A lesson to learn

Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar SuleimanAfter carrying out 5,500 strike sorties to quell the menace of militancy in the FATA region during the past three years and a half, the Pakistan Air Force authorities have come to the conclusion that military operations are just not a solution.

The Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleiman, has told a conference of Air Chiefs of various countries, assembled in Dubai on the occasion of the Air Show, that such operations at best achieved 10 to 15 percent of the targets. The answer to a lasting peace, he said, lay in peaceful dialogue and economic development of these backward areas. Giving details of these aerial strikes, Air Marshal Suleiman said that over 10,600 bombs, 80 percent of them laser bombs, had been used and 4,600 targets destroyed. That became possible with the help of ever more sophisticated equipment, but not without suffering a loss of a number of helicopters. Yet the desired objective of removing the terrorist threat could not be achieved. The obvious lesson to draw from this experience is that an insurgent force adopting guerrilla tactics is a hard nut to crack.

There is no point in bombarding or, for that matter, attacking with drones an evasive enemy. These acts, as they also involve the murder of innocent civilians, only tend to swell the ranks of terrorists. And, especially as the Pashtuns or Afghans are known for their brave and fearless defence of independence and a culturally inbuilt hatred of a foreign occupying force, the task of defeating them becomes all the harder.

The opposition to drone attacks is based on imperatives, which also partly explain Pakistan’s resistance to the US pressure to launch any military operation in North Waziristan. Besides, the resolutions passed by Parliament and all parties’ conference in Pakistan precisely take these factors into account, apart from the fact that they constitute a flagrant violation of our territorial sovereignty.

Somehow, the US would not admit this impasse in fighting to a win, even after the “surge” in drone attacks as well as in troops had failed to stem the tide of suicide bombings taking place right in the heart of their strongholds in Afghanistan. However, the desperate attempts for an honourable exit from the war tell the real story. That is why the keenness to gather together the so-called good Taliban at the negotiating table! But since the American strategy continues to retain the military option, in fact it stipulates dialogue taking place side by side with armed action, it is not likely to make any worthwhile headway. This fatal flaw would have to be removed before the Taliban could come round to negotiating a peace settlement that must entail an unconditional and total withdrawal of foreign forces, leaving it to Afghans to work out their own future. – Nnation