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The terror landscape

There are three clear divisions of the TTP collage. The first is TTP Central, based in North Waziristan and controlling operations from there. Mostly consisting of the Mehsud tribes and some affiliates it sits smack in the middle of their Waziri hosts along with ‘guests’ from Afghanistan and Central Asia.

These Taliban are the bad guys who have their eyes on Pakistan and its immense potential for becoming an Islamic emiratee built. Looked at in another way North Waziristan is the Taliban’s headquarters – their GHQ. In military parlance, their position then is fixed.

The GHQ may be where the commanders sit but it is really the forces – the corps – that do the fighting. The Taliban use a mix of forces. They hold some organic elements which provide an immediate perimeter of security for their leadership in North Waziristan as well as augment any Afghan combat group that might need support for missions in Afghanistan by Afghan leadership such as the Haqqanis. In return Haqqani affiliates, the Uzbeks and the Chechens, will add to the TTP’s strength for missions against the Pakistani state.

Then there are the reserves, or the strike corps, that sit in the relative safety of their havens across the Durand Line. They are a multiple task force, creating their own local effects through forays into Pakistan against Pakistan’s regular forces, or will open another front if needed to dilute Pakistan’s military response. They will also strike when conditions are sufficiently shaped by their own in-situ forces across Pakistan.

Disturbingly, Mullah Fazlullah and other significant commanders of the TTP sit at the head of these more vicious cadres in the relative safety of Afghanistan. They remain only remotely connected to what TTP Central does. When and if there is a need for Pakistan to engage these troops in their – let’s call it the rear headquarters – it shall entail a border violation of Afghanistan. That portends even greater complexity. But this part of the response by Pakistan can wait for the moment.

To add to such complications, it seems that a hostile Afghan intelligence and ministry of interior – and anyone else who has influence with these Afghan government entities – has these troops in Kunar and Nuristan eating out of their hands; literally too. A proxy war between Afghanistan and Pakistan thus is already underway and will only get fiercer with time with a potential to convert Afghanistan into another existential threat for Pakistan. Think of another India in effect, if not quantum, sitting now on your western border. Forget the niceties that the government in Pakistan claims in progress of relations with its western neighbours. It is blinkered and seriously misleading. In diplomatese it is called localitis.

And now to the real force of the Taliban – their third element. Mostly referred to as sleeper cells, these are the deployed forces on the frontline. The frontline is the length and breadth of Pakistan. They mostly work on the instructions of their commanders in North Waziristan or from across the Durand Line. They will also have a local hierarchy and a local command and control mechanism without which organised war cannot take place. They live in our midst, are seen to be performing normal day-to-day functions, and mix into the milieu they exist in. They are the ones who carry out the operations on the frontline.

In a franchised variation there also exist specialised task groups outside the pale of the regular TTP conglomerate. These are ‘pay as you proceed’ entities, formed on the build-own-operate principle. These are a collection of individuals who may have trained in their respective fields over decades and who local owners and agents of these franchises can bring together in task-specific application; quite similar to the concept of outsourcing areas of functioning that can be inducted on payment in specialist fields. The Ahrars and the Ansars could be some of these groups who just might be running out of patronage. Or may now be working on the behest of other masters. They after all are in the field of specialised services.

Superimposed on this mosaic of terror and its TTP antecedence are the more traditional sources of strife: sectarian groups, nationalist groups, crime syndicates etc. Terror may be their instrument but their objectives differ from those of the TTP, which though ends up aiding the specific objectives of each group if, for example, the state is weak or seen to be weak or emaciated for various reasons like cowardice, indecisiveness, playing political games at the cost of national cohesion; or, simply a force incapable of conceiving and countering the multifarious forms of social, economic, administrative and governance strife, and militancy and terror against its people. The state and society would then in due course begin to fragment and then implode. Without any correction to the state’s current disposition towards these challenges, it sits on the verge.

To the corrective measures then. A dialogue? Nehru once said, “There is a difference between talking and negotiating”. In a negotiation, you define terms of agreement, and base it around a compromise with some ‘give’ and ‘take’. While it is clear what the Pakistan state will ‘take’ – peace from the TTP – what remains unclear is what will it ‘give’.

A member of the TTP-government dialogue group hoped to deliver win-win to both sides; the issue is what the state loses when both sides end up in a win-win situation. And then from this entire mosaic of forces the government is only in dialogue with the TTP – which is, what, only one-sixth of the total terror-based threats. Finding an arrangement with the TTP will only appease about 20 percent of the forces inimical to the state. Those who said 40 percent recently were way off the mark.

That is why the National Internal Security Policy is important because the real fight is within. However, what it terribly lacks in is that it offers no recourse to social, political, economic, educational, legal and religious aspects necessary to counter this persistent existential danger. If the ongoing debate – unless it is already over – in parliament is any indication, we are done for, as a state and a nation. There is an urgent need to hire some non-governmental experts to sit with the government to develop this most crucial blueprint for Pakistan’s survival. The adversary has a deep method in its madness; the state on the other hand, is a laggard, institutionally and conceptually.

The writer is a retired air-vice marshal of the Pakistan Air Force and served as its deputy chief of staff. Email: shhzdchdhry@yahoo.com

Shahzad Chaudhry, "The terror landscape," The News. 2014-03-11.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , International relations , Political relations , Security policy , Military-Pakistan , Government-Afghanistan , Terrorism , Violence , Taliban , Mullah Fazlullah , Afghanistan , Waziristan , Pakistan , TTP , GHQ