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Khost drone strike: Editorial in Dawn, November 27th, 2015

27 November 2015 No Comment

TERROR knows no boundaries and perhaps there is no better recent illustration of it than the US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan that allegedly killed dozens of militants whose bodies were buried in Pakistan.It is now widely acknowledged that the shrinking space for militants in Fata, particularly since the launch of Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the recent Khyber operations, caused many militants to decamp to eastern Afghanistan.It is also now an open secret that eastern Afghanistan has become a hotbed of both anti-Pakistan and anti-Afghan militancy.Furthermore, the inability of the Afghan security forces to project the state’s writ in the border regions appears to be leading to a renewed reliance on American airpower in the area.To the extent that dangerous militant leaders are being eliminated, such acts should be welcomed whether carried out by Afghan, Pakistani or American forces. In fact, the closer the three states cooperate, the more rapid and lasting the results are likely to be in the fight against militancy. But the drone strike in Khost has also raked up some uncomfortable memories and raised awkward questions.
Reported to have been killed in Wednesday’s strike is Khan Said ‘Sajna’, a TTP leader who, until as recently as last year, was touted to be a moderate Taliban that the Pakistani state could make peace with.But even then it was clear that Khan Said was not renouncing militancy — indeed, he was only against violence inside Pakistan and remained an enthusiastic proponent of jihad in Afghanistan.There are likely many officials inside the Afghan state who remain wary of believing the Pakistani security establishment precisely because of the contradictions and ambiguities in Pakistani policy.

Can exporting Pakistani jihadists while simultaneously pledging support for a peaceful resolution of the war in Afghanistan create much goodwill? While Pakistani officials may rightly counter that there is no more ambiguity and that there is no support for any strand of the banned TTP today, the public funerals held in Upper Dir for militants believed to have been killed in the Khost drone strike send the most unwanted of signals.How was it possible for the funerals to be held in a public stadium and for them to be attended by a crowd of over 1,000 individuals, including at least one local official? Why were the coffins draped in the flags of a Pakistan militant offshoot aligned with the Afghan Taliban? Surely, such unnerving public displays should not be permitted anymore.http://www.dawn.com/news/1222534/khost-drone-strike

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