March 12, 2010 was the perfect day to start Spring Break. It was a rare spring day that had the power to lift your spirits. But it only took 45 minutes to change that. March 12, 2010 is the same day that five blasts shook the city of Lahore, Pakistan.
That day didn’t seem so amazing anymore as I frantically tried to contact everyone I know back home to make sure they were alive. It was only when I was assured of their safety that I was hit by the larger implications of what had happened.
The terrorist dragon had been awakened and will only sleep when it is tired. The terrorists are just warming up and the only thing that will satisfy this beast is to be left alone. Unfortunately, at this point, they cannot be left to their own devices. External forces that the dragon calls its enemy continue to poke and attack this uncontainable creature. This attackonly angers the dragon further, and stronger forces are needed to contain the extensive damage it wreaks. Thus, the vicious cycle continues. Sadly, a third party is getting destroyed, becoming collateral damage in a war between good and evil. Is it justifiable to let one country burn so the fire can be put out in another?
Including the terrorist strikes in the northern areas of Pakistan, the number of attacks in Pakistani cities is well beyond a limit that people can track. Terrorist targets range from hotels and religious sites to entertainment events. The number injured and dead is no more than a statistic. 2009 reports from local Pakistani news sources state that, “Suicide bombers have struck at least 150 times in different parts of the country since September 11, 2001 when Pakistan chose to be a frontline state in the US-led war on terror.”
I am not against the war on terror in concept, but I am against the way it is playing out today. As Pakistan continues to engage in the U.S.-led war on terror I am forced to ask: Who is protecting the Pakistani national security interests? Who is protecting the thousands of innocent Pakistanis that continue to die as a result of terrorist attacks? Where is our war on terror? Currently, America is knee-deep in the war on terror. American forces pulling out of Pakistani territory will protect the security interests of the people of Pakistan. It is difficult to judge, though, if the Pakistani or American government would favor such a move.
Terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. In the year 2010 they come dressed as ‘ordinary’ civilians walking casually on foot through busy bazaars in main cities carrying explosives. Pakistanis have come to fear their own. Who knows if the person walking next to you on the street won’t suddenly explode?
In response to the U.S. drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the Taliban threatened to ‘unleash’ 3,000 suicide bombers onto Pakistan, as reported by the Telegraph in March. The terrorist organization Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility for the March 8 and the March 12 attacks in Lahore and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. This militant umbrella organization, formed in 2002, continues to provide support to the Taliban fighting against American-led forces in Afghanistan.
The countdown to 3,000 has already started! Thousands have died and many more have suffered. How long before something is done to stop the terror? Is Pakistan a price the U.S. is willing to pay for the protection of American security? If Pakistan does become collateral damage, will success for the U.S. become imminent?
It is ironic that I received the news of the Lahore attacks while sitting in a class discussing counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. The topic for the class was “deterrence” and if it is possible to deter terrorist groups. If Pakistan is a test case my current answer is “no.” A counterterrorism policy is difficult to achieve, especially when multiple groups terrorize a large area. Therefore, I have no answer as to how to create a strategy that effectively counters terrorist forces so that the citizens of a nation helping the U.S. do not suffer.
While I was writing this piece another bomb exploded in Lahore. Sitting halfway across the world, I am scared to refresh the news page. What is even more terrifying is talking to a friend in Lahore and hearing him say: “A few bombs here and there make no difference … it’s sad, deplorable, but eventually it’s routine.”