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Editorial: Civilians under fire

Escalation of violence, carnage and insurgent attacks is now the stark inevitability. This year is proving to be yet another bloodiest year, as civilians in hundreds are slain in execution-style massacres, bombings, and sadly government interdiction operations. The situation is getting out of hands. The death toll of civilians is outrageous. Civilians are caught in the grip of conflict and take the strain for a catastrophic resurgence of militancy. These people represent the most vulnerable groups who are being caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Their wrath is suppressed and they are not solaced a whit for their anguish. Afghans are bearing the brunt of a fiasco, a vivid failure of the stakeholders and allies in Afghanistan to dismantle what was left of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in early 2010s.

In tumultuous areas under the sway of Taliban, civilians are a shield. Militants use this tactic – living amongst local population – as a leverage against defense forces. Civilians fearing their lives cannot resist militants’ injunctions. In a congregation of senior Taliban chieftains in northeastern turbulent Kunduz on Monday, civilians partook too. It was when government intelligence service spotted the senior militant leaders and staged uninterrupted air strikes on the location. The intelligence-backed air offensive led to the killing of all key Taliban commanders there, but culminated in a preposterous civilian deaths too. There are several counts on death toll of civilians; one of which suggests as many as 100 locals died and sustained injuries – as a result of an ensuing spree of gunfire on nearby civilians perpetrated by panicked terrorists. The fatalities could also have sprung from the direct impact of the bombs flung on the gathering. This scenario implies that situation is far more perplexing than one can fathom.

The radical Taliban’s deliberately using naïve civilian population as a shield is making it tricky for defense forces as they have to weigh the consequence of any of their operations and draw an equilibrium. However, there should be a counter-balance to this terrorist tactic. The 20,000-strong special forces equipped cap-a-pie is irrevocably strong capable enough to be a potential counter-balance. Airstrikes can always be a good military tactic to target militants – specially their strongholds and caves.

But in circumstances where even a single civilian could be harmed as a result of an airstrike, it is beyond transgression to carry out such operation. Instead, ground forces should be employed to the embattled areas and besiege the terrorists. This tactic could minimize any harm to civilian population. Moreover, Taliban breed trouble and being around them is dangerous. Thus, civilians should be fearful of terrorists and avoid participating in their assemblies and congregations.

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