New ground offensive to deny IS space and safe havens
Operation Khyber 4 initiated on Sunday is another sign, if indeed one was still needed, of the serious intent and commitment of Pakistan Army in the war on terror, by a massive drive to stabilise the situation in a sensitive sector of Pak-Afghan border. A division strength force, backed by the PAF, has embarked on an arduous campaign to interdict a major route used by the IS to infiltrate and wreak havoc. Khyber Agency’s Rajgal Valley comprises a formidable and hostile terrain to conduct military operations, with its 256 square kilometres undulating area, eight passes and heights reaching 12,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level. A daunting task that will test the mettle, morale and fortitude of the soldiers, but essential to prevent the bloodthirsty IS from gaining a firm foothold here. Afghanistan has been informed and asked to eliminate the terrorists fleeing to their side.
Two terror-related incidents have occurred on Monday. A suicide bomber targeted a Frontier Constabulary convoy in Peshawar, martyring three personnel, including a major and injuring nine, while in Chaman, a blast near a check post took the life of one FC man. Hence, security of soft targets in vulnerable FATA and major cities needs tightening up to pre-empt retaliatory suicide strikes by IS fellow- travellers, like the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which specialises in such barbaric acts.
But what of the supreme Afghan arbiter, the US, and patron of our pain with its eternal ‘do more’ refrain? The US Congress has recently put more caveats in the recently passed National Defence Authorisation Act, 2018, on reimbursement of defence spending to Pakistan, thanks to the Pakistan-phobic duo of Dana Rohrabacher and Ted Poe, and their obsession with the Haqqani Network and Shakil Afridi, and otherwise meddling in our internal affairs. The much-touted new US Afghan policy due shortly also bodes ill for Pakistan, as it seeks to redefine and review bilateral relations, and is being formulated by Senator John McCain, who on a recent visit warned Pakistan to confront Haqqani or else!