The US/Nato/Isaf combine is on its way out of the AfPak Region (APR). Frenetic consultations are taking place amongst all key players to manage a peaceful egress and create the desired political and strategic environment in the APR post-2014. However, the most important of all parties concerned - the militants - have yet to join the process.

The Western powers may end up negotiating from a position of relative weakness. The US/Nato/Isaf/CIA combine and mercenaries like Blackwater/Xe have singularly failed to eliminate the militancy/militants or even browbeat them to the negotiating table. And therein lies the stark rather tragic reality - the gross, abject failure of the US/Nato/Isaf/CIA combine to conclusively impose its will on its adversary - the basic aim of all wars.

However, it is imperative that the militancy is brought to an expeditious, acceptable and final closure. If not, then it is likely to grow exponentially in lethality, ferocity and reach. It is already expanding into the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa with Europe and Continental USA next in their crosshairs.

There is still time to formulate and execute a multidimensional counter-terrorism policy to tackle this threat simultaneously at various levels both domestically and internationally.

The diplomatic dimension: Ideally, the US, Afghan and Pakistan governments should have manoeuvred themselves into advantageous negotiating positions through diplomacy or military successes. It is imperative that they speak from a position of strength. However, in this instance that does not appear to be possible. It will take diplomatic skills of the most sublime order to negotiate from a position of relative weakness and yet be able to impose their collective will on the adversary. Effects oriented strategies will have to be made and implemented.

The militants amenable to negotiations could be offered meaningful roles in governance at the local, provincial and national levels. Those who choose not to negotiate may thus be isolated and tackled piecemeal, diplomatically and if need be militarily. The end state must ensure a pacified and neutralised militancy fully ensconced in mainstream national politics and also usher in a democratically-elected Afghan government that is dominant, assertive and in total control of the nation’s destiny.

The ideological dimension: A comprehensive well directed psychological and information warfare effort needs to be launched to challenge the militant’s belief matrix, their ideology and the presumed righteousness and justness of their cause. This effort must aim to create doubts in their supporter’s minds about their belief and cause. An alternative narrative should be brought forth. It must challenge and compete with the militant’s narrative for public acceptance. This must of necessity emanate from the correct interpretation of Islam and must have popular backing as well as that of all leading Islamic schools and scholars of international repute.

The ideology of the militant must be proved to be misconstrued. A relentless religious discourse and debate by internationally renowned religious authorities on Islam should be initiated. This must be projected and propagated through all facets of print, electronic (to include FM radios) and informational media and beamed at the militants and their supporters. The people at large should be encouraged to question the motives and the sources of sustenance of these militants. A disconnect between genuine Islam and the belief matrix of the militants must be sought, highlighted and propagated. The pulpits in local mosques could play an extremely effective role in these endeavours, though this approach has serious disadvantages as well.

The financial dimension: An all-encompassing squeeze on all known forms and sources of financial sustenance of the militancy is the need of the hour. International covenants must ban fund raisings for militants and make such efforts punishable crimes. Informal transnational movement of funds (hundi, hawala) destined for such purposes has to be stopped. All likely cover organisations must be scrutinised in detail and proscribed, if required. Legislation targeting such activities should be enacted in all major countries of the world and in particular the Middle East, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The political dimension: This is most applicable to political parties and leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They will have to take a principled stand and be identified as either pro- or anti-terrorism or militancy. They must help mould public opinion and sentiment, and create the environment essential for the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to defeat militancy in detail. They must support the LEAs unconditionally and equip them with the necessary laws, weapons and equipment deemed necessary to overcome militancy.

The judicial and legal dimensions: The LEAs and the courts must be given the wherewithal to fight terror. Special and specific laws need to be promulgated to help the LEAs and the courts bring the militants to expeditious justice. The judges, prosecutors and witnesses need to have effective protection programmes. All captured militants must be brought to justice speedily. A well thought out and executed rehabilitation and reintegration programme as implemented by the Saudis could pay rich dividends in weaning captured militants away from their errant ways.

The military dimension: Military operations have to be an integral part of an overall counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency policy. They must essentially be only a means to execute policy. Such operations should not only continue at the domestic levels - as for Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also at the international ones. There must be a relentless drive to chase and confront the militants all over the globe. Efforts will have to be made to dry up their sources of sustenance - financial, weapons, explosives and, most importantly, of new recruits to their cause. An alternative to the drones has to be found. It is a self- defeating exercise that creates grounds for vengeful recruits to join the militants in droves.

Militancy has to be made physically, financially, politically and ideologically unviable. It is imperative that it is brought to a conclusive and defining closure much before the end of December 2014. The militants have of necessity to be pacified and/or neutralised. Else their web of terror threatens to ominously spread to all reaches of the globe - much to everyone’s horror.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand. Currently, he is a faculty member at NUST (NIPCONS). Email: im_k@hotmail.com