Haven’t beaten them


Breaking the terrorist’s back. A popular term used by militaries the world over when they are describing a measure of success against shadowy militant outfits. The term’s popularity stems from the fact that it cannot really be disproved. It accommodates future incidents of terror; the spin is that though there will be most definitely be more attacks in the future, the network itself has been broken up.
The doyen of middle-east journalism Robert Fisk once mused how all developments were good news for the international US forces: when there were no incidents of violence, they used to claim the militants have been defeated; when there were many, they used to claim these were the final acts of desperation of a network whose – yes – back had been broken.
Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani, speaking to cadets at the military academy at Kakul, chose to use the same phrase. The same day saw a suicide blast in Khar; two days before that, a blast in Karachi. Unless the nuances of pep talks to young cadets dictate subtlety, the chief was economising with the truth.
How can the terrorists’ back be broken with an army that refuses to do something about North Waziristan, a haven that gives the terrorists all the opportunities to regroup and network? From within the tribal areas and without, militants have been heading out to the agency to seek refuge. The bulk of the drone strikes have been in NWA, which by the army’s own admission, have eliminated a large number of terrorists. If the military establishment and their traditional allies in the fourth estate are so peeved about the drone strikes, it would do them good to realise that an operation in the agency is going to bring a near immediate halt to these incidents of territorial violation.
There is a clear and present danger that surrounds us. The military leadership should look this menace in the eye and accept the scope of the problem. Premature declarations of victory are not going to get us anywhere.