With the US pullout looming closer, Afghan forces must be prepared to face the Taliban threat on their own, and a successful defence of the tumultuous Helmand province will go a long way in preparing the Afghan Army for future battles. The battle for control of Helmand has been one of the fiercest battles of the season, but the victory claim by the Afghan forces will ease international fears of whether the Afghan Army is capable to successfully stave off the Taliban on their own after the pull-out is complete. More importantly, this victory will do wonders for the morale of the Afghan forces and will instil confidence to enable them to fight future battles on their own. It also proves that Afghanistan, unstable though it may be, is not in the same boat as Iraq and is doing a better job at fighting against terrorism.

Reportedly, over 800 Taliban fighters were involved in the attack, and the ten day conflict led to the deaths of 260 militants and 28 Afghan soldiers. The terrorists are doing all they can to destabilize the country amidst the presidential elections, and after the assassination attempt on candidate Abdullah Abdullah, fighting off their attack in Helmand was instrumental to preserve the beginnings of peace in the country. The summer has always witnessed an escalation in conflict because that is when the militants can safely move out of the mountains to carry out attacks across Afghanistan; the defenders must remain vigilant because the Taliban are not likely to back off after one defeat.

With Operation Zarb-e-Azb ongoing, both the Pakistan and Afghan forces must cooperate with each other to ensure that the Durand line is not used by the militants to get respite from battles on either side. The Afghan border must be managed diligently so that supply channels for both sides are inaccessible, and militants do not cross over to aid each other as needed. Pakistan must ensure that Afghanistan is not adversely affected from the spillover of the operation. If reports of refugees from North Waziristan crossing the border to go to Afghanistan are to be believed, hoping that the terrorists are being barred from doing the same is being optimistic to the point of foolishness. While some will be relieved by this, it is important to remember that those that leave now can always come back. Our armed forces must remember this, and keep the border secure, because the near-existential security of both countries is inextricably linked together.