Monday, November 16, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Nov 17, 2015

Turning point? The Friday November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris have reaped the first retaliatory response by France. President Francoise Hollande had declared the Islamic State (IS) attacks as an act of war in the immediate aftermath of the massacre. Now on Monday French air strikes have hit Raqqa, Syria, considered the headquarters of IS. Helicopter gunships and A-10 planes also hit IS’s oil convoys in the area in an attempt to eliminate the terrorists’ source of funding by selling oil in the black market. Meanwhile at home, relatives of one of the attackers have been interrogated, raids are being mounted en masse, some people are under arrest, others in house arrest. A global manhunt has been mounted for one of the attackers believed to have escaped. Europe-wide security crackdowns have led to establishing the links of the three jihadist cells believed to have coordinated the attacks with the Middle East, Belgium, possibly Germany and homegrown French roots. The revelation that one of the attackers travelled through Europe alongside Syrian refugees, seeking asylum in Serbia, have made the worst nightmare of the five million Muslim community in France and the refugees influx come true, with calls by right wing parties to end uncontrolled immigration. Muslim mosques have been dabbed with hate messages in Paris and the already marginalised Muslim community fears for its safety. This misplaced concreteness in blaming the peaceful Muslim community in France or the refugees fleeing war zones afflicted by jihadi terrorism would be ironic were it not posing serious threats of further division and ethnic/religious conflict all over Europe. US President Barack Obama has vowed to finish IS at the G-20 summit in Turkey while the EU is saying to Russia to focus its military efforts in Syria on IS. However, it is France and the western alliance that needs to realign its stance on regime change in Syria to confront all jihadis, including the so-called moderate opposition that includes al Qaeda affiliates. A new IS video released on Monday has threatened attacks on the US and Europe. Security has been beefed up in the US and all over Europe even though the American security establishment does not yet envisage attacks on the mainland US. However, this may prove too sanguine a view, given the demonstrated ability of IS to infiltrate cells all over the world in preparation for such massacres. The focus on the Paris carnage has eclipsed the twin suicide bombings in Beirut just a day earlier on Thursday that killed at least 43 people and wounded more than 239. The suburb of Beirut struck is a Hezbollah stronghold. IS claimed responsibility and warned of more attacks on Hezbollah, which is fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad along with Iran against the jihadi opposition and IS in Syria. The Pakistani Foreign Office has seen fit to declare categorically that IS does not exist in the country and that Pakistan is ready to overcome such challenges. That may be unnecessary denial and chest thumping. The fact is that the terrorism base in Pakistan can easily lend itself to IS’s purposes, as is happening already on the margins of the Afghan Taliban. Terrorism of the IS and all other varieties is by now a global phenomenon and it will not do to lapse into complacency on the basis of the undoubted successes the military’s counter-insurgency operation in FATA have gained. Counter-terrorism is still, as the military has recently emphasised, where the lag is. No country in the world can now afford to let its guard down, especially not a country like Pakistan, which has been centre stage for decades in the incremental growth beyond borders of terrorist organisations. With COAS General Raheel Sharif visiting Washington currently, the issue of resolving the Afghan conundrum through peace talks assumes critical importance. If the Afghan Taliban insurgency can be resolved through some political power sharing deal, it would have two collateral benefits. One, it may deprive the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan of its safe havens across the border on Afghan soil. Two, it may free up our military and security forces to focus on the possible emergence of an IS threat. As the cliché goes, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. No room therefore for burying one’s head in the sand in denial.

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