By S. M. Hali
The August 16 attack on PAF base Minhas, located at Kamra, was thwarted because of the combined efforts of the Air Force, Army and Police. The prior warning of an impending attack had raised the alertness level of the base. It goes to the credit of the attackers that despite the vigilance of the security forces, they penetrated the first and second quadrants of defence and came perilously close to the high value SAAB 2000 early warning aircraft, which were their primary target for destruction.
The Base Quick Response Force (QRF) carried the day, since it was able to double its efforts of defending the target as well as eliminating all the assailants. Inter-service cooperation has always borne fruit. The defensive units of Pakistan Army, PAF’s commandos, its Ground Combateers and the Pakistan Police coordinated meaningfully and became each other’s strengths to foil the attack. It was this rare sense of camaraderie, which enabled the fulfillment of task, without any confusion in the fog of war, which sometimes results in shooting own personnel by mistake. There were minimum casualties to the defenders, who were ably led by the Base Commander Air Commodore Azam, who in the finest traditions of PAF, received a bullet wound but managed to lead from the front. The attack was repulsed and all eight assailants were promptly dispatched while a ninth, glued to a nearby mound, pulled the plug to his suicide jacket, taking his own life.
The state of preparedness of the air base paid rich dividends as it successfully executed the defence plan. A sad aspect is that the US, has expressed renewed criticism of the Pakistani capability of securing its nuclear assets. The detractors of Pakistan’s nuclear program have been expressing doubts that the terrorists may seize the weapons and cause extreme damage through attacks in the west. The US has even carried out war games in the near past, to gauge the efficacy its plans for taking out Pakistan’s nukes before they fall in harm’s way. It may be a source of satisfaction that the US war gaming concluded that it would not be possible to take out Pakistan’s nukes. If Pakistan can manufacture nuclear weapons, it is also capable of defending them stoutly, ably demonstrated in the near past. Despite the use of satellites, drones and possible human intelligence, the US has failed to pinpoint where Pakistan has relocated its nuclear weapons. The dispersal plan including the separation of the trigger mechanism from the nuclear warhead has been achieved with an intricate plan laid out by its Strategic Plans Division, the secretariat of its Nuclear Command Authority. If the US and other snoops armed with tracking devices have failed in their mission, how does the US expect a ragtag militia to get hold of the Pakistani nukes? Bruce Riedel, one of the leading critics of Pakistan’s nuclear plans, a former CIA analyst and counter-terrorism expert and one of President Obama’s advisors on security, has been propagating about the Taliban grabbing, snatching and running off with Pakistan’s nukes. The informed analyst fails to take cognizance of the fact that nuclear weapons are not hand grenades or tennis balls, which can be hidden under one’s armpits and lobbed at the enemy at leisure. The uncouth militia cannot be expected to assemble and launch nuclear weapons, which necessitate technological knowhow and the wherewithal to assimilate the expertise of nuclear comprehension.
The successful defence of Kamra should not lead to complacency, since the attack depicts that the terrorists are getting bolder and better equipped at planning and executing sophisticated attacks. Kamra, which to-date had faced assault on a school bus and rockets fired from afar, has now been subjected to a major attack, which nearly decimated Pakistan’s airborne early warning capability. The next time around, the defenders of Pakistan’s aerial frontiers may not be that lucky.
It is time that a decade down the line of facing terrorist attacks, Pakistan develops and executes an anti-terror policy of tackling and eradicating terrorism, before this ten headed Hydra destroys the society. Already the religious fabric of the Pakistani society has been tainted with confusion regarding support to the terror mongers. There are reports that within the security services, there are Taliban sympathizers, who can go to any length. A serving Brigadier of Pakistan Army has been recently tried and found guilty of being complicit with an extremist organization. A complete filtration process is required to purge the armed forces of extremist elements.