Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Countering al Qaeda, a must-read for Pakistan

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File photo of Osama bin LadenIt’s probably unusual to link to a report by the RAND Corporation and an op-ed on Foxnews.com in the same blog, but since both address the same subject – tackling al Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region – here goes.

The first is a detailed report by RAND called “How Terrorist Groups End”. 

Its analysis of 648 groups that existed between 1968 and 2006 concludes that ”military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory.” Calling for a rethink of U.S. strategy, it argues that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qaeda.”

Pakistan’s leaders have long argued that military force alone can’t work and have sharply rebuffed any suggestion that U.S. troops in Afghanistan might cross its border in pursuit of al Qaeda and the Taliban. “The U.S. military … should generally resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment,” the report says.  It does however say that military forces, but not necessarily U.S. forces, are a necessary component when al Qaeda is involved in an insurgency.

from India Insight:

Sophistication and savagery in Ahmedabad

One of the most striking things about the weekend's bomb attacks in Gujarat was the mixture of savagery and sophistication.

Security personnel search for evidence near a bomb blast site in Ahmedabad July 27, 2008. REUTERS/Amit DaveSavagery because of the way a second wave of bombs were detonated at a hospital, apparently to target the crowds of concerned relatives who had gathered there. Had they been watching Contract, a recently released Bollywood film with a similar plotline?

Will more foreign troops bring peace to Afghanistan?

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APCs of German ISAF in Afghanistan/Fabrizio BenschWith both U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain calling for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, there have been a slew of articles arguing this will at best not work and, at worst, fuel the insurgency.

The Financial Times quotes Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former U.S. national security adviser and prominent supporter of Barack Obama, as saying the United States risks repeating the defeat suffered by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. “It is important for U.S. policy in general and for Obama more specifically to recognise that simply putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the entire solution,” he is quoted as saying.

Pakistan’s missing citizens

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April 2008 file photo of the family of a missing man near QuettaIn a country facing the triple challenges of economic crisis, political instability and Islamist militancy, the impact on individuals can be easy to overlook. Amnesty International has tried to redress part of this by publishing a report about the hundreds of people it says have disappeared in Pakistan as a result of counter-terrorism measures.

It urges the coalition government elected in February to act immediately to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance. “We don’t know if those subjected to enforced disappearances are guilty or innocent, but it is their fundamental right to be charged and tried properly in a court of law,” says Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

Have India and Pakistan missed the moment on Kashmir?

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2007 file photo in Drass on Indian side of Line of Control/Fayaz KabliTake two nuclear-armed countries which are not officially at war, yet whose armies shell each other on a near-daily basis.  That is how it was between India and Pakistan before a November 2003 ceasefire ended their fighting over the divided former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir.  With that ceasefire now showing signs of fraying at the edges and India saying that its peace process with Pakistan is under stress, it is worth remembering quite what a dramatic development it was for two countries which had come close to war in 2001/2002 to tell their armies to stand down.

Nearly five months after the ceasefire, I visited an Indian border post that had seen heavy fighting for years. It was in the Jammu region, at what had been a busy railway station in pre-partition days, on a road that once ran from the town of Jammu to Lahore. The railway station was left in India, with a railroad track that led nowhere, while the road had been closed since 1947.

Guest contribution-Pakistan should shudder; Afghanistan should despair

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The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone.  The writer is a commentator on South Asian political and military affairs and author of “A History of the Pakistan Army”.

                                           By Brian Cloughley

What price Saudi oil bill deferrals for Pakistan?

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Khurais oilfield in Saudi ArabiaA report in the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia has agreed in principle to defer payments for crude oil sales to Pakistan worth $5.9 billion has raised speculation about what it is looking for in return.

The Daily Times suggests that the Saudis are buying political stability in Pakistan, which may include throwing a lifeline to President Pervez Musharraf.  “Apparently, the immediate impact will be on PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif’s politics of confrontation with Musharraf, which will have to be diluted significantly in line with ground realities,” it says. ”The Saudis, like the Americans, want a stable transition to civilian rule and no confrontation between the politicians and the military, including Musharraf.”

Pakistan frets about U.S. attack

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Pakistani soldier near the Pakistan-Afghan borderSpeculation the United States is preparing to send commandos into Pakistan’s tribal areas to hunt down al Qaeda and Taliban militants is gathering momentum.  Pakistani fears of a U.S. attack were reinforced by a surprise visit to Pakistan this weekend by the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, in which he was reported to have expressed U.S. frustration that Islamabad was not doing enough to tackle militants on its border with Afghanistan.

The Daily Times says in an article from Washington that Mullen had been expected to ”read the riot act” to the government. It quoted an unnamed ”well-informed source” as saying that U.S. patience was close to running out.  When it did, the paper said, there would be  unilateral US military action, both covert and overt, in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Will Kashmir and Kabul kindle the old India-Pakistan flames?

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Soldier salutes on Siachen/2003 photo by Pawel KopczynskiAre tensions over Kashmir and Afghanistan returning to haunt relations between India and Pakistan?

At first glance, it looks unlikely. The two countries have more or less managed to hold to a ceasefire agreed at the end of 2003 on both the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir and on Siachen, and they have a slow-moving peace process which at least has India and Pakistan talking rather than fighting each other. India is far too interested in winning itself superpower status to let itself be distracted by some embarrassing fighting on its border. And Pakistan has enough problems dealing with al Qaeda and the Taliban on its western  border with Afghanistan, without having to cope with trouble on its eastern border with India as well.

Pakistan, Turkey and the art of the coup

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Pakistan Army Chief General Pervez Kayani with President Pervez Musharraf“There can be few countries where the art of the coup is so finely honed as in Turkey…” So starts this Reuters blog by Ralph Boulton about the Turkish Army.

It’s well worth a read for anyone interested in comparing Pakistan and Turkey, two Muslim countries which have both struggled to reconcile secularism, democracy, Islam and domination by the military — and all the more so given President Pervez Musharraf’s own admiration for Turkey.

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