The attack on Shah Mansoor Police Lines in Swabi, though first of its kind in the area, was hardly a surprise. It was always expected that terrorists would not easily let go and re-emerge like all guerrilla movements. With the military in a holding position after conducting military operations in Swat and FATA, the terrorists probe weak points of the security forces and attack whenever they find the security loose. Another tactic is to divert the focus of the attacks to relatively stable areas to draw the attention of the security forces away from active military campaign. Strict security in Islamabad and Peshawar may have prevented terrorists from carrying out an attack there, but it did not prevent them from going after softer targets such as the one in Swabi.Shah Mansoor police compound was fortunate that the four assailants were stopped at the entrance, but the suicide bomber among them detonated his vest and managed to kill two policemen and injuring 12, including seven policemen. One more militant was killed in the exchange of fire between police and terrorists while the rest of two fled. Security at all government offices in Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been enhanced in anticipation of more attacks by terrorists. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the incident, which, according to their spokesman Azam Tariq, has been carried out in retaliation to the rising drone strikes.Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has seen scores of focused attacks on the police, military and paramilitary forces apart from random attacks on civilian targets, particularly ANP leadership. The murder of FC Commandant Safwat Ghayyur and the son of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar and attacks on educational institutions in various parts of the province are all part of the campaign against the state. And this is expected to continue and expand in future unless contained by a well thought-out strategy and preparedness.
As we have argued in this space time and again, the Taliban and their supporters are pitched against the state and only a consistent and prolonged battle against them can hope to ultimately defeat them. This battle is not a test of superior firepower, but a test of nerves and strategy. If conventional military capability were any guarantee of success against guerrilla war, the US would have succeeded long ago in Afghanistan. However, we are engaged in a protracted warfare. We are facing an elusive enemy, which melts away when frontally assaulted but returns when it finds the security forces in holding position. This is borne out by a series of recent attacks in Swat, South Waziristan and other agencies of FATA. The militants moved away to safer areas, where they have active networks of support and returned when the pressure of military operation eased.
The best strategy for the military would be to hand over control to the civil administration as soon as possible after completing the operation and conduct search and strike operations to prevent the possibility of retaliation by the militants. The civilians, too, need to be psychologically prepared for this drawn out battle. Public support and resolve against terrorists is essential to win this war. If the masses are not provided the necessary psychological support, there is a strong likelihood of them crossing over and joining militant ranks to escape their wrath – Dailytimes