WITH militancy rearing its head across the country once again, the civilian and military leaderships need to focus on imparting better counterterrorism training to our troops in order to reduce loss of life during antiterrorism operations.
Ever since the banned TTP rescinded the truce with the state in November of last year, there has been an alarming rise in the frequency of attacks in which security personnel have been martyred or wounded. In fact, according to figures collected by an Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan lost over 280 security personnel last year, with December being particularly deadly. As things stand, the new year is not likely to be much different, unless the terrorist threat is uprooted.
Both in terms of intelligence gathering and counterterrorism training, there is a dire need for our security forces to stay two steps ahead of the militants. This is especially true for those on the front line in the battle against terrorist violence, namely the military units concerned and the counterterrorism departments of the provincial police forces.
The fact is that militants — whether they are religiously motivated and sectarian elements or separatists — are not conventional enemies that armies meet on the battlefield. They are irregular foes using asymmetric methods, and the state will have to master the necessary rules of engagement if it is to defeat the enemy and save the lives of our troops and police officers. For example, while IEDs may be tough to spot, there is no reason why such a high number of security men should lose their lives in intelligence-based operations.
The government, together with the military high command, needs to update CT training modules for both the military and the police forces. If need be, a special military unit can be raised that is specifically trained in the latest methods, and equipped with the requisite tools to fight terrorism. Or, existing formations can be trained to meet the threat. This is a decision security experts and the high command need to make in order to limit casualties within the ranks, and successfully counter terrorism.
Indeed, the fight will not be a painless one, and many of our brave troops and police officers will be putting their lives on the line to protect Pakistan. It is the state’s duty to provide them with the training and tools they need to defeat a shadowy and ruthless foe that has few scruples. If a high number of security men continue to lose their lives or suffer grave injuries during the course of antiterrorism operations, it will have a major demoralising effect on security personnel, while handing a psychological victory to the militants.
Terrorism may have made a resurgence due to the failed policies of the state, but those defending the country should not have to pay for these mistakes with their lives.
Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2023