Quetta college carnage: It's nothing else
but tit for tat
By Imtiaz Gul
Express Tribune, October 25, 2016
Regardless of how you look at it, central to terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan are known instruments of destabilisation and instability i.e. TTP, IS/Daesh, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They are the handy pawns in the proxy war that is currently underway in the region.
The only plausible explanation for such termination missions is a tit for tat strategy born out of the perception that Pakistan needs to do more to neutralise and uproot the Haqqani Network.
Until Pakistan is seen doing so, its security apparatus is likely to remain under attack – both by the international players as well as by their instruments of terror and instability.
The deadly terrorist raid on the New Sariab Police Training College near Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochsitan province, does not come as a surprise. The attack has so far claimed the lives of 61 security personnel, by far the largest in terms of fatalities among those carried out against Pakistan’s security apparatus.
It has been in the offing in view of the excessive bleeding of the number of unusual fatalities among the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) since early this year.
The Quetta attack is reminiscent of two attacks within six months (March /October 2009) at the Police Academy at Manawan outside Lahore; typical fidayeen (suicide) termination missions with the objective of inflicting as much damage as possible.
The latest blood-spilling can be interpreted in two ways; it’s a strike either by the Pakistani or Uzbek proponents of Daesh i.e. Lashkare Jhangvi or different splinters of the TTP. Or it is a tit for tat, reprisal attack by all those who see Pakistan’s security establishment as the patron and harbourer of the Haqqani Network, which is seen as the major source of unusual attrition within the ANSF; a staggering 3,500 losses until August this year, including nearly 2,000 in July and August alone. Sine early this month, the ANSF losses in Helmand alone have been over 150 with fighting raging in a number of districts and provinces around Helmand.
The top US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson, however, places the blame on both sides.
“It’s still a very pours border region and we do see insurgents moving both ways across the border, some from Afghanistan to Pakistan and then of course the Haqqanis and the Taliban moving from Pakistan into Afghanistan,” said Nicholson, when asked about Pakistan’s border.
When asked whether the Afghan government had any plan to secure the border, Nicholson offered this explanation:
“The Afghan border police are present along the border but the numbers of border posts probably need to increase, the coordination procedures between the Afghans and the Pakistanis (need to improve). We are working on a bilateral basis and we are going to continue to work improve this over the next year.”
General Nicholson resonates a largely realistic ground situation, with both Kabul and Islamabad apparently helpless in preempting and preventing attacks of this kind.
What is clear though is that the Haqqani Network remains central to the Afghan-American narrative as much as the Indian narrative on the Lashkare Taiba/Jamaatud Dawa. Islamabad has given the Haqqanis, similar to the Afghan Taliban, shelter in Pakistan’s western tribal region. As a result, many American soldiers have been killed by the network.
In 2011, the Haqqanis attacked the US Embassy in Kabul. The network was also blamed for the 2008 bombing of the Indian mission in Kabul that killed 58 people – and since it hit India, it was “perfectly alright” with Pakistani intelligence, the Forbes Magazine wrote in August this year.
As late as October 24, the top US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson made a similar reiteration in an interview with The Indian Express:
“We see, on the one hand, a stated aspiration for reconciliation (on the part of the Pakistan government, by bringing the Taliban to the table for peace talks). While on the other, the Haqqanis still enjoy sanctuary and can operate freely from inside Pakistan and this continues to be a concern.”
At the same time Nicholson, who commands a US-led coalition of about 13,000 troops from several countries in Afghanistan, gave “great credit” to the Pakistani government and the army for mounting an operation against terrorists and other insurgents, called ‘Zarb-e-Azb’, in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies