Security

Pakistan eliminates terrorist attacks against NATO interests

By Javed Mahmood

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A truck loaded with consumer goods departs for Afghanistan from Islamabad on October 18, 2016. Commercial vehicles supplying goods from Pakistan to Afghanistan businessmen and NATO forces are now safe after the launch of military and intelligence based operations against militants in Pakistan, statistics show. [Javed Mahmood]

ISLAMABAD -- Terrorists have been unable to attack NATO interests in Pakistan since the onset of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and intelligence based operations targeting banned militant groups, Pakistani military and security experts say.

Between 2008 and 2014, more than 250 terrorist attacks against NATO interests were reported in all four provinces of Pakistan, resulting in the deaths of 143 people -- 46 in Balochistan, 59 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 19 in Punjab and one in Sindh Province, the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) reported.

Attacks against NATO containers, oil tankers and supplies peaked in 2010-2014, but between January 2015 and October 2016, not a single terrorist attack against NATO was reported, according to the SATP.

Military and security experts credit this success with the countrywide targeted military and intelligence based operations launched against militants.

Uprooting militancy, terrorism

"Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was involved in most of the terrorist attacks on NATO containers, oil tankers and people who used to supply various items to NATO forces in Afghanistan," said Brig. (ret.) Mehmood Shah, former security secretary for FATA.

"The military operation in FATA, especially in North Waziristan, and intelligence based operations of the security agencies in other parts of the country, have not only wiped out the Taliban's infrastructure and network, but also minimised their capability to carry out major attacks," he told Pakistan Forward.

The Taliban have faced heavy casualties and damage to their network as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the militant group is not in a position to carry out attacks like in the past, he said.

Shah noted that the quantity of NATO goods and supplies in Pakistan has dropped after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, nonetheless, loaded containers and oil tankers still pass frequently from Pakistan to Afghanistan without facing terrorist attacks.

"The military has fulfilled its obligation of crushing the extremism and militancy in the country and now the civil-military leadership should evolve further strategies to sustain the success of the operations and to maintain the peace amid the improved security situation," he said.

A nationwide operation against all banned militant groups in Pakistan would uproot militancy once and for all, Shah said.

"The government should stand with the military to nip the evil of terrorism in the bud," he said.

Squashing militants' alliances, networks

"The army's recent operation in Khyber Agency played a vital role in containing the might of the militants, which led to a sharp decline in terror related violence and attacks on NATO interests in Pakistan," said security analyst Imtiaz Gul, chairman of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad.

When the military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, TTP militants took shelter in Khyber Agency and forged alliance with Lashkar-e-Islam under the leadership of Mangal Bagh, Gul explained.

"To counter this collusion of militant groups, the army launched a parallel operation in Khyber Agency and eliminated the might, militancy and existence of the militants, which has improved the security situation and reduced the velocity of attacks," he told Pakistan Forward.

Before the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014 and the bulk withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in December 2015, attacks against vehicles carrying NATO goods and supplies from Pakistan to Afghanistan were fairly common.

Now, the remaining supplies passing through Pakistani territory reach Kabul and Qandahar safely, Gul said.

Enhancing counter-terror co-operation

"Balochistan faced the highest number of terrorist attacks on vehicles carrying goods for NATO forces before the launch of military Operation Zarb-e-Azb and intelligence based operations of security agencies," said Shahzada Zulfiqar, a security analyst and president of the Quetta Press Club Quetta-based security analyst and President of Quetta Press Club.

"The government and the security agencies have eliminated the network of militants, insurgents and their facilitators in Balochistan who were involved in extortion of money from the contractors and owners of the vehicles that used to supply goods to troops in Afghanistan," he told Pakistan Forward.

Previously, the militants would attack the loaded containers and oil tankers of those who refused to pay extortion money, he said.

"Khuzdar area of Balochistan was notorious for extortion of money and terrorist attacks on NATO interests by militants and insurgents, but the intelligence based operations of the security agencies have eliminated this evil nexus," he said.

"Government, security and intelligence agencies must further enhance their co-operation and exchange of intelligence information to discourage militancy and improve security," Zulfiqar said.

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