July 12th, 2011 · Shaan Akbar
Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was assassinated by a longtime associate on July 12th while entertaining guests at his home. The Taliban claimed responsibility, stating that the associate, Sardar Muhammad, was a sleeper agent.
At first glance, this was a typical Taliban assassination against an official in the U.S.-backed Afghan government. However, there are two facts to consider. First, this was no ordinary official – this was the brother of President Hamid Karzai. Second, the U.S. is currently engaged in negotiations with the Taliban. The death of Karzai’s brother will undoubtedly complicate those negotiations. Hamid Karzai will be far less likely to come to an accommodation with the Taliban now that they’ve offed his younger brother. Not to mention, Ahmed Wali Karzai was a major asset to his elder brother, who relied on him for maintaining Pashtun support in southern Afghanistan.
So why did the Taliban execute the assassination now? The sleeper agent presumably could have acted at any time, in the recent past or even later on down the road. Why now?
The answer may lie across the border. (Before you start howling conspiracy theory, try to bear with me.)
This past weekend, a frustrated Obama administration announced that it was suspending $800M of military aid to the country. This very public rebuke, following accusations that the murder of Saleem Shahzad was state sanctioned, likely ruffled some feathers in Rawalpindi.
It could be that Pakistan’s military, with its (albeit lessened) influence over the Taliban, prodded the militant group to assassinate Ahmed Wali Karzai. By having him eliminated, Pakistan could have been underhandedly reminding the U.S. that it has the ability to make the U.S.’ life in the region very difficult — and that it may want to reevaluate its recent tact.
Tags: Afghan Taliban · Afghanistan · Ahmed Wali Karzai · Inter-services Intelligence · ISI · Pakistan Army · Relations with Afghanistan · Relations with United States · Taliban · War on Terror
May 13th, 2011 · Shaan Akbar
A little more than four months ago, the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was gunned down in broad daylight for standing up for the rights of a poor Christian woman. On his death, many in Pakistan asked, “Well, why did he speak up for Aasia Bibi? Didn’t he know this would happen?”
Two months ago, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also gunned down for demanding changes to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. People pondered, “Well, why did he leave home without his security detail? Didn’t he see what they did to Taseer?”
Last month, the Supreme Court acquitted five men accused of publicly gang-raping Mukhtar Mai on the orders of a tribal council. The media asked, “Well, why did she file an appeal to begin with? Didn’t she know she’d lose?”
All three cases featured innocent victims suffering cruel injustice. All three cases featured Pakistani society’s propensity to blame victims. How do we explain societal victim blaming in Pakistan?
[Read more →]
Tags: Social Commentary · Uncategorized
May 6th, 2011 · Shaan Akbar
In the wake of the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden, questions have emerged with respect to Pakistan’s role in the affair. Did Pakistan have advance knowledge of the raid? If it didn’t, did it at least detect the incursion? Many have hypothesized that Pakistan’s role has been understated to shield the Pakistani government and military from the backlash of an overwhelmingly anti-American public. A review of the details can shed some light on these issues.
[Read more →]
Tags: Abbottabad · Afghanistan · Barack Obama · Central Intelligence Agency · Chief of Army Staff · CIA · Corps Commanders Conference · Inter-services Intelligence · ISI · Navy SEAL Team 6 · Operation Geronimo · Operation Neptune Spear · Osama Bin Laden · Pakistan Air Force · Pakistan Army · Relations with United States · Taliban · UH-60 Black Hawk · War on Terror
May 3rd, 2011 · Shaan Akbar
President Obama and his staff watch the historic operation against Osama Bin Laden unfold – live.
Tags: Barack Obama · Central Intelligence Agency · CIA · Hillary Clinton · Inter-services Intelligence · ISI · Joe Biden · Osama Bin Laden · War on Terror
May 1st, 2011 · Shaan Akbar
President Barack Obama is expected to address the nation tonight to announce what is arguably the biggest news of the new century: Osama Bin Laden is dead. And though historic, the death of Bin Laden will do little to change the global landscape. The US is primed to remain embroiled in conflicts stretching from the Maghreb to the archipelagos of Southeast Asia.
12:09AM CST / 10:09AM PST: Allegedly, the entire city of Abbottabad was without electricity during the operation. Though load shedding is common in Pakistan, I’m guessing this was planned. In which case, there was definitely a good deal of coordination with the ISI. However, Pakistani military/intelligence involvement will likely be understated to shield Pakistan’s lone viable institution from public backlash. That’s not to say though, that “Pakistani intelligence sources” won’t be spinning the news the other way for Western media outlets.
[Read more →]
Tags: Al Qaeda · Osama Bin Laden · War on Terror
September 1st, 2010 · Shaan Akbar
On August 25th, an INSIDER BRIEF letter to the editor was published in the Wall Street Journal in response to Ashley Tellis’ op-ed, “Stop the Sino-Pak Nuclear Pact.“ In his op-ed, Tellis argues that Washington should oppose the sale of Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Our letter is copied below (the bracketed text was edited out in publishing):
Ashley J. Tellis voices his opposition to the recent sale of Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan (“Stop the Sino-Pak Nuclear Pact,” op-ed, Aug. 17). As a former State Department official, Mr. Tellis exhibits in his stance the same shortsightedness and double standards that often mar U.S. foreign policy.
By opposing Chinese-made nuclear plants with International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards in Pakistan, the U.S. would be denying a valuable energy source to a key ally whose stability is threatened by a crushing energy deficit. How would Mr. Tellis suggest Pakistan bridge its 4,000-megawatt energy gap, which is expected to grow by another 22% by 2015?
There is also a clear double standard embedded in Mr. Tellis’s criticism. The U.S.-India nuclear pact that Mr. Tellis helped negotiate exempts eight power plants, including Indian “breeder reactors,” from the IAEA-inspected civilian list. (Breeder reactors produce more fissile material than they consume.) The exemption allows India to advance its military nuclear program and only sets back U.S. nuclear nonproliferation efforts. [According to Mr. Tellis himself, the operation of India’s unsafeguarded plants alone would provide enough weapon-grade plutonium to add more than 2,000 nuclear weapons to India’s arsenal.]
For the U.S. to be taken seriously in South and Southwest Asia, it needs to have clear and consistent policies [towards its allies, foes and] on major international issues [(e.g., non-proliferation)]. [Mr. Tellis’ opinion does not serve that end.]
At the INSIDER BRIEF, we believe that instead of opposing the Sino-Pak nuclear pact, the U.S. should be looking to support the Chinese sale. Chinese support of Pakistan should be viewed as welcome relief to the United States, which over the last decade, has almost singlehandedly helped stabilize Pakistan.
[Read more →]
Tags: Energy Crisis · IAEA · Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty · Nuclear Security · Relations with China · Relations with United States
July 28th, 2010 · Sehr Akbar
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pakistani media analyst, Javed Jabbar. Jabbar, who was in D.C. to address audiences at the Atlantic Council and United States Institute for Peace, spoke to us about how to improve relations between India-Pakistan, Pakistan’s media industry, and the future of Pakistan itself.
[Read more →]
Tags: Javed Jabbar · Nawaz Sharif · Pervez Musharraf · Relations with India
March 9th, 2010 · Shaan Akbar
Editor’s Note: I’ve been sitting on this post for a few weeks now and finally have a chance to post it. Fortunately for me, questions still linger about Pakistan’s motivations behind the recent spate of Taliban arrests.
The first two months of 2010 have brought about a sea change on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The U.S. has initiated a surge in both drone strikes and troops (40,000 more boots expected on the ground in Afghanistan) in an attempt to reshape the Afghan war. Pakistan, many analysts have observed, has had a seeming change of heart, allegedly capturing half of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura including the Taliban’s number two, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. However, the spate of high profile arrests shouldn’t be construed as a change of heart or a capitulation to American pressure. Pakistan is betting on itself in a complex game to further its interests in the region.
“WE HOLD ALL THE CARDS”
The following (Afghan) Taliban members have been either killed or captured in Pakistan:
- 01/26/10 – Mullah Abdul Salam – Shadow governor of Kunduz province – Captured – Faisalabad, Pakistan
- 01/26/10 – Mullah Mir Muhammad – Shadow governor of Baghlan province – Captured – Faisalabad, Pakistan
- 02/15/10 – Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – Second in command of Afghan Taliban – Captured – Karachi, Pakistan
- 02/18/10 – Mohammed Haqqani – Brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani – Killed – North Waziristan, Pakistan
- 02/20/10 – Maulvi Abdul Kabir – Former shadow governor of Nangarhar – Captured – Nowshera, Pakistan
- 03/03/10 – Agha Jan Mohtasim – Son-in-law to Mullah Omar and Taliban commander – Captured – Karachi, Pakistan
According to Christian Science Monitor, other Taliban members allegedly also captured by Pakistan include: Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada, and Mullah Abdul Raouf.
The U.S. is a distant power that has signaled that it’s aiming to withdraw from the war ravaged nation by July 2011. The Taliban are Pakistan’s strategic hedge in Afghanistan. So why on earth has Pakistan decided to turn so forcefully against its (former?) proxy?
The answer is that it hasn’t.
The arrests are part of a larger strategy through which Pakistan is seeking to roll back Indian influence in Afghanistan and revitalize its own influence. With leverage on both sides of the Afghan conflict (i.e., the U.S. and the Taliban), confidence is running high in the Pakistani establishment right now, with high level INSIDER BRIEF sources stating, “we [Pakistan] hold all the cards.”
On the one hand, Pakistan believes it has convinced Americans that U.S. success is highly dependent on Pakistani cooperation. In return for cooperation, the U.S. has recognized Pakistani concerns vis-a-vis India in Afghanistan. Pakistani sources report that this was in part exhibited by the marginalization of the Indians at the Afghan conferences in London and Turkey.
On the other hand, Pakistan has been urging the Taliban to moderate themselves and cooperate towards a post-American set-up in Afghanistan (but not one that was independent of Pakistani considerations). Pakistan has conveyed this through two means: quiet nudging and arrests. Of course, the latter has been heavily publicized. Using its superior human intelligence and murky relationships, Pakistan has identified amenable elements for “collection” (read: arrest) for use in a future dispensation in Afghanistan. The intent is that the remaining hard-line elements (e.g., those aligned with Al Qaeda) will be sidelined and eliminated. The strategy may explain Pakistani actions to prevent handover of captured Taliban figures to Afghanistan or the U.S.
INTERPRETING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
On Friday, February 26th, the Lahore High Court (LHC) barred the government from extraditing captured Afghan Taliban leaders (including Mullah Baradar) abroad. The ruling came on the heels of a Pakistani decision to hand over top Taliban militants over to Afghanistan. Some may view the LHC ruling in the context of Pakistani judicial activism that has proven to be a thorn in the side of Pakistani anti-terror efforts. However, the court decision is likely an example of judicial pliability and not independence. The Zardari administration can now comfortably deflect American and Afghan pressure under the cover of the LHC ruling. After all, handing over top Taliban militants over to the Afghan would reduce Pakistan’s leverage in the process and possibly lead to the revelation of some embarrassing links between Pakistan and the Taliban.
That Friday also brought a string of Taliban suicide bombings in Kabul that targeted Indians (9 of the 17 killed were Indian and 12 Indians were also injured). Two rationales appear to be developing for the attack. The first is that the Taliban are trying to throw a wrench in recently re-initiated Indo-Pak talks. The second is that the attacks were coordinated by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, who in the past have been blamed for previous attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul. I believe that there exists a third rationale. Certain factions in the Taliban, under new found pressure by their former sponsors, may be trying to demonstrate their usefulness to Pakistan by targeting the Indians in Afghanistan as a reminder that they can help counter Indian influence in the country.
Pakistan believes it holds all the cards for success in Afghanistan. However, a number of factors could possibly ruin Pakistan’s hand. A highly decentralized Afghan Taliban may not be responsive to calls to reconciliation by Taliban leaders captured in Pakistan far from the fighting. Or U.S. resolve in Afghanistan may not last and an antagonized Taliban may fail to cooperate or even turn on Pakistan after the Americans leave. The list goes on.
The chips are on the table. Let’s see how this hand plays out.
Tags: Afghan Taliban · Aghan Jan Mohtasim · Ashfaq Kayani · Ashfaq Kiyani · Asif Zardari · FATA · Inter-services Intelligence · ISI · Maulvi Abdul Kabir · Mohammed Haqqani · Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar · Mullah Abdul Salam · Mullah Mir Muhammad · NATO · Predator UAV · Rehman Malik · Relations with Afghanistan · Relations with India · Relations with United States · Sirajuddin Haqqani · Taliban · War on Terror · Waziristan
February 9th, 2010 · Shaan Akbar
HAKIMULLAH DEAD, PROBABLY.
Multiple media outlets reported today that Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), succumbed to his wounds from the January 14th drone strikes on Shaktoi, South Waziristan. Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, also stated that there was credible information that Hakimullah was dead. (Insider Brief sources claimed on January 17th that Mehsud had died as we reported on Twitter.)
This follows multiple claims from the Taliban that Hakimullah was still alive, in line with the pattern of claims made after the death of their charismatic leader, Baitullah Mehsud in August. Also allegedly killed in the January 14th strikes in Shaktoi was Qari Hussain, organizer of the TTP’s suicide bombing squads and potential successor to Hakimullah. With the (possible) deaths of its top leaders, an unprecedented surge in drone strikes, and a Pakistan Army offensive that just took the town of Damadola (Bajaur), the TTP is under intense pressure.
It’s been reported that in the interim, Malik Noor Jamal a/k/a Mullah Toofan (Storm), is now the acting head of the TTP. Hakimullah Mehsud was able to regroup the Taliban after the loss of Baitullah, and unleash a wave of terror across Pakistan. Will Jamal be able to do the same?
PROFILE OF MULLAH TOOFAN
Aside from a video of Mullah Toofan flogging men in public, little has been known about him – until now. Insider Brief sources have disclosed the following details about the acting head of the TTP:
- Name: Noor Jamal
- Name of Father: Rasool Khan
- Tribe: Mamozai
- Religion: Islam (Sunni)
- Age: 42-45 years old
- Education: Religious education
- Profession: Imam of a mosque in Mamozai (Orakzai Agency)
- Address (Present): Dogar Village, Central Kurram Agency
- Address (Permanent): Mamozai, Orakzai Agency
- Marital Status: Married with 2 sons
- Siblings: 2 brothers (one of whom — [name withheld by editor] — is employed in Dubai)
- Brief History: Noor Jamal a/k/a Mullah Toofan has been a low level commander of the TTP in Mamozai, Orakzai Agency, but also a close associate of Hakimullah Mehsud. As a result of that close relationship, Hakimullah Mehsud appointed Jamal as the Amir of Kurram Agency, in place of Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud. Mullah Toofan reportedly participated in the Afghan civil after the withdrawal of Soviet forces.
Tags: Baitullah Mehsud · FATA · Hakimullah Mehsud · Malik Noor Jamal · Mullah Toofan · Pakistan Army · Predator UAV · Qari Hussain · Taliban · Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) · War on Terror · Waziristan
January 7th, 2010 · Shaan Akbar
My post, “(Geopolitical) Reality Bites,” was published in Friday’s edition (01/08/10) of The Daily Times — a leading Pakistani English-language newspaper. You can find the editorial here.
You can also now find the Insider Brief on Twitter. You’ll find tweets covering a range of topics from notable publications to some of the latest chatter from our exclusive Insider Brief sources. One of my tweets even found its way into a recent blog post by Canadian rocker/activist Matt Good. I promise to try and keep it pithy and interesting. (Once I have a moment to upgrade my WordPress software, I’ll have a live Twitter feed on the I.B. front page too.)
Lastly, as we kick off 2010, I’d like to extend my thanks to all Insider Brief visitors for your readership and continued support.
December 15th, 2009 · Lt. Gen. Shahid Aziz
Editor’s Note: Lt. Gen. (retd.) Shahid Aziz has been making headlines after his revelations about anti-corruption efforts and the war on terror during President Pervez Musharraf’s tenure. The general and I have corresponded over the last few days, discussing his motivations, and he agreed to publish one of his e-mails here:
My appearance on the TV is rather coincidental. Am not a person of great timings, as you put it. If I could make such calculations, my life would have been miserable. I am happy in the lost paradise that I have been living in. Due to the NRO issue I was pushed to speak in support of anti-corruption, despite my belief that no meaningful improvements in this field can come in the foreseeable time. In fact, some time back, I was (forcefully) invited to speak at the forum of PILDAT on the new anti-corruption bill which was then under debate [read: Gen. Aziz's talking points]. I termed it “munafiqat ki benazir misaal” [epitome of hypocrisy] in my opening remark, on which all politicians present, including PML(N), got furious. They really don’t like generals. Can’t blame them too.
My appearance on TV now, has wandered into the terrorism issue, which, as you know, is also the other serious concern of mine. This is because of my involvement in these issues, while I served the Army and then the Government, and the moral burden I carry from there. I cannot say where all this anti-terrorism will end, but has certainly landed us in a blood bath. There are the mullahs on one side and US policy pursuits on the other. And the miserable lot of Pakistanis crushed in the middle.
Other than personal attacks on me in the media, I am told that NAB is looking into my ‘deeds’ during my stay as Chairman. To my good luck, I had taken certain measures for changes within NAB, one of which included transparency within the department. We had weekly meetings in a board room attended by the concerned investigators, prosecutors, deputy directors, directors, DGs, Deputy Prosecutor General Accountability, Prosecutor General Accountability and Deputy Chairman NAB. All cases were presented here on Power Point, debated and decision arrived at. I had also passed written instructions that if a case of any relative of any one serving in NAB or any one who is someone in the country is presented it will be announced in the board room. I announced my decision and signed all formal documents for opening/closing cases, etc in that meeting, in presence of everyone. And all this was recorded on close circuit TV for posterity. I didn’t sign any such paper in the privacy of my office. I wonder if these records would also be brought out, in my support. Or if any one serving with me in these assignments would speak up. But I doubt.
I once invited some important people from the media, during my initial days, for sharing my thoughts and problems with them and seeking support from them in my solo fight against the sitting government — got no support. The political environment at the time I joined NAB was quite charged and no one would want to be seen supporting a general. This meeting was also held in the same room and was recorded in camera, as all meetings in this room, post my arrival. All my meetings with people who were under investigation were held in a meeting room which were video recorded and the record is now held with NAB. This was also started by me. I didn’t meet these people in my office, including Malik Riaz of Behria.
On 9the Dec 2006, on the Anti-Corruption Day NAB organized an anti-corruption march on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad. Edhi Saheb [Abdul Sattar Edhi] came to lead it. Our call was “UNITE AGAINST CORRUPTION”. I tried to rally support from the media and the public, but none came, except some school and college children with our request to them. Earlier that day the President was to come for the formal Anti-Corruption Day function but didn’t and the PM came. He openly abused NAB for its misdeeds. Later during tea, when the PM had gone away, the news reporters gathered around me and one of them asked why the PM was so furious with me. I told him, “Why don’t you ask the PM?” to which one of the reporters said, “We know. It is because you are doing POL inquiry against him.” I also have the PM’s remarks video with me.
All those who know me and have served with me for 30 years just sit back and see the muck being thrown at me. I have a history with good and bad, like every one else, but only the bad is shown around. The good might bewilder you. In my initial days at the NAB when I saw some of the cases being pursued, I cautioned my department not to continue to chase the gunahgars [sinners] but to go after the shiateen [devils], after all, Jannat [heaven] will be fully loaded with gunahgars. And the shiateen here point fingers at the gunahgars so that all appear as one and no distinction remains. And now I am to be counted amongst one of them. After all I have lived 60 years and have had slips and slides on the way.
I have now decided not to respond to any personal allegations and continue my small effort for a better and peaceful Pakistan. If I am to be paraded through the cities with blackened face and it brings only a notch of goodness in the country I have succeeded.
Pray for my guidance from Allah.
Tags: Asif Zardari · Benazir Bhutto · Guests · National Accountability Bureau · National Reconciliation Ordinance · Pakistan Muslim League · Pakistan People's Party · Pervez Musharraf · Shahid Aziz · War on Terror
December 9th, 2009 · Shaan Akbar
While all eyes are focused on the insurgencies raging on both sides of Pakistan’s western border, Pakistan’s military continues to develop its conventional military capability alongside its counterinsurgency (COIN) capabilities. There have been four major developments in the two last months:
- December 8th – Pakistan received the first of seven Saab 2000 Erieye Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). The Erieye systems should go a long way in improving the situational awareness of Pakistan’s air force and monitoring of IAF movement deep within Indian territory. However, the benefits of the AWACS won’t be felt until Pakistan receives more (so that it can maintain constant air presence of the systems) and has more time to develop and “operationalize” tactics associated with the technology.
- December 7th - Insider Brief sources reported that Pakistan had successfully test flown a drone based on U.S. technology. The sources reported that the technology was drawn from a drone shot down in September 2008 and had been secretly shipped to China for study — in line with our expectations from last year — though I’m a little surprised at the gestation period. Reverse engineering a Predator drone and translating those learnings into a prototype in a little over a year seems ambitious, but may have been enabled by Chinese involvement and the fact that Pakistan already has an established UAV industry. The new drone likely has greater endurance, altitude, and range — notable limitations for Pakistani UAV technology in the past. A greater boon would be if the downed Predator drone from last year was a UCAV (capable of firing Hellfire missiles).
- November 23th – Pakistan inducted its first domestically produced JF-17 fighter. The plane, co-developed and co-produced with the Chinese, is a major milestone on Pakistan’s path for self-reliance in combat aircraft. The JF-17, once inducted en masse, will significantly boost Pakistan’s overall capability as we detailed back in 2007.
- November 11th – Pakistan announced that it would be purchasing J-10 fighters from China in a preliminary agreement. The J-10 acquisition is a good move that displays the PAF’s continued fiscal discipline and long-term thinking. The J-10, considered on par with later block F-16′s that Pakistan’s purchased from the U.S., would help diversify Pakistan’s suppliers of hi-tech aircraft all the while sidestepping the threat of potential U.S. arms embargoes. With a mix of J-10′s, F-16′s and JF-17′s coupled with Erieye AWACS, Pakistan’s air force will be creating a highly potent and cost effective model for minimum deterrence. (I note fiscal discipline in that the J-10, though expensive, is not as pricey as other Western options in the market.)
Tags: J-10 · JF-17 Thunder · Pakistan Air Force · Predator UAV · Relations with China
November 29th, 2009 · Shaan Akbar
For the last several months, we’ve witnessed Pakistan tread down the path of implosion. The country finds itself in a recession and is relying once again on the IMF for budgetary support. The military campaign in South Waziristan may have merely displaced militants who continue to carry out retaliatory bombings and assassinations in Pakistan proper. The nation’s allies (even the Chinese) are growing increasingly weary with a nation that can’t get its affairs in order. Encirclement by regimes hostile to Pakistan grows closer to reality.
It’s a grim picture that, at first, reaffirmed for me the need for consensus among the country’s elite. At the Insider Brief, we have long called for a single cohesive and comprehensive agenda agreed to by the military, politicians, bureaucracy, business interests, and the media to undo the crisis in governance and set the country back on the path to socio-economic development.
However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more the problem presents itself as one that is rooted in perspective – Pakistan’s elite appear to be out of touch with geopolitical reality. After all, when the situation is so dire, why is the military-bureaucratic complex hacking away at the PPP-led government? Why does the media remain mired in conspiracy theories? Why are the country’s political parties locked in a cycle of political opportunism? The behavior isn’t rational.
The disconnect with reality appears to stem from two core flaws in the Pakistani perspective:
1. Failure to understand the limitation of national resources/capabilities.
- Pakistan cannot go it alone. Pakistan’s geography makes the nation strategic, but its geography also acts as an inhibitor. Pakistan does not have the resources to achieve self-sufficiency; Pakistan must trade and seek external investment not just to flourish, but also to survive. That’s why it’s vital that Pakistan not alienate its key sponsors (the U.S., China, Saudi Arabia, etc.) or its regional neighbors (Iran, Afghanistan, etc.).
- The Kerry-Lugar Bill: When the U.S. tripled non-military aid to Pakistan through the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the Pakistani military did exactly what it shouldn’t have done – it voiced massive opposition to the bill and alienated the U.S. The military’s opposition is rooted in language tying the aid to civilian control over the military. The military blames President Asif Zardari for the wording and is out for blood. Being the single most powerful institution in Pakistan and after governing the Pakistan for over half its existence, the Pakistani military must be acting out of sheer pride if it feels that the wording in the Kerry-Lugar Bill will undermine its pre-eminent status in Pakistan overnight. (People who sought to have that wording placed in the Kerry-Lugar Bill should have also taken this rationale into account. It was a tactical misstep to think that conditional U.S. aid would work to strengthen democratic institutions in Pakistan. The best way to strengthen democracy is to garner overwhelming public support through capable leadership and socio-economic progress.)
- Pakistan cannot seek parity with India – military or otherwise. Since its inception, Pakistan has viewed itself as a strategic equal of India – and to disastrous ends. India is far too large and developing at far too quick a pace for Pakistan to be its peer. Though it has far to go, India is on the road to becoming a global power. Pakistan is a regional power at best. Militarily, Pakistan has achieved a minimum deterrence through its nuclear capability. It should reduce the size of its standing military and focus on becoming smaller, more mobile, and technologically advanced. Rely on force multipliers and redirect funds towards development.
- Pakistan cannot win Kashmir from India. Three wars over the disputed state (Kargil included) have demonstrated that Pakistan cannot wrest Kashmir from India’s control – India’s military is far too superior in terms of quality and quantity. The best Pakistan can hope for is recognition of the status quo or a Musharrafian solution (joint governance of Kashmir). Again, focus on effectively governing existing Pakistani territory and create a model that demonstrates why Kashmir is better in Pakistani hands.
2. Failure to understand that the state’s actions have consequences.
- Militant groups, sponsored by Pakistan’s military, have turned on the state. These militant groups are no longer national security assets to leverage against India or to attain “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. They are not the product of a conspiracy hatched by any combination of Indians, Israelis or Americans. The only conspirators here are those who nurtured these groups and now do not want to shoulder the responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Pakistani civilians.
- Ineffective and inequitable governance results in a loss of sovereignty. Poor and inequitable governance spawned an insurgency in East Pakistan, providing India the opening for the 1971 war and Pakistan’s subsequent dismemberment. Once again, poor and inequitable governance has spawned not one, but two insurgencies in Pakistan’s west (i.e., Balochistan and the NWFP/FATA).
- Irresponsible behavior with nuclear technology is the biggest threat to Pakistan’s arsenal. Many Pakistanis believe that the U.S. is out to denuclearize Pakistan. Pakistanis also view it as unfair that the Indians have a civil nuclear deal with the Americans but they don’t. However, none of this should come as a surprise after Pakistan, through Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, proliferated nuclear technology to the likes of Libya, North Korea, and Iran. Pakistan must demonstrate responsibility and maturity in handling its nuclear capability if it wants cooperation from western powers.
Knowing where the problem lies, the greater question then becomes: how do we go about changing mindsets? How do we go about awakening a nation from its daze?
The answer? We talk about it.
Educate. Encourage mature discourse. Repeat (as many times as necessary).
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, whom I’ve known since he was a professor at Boston University. In discussing U.S.-Pakistan relations and Pakistan’s role in the wider world, it occurred to me that Haqqani is arguably among the best envoys Pakistan has had in Washington in a long time. He is articulate, well connected, and knows what he’s talking about. Even if the PPP government falls or if Zardari is ousted, it may not be a bad idea to keep Haqqani around. Pakistan, I believe, is best served with him as its ambassador.
Tags: Asif Zardari · Husain Haqqani · Pakistan Army · Pakistan People's Party · Relations with United States · War on Terror · Yousaf Raza Gilani
August 14th, 2009 · Shaan Akbar
May 31st, 2009 · Shaan Akbar
Despite widespread skepticism of the Pakistani military’s will and ability to fight the Taliban, the second Swat campaign appears to be on the road to a successful conclusion with the expulsion of the Taliban from the once scenic valley. Backed by civilian support, Pakistan’s military leadership looks to have plotted and executed a well thought out and integrated strategy for the campaign. The gains in Swat can prove to be short lived, however, if the same thoughtful approach isn’t pursued after combat operations conclude.
As part of its strategy, the military initially sought to strike Taliban hideouts, training camps, arms caches, tunnels and safe houses. This was done to destroy their infrastructure and also minimize the degree of fighting taking place in populated, urban areas. Taking aim at these targets forced the Taliban to fight “outwards” in the mountains and provide more tactical space for army personnel in the Swat Valley itself.
Precision strikes were carried out by the air force while the army launched three brigade-size offensives from three different directions, forcing the Taliban to fight on multiple fronts. The Special Services Group (commonly referred to as the SSG, Pakistan’s special forces) conducted a large-scale airborne raid on the primary Taliban base in Peochar Valley.
A month into its campaign, Pakistan’s military has wrested control of and secured Mingora, Swat’s largest city.
The military continues to maintain persistent pressure on militants by carrying out raids, laying ambushes, and cordoning off zones for search and destroy operations. The purpose for all of which is to ensure psychological and tactical ascendancy against the Taliban.
There is also a strong desire on the part of the military to eliminate Taliban leadership in Swat. Recent rumors that Maulana Fazlullah, leader of the Taliban in Swat, was killed by Pakistani gunships were discredited after the Pakistani government increased its bounty on Fazlullah’s head. Insider Brief sources within the Pakistani military report that US sources originated the rumors but that chatter on Taliban networks also spoke of Fazlullah’s death. The chatter was likely a means of diverting the military’s focus on hunting the “Radio Mullah.”
From Swat to South Waziristan
Having taken Mingora, the military has set its sights on Charbagh where action is expected soon. Other pockets of Taliban resistance still remain in several valleys north and west of Mingora.
Beyond Swat lies South Waziristan, which the military believes to be the center of gravity for the Taliban. Our sources also report that operations can begin in South Waziristan as early as the first week of June.
It’s worth noting that despite official claims that upwards of 3,000 militants have been killed in Swat, our sources state that the number of dead militants is likely somewhere between 500 and 600. It’s important to be mindful of this as the military seeks to consolidate the gains it has made in Swat and hold territory. The number of militants in Swat likely ranged in the thousands at its peak, meaning that many militants were merely pushed back into the mountains or dissolved into the general population.
As internally displaced persons (IDPs) and administrative structures return to Swat, it will be important for the military to maintain much of its strength (two divisions) there. This ultimately means that more troops will have to be called up for the far more difficult operation that lies ahead in South Waziristan.
Sovereignty in Swat
Over 2.4 million people have been displaced by the fighting, creating what the UN describes as the worst refugee crisis since Rwanda. With fighting winding down in Swat, these IDPs will begin returning home to widespread destruction (many have started returning home to neighboring Buner). The resulting discontent has the potential to turn Swat into a breeding ground for the Taliban.
Back in November 2007, we contended that, “only when you have a hand in bettering someone’s life can you claim sovereignty over where they live.”
With US financial support, Pakistan must use the opportunity provided by the devastation in Swat to undertake massive rebuilding and modernization efforts there. Model villages can be developed similar to the ones built after the massive earthquake that struck northern Pakistan in October 2005. Administrative structures can be built from the ground up keeping in mind that prior discontent in Swat related to government inefficiencies (particularly in the judicial system).
This can prove to be an important first step in bringing Pakistan’s Wild West into the fold.
Tags: AH1 Cobra · Baitullah Mehsud · FATA · Maulana Fazlullah · Mehsud · Pakistan Air Force · Pakistan Army · Swat · Taliban · War on Terror · Waziristan