Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, which had been recognised by the world until the last US government, has suddenly turned into a question mark in President Trump’s era. The power shift in the United States has certainly brought a policy shift in Afghanistan in general and towards Pakistan in particular.
After Trump’s recent Afghan Policy, the waters have been muddled so badly that it has become the need of an hour to revisit Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.
How Pakistan Got into the Afghan War?
In the post 9/11 scenario, Pakistan’s initial stance was to stay neutral in the Afghan war, but reports emerged that Taliban and al Qaeda leaders were operating from the safe havens in north Waziristan, a disputed territory which was a ‘no go area’ back then.
For the record, those sanctuaries were built in the 1980s, when Pakistan was the base for the Saudi-American alliance behind the Mujahideen. Unfortunately, after the Soviet War, the place was left alone to become a permanent home for the Taliban insurgency and its logistical supply line. In order to clean-up their spillover, Pakistan had to commit to the war.
Pakistan Fights the World’s War on Terror
As the war prolonged, and US drone strikes claimed thousands of innocent lives in the North Waziristan, igniting the anti-state sentiments because the thought was prevailing that these attacks have Islamabad backing.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity available due to the gulf between government and tribal people, anti-Pakistan forces began funding of tribal people and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed.
The insurgent group soon began to carry out suicidal attacks, a massacre of soldiers in South Waziristan, FATA, Balochistan, and K-P on such large scale that suddenly Pakistan was in a war on terror on its own soil.
The world then abandoned Pakistan to handle, manage and face the terrorists in the region all by itself.
Despite the geographical hurdles and local resistance, Pakistan army carried out Khyber-I to IV operations and wiped out the roots of terrorists, planted by others.
The Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad then cut the roots of terror financing from the urban areas. Pakistan fought the entire world’s war on terror in this region all alone.
Role of Pakistan Army Against Terrorism within Pakistan
Since 2002-03, when the terrorism began to strengthen its roots in Pakistan, the country’s army has carried out over a dozen combing operation on every scale. Here are the details:
- Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad across the country
- Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan along Pak-Afghan border
- Operation Rah-e-Haq-III in Swat valley and Shangla
- Operation Black Thunderstorm in Buner, Lower Dir, and Shangla district
- Operation Brekhna in Mohmand Agency
- Operation Rah-e-Rast, commonly known as Swat Operation
- Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan
- Operation Rah-e-Haq-II in Swat valley and Shangla
- Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem in Khyber Agency
- Operation Sherdil, Army-Frontier Corps joint ops in Bajaur Agency
- Operation Rah-e-Haq-I in Swat valley and Shangla district
- Operation Al Meezan
The Pakistani Efforts
Not all of them were a success, of course. Pakistan bore heavy losses on the initial stages of this war due to the complexity of the region and lack of information about the methodology of the enemy, their hideouts and bare know-how of the terrain. But, a continuous and evolved effort assisted army regain its control in Shawal Valley, Tirah Valley, Swat, Mingora and almost all the ‘no go’ areas of North and South Waziristan. In these operations and offensives, around 33728 terrorists have been sent to hell while more than 6800 security personnel lost their lives.
Among the dozens of offensives, Operation Zarb-eAzb was the grandest and the most successful, launched in June 2014, after a militant attack on Jinnah International Airport, Karachi. This operation totally dismantled Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), emerging Daesh and other militant organisations in the country. Peace was restored in Karachi and Balochistan. The army fully restored the writ of the state as currently no area in Pakistan is under militant occupation, barring a few scattered pockets of influence and sleeper cells.
The Cost Pakistan Paid in the War on Terror
Ever since Pakistan has jumped into this war, the country has been subject to both extremism and terrorism on its own territory. Friends turned foes as both Afghan Taliban and the TTP left no stone unturned to create mayhem and to destabilise the country.
According to South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) total 6813 security personnel and 21895 civilians have lost their lives in the war on terror from 2003 to August 27, 2017.
Whereas, the country has suffered a whopping $123.1 billion cost on account of loss of lives, economic opportunities and damage to the country’s infrastructure ever since it became ‘indispensable’ ally of the US and NATO forces in war on terror.
As Pakistan’s current GDP volume is $304 billion, this enormous loss is 41 percent of the country’s total economy size.
Pakistan suffered losses of $7.7 billion every year on average. The sum alone is more than the country’s total expenditures on education, health and other social safety schemes.
How the World Benefits from this War
Besides providing the intelligence and strategic support inside Afghanistan, Pakistan provided the US and its coalition forces (NATO) access to several military bases and helped establish facilities including Intermediate Staging Bases at Jacobabad, Pasni, Dalbandin and Shamsi.
Even today, Pakistan is the route to more than 75% US and NATO supplies including fuel, food, and military equipment.
Dalbandin used as a forward refuelling base for US Special Operations helicopters and drones operating in Afghanistan.
And what these wars gave to the world? Nothing but destruction, as more than 1.3 million innocent people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of US-led wars.
Current Status of the War on Terror
In the last few years, NATO allies have withdrawn their forces from Afghanistan, but the US is still in search of a graceful exit. Since 2015, Afghan Taliban have regrouped themselves in the rural areas of Afghanistan and gained control of 40 to 45 percent area of the country. In this scenario, a sudden exit will only translate into yet another defeat for the US.
On the other hand, according to some experts, the American persistence in Afghanistan is pure business. Besides the production of opium in large quantity, the mountains of Afghanistan are filled with lithium gas, and the US is carrying out lithium and opium worth billions of dollars every month.
However, if President Trump’s words are to be taken seriously, his recent Afghan policy seems to be putting Pakistan directly in the Afghan war to find a secure and safe exit. But, Pakistan Army and the government itself have made it clear to the world that the previous ‘do more’ strategy with Pakistan will not work anymore.
“Despite all our efforts, our countless sacrifice and over decades of war, we are being told that we have not done enough against terrorism. It’s time for world to ‘do more’ and recognise Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in this decades-long war. If Pakistan has not done enough, than no country has done anything at all in the war on terror.” – General Qamar Bajwa
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