TTP Strikes Again

TTP Strikes Again
Dawn Editorial, April 8, 2010

Last week Qari Hussain, Ustad-i-Fidayeen, warned that the “memory of Khost”, a reference to the bombing of the CIA forward base last December, would soon be refreshed. Intelligence warnings had been provided to the Americans that strikes against them were possible.

In Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency, the Taliban had warned that Afghanistan and Pakistan were “one” in terms of a war theatre. And then the TTP struck on Monday, launching a sophisticated attack on the US consulate in Peshawar and a devastating car bombing of an ANP rally in Timergara, Lower Dir. The threat that the TTP continues to pose is very real and very serious.

So yet again, some questions have to be asked. First, where are the Qari Hussains and Hakeemullah Mehsuds (he has risen from the ‘dead’) hiding? The intelligence and security agencies have made some decent progress in the war against militancy but they have still, by and large, failed to capture or kill most of the top militant commanders. For example in Swat, of the 50 most-wanted militants about 80 per cent have been accounted for by the security forces, but the ones who are missing are part of the top leadership. In other militancy-hit areas, too, a similar pattern has been established. Where is Tariq Afridi? Where is Faqir Mohammed? The reason it is important to get these top leaders is becoming increasingly apparent. Sophisticated and devastating attacks like those launched on Monday would be infinitely more difficult for middle-ranking or lower-tier militants to pull off on their own. Moreover, the top commanders have repeatedly pledged to keep on attacking targets, indicating that they have no intention of melting away and giving up the fight.

Second, what exactly is going on in North Waziristan Agency? Many, if not most, of the recent militancy trails appear to end in the agency. The state is trying to put pressure on Hafiz Gul Bahadur via the tribal structure to either stop the violence emanating from NWA or to dismantle the safe havens that have been established there. But it is not clear yet who is in fact in control of NWA. Is it Hafiz Gul Bahadur or is it Hakeemullah Mehsud? And while the army maintains it has a fair amount of resources in the area (which it does), the state has perhaps the least direct influence. Sooner rather than later, the army needs to establish its control over the area. The Taliban may be on the run but they have proved they still have the capacity to launch strikes almost anywhere in the country. They must be denied whatever space they have found in North Waziristan.

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