Cross-border attacks and Credibility

Cross border attacks are getting a lot of attention these days. The vicious murder of our soldiers by jihadi militants proves that it’s our war whether we want to admit it or not. Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that Pakistani jihadi groups are crossing into Afghanistan to target Afghan forces. If allowed to continue, these events will destroy any credibility we have in demanding that our own sovereignty be respected.

We are often told that groups like al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba are completely unrelated. Al Qaeda is against US, Afghan Taliban is against occupation, and LeT is against occupation of Kashmir. But if LeT is really only interested in liberating Kashmir, what are they doing fighting in Afghanistan? Jihadi fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur not only crossed the border into Afghanistan, the dead are being returned to Pakistan for burial after they were killed during a cross border attack.

An Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation, in Watahpur district, Kunar province, yesterday. The target of the operation was Khatab Shafiq, a Lashkar-e-Taiba leader. Khatab Shafiq was the LeT’s senior leader in Kunar province. He was responsible for several attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and provided money, weapons and training to insurgents in the region. Khatab Shafiq also established multiple insurgent training camps in eastern Afghanistan, where insurgents learned how to use mortars, rockets and machine guns. Most recently, he was involved with teaching insurgents how to build and emplace improvised explosive devices. During the operation, the security force positively identified Khatab Shafiq among an armed group of insurgents. After determining there were no civilians in the area, the security force engaged the insurgents with a precision airstrike away from all civilian structures. After the strike, the Afghan and coalition security force conducted a follow-on assessment and confirmed Khatab Shafiq, along with multiple other insurgents, had been killed.

Actually, this should come as no surprise. Executive Director Centre for Research and Security Studies Imtiaz Gul noted in his column for Express Tribune last week that the notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban has shown to be an illusion as both are working more closely together than has been previously admitted.

Not only are they redrawing common strategies in view of the operational and political hiccups that the US-Nato is facing in Afghanistan, but they are also becoming a source of instability in Pakistan itself. All Pakistani militant forces inimical to the US-Nato presence in Afghanistan, including the al Qaeda, who consider Pakistan as an equal culprit (for the sufferings of Afghans) have ratcheted up violence — delivering the proverbial pinpricks to Pakistani society (including the June 23 murder of nine people in Quetta).

Unfortunately, our military leadership seems to be living on a different planet. COAS issued orders to retaliate against NATO aggression, but has remained silent on the militant groups.

Our leaders are correct to hold the NATO commanders responsible for cross-border attacks against our soldiers. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander. How can we be taken seriously when we demand that militants not be allowed to cross from the Afghan side when there appears to be a steady stream of militants crossing from our side? Credibility is hard won and easily lost. Some may think it makes no difference since the Americans will be leaving soon anyway, but with our credibility in tatters, will we be taken seriously when militants cross another border?

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