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Military Actions Against Terrorists Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4559 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Recent history reveals that terrorism has become the easier way for the unsatisfied people to confront the government of a state in order to force them to surrender to their demands. Today, the terrorism has become a global problem and is not confined of any particular nation. The governments and international community are finding it difficult to deal with this problem and a desirable solution does not seem to be forthcoming.

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The brutal attacks on innocent people forces the authorities to fight fire with fire. It does not produce any fruitful results and leads to loss of even more lives and property. The use of armed forces for dealing with terrorism has also yielded mixed results. The phenomenon is not limited to a specific country and a comparative study of tackling terror to optimise the effort is the need of the hour.


This paper seeks to analyse the consequences of military action against terrorist organisations by Sri Lanka, Israel, Pakistan and the USA. The paper will also discuss the limitations of military power in tackling terrorist organisations and the impact of socio-political considerations at macro level on military operations. The lessons for India will also be derived from the analysis. [1] 


Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealem (LTTE)

The Sri Lankan insurgency was an ethnic conflict between the Singhalese and local Tamils, represented by LTTE. LTTE was a separatist organization founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran. It waged a violent campaign to create ‘Tamil Eelam’, an independent state in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The LTTE, at its peak possessed a well-developed militia and carried out many high profile attacks including the assassinations of Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premdasa in 1993, and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

LTTE pioneered the use of suicide belts and used light aircraft in some of their attacks. [2] For over 25 years, the insurgency caused considerable hardships for the populace, environment and the economy of the state and killed thousands of people during its course. The strategy employed by the LTTE resulted in their being labelled as a terrorist organisation in 32 countries. [3] 

Peace Processes. The government of Sri Lanka tried their best to resolve the issue peacefully, and made three major attempts for negotiations with LTTE. The Sri Lankan government also sought help of Indian Armed Forces which were deployed as Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) from 1987 to 1990. However, the peace efforts did not deliver the goods. [4] Norway

Military Actions by Sri Lanka

Failed Military Actions. Sri Lankan Armed Forces launched numerous military operations against LTTE viz, Eelam War I (1976-1987), Vadamarachchi Operation, IPKF intervention, Eelam War II (1990-1995), Operation Sea Breeze, Operation Thrividha Balaya, Operation Balavegaya I, II, Eelam War III (1995-2002), Operation Riviresa, Operation Jayasikuru, Operation Rivibala, Operation Ranagosa, Operation Rivikirana, and Operation Kinihira I, II, III/IV, V/VI, VII, VIII, IX. However, only Operation Vadamarachchi and Operation Riviresa achieved limited success. [5] 

Decision of Final Military Offensive. President Mahinda Rajapaksa after coming to power decided to launch a decisive military operation against LTTE. The Sri Lankan forces also capitalised on the split of Karuna group from LTTE. The offensive was well planned and executed and led to total defeat of LTTE and ended two decades long insurgency. [6] 

Offensive Operations. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces launched numerous offensive operations on LTTE strong holds and gained control. The Air Force was used effectively to carry precision strikes and neutralised several LTTE commanders. The army’s victory in the Eastern Province led to the recapture of an estimated 6,500 km of territory previously controlled by the LTTE. By 19 May 09, the army finished mopping up the remaining pockets of resistance and succeeded in eliminating the LTTE senior leadership, along with the majority of its remaining hardcore fighters, to decisively end the insurgency. [7] 


Political Will and Good Military Planning. The guerrilla warfare adopted by LTTE posed major challenges for the government to fight the LTTE. On previous occasions fear of collateral damage inhibited the government to launch major operations against the LTTE.The military offensive by the Sri Lankan government to defeat LTTE is a remarkable example of political will, good military planning and execution and synergy of entire government machinery.

Expansion of Armed Forces. Based on study of all previous war operations the government realised the expansion of military would have a definitive impact on LTTE. Therefore, they decided to expand the Armed Forces. This enabled the Armed Forces to eliminate their previous inability to conduct operations on a broad front and operate simultaneously across multiple lines. [8] 

Rehabilitation of Tamil Community. Though the military solution would not be permanent as it has not addressed the root cause of the conflict. The reports of widespread human rights violation and lack of rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils has the risk of smouldering the fires of insurgency. Therefore, it is imperative for Sri Lanka to take adequate measures to rehabilitate the Sri Lankan Tamils and bring them in the main stream.


Genesis of Arab-Israel Conflict

During the British rule in Palestine, the Jewish people were subjected to great bloodshed and massacres by Arabs. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great catastrophe of ‘the Holocaust’. As a result, Jewish immigration to ‘promised land’, which had been going on since late 19th century, increased. The Arabs objected to the Jews coming in to take their land. There were conflicts between the Jews and the Palestinians supported by the Arabs. [9] 

In 1947, British gave up their mandate and UN suggested two states – one Arab and other Jewish. While the Arabs declined the plan, the Jewish accepted and the state of Israel was formed on 15 May 1948. The war broke out and the Jews won a significant success, expanded their state and created several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees. The Arab states refused to recognise Israel or make peace with it. Wars broke out again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982, and there were many terror raids and Israeli reprisals. Both the parties believe different version of the same story. Both parties blame each other for the conflict. Israel has suffered under terrorist attacks from Lebanese group Hezbollah and Palestinian group Hamas founded in 1982 and 1987 respectively, both waging continuous war on Israel. [10] 

Military Actions by Israel

Military Based Approach. Since it was founded in 1948, Israeli approach to counter terrorism has largely been military based. They have continuously improved their military capabilities and developed state of the art equipment. They also have undaunted support from USA which enables them to carry on with their counter offensive against terrorism. [11] 

Zero Tolerance. The Israeli government hardened its determination to follow a zero tolerance policy in dealing with terrorists. In Jun 1976, Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France plane and held its passengers as hostages at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. After the hijackers demanded the liberation of 53 imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, an Israeli commando team stormed the plane and killed the hijackers. 98 hostages were saved and only four were killed in the raid. [12] 

Cooperation from USA. Israel has signed a Counterterrorism Cooperation Accord with the US Government for fighting international terrorism. Both the nations, agree to share expertise and support each other in combating terrorism. [13] 

Targeting of Terrorist Leaders. Israel has adopted a policy of assassinating the people whom they consider terrorists even in other countries and used coercive interrogation to gather information on terrorist activities. They particularly target the leaders in the terrorist organisations. [14] 


Unity of Israeli People. Israel has implemented some of the most rigorous counterterrorist measures by taking urgent punitive action against the terrorists. This has been possible because of the unity among the people of Israel (Jews) and their support to the government. The security awareness of the general populace is praise worthy.

Conscription. The country has demonstrated utmost resolve in countering terrorism despite the fact that they are surrounded by hostile nations. The compulsory enlisting of the youth for a limited time has been a force multiplier.

International Criticism. Israel has faced a lot of international criticism, especially from the Arab community, for being ruthless due to the collateral damage caused. They have handled international pressures well and executed their plans of combating terrorism. There are increased concerns of human right violations by Israeli Forces. The recent destruction of Gaza bound humanitarian aid also has been condemned by international community. [15] 

Challenges Faced. Major challenge for Israel in countering terrorism has been because of suicide bombings and guerrilla warfare by terrorists. They faced difficulties in locating and neutralising Hamas and Hezbollah leadership. The support of neighbouring Arab States to the terrorist organisations has also posed major problems.


Pakistan – Promoter of Terrorism

Since partition in 1947, Pakistan has constantly been anti-India and claimed its right on Kashmir. The realisation that a direct confrontation with India would result in major catastrophe, as in the past, has forced Pakistan to adopt a policy of ‘bleeding India through thousand cuts’. [16] 

As a state sponsoring terror, they have created and promoted organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyba, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al Qaeda, Jamat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Mohamed, to name a few. Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has played a lead role in setting up camps, recruiting and training the terrorists under the name of Jehad (Holy War). Pakistan has used military and non military instruments to enhance growth of terror organisations and spread of religious militancy through Madrassa (religious school). Though they have joined Global War on Terror (GWOT) under US pressure, ISI still keeps supporting Taliban in Afghanistan. [17] 

Military Actions by Pakistan

Military Operations. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf decided to join US led Operation Enduring Freedom. In early 2002, Pakistan’s security forces began conducting operations against foreign militants and their support networks in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). In late 2007, several local militant groups nominally gathered under the TTP umbrella in South Waziristan. Pakistan has undertaken various operations like Op Al-Mizaan, Op Sherdil, Op Rah-e-Raast, Op Rah-e-Nijat etc to take action against Taliban and Al Qaeda in FATA and North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which used to be the safe havens for the terror groups. The Pakistani crack down on the Al Qaeda operatives has not been effective. Therefore, US has continuously kept Pakistan under pressure to deliver as US knows that Pakistan is a key ally for GWOT. [18] 

Internal Security. US Drone attacks in tribal areas has become a cause of worry for Pakistani citizens. The US so far has carried out many attacks in Pakistani territory. These attacks have led to deterioration of the security situation in tribal areas and the NWFP. In Pakistan, there is a growing rage among people against these attacks. According to a latest report, Pakistan witnessed 2,148 terrorist attacks in which more than 7,997 people lost their lives and more than 9,670 were injured till 2009. [19] 


Paradoxical Role. Since Pakistan itself is the biggest promoter of terrorism, it would not be able to conduct successful anti terrorism operations. There is an inherent paradox, Pakistan as a country encouraging Islamist militancy while, at the same time, being a key player in the war against terrorism. [20] Lack of control over Army and ISI by political leadership has contributed to ineffectiveness of Pakistan’s military actions.

Unclear Strategy. Pakistan does not have any clear strategy to tackle the present scenario and is under a dilemma. On one hand Pakistan wants to extract maximum aid from US and at the same time it is finding it difficult to fight terror groups in FATA and NWFP. Pakistan’s policy of both supporting militants in Kashmir and simultaneous aligning with US for GWOT has been a major cause for failure of military action.

Lack of Training and Equipment. Pakistani Army has operated with severe handicaps. Poor training for counterinsurgency warfare and poor equipment for war against the militants has been major lacunae. Pakistan Army had limited experience in counterinsurgency operations.


9/11 Attacks. USA has taken a major initiative in leading the GWOT. The 9/11 attacks were the first of its kind in the history. The terrorists delivered a big blow to US by attacking the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre (WTC).

Post Cold War Scenario. During the Cold War, US sported various terror groups by exploiting their religious and regional differences and sentiments to use them against erstwhile USSR. However, after the disintegration of erstwhile USSR or post Cold War era, US began to enjoy the status of the only Super Power in the world. Consequently, the US withdrew support to these terror groups. Further, continued support to Israel and Gulf War I alienated these groups against US. 9/11 came as a big shock to US and threatened its status of Super Power.

With a firm resolve, US launched attack on Afghanistan to fight Taliban and Al Qaeda. Then US President George W Bush went to the extent of telling the world, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”. [21] 

Military Actions by US

US and allies have waged an unremitting war against Al Qaeda and Taliban and their supporters. They have been on the offensive, and taken the fight to the terrorists in a campaign of direct and continuous action. This has degraded the ranks of Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and operatives. It constricted the space that terrorists operate in and transit through and choked their supplies by cutting off key funding channels and sources.

US Counterterrorism Policy. The US focused on taking aggressive action against terrorists and maintaining a hard line with foreign governments. This was reflected in the four counterterrorism policy principles outlined in the US State Department’s 2004 report:- [22] 

Make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals.

Bring terrorists to justice.

Isolate and pressure state sponsors of terrorism.

Improve the counterterrorism capabilities of allies.

Pakistan – Ally in GWOT. Throughout the world, a variety of safe havens are still available to terrorist organizations. Terrorists are using these places to re-organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train and operate in relative security. Most notable is Pakistan’s FATA, which were transformed into a safe haven after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. Both Al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents have a presence in FATA. US has coaxed Pakistan to carry out operations against terrorists in these areas.

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Drone Attacks. The use of Drone Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) carrying weapons to attack terrorists or terrorist installations has become a focal point of the Obama strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan. More drone attacks have been undertaken under Obama than George W Bush. While the ethics of drone attacks have been questioned by the Pakistan, they clearly provide a method of neutralising terrorists without a military presence. [23] 


Effective Internal Security in US. The fact that there have been no terrorist attacks in USA, post 9/11, is testimony of effective anti-terrorism measures in place. The offensive actions against terrorists have created a remarkable deterrence for them to launch any such misadventure.

Failure in Achieving Stability. Even though the US Administration repeatedly declared its commitment to achieve victory in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the results of current policy are not encouraging. The US has made slow progress in providing a stable environment in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is obvious that the degree of violence in both countries has been increasing. The continued bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq have confirmed that the United States, the most powerful state in the world, failed to achieve its goals in building democracy in these nations.

Losing Credibility. United States’ flawed strategy has led to strong sense of distrust among many nations. The United States is losing its credibility in the eyes of others, and therefore its ability to influence them.

Nation Building. The military operation in Iraq and Afghanistan yielded results initially. However, presently, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan remain very doubtful and uncertain, with bombing and ground fighting still continuing. The US aim of nation building both in Iraq and Afghanistan remains a distant dream.


The social and political factors have a huge bearing on military operations against terrorism. The very basis of the insurgency can be because of religious, cultural, regional or ethnic diversity. Based on these factors youth can be influenced to join the insurgent groups.

Social Factors

Sentiments of Religious Community. International terrorism has been dominated by the religious fundamental groups. Unrestricted military action aimed at a particular community can hurt the sentiments of the moderates who are no way related to the fundamentalists. Therefore, while exercising military options against terrorism, due consideration is to be given to this aspect. Hurting of sentiments of a particular community in general can be counterproductive.

Effect of Civilian Casualties. Massive civilian casualties, while carrying out military operations against terrorists, can shape the opinion of the general public as well as international community. As a result, the political pressures can have adverse affect on the military operations.

Media Campaign. To counter the terrorism successfully, concurrent media campaign along with military operations is a must in order to address social angles. In such a scenario, media needs to be more responsible and should complement the military forces by influencing the public opinion.

Socio-economic Backwardness. Administrative lapses in ensuring socio-economic development of sensitive area can result in local populace can provide cover to the terrorists. This in turn can cause hurdles to military operations as favourable humint are no more available.

Political Factors

Political Will. Terrorism can be fought successfully only if there exists a strong political will. Unstinted support for military action from all political parties can translate into strong political will.

Role of Local Politicians. The local politicians have a great role to play in shaping the public opinion in the national interest. The need of the hour for them is to rise above the party lines. Considering their proximity to the media and the public, they should be the bridge between the government and the public.

Compulsions of Coalition Politics. The political framework of a nation can also put restrictions on the freedom of operations of military forces. In a typical multi party scenario, the different political parties look at the problem in different manner. Though those in power are mandated to solve the problem, the vested interests tend to exploit the situation.


After analysing the strategies adopted by USA, Israel, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in countering terrorism, many lessons can be derived for India. India is fighting fundamentalist terrorism in J & K and armed uprisings in various other parts of the country. Favourable conditions generated by Counter Insurgency Ops in Kashmir and North East by Indian Army could not be exploited by the governments.

Need for Strong Political Will. It is clear from the above analysis that only Sri Lanka has been able to defeat the terrorists. India needs to learn from this and make a firm resolve to fight terrorism. Even in India, militancy was eliminated from Punjab, under the leadership of KPS Gill, former DGP of Punjab. The Government empowered Gill to take all the necessary actions to counter militancy. This operation was possible by a strong political will and synergetic actions by Police. Though KPS Gill received lot of criticism for human rights violations, yet he ensured that the militancy was eradicated from Punjab. Today, a strong political will is badly lacking in India. Indian politicians (both ruling and opposition parties) need to rise above the petty politics and think as a cohesive unit and plan a systematic resolution of the problem.

Meticulous Planning and Perfect Execution. Use of Armed Forces for countering terrorism has its inherent problems. If not well planned and executed, it causes collateral damage in terms of loss of innocent lives and property. It leads to human rights violation and further complicates the problem. The public opinion about the state gets shaped in manner which is detrimental to state objectives in the long term. Should there be an attempt to defeat militants in a decisive military operation, it would have to be well thought out and executed with synergetic approach of all agencies.

Root Cause Analysis. The insurgents are oppressed people wherein socio economic injustice has been done to them for years. As a result, these people resorted to armed insurgency in order to fight for their rights. Ideal example to understand the psyche of these groups is ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh’. He was branded as a terrorist by the British where as he was a freedom fighter for India. There is a need to undertake ‘root cause analysis’ to understand the requirements of each insurgent group independently. The Government must ensure that all facilities are provided to them and efforts made to bring them back in to mainstream. The government needs to reach out to these communities and reduce the trust deficit.

International Cooperation. India should aim to increase cooperation with the nations fighting terrorism. Efforts in intelligence and resource sharing, joint counter terrorism training and signing of extradition treaties will go a long way in combating terrorism.


Terrorism today is an international crisis and is one of the biggest problems for any Government to tackle. What emerges out from the above discussion is that the world needs to unite against terrorism and individual nations should shed their vested interests. The root cause analysis of the problem of terrorism needs to be undertaken at the individual terror group level.  The governments need to reach out to these groups to understand their problems and take measures to meet their aspirations. The cooperation among the nations fighting terrorism should increase in terms of extradition treaties, intelligence sharing, resource sharing, training etc.

Military operations are not a long term solution. They can suppress the insurgency temporarily as it has been done in Sri Lanka, however, in order to ensure long term peace these operations are to be backed with rehabilitation of these communities and bringing them forward to join the mainstream.


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