Swat Operation: Lesson Learnt From Sri Lanka
Posted on July 15th, 2009

Khalid Khokhar

18 May 2009, is an historic day for Sri Lanka as the security forces have finally defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militarily including its top leadership. After 26 years of ethnic conflict, the Government has been able to achieve control of entire Island including its entire coast line. The LTTE also known as the Tamil Tigers, is a military and political organization that has waged a violent secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan Government since the 1970s in order to secure independence for the Tamil region of Sri Lanka. The LTTE has been responsible for targeted assassination of political figures and non-military officials, and in part on its use of suicide bombers. Its ruthless leader Velupillai Prabhakaran organised a loyal network of cadres “The Black Tigers”, whose deadly suicide terror attacks changed the course of political history in Sri Lanka. The consequences of the 9/11 attack on the global attitude to terrorism were far reaching. Sri Lankan security forces’ success against LTTE should not be underestimated, particularly when similar wars against insurgents in other countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been dragging on. Sri Lanka paid a very heavy price for its historic victory. The defence budget became hardly affordable for a small country like Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan public not only tolerated very high cost of living as a consequence of prolonged war but also the loss of their dear ones. More than 70,000 total civilian died including 24,000 security forces’ personnel to date.. However, no public protest was observed in all these years of suffering.. The public, the Government and the armed forces, all endured for a LTTE-free future. It was the National Will that finally defeated once most dreaded terrorist organisation of the world, the LTTE. In the history of successful counter insurgency operations, Sri Lanka will always top the list.

Now, let us look at the situation in Pakistan and its surrounding regions. The 9/11 terrorist attacks on WTC, witnessed a major paradigm shift – from fighting communism to combating terrorism. International terrorism has jolted the whole world which is faceless and has no territory. Pakistan joined the international effort to curb terrorism because Pakistan itself has suffered from terrorism and condemns terrorism in its all forms and manifestations. Ever since March 2004, Pakistan is confronted with the threat of Talibanization which has spread from the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border deeper into the NWFP, with Swat becoming a major stronghold for Pakistani Taliban. Taliban militants wanted to enforce their own brand of laws in the region and started challenging the writ of the Government by attacking government buildings, courts and security forces in Bunner, Dir and Shangla. The Governmental strategy was to re-establish Government’s writ. This forced Pakistan Army to undertake a massive operation since April 26, 2009, so as to flush out the anti-state element in the north-west of the country. Pakistan Army has cleared the town of Mingora, Charbagh city overcoming stiff resistance. Militants’ strongholds in Mingora, Peochar, Kabal, Khawazakhel and Shangla had been attacked successfully. As a result, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have succeeded in defeating the insurgents by ejecting them from Buner, Dir and other adjoining areas. Majority of the Taliban have either been killed or have retreated from the battlefields. The terrorists are getting demoralised and are trying to flee the areas of the operation. The military operation has led to a flood of internally displace people (IDP) seeking shelter outside Malakand division. So far, over 3000 militants have been killed including high profile commanders like Ibne Amin, Zain-ud-Din and Shah Dowran. With the looming rumours of Fazlullah’s serious injury “”…” The Chief of Taliban, Swat Chapter.

Pakistan is finding herself in the analogous situation as Sri Lankan security forces were confronting the Tamil Tigers till this year. Learning from the experience of successfully fighting a prolonged counter insurgency campaign by the Sri Lankan security forces, an effort is made to draw some lessons for various tiers of the politico-military leadership in Pakistan. Since it’s not a war that is fought on military front only, it is suggested that a political-military delegation from Pakistan should visit Sri Lanka to interact with their counterparts. Some of the essential features to apply in Pakistani setup are as follows:

(1) “Political will” is a must to defeat terrorism. All political parties must have consensus to fight terrorism in National interest of Pakistan.

(2) Public support/awareness is a must, as it is the civilians who suffer the most in an insurgency environment. Public should be made aware of sacrifices they have to offer in men and material during the course of security forces’ operations. The Nation must be prepared to endure fall out of a counter insurgency campaign.

(3) Foreign Ministry to launch a proactive diplomatic maneuver to win international opinion in our favour. It includes international agencies, watch dogs and human rights organisations.

(4) Armed Forces must be provided with every essential weapon/equipment to keep the momentum of operations. Infantry that is the backbone of counter insurgency operations needs to be modernized with sophisticated weapons/equipment to meet growing threat.

(5) The Government will most likely have to increase the defence budget affecting other areas of national development, fulfilling the growing needs of armed forces to carry on insurgency operations.

(6) Resultantly inflation will increase and the general public all over the country will have to bear the brunt of rising cost of living. Media/awareness campaign can help public to bear the burden with patience.

(7) Peace Agreements are used by militant to refit, regroup, rearm and re-supply. No ceasefireIpeace agreement with militants until they surrender with arms unconditionally and accept the moderate spirit of Islam.

(8) No militant organisation can fight a prolong guerrilla war without foreign support, in the shape of funds, weapons, sophisticated equipment and training. Their funding channels/sources at home or abroad should be continuously monitored and denied to them at priority.

(9) PAF and Army Aviation should be suitably incorporated and effectively used in support of ground operations.

(10) Maintenance of supply bases across and inside the borders are essential for sustained logistic support of insurgents. Insurgent supply bases must be destroyed CIS-frontier or trans-frontier, may be through covert sting operations.

(11) Funding can reach militants in the garb of different charity/religious organizations from abroad and at home. Large sealed consignments heading for insurgency prone areas may be heading for militants support.

(12) Blockade of essential supply of weapons, ammunition and equipment will considerably affect capacity of militants. An effective blockade of militant’s supply/escape routes must be given high priority. All consignments from sea/dry ports or any other areas heading to insurgency prone areas must be checked physically as these may contains essential supplies for militants.

(13) A coordinated intelligence effort including human intelligence is of vital importance for a successful counter insurgency operation. Intelligence effort should be able to check/identify militant suicide cadres/cells before they reach settled areas. Our response must start to neutralize/arrest them with in insurgency prone areas.

(14) A comprehensive welfare plan for the families of fallen soldiers will greatly enhance the morale of fighting troops. Similarly comprehensive plan to look after Internally Displaced People (lDPs) is essential to maintain the morale of general public.

(15) A special security conference should be convened regularly at Ministry of Defence to include Defence Minister, Secretary Defence, all Services Chiefs and intelligence heads.. This forum will greatly help in sorting out impediments and to discuss future course of action

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