JULY 5, 2016
Last month marked the two-year anniversary of Pakistan’s long-awaited military incursion into the North Waziristan tribal agency. The operation, named Zarb-e-Azb, is still ongoing, and many assessments are mixed. Pakistan’s civilian and military officials promised they would no longer differentiate between “good” militants and “bad” ones and Pakistani officials claim they have not. In reality, the Pakistan military remained selective in its approach. The Haqqani network, which pledges allegiance to the Afghan Taliban and was headquartered in North Waziristan, is still off-limits. Haqqani militants were tipped off before Zarb-e-Azb began and conveniently relocated once the operation got underway.
Many analysts assert that operations like Zarb-e-Azb will never succeed until the Pakistani security establishmentstops making a distinction between good and bad militants. Others have observed that the military has at least begun to target some groups that previously received a pass, which is progress. Could this translate into a more consequential shift down the road? In “Beyond the Double Game: Lessons from Pakistan’s Approach to Islamist Militancy,” which the Journal of Strategic Studies recently published, I argue that interpreting Pakistan’s actions vis-à-vis the militants on its soil requires doing away with the binary concept of “good” and “bad” militants.