Why we cannot win against the Taliban

Published: October 7, 2011
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Despite the fact that Pakistani and US soldiers have advanced weaponry, they have not been able to beat the Taliban. PHOTO: AFP

The Islamic fundamentalists are on a slow path to victory. Faced with unsurmountable odds after 2001, nobody would have thought that this group of a few men would be able to stage such a comeback. It’s a funny thing, because many Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders who are interviewed say that the fact that they are winning seems unreal to them. It sure is unreal – how can a small group with minimal access to advanced weaponry and technology, as compared to their enemies, be winning?

The statistics are incredible; 80% of Somalia is under the control of al-Qaeda; 60% of Afghanistan is almost completely controlled by the Taliban, and a good portion of Waziristan controlled by the TTP (Tehrik Taliban Pakistan), against whom the Pakistan Army has lost so many men.

It is not that the world hasn’t tried to crush these fundamentalists. The US and NATO are free to bomb and move about anywhere in Afghanistan. North Waziristan is continuously being bombarded by US drones, and in south Waziristan, the Pakistan army has fought a terrible war in which thousands of Pakistani troops have died. Yet, the Taliban gain more and more ground in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. With every passing year, their attacks become increasingly glorious, and reach deeper within the strongholds of the Pakistani and Afghani government.

In my opinion, there are two reasons, purely from a militaristic view, of why the Taliban are winning.

The first one is efficient use of resources. The militants have limited resources. Of the many soldiers I have met that have fought in Waziristan, they all say that the militants do not waste bullets – they do not waste resources precisely because they are restricted by a limited supply. These meagre resources used properly become extremely dangerous compared to the widely wasted government sanctioned ration provided to Pakistani and US military.

The second reason is the very lethal and penetrating strategy known as suicide attacks. Suicide attacks like the recent one in Kabul, and a few months ago in the Naval Base in Karachi, tell us once again, that the enemy is fighting a physical war as well as a propaganda war.

To protect ourselves  from this threat, huge expenses have to be incurred in enhancing perimeter security of important compounds. This,naturally, results in resources being drained. Suicide attacks also speak volumes of the psychology and determination of the enemy; that they are willing to blow themselves up for what they believe makes a very strong statement.

I have written this article not to glorify the militants, but to assert to my readers a simple fact; there is no military solution to this war, because the Taliban are better at waging war than we are. If the USA can’t beat them, we surely can’t. We must look for other ways to contain this threat, and if all fails, it is better to have the violence on the other side of the border rather than this side which I think, finally, the Pakistani military establishment has decided to do.

Adeel.Malik

Adeel Malik

An accountant and advisor to the Bank of China who is currently writing a novel.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.