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Editorial

July 18, 2017

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A new operation

A new operation

Until quite recently, Pakistan has been in denial about the emergence of the Islamic State as a potent militant force in the country. Just last year, the Foreign Office was claiming that the group had never got a strong foothold in Pakistan. Now, after a resurgence in militant attacks this year – many of them carried out by IS – we have had to finally acknowledge the problem. At a press conference          on Sunday, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor announced the launching of a military operation targeting IS in the Rajgaal and Shawwal areas of Khyber Agency. This new operation, known as Khyber Phase-IV operation, will be a part of the larger Operation Raddul Fasaad which itself was a continuation of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Ghafoor did list the successes of Raddul Fasaad at the press conference and there is no doubt that the safe havens militant groups have in Afghanistan has made it easier for them to plan attacks. But there are still many questions to be answered about the efficacy of the operations, from their ability to disrupt militant groups to our efforts in rehabilitating the IDPs forced to flee their homes.

This year alone, IS has been behind the suicide bombing at Sehwan and the bombing targeting Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in Mastung and yet we have very little information about the leadership structure of the group or its recruitment and financing methods. While military operations may take the battle to the enemy, there is also a need for strong intelligence. Counterterrorism requires not only victory on the battlefield but, more crucially, the ability to dismantle militant networks by foiling their plots and disrupting their fundraising. With IS, along with other militant groups, believed to move fluidly across the border, there will be a need for diplomacy too in this fight. Ghafoor announced that Pakistan was ramping up security along the border, but much of it cannot be sealed due to the rugged terrain. Groups like the TTP fled to Afghanistan as a result of the previous operations. This is something which should have been anticipated before the operations were launched and diplomacy pursued with Afghanistan to ensure they were unable to get a foothold there. We now need to engage with Afghanistan again so that the sacrifices of those who fight these operations are not in vain.

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