Saturday, 25 June 2016

Operation Zarb-e-Azb

Operation Zarb-e-Azb,آپریشن ضربِ عضب‎, is a joint military offensive being conducted by the Pakistan Armed Forces against various militant groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, al-Qaeda, Jundallah and the Haqqani network. The operation was launched on 15 June 2014 in North Waziristan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as a renewed effort against militancy in the wake of the 8 June attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, for which the TTP and the IMU claimed responsibility. Part of the ongoing war in North-West Pakistan, up to 30,000 Pakistani soldiers are involved in Zarb-e-Azb, described as a "comprehensive operation" to flush out all foreign and local militants hiding in North Waziristan. The operation has received widespread support from the Pakistani political, defence and civilian sectors. As a consequence, the overall security situation improved and terrorist attacks in Pakistan dropped to a six-year low since 2008.

Zarb-e-Azb, ضربِ عضب‎ ,  Azb also refers to the sword owned by the Islamic prophet, which he used in the battles of Badr and Uhud.

For the first time, the Pakistani military implemented a military strategy called "Seek, Destroy, Clear, Hold." The Pakistani military will seek the target. Once found, it will be destroyed. When destroyed, the infrastructure, bodies and weapons will be cleared and the area will be held both during this time and after its completion to ensure post-operation security and infrastructure rebuilding and/or area rehabilitation. The Seek and Destroy component is from the Vietnam War whereas the Clear and hold component is from the Iraq War. The Pakistani military combined the two doctrines as a single doctrine for the operation to be successful.

Peace negotiations with the Taliban were announced by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his election, although previous attempts to engage TTP in dialogue had failed. The first session of talks, between committees appointed by the Pakistani Government and the Taliban, was held on 26 March 2014 at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House in Islamabad. The Taliban did not name representatives from their ranks, instead nominating pro-Taliban religious figures to present their views. The terrorists called for the implementation of Sharia in Pakistan; the Government of Pakistan demanded the cessation of hostilities, insisting that talks be held within the framework of the Pakistani constitution. A month-long ceasefire was reached on 1 March 2014.

Besides the meetings at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House, negotiations also involved helicopter travel by government representatives to the areas under militant control near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The government had indicated that stronger military action would be implemented if the talks failed.

Negotiations collapsed after the execution of 23 Pakistani Frontier Corps soldiers by the Taliban on 17 February 2014. The soldiers had been held by the insurgents since 2010, and on 17 April 2014 the TTP formally ended the ceasefire. Taliban infighting since March 2014 killed more than 90 militants. The strife, triggered by differences between the Mehsud group (led by Sheheryar Mehsud) and another TTP faction (led by Khan Said Sajna), impeded the negotiations. The negotiations were irreversibly damaged by a terrorist attack on Karachi Airport for which the Taliban claimed responsibility and which killed 28 people (including security personnel). A Pakistani military official was quoted to have said, "The army is ready for an operation. It now all depends on the government to make a decision."

The operation began one week after a terrorist attack on Pakistan's busiest airport. On 8 June 2014, 10 militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and TTP attacked Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, killing 28 people including security personnel and wounding at least 18.

In retaliation, the Pakistani military launched a series of air-strikes targeting terrorist hideouts in the areas bordering Afghanistan. At least 25 militants were killed on 10 June. The figure also included foreign militants killed. Two drone attacks on 12 June killed Uzbek, Afghan and local militants. On 15 June the Pakistani military intensified air-strikes and bombed eight foreign militant hideouts, killing as many as 140 militants (most Uzbek, including persons linked to the airport attack and airport attack commander and mastermind Abu Abdur Rehman Almani) in North Waziristan.

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