It has been one and a half decade since the beginning of the US War on Terror in Afghanistan. Pakistan is not just the frontline ally of United States but has also been at paying the price for its overturning of the entire Afghan policy.

The wave of terror generated since then had periodically fluctuating trends, as happens in the modern irregular and decentralised warfare, occasionally with a greater frequency.

The element that remained consistent from the outset on Pakistan’s side was the absence of a comprehensive evaluation of the possible outcomes of our strategy and inevitability the lack of a political settlement for the ultimate solution.

Withal this scenario, over the last 7 to 8 years, slight shift in priorities and certain policies were altered due to the American flip over in the Afghan War Theater and Indian penetration in Afghanistan. However, the main turning point was the Arab Spring and its aftermaths in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq.

It depleted Al-Qaeda and TTP factions, as large number of their militants went to Syria initially joining Al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al Nusra (now called Jabhat Fateh al Sham) and Ahrar al Sham etc. Nonetheless, the central reason for the downfall of TTP and its affiliate groups was the rise of ISIL back in 2014.

It not only resulted in the massive flow of militants to the war arenas of Iraq and Syria but spawned a clash within their own lines as well. Mostly, the extremist segments from all militant groups gave allegiance to ISIL, while the remaining portion supported the Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and remained loyal to their leadership. These divisions led to deadly confrontations among them and broke down their organizational structure.

This lethal clash took place and is still going on between Afghan Taliban and ISIL in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s offshoots and ISIL in Syria and Iraq, on African ground amid Boko Haram and Al Shabaab and up to some extent in Yemen as well.

Meanwhile, Zarb-e-Azab was forcefully launched. Its full-scale escalation in FATA disrupted the command and control center of the militants. The main aspect in which it brought considerable fruits, with reference to the security situation, was its political front in terms of targeting the facilitators and terror financing through striking at the political nexus of terrorism.

On top of everything, the effective neutralisation of religious and secular terror networks, particularly in Karachi, which has complete political backing from legitimate religious and secular political entities, was the most successful part of the operation.

On the other hand, absolute lack of transparency on behalf of military is the core issue that has been counter-productive in this regard- consistant illegal abduction of people, an all-out escalation- with no independent and credible enquiry and audit to evaluate the gains and civilian casualties along with the other possible human rights violations and damages.

Apart from the ideological narrative, there must be a reason for which the militants are getting the reinforcements on a regular basis and it has to be thoroughly investigated.

Despite extreme intrusion of the global power brokers, Pakistan up till now has managed to cope up with the crisis and military operations have prevented it from reaching a situation like that being faced by Syria, Egypt or Libya.

Yet, the mother of all the issues is the utter absence of an in-depth understanding of the entire Afghan Conflict. History is evident that no conventional army has ever been able to defeat the Afghan (and FATA) tribal warriors.

The complex geography and hostile topography provides an ideal battle ground for guerilla warfare.

When a wide-ranging, extensive and full blown attack by US forces with complete support from Northern Alliance and Pakistan’s Military could not win the war for them, then how is it possible for us to exhaust the militants with military might, in a scenario where they are getting thorough assistance from NDS with Indian support.

Referring to Guerilla Warfare, in context of Vietnam War, Dr Henry Kissinger in his Foreign Affairs article in 1969, gave a principle that set the bottom line for the discourse of Military Sciences and War Studies: “The guerilla wins if he does not lose, the conventional army loses if it does not win.”

The sustained and substantive solution, for peace and stability in Pakistan, lies in the installation of a Pakistan friendly government in Afghanistan and the annihilation of American and Indian influence.

While as of this moment, a targeted operation (not a full-fledged military operation), the establishment of law through law enforcement entities and intelligence agencies, together with a political arrangement, should be executed to empower the local tribal leaders to finally negotiate with the militant groups with their help.

The inclusion of FATA in KPK might be a good initiative, but unfortunately, it cannot modify the history and strategic dynamics of FATA.

So the hardline factions has to be politically isolated which would eventually be a defeat for them. The prospects of distinction between “good and bad Taliban” was a superb idea by the US, especially for Pakistan, where there are numerous groups with diversified agendas and ideologies.

The outright rejection of this insightful theory by our intelligentsia, out of their hatred for religious extremists based on prejudice, was senseless. Hawks and doves, liberals and conservatives; extreme radicals and moderate radicals are present in every society and country not to mention militant outfits.

This is high time for a major shift in our approach towards this conflict, as ISIL has got significant position in Afghanistan and according to various reports many militants from Middle Eastern battlefield have returned to the Pak-Afghan region. Additionally, likewise in Middle East and Africa, numerous criminal groups are also joining their banner.

Lastly, it is quite explicit from chapters of history that winning militarily is something next to impossible in this region. Therefore, a political solution must be adopted, one like what was the outcome of the three Anglo-Afghan Wars fought between British India and Afghanistan.