Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nairobi drama and a lesson

An excellent comparison to deal with courage the groups who kill target the innocent in the name of religion. It rings an alarm bell but we are not Kenya. Our police with the support of the armed forces can deal with this scourge effectively. In just a few days police and rangers have shown in Karachi that it can be done. Only the state has to decide and law enforcement agencies shall deliver. Police officer must read the article to understand the context of the present situation in the country.
 Afzal Shigri
Nairobi drama and a lesson
Dawn Daily 8-9-2013
Muhammad Ali Siddiqi
THE Nairobi drama holds a lesson or two for Pakistan, especially when we see the differences between Al Shabab and the Pakistani Taliban.
The duration of Al Shabab’s control of the Westgate mall and the planning that went into the attack show in unmistakable terms the extent of Al Shabab’s military prowess, the unimpaired existence of its command and control structure and its ability to recruit more people to its cause despite the heavy military reverses of 2011.
A truer grasp of Al Shabab’s military capability and political resilience will be available if we examine it against the far larger assets the Pakistani Taliban have.
Many of the factors which have enabled the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to operate with impunity and treat the armed forces and the state of Pakistan with contempt are missing in the case of Al Shabab. The biggest of these differences lies in the terrain.
The TTP’s headquarters and training centres are in some of the world’s most forbidden mountain ranges. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is about 2,400km long, and a greater portion of it is in varying degrees of their military control, though social and political sway in many areas stems from the fear that has been sown
The Taliban live, nestle, operate, fight and die in this mountainous fastness, where hundreds of thousands of caves, caverns and wadis — on freezing heights in winter — are inaccessible to non-tribesmen and provide an excellent sanctuary to the Taliban and to a variety of other militant groups, drug runners and mercenary criminals.
This large ‘kingdom’ is not economically self-sufficient. But decades of war and war conditions on both sides of the Durand Line have enabled the Taliban to live off ground and smuggle all things necessary for life and war from Afghanistan and mainstream Pakistan.
Saturation bombing of the Taliban-ruled ‘havens’ will merely mean a waste of ammunition, for it would do little to disrupt the Taliban way of life in war and peace.
More important, weapons of all types are no problems for the TTP. They not only get as much as they want from Afghanistan, they have arms-manufacturing factories on their territory.
This uninterrupted and copious supply of arms is one of the TTP’s major assets. If, armed with these assets, the TTP is thinking in terms of taking over the state of Pakistan, one shouldn’t be surprised.
Contrast all this with Al Shabab’s meagre resources, and we will marvel — regrettably of course — at Al Shabab’s ability to make mischief and drive terror into the heart of the capital city of a big neighbouring country.
Unlike the mountains which are the Taliban’s battleground as well as habitat, Somalia is a plain, with some hills in the north, and those are in the area which has seceded. This way, Al Shabab militants lack the kind of secure and naturally fortified safe havens the Pakistani Taliban have.
Similarly, there is no tradition in Somalia of a given community having the kind of small arms-manufacturing industry Pakistani tribesmen have.
A blow to Al Shabab last year was the loss of the southern port of Kismayo. This deprived the organisation of a major source of arms supply by sea, making Al Shabab rely on weapons smuggled, bought or obtained by various means from other militant networks in the sub-Saharan region.
Also, the Pakistani Taliban have never really been beaten or driven out of their power base, except marginally, as in Bajaur and Swat. Al Shabab, on the other hand, lost capital Mogadishu and other major cities in 2011. Beaten though they were, they were not vanquished.
At present, they still have a minimum of 7,000 well-trained and highly motivated fighters. However, a factor in Al Shabab’s favour and which mercifully is lacking in the TTP’s case is their country’s disintegration. The north has seceded, and the central region has been without a central government in the real sense of the term for nearly two decades.
The purpose behind narrating the differences between the two militant groups is to point out the vital role which intelligence can and should play in destroying the international scourge that is terrorism.
If, in the Westgate case, Kenyan intelligence failed, we can understand. After all, Kenya is not a war zone as two-thirds of Pakistan is, and it has not suffered the 50,000 casualties it has been our misfortune to be a mute spectator to.
In our case, intelligence failure is unforgivable — just think of GHQ, Mehran, Bannu. But, then, to serve as a stunning contrast, think also how America took out OBL, Waliur Rehman and many other Taliban warlords.
The question is: if a far weaker Al Shabab can survive and fight back, what chances does Pakistan have of destroying a far stronger Taliban militia — unless Pakistan’s counterterrorism apparatus develops the kind of sophisticated intelligence systems America and many Western nations have.
Note, for instance, the enviable peace in which Britain held last year’s Olympics. Not that there was no terrorist threat — Britain does have native and migrant terrorists waiting in the wings to strike. But superb intelligence, constant surveillance and a security system based on both human intelligence and cyber technology pre-empted all mischief.
The Taliban and ‘secular’ terrorists are everywhere — not just in the mountains. Their tactical advantage, which they exploit criminally, is to use civilians as a shield by living among them. No security force is going to wipe out a village or an urban slum because 10 militants live in a population of 50,000.
For destroying the Taliban enemy, we need less firepower and better intelligence. Next we meet donors, ask them not for money but for primary lessons in intelligence.
Postscript: My apologies for failing to point out one major difference between the two: Al Shabab doesn’t have a charismatic apologist and spokesman the Taliban have in Imran Khan.
The writer is a member of staff.

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