The army on July 3 announced that it has successfully completed the “preliminary phase” of the operation to clear the Shawal Valley. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have sanctuaries in the valley and it is these that the military have sought to eliminate. As well as a terrorist stronghold, the valley is a key smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with drugs, guns and munitions passing through regularly.
The announcement is but the latest in a long string of similar statements going back to the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. As ever we broadly welcome the development, it should be noted that there needs to be more information and independent corroboration forthcoming regarding the operations that have been carried out to eliminate militancy in the tribal areas. There seems to be little detail as to where the enemy has disappeared to, presuming they were not all completely wiped out.
If the TTP have demonstrated one thing in the last year, it is their durability and capacity for absorbing casualties. They appear to have no difficulty with recruitment and retention, remain adequately funded and whilst their operational style may have been cramped, they cannot be regarded to be completely defeated as of yet. There is a commendable single-mindedness in the statements emanating from Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, and there can be no doubting his commitment to the job at hand nor that of the troops he leads, but there is a hint of frustration when he speaks of the need to “ensure IDPs’ expeditious and dignified return to better built and rehabilitated areas for long-term stability” — because the civilian end of the job is proceeding far from smoothly or in a disciplined manner. There are limits to what the military can achieve and at some point the civil administration has to step up to the plate and rebuild homes, schools, health centres and other infrastructure. Wars are destructive; they leave chaos in their wake. Populations have to be rehabilitated and that takes time, effort and money. Above all, the reasons for going to war in the first place must be eliminated. A job the government has yet to get to grips with.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.
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