a hue and cry that the West supports a brutal regime
    2 – When the West supports the locals in overthrowing said brutal dictators, the West is accused of interfering.
    3 – When the Western armies stay back in a country to help the locals get back on their feet, they are accused of ‘occupying’ said country.
    4 – When the West does nothing, it is accused of ignoring the plight of the locals

    And, why does the author assign no blame to the locals – who wasted a golden opportunity once the dictator was gone – to set their country on a path of progress and development! Egypt, Libya and Iraq have immense oil resources that if channeled properly, could benefit those countries greatly. But what do the locals do – start infighting, killing each other, squandering the opportunity; and then start blaming the West!

    So what is the West to do?


  • Rahul
    Oct 17, 2014 - 2:16AM

    Pakistan has emerged as the most civilized place in the Muslim-Arab world. Who would have thunk!


  • Rex Minor
    Oct 17, 2014 - 3:49AM

    I do not mean to be rude but The answers to all the questions raised in the article by the major can be seen in the surrender of Pakistan army in former East Pakistan. Why did the army did not defend the country against the Indian army? ISIL is following the strategy to redraw the map of middle east which the former colonialist improvised, restoring the Sunni rule in the entire region.

    Rex Minor


  • numbersnumbers
    Oct 17, 2014 - 4:02AM

    All should remember that Team Obama wanted nothing more to do with Iraq, wants to cut and run from Afghanistan, had asserted some months back that Al-Qaeda was on the ropes, and that ISIL was merely a “JV Squad” (minor actors!) in the syrian struggle’
    All for political reasons rather than the realities of what was going on in the region!


  • pakOne
    Oct 17, 2014 - 4:40AM

    “I speak as one who has served with some of the finest soldiers in the whole world, so I can tell the enormous difference between our soldiers and theirs.”

    I thought you served with the army but may be I was wrong,


  • Joan
    Oct 17, 2014 - 7:22AM

    I speak as one who has served with some of the finest soldiers in the whole world, so I can tell the enormous difference between our soldiers and theirs.

    My history is a little hazy…Didn’t he serve at the time when in 14 days 93000 went to eat Indian biscuits???


  • Ravian
    Oct 17, 2014 - 9:36AM

    Surprisingly, terrorism-related violence in Pakistan has reduced significantly as the western powers’ focus has shifted from Afghanistan to middle east. There has hardly been a big terrorist attack during the past one year in Pakistan. Can we assume that western interference actually incites violence rather than solving it.


  • Np
    Oct 17, 2014 - 10:14AM

    You are forgetting Indonesia and Bangladesh.


  • Gp65
    Oct 17, 2014 - 10:17AM

    “I speak as one who has served with some of the finest soldiers in the whole world, so I can tell the enormous difference between our soldiers and theirs.”

    Did they fare much better in 1971 or for that matter in Siachen which they tried to capture 3 times and failed eqch time?


  • AVMPolpot
    Oct 17, 2014 - 12:29PM

    By the way I am a great donkeysupported
    I thought the esteemed author was a great NS supporter.


  • AVMPolpot
    Oct 17, 2014 - 12:35PM

    @Joan: I served withsome ofthe greatest soldiers…
    The learned author is referring to Musharraf of Kargil fame Kayani famous for his indecisiveness. Great soldiers indeed.


  • Oct 17, 2014 - 12:43PM

    Pakistan did not loose any war in 1971. It was more to save the lives of
    more than 90,000 soldiers. Great military traditions dictate you do not let
    soldiers die needlessly. That was only done in First World War trenches.
    How can that action be described as war? Pak forces were attacked by India.
    When you are outgunned out manned. you secede graciously. And it was done.
    India is carrying baggage of 1200 plus years of foreign occupation. No denying.
    It simply does not have a martial or militaristic traditions. Since just
    about every religion or ethnic group or region is becoming more and highly
    radicalized,..so are hindus. But the traditional peace loving entities of an iconic
    great Hindu religion. That embodies harmony and peace and preaches an
    everlasting respect and understanding of fellow human being,… The Hindu
    Hindutva has materialized as a dark evil force. That nobody fully understands…
    let alone the Hundus themselves. It is like a fast moving, flooding river. Carrying
    everyone in it’s path. An ocean of people, mesmerized by a slick, fast talking,
    salesman. Except the Vermilion Lord is selling hate. Dire.
    The old days of being outgunned and out manned are long gone.


  • salman
    Oct 17, 2014 - 12:48PM

    I love how IK gets under the skin of the author week in week out! Even when I started reading the article I knew IK would be mentioned at some point.


  • Rex Minor
    Oct 17, 2014 - 12:54PM

    I would not get very emotional if I were you, the country which always claims to have the creme a creme marines and seals were beaten in the valley of death by the Talibans and have never won any war on their own in their entire history.

    Rex Minor


  • Feroz
    Oct 17, 2014 - 1:00PM

    Excellent piece Sir, but the conclusions we draw from the facts presented can vary. The first lesson is that when civil society fractures, an Army cannot hold a country together. It is not Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq which taught the world that lesson but Pakistan, many decades back. Sadly, no one learned any lessons from it. As society fragments into groups and affiliations so will the Army, to believe otherwise is to fool oneself.

    Secondly, the real threat to civilized society is from destructive ideologies that glorify violence and falsely believe it can help deliver, when everything else fails. Any success that comes from these pretensions will be momentary and short lived.

    Thirdly when societies and countries deviate from the norms of civilized human behavior, eventually they go through excruciating pain, suffering and defeat. Only after going through this cleansing process, from the ashes can rise the Phoenix. This is a painful but Divine process where eventually good triumphs over evil. Post war Germany and Japan are recent examples of massive gains after traumatic pain, great examples of rising from the ashes.

    From the above points it is obvious that fabricating and falsifying history can only bring greater pain, since it cements prejudices and prevents learning, very essential to soften the blows of divine retribution and shorten the pain period.
    May the Almighty lead people to the right path sooner than later, more importantly may he be kind and merciful to those misled into deviant behavior.


  • goldconsumer
    Oct 17, 2014 - 2:01PM

    They were ordered to do so. Armies no matter how good or bad are disciplined to act to the order given. They dont question the integrity of their leader
    We Indians (Pakistani, Bangladeshi included) did eat a lot of Gora food by the way. And before that our fore fathers were so fond of Afghani Tikka and Arabic rice if you remember..


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Oct 18, 2014 - 1:12PM

    Save your country paaji, I don’t want extremism entering east Punjab in India from west Punjab into India. Rab rakha


  • LS
    Oct 18, 2014 - 4:55PM

    @3rdRockFromTheSun: I think it’s about their ability and willingness. Locals just don’t have it. Rest is just politics. All Arab spring nations have same problem.


  • Sexton Blake
    Oct 19, 2014 - 1:54AM

    The big question is, who is creating the terrorist groups? Who created al Qaeda and ISIL?. It was not Pakistan, . Chaos now exists in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, much of Pakistan and Africa. We appear to be having wars on a continuing basis. Wars are expensive so who is paying for them? Also, there appears to be no apparent structure in place to control them. The UN is obviously useless.


  • Assad
    Oct 20, 2014 - 3:21AM

    Yes still finest nevertheless. Lets see your Indian boys fight outnumbered 3:1 against the Chinese, come out on top and then come talk to us. Against our 45000 troops in east Pakistan plus 40000 police/paramilitary troops, India had amassed 350,000 troops. Massive superiority in the air and blockade at the sea.

    Gen Sam Manekshaw is on record saying the Pakistani troops fought gallantly but were hopelessly outnumbered in each and every respect in the east. That you have never been able to dent Pakistan in the west should give you an idea as to the robustness and elan of our troops.

    The Indian boasting reminds me of Gen Montomery’s victory at El-Amin which was achieved because Rommel could not be reinforced and even then his troops fought gallantly to the extent possible.

    I am fine with Indians boasting about the 1971 war. Lets see your military try to do that to us now. Given your past performance against West Pakistan, I would not be so haughty.


  • Assad
    Oct 20, 2014 - 3:33AM


    At least our officers dont roll up fake commendation reports of bravery by having their troops rub tomato sauce over their white parkas. What you did at Siachen, we paid it back in the same coin at Kargil.

    All your big talk comes to naught when you have to deal with someone your own size. Try China, who have seen your backsides on more than a few occasions after smacking your arrogant leadership and military back to their senses.

    You actually embarrass yourselves coming over here and talking as if some amazing fete of arms was achieved by the Indian military in 1971 against a beleagured
    garrison. When you have done the same against China or the western wing of Pakistan, then you can spout this nonsense. Until then we will beat your arrogance back to its senses in any future conflict. You may not agree, but your MoD and the military know this.


  • Sandip
    Oct 20, 2014 - 4:56AM

    @pakOne: Really nice one.


  • Raja Porus
    Oct 20, 2014 - 9:53PM

    @ AVM Polpot @ Joan
    Indians unfortunately have nothing to be proud of in terms of their military prowess except a few of their illustrious historical military leaders such as Prithviraj Chauhan, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Rana Sangha, and Maharana Pratap. In recent history, Indians have never won a war against an enemy which matches them in terms of size. Pakistanis, on the other hand, have shown their military prowess to be of a far more superior quality. Pakistani soldiers and special forces managed to annex 1/3rd of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir in 1948 after it was illegally occupied by India. Pakistan’s armed forces faced off against an enemy more than 3 times its size and virtually defeated India in 1965. If logistics routes and supplies were forthcoming during the 1971 war, I can confidently say that India would have again had to face defeat. In 1999, a small group of Pakistani special forces launched an attack on Kargil inside Indian-occupied Kashmir and captured it. For many months, despite harsh weather conditions, the Pakistanis held Kargil and inflicted huge casualties and losses on the vastly greater (in terms of number) Indian army. Today, the Indian armed forces are more than 3 times the size of the Pakistan armed forces, however, we always stand ready and prepared to give India a bloody nose if it provokes us and tries to attack us. The Indians should in fact be thankful to us Pakistanis for holding the Western frontier for the entire population of the Subcontinent otherwise the Indians would have to contend with Central Asian and Afghani barbarians. The Hindus of India in particular should make temples for General Raheel Sharif and the Pakistan Armed Forces and worship them because without them, there will be a shortage of cows in India as Afghani Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other similar barbarians love eating meat.


  • Sexton Blake
    Oct 21, 2014 - 3:53AM

    @Raja Porus:
    Dear Raja,
    Could we guess that you may be vegetarian?


More in Opinion