Zarb-e-Azb: A Lesson From America’s War on Terrorism

Kaptaan’s XI may be down to their last wicket in Islamabad, but Army has been racking up the runs in North Waziristan. In a new statement, ISPR says over 900 militants have been killed and key terrorist strongholds have been cleared. Army’s offensive against Taliban is welcome news, but celebrations are still premature. If we want to rid the nation of terrorism for good, we need to take a lesson from America’s war on terrorism.

In 2005, American Vice President Richard ‘Dick’ Cheney told CNN that the insurgency in Iraq was ‘in the last throes’. Almost a decade later, jihadi terrorists are killing almost 1,000 Iraqi civilians every month. In 2012, American President Barack Obama claimed that ‘today, al Qaeda is on the run’. Today, he is increasing airstrikes and sending troops back to Baghdad. In Afghanistan, the American government has been forced to admit that killing militants has not been enough to defeat the Taliban. Estimates of the number of Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan range from 20,000 to 35,000 – and yet the Taliban remains a potent threat.

In Pakistan, we need to take a lesson from America’s War on Terrorism and learn from their mistakes. Army may be making progress in neutralising TTP strongholds, but jihadi extremism is continuing to flourish. How else can we explain ISPR’s celebratory statement coming at the same time that ISIS is making inroads in Pakistan?

The answer can be found in a recent survey of Pakistan that found more than 1 in 10 Pakistanis supports al Qaeda, and 61 per cent of Pakistanis don’t believe sectarianism is a very big problem, even while sectarian killings reach record numbers.

Army has killed over 900 militants, but even before that American drones had killed thousands. Killing militants is not enough to kill militancy. We must address the ideological underpinnings of jihadi groups. Extremism, like polio, is a virus that spreads if it is not inoculated against. The only inoculation against extremism is education.

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