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World View: Pakistan Artillery Pounds Terrorist ‘Safe Havens’ in Afghanistan

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Pakistan blames Afghanistan after a week of multiple terror attacks
  • Pakistan army pounds militant hideouts in Afghanistan

Pakistan blames Afghanistan after a week of multiple terror attacks

People and trucks wait for the Pak-Afghan border to be reopened, as Pakistan's army moves heavy artillery to the border
People and trucks wait for the Pak-Afghan border to be reopened, as Pakistan’s army moves heavy artillery to the border

The number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan had been falling in 2015 and 2016, compared to previous years, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised that the year 2017 would be a further improvement. That is why a new surge in terror attacks in Pakistan has shocked the nation and is a personal embarrassment to Sharif.

Six terror attacks occurred in the space of four days:

  • Lahore: 13 killed, Feb 13: Suicide attacker targets police at rally. Claim: Taliban-linked Jamaat-ul-Ahrar
  • Quetta: 2 killed, Feb 14: Police killed trying to defuse bomb. Claim: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Alami faction
  • Peshawar: 1 killed, Feb 15: Suicide bomber targets government employees. Claim: Pakistani Taliban Tehreek e-Taliban
  • Mohmand: 5 killed,, Feb 15: Suicide bombers target government office. Claim: Taliban-linked Jamaat-ul-Ahrar
  • Sehwan: 88 killed, Feb 16: Suicide bomber targets Sufi shrine. Claim: Taliban-linked Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, ISIS
  • Awaran: 3 killed, Feb 16: Soldiers killed as IED hits military convoy. Claim: Baloch Liberation Front

There were other terrorist attacks earlier in the year, including a bomb in a vegetable market in Pakistan’s tribal region on January 21, kill 25 civilians and injuring 87 more.

In 2014, Pakistan’s military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which attacked Taliban militants hiding in the tribal region (FATA) between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistani government officials have credited Zarb-e-Azb as the reason why terror attacks in Pakistan fell in 2015 and 2016.

On February 13 of this year, the day of the terror attack in Lahore, Pakistan’s UN ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the UN Security Council:

This comprehensive approach [Operation Zarb-e-Azb] has succeeded in expelling terrorist organizations from our territory and greatly constrained their ability to carry out lethal attacks, as evident from the dramatic decline in the number of such attacks, despite the cowardly attack in Lahore.

There is a certain irony to this claim: As the number of terror attacks in Pakistan declined in 2015, the number in Afghanistan increased. The two figures may well be linked because Operation Zarb-e-Azb caused thousands of Pakistani Taliban militants hiding out in the FATA to flee across the border into Afghanistan, where they could have linked up with the Afghan Taliban.

The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2015 had special geopolitical significance because the resurgent Taliban forced President Barack Obama to reverse his promise to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. BBC and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP – India) and Al-Jazeera

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Pakistan army pounds militant hideouts in Afghanistan

Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan are rising sharply as Pakistan is essentially blaming Afghanistan for the recent surge in terror attacks. Pakistan’s army is taking these steps following Thursday’s terror attack on the Sufi shrine in Sehwan:

  • Pakistan has closed the border with Afghanistan, blocking all traffic. Tens of thousands of civilians use the crossings every day to get to jobs on the other side of the border. Hundreds of trucks cross the border every day, many carrying fruit and other perishable products. The border has now been closed for five days, creating a chaotic situation, with hundreds of businesses forced to close.
  • Pakistani authorities issued shoot-on-sight orders for anyone attempting to cross illegally from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
  • Hundreds of Afghan citizens in Pakistan have been arrested.
  • Pakistan’s army lobbied hundreds of missiles into Afghanistan, targeting suspected Taliban camps and hideouts on the other side of the border in Afghanistan. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of killing civilians.
  • On Monday, Pakistan began moving heavy artillery and other military equipment up to the Afghan border, in preparation for further unspecified military operations targeting militants hiding out in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry in Kabul summoned Pakistan’s ambassador to protest the border shelling.

Pakistan’s military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said on Monday that the army was fighting the “common enemy” of terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he called “for more effective border coordination and cooperation” to prevent cross-border movement of terrorists.

Last week, Pakistan handed over to Afghanistan a list of 76 fugitive militants hiding in Afghanistan and demanded that immediate action be taken against them.

On Monday, Afghanistan handed over to Pakistan a list of 32 training centers and 85 militant leaders involved in terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, and demanded that immediate action be taken against them.

There have been similar lists in the past, and little or no action has been taken on either side. Whether this time will be different remains to be seen.

Dawn (Pakistan) and Pak Observer and Tolo News (Afghanistan) and VOA

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Sehwan, Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan Taliban, Afghan Taliban, Qamar Javed Bajwa
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