U.S. and Pakistan: Is there method in the madness?

September 10, 2008

File photo of national flagLast week, after U.S. forces were reported to have launched their first ground assault in Pakistan, the website Registan.net asked the obvious question: “Did We Just Invade Pakistan?”  Nearly a week and several missile attacks by U.S. drones later, I am still pondering the same question.

We have just witnessed what may have been the most sustained U.S. military action against targets inside Pakistan, not just since 2001, but since 1947 when the country was founded.  Yet it is not any clearer what is going on.  The Council on Foreign Relations has produced an excellent round-up of media reports on Pakistan, published by the Washington Post. But I’d defy anyone to read through them and come up with a coherent hypothesis that does not immediately run into a contradiction.  Here are some of the ideas being discussed:

File photo of U.S. drone1) Washington has lost patience with Pakistan because it is not doing enough to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban on its border with Afghanistan, and has decided to go it alone (all the more so because the Bush administration would like a foreign policy success before the presidential election). This argument does not quite make sense, since as I noted in my last post, the stepped-up U.S. military operations happened after the Pakistan Army had launched its own offensives in Pakistan’s border areas. Plus, if we were to accept that the United States attacked because the Pakistan Army had failed, why are U.S. forces and drones targeting North and South Waziristan, while the Pakistan military launched its offensives elsewhere, in Bajaur and Swat?

President Asif Ali Zardari2)  The United States is now working, if not in concert, at least not against, the civilian administration in Pakistan, whose new President, Asif Ali Zardari, has called the fight against terrorism a battle for Pakistan’s soul. According to this argument, the Pakistanis were very rattled earlier this year by fears that Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, might fall into Taliban hands. This could have led to the Balkanisation of Pakistan, encouraging other provinces to peel away from Punjab, the country’s traditional heartland. Therefore Pakistan and the United States share a common interest in driving out al Qaeda and the Taliban. According to this argument, there is some method in the madness — although critics mutter about echoes of Vietnam.

3) It is all chaos on the western front. This view holds that nobody has a master plan, there is no coordination and sometimes Pakistan and the United States are working against each other. In this context, the New York Times has a story about how soldiers in Pakistan’s Frontier Corps and U.S. troops ended up, it says, fighting against each other in June.   The argument here is that many in the Pakistan Army, or perhaps more precisely in the Frontier Corps, sympathise with the Taliban and will defend them against a U.S. attack.  The argument against would be, as I noted in an earlier post, that the leaders of the Pakistan Army were aware of this problem and had begun to take action to deal with it so that by now it is less of an issue.

That’s three possible theories, and there are more, in many different permutations.  As I have seen from the comments on previous posts, there are strong views out there on the answers. But maybe it would be a good idea to start with the questions?


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A very good post indeed about the current situation in Pakistan. Pakistan has done a lot to fight the US war against terror. I would say that it went beyond its available resources to fight the militants in the tribal areas. The demands by the United States to “do more” are not justified.

Pakistan has always suffered because of US policies. Fist during the Afghan war, the US used Pakistan and left all of a sudden without bringing the house in order which created a lot of problems for Pakistan. It was the US who trained and armed Jihadis who have now taken up arms against US.

Posted by Nasir Jamal | Report as abusive

Pakistan suffers because of corruption and duplicity that its citizens and leaders are unwilling to rectify. The world suffers because of Pakistan.

Posted by Ptrizzle | Report as abusive

Pakistan and the world would continue to suffer till the time US stops supporting anti democratic forces in third world. Mr 10 % is the name by which new Pakistan President is famous for, can any one imagine person of his repute running for US elections.

Posted by jamal | Report as abusive

The US realizes Pakistan being a source of stability in the region. Pakistan nuclear capability acts as a detterent against India thereby restoring a balance of power in South Asia. As regards war on terror, Pakistan has apprehended senior Al-Qaeda leadership and handed them over to US. What ever success US has achieved in the war on terror so far can be attributed to ISI(Inter services Intelligence) for with out this powerful entity the war on terror cannot be won. The US needs a careful Pakistan policy in order to achieve the objectives. If anything backfire the consequences could be unbearable.

Posted by UMPK | Report as abusive

A clear mood against Pakistan was developed by a certain propaganda that in Afghanistan NATO forces are failed because a seepage from tribal areas of Pakistan to Afghanistan was continued.. My question to All such propagandists is NATO forces are present on Pak-Afghan boarder but why don’t they stop this seepage..

Posted by Rubab | Report as abusive

Furthermore ten weeks before of US presidential Elections Pakistan is a very good target to be used… To prove that Republican Government was not failed in Afghanistan, 58 attacks have been made violating the the sovereignty and sanctity of Pakistani territory.. Pakistan can defend itself..

Posted by Rubab | Report as abusive

[…] Source: Reuters […]

Posted by U.S. and Pakistan: Is there method in the madness? – NaiTazi.com | Report as abusive

All of these problems are a result of one man being suckered into a war in the middle east by a guy living in a cave. Osama’s plan is on track like a Swiss watch. Time for us to change horses fast!

Posted by Cleareye | Report as abusive

Good overview of a very precarious situation still unfolding. I believe the unfolding game would be played between Zardari and Kiani with the US trying to manipulate it as ever. If Kiani retaliates to the US attacks, it can have two possible consequences:

1. US forces use the retaliation as an excuse to launch a full fledged military strike on Pakistan and possibly capture its nukes and government and turn it into another Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter. Another country under the US occupation in the Western Asian region and bordering a resilient Iran.


2. Zardari, widely believed to be pro-US and armed with the power to remove the army chief, replaces Kiani with a less reactionary and more pro-US army chief which will allow the US to carry on with its strikes inside Pakistan without a mumble. If he tries to pre-empt this policy by staging a military coup, he knows that his coup will not survive without the US support so he may be able to overthrow Zardari and the elected PPP government on some pretext or the other but he will still have to show utter subservience to the US and its interests in the region. So, its between the devil and the deep sea situation as far as the army chief Kiani is concerned.

I personally believe that these are crucial moments for Pakistan as a state that was crafted back in 1947. With the lack of leadership, corruption, provincial disharmony, deep economic woes and growing militancy, few could be hopeful for this unfortunate but artificial state. With its vast and rich lands of Balochistan that are the envy of China and US for its oil and gas reserves as well as the geostrategic location of its Gawadar Port, East touching India, West touching Iran and most importantly, north touching China, a crumbling Pakistan where US can settle down with its army like Afghanistan and Iraq would be the biggest prize the super power can think of acquiring. It will make their conquest of the region almost complete in more than one sense of the word.

Posted by S Jafri | Report as abusive

Perhaps instead of molesting each other Afghanistan and Pakistan ought to suck it up and form an alliance and a small joint command to deal with these miscreants. They are a menace to each. Surely NATO assistance could be then made without issues of sovereignty interfering

Posted by cassius king | Report as abusive

US is losing patience ? It should have thought first before reacting. Pakistan has always been the thread through which all terror attacks in the world are launched. With Paks supporting Taliban US does not have the ghost of a chance. except perhaps carpet bombing. Funds given to Pak ofr anti terror activities are being used by them to promote terror activities – aid to Taliban, war preparations against India etc.

Posted by vee | Report as abusive

Selfish on part of US.

Posted by Majid | Report as abusive

America and pakistan are paying for their ill advised, reckless policies and retro actions that they took during last two decades. How can there so many militants in pakistan without government knowing about it ?

Terrorism is used a tool by pakistan for several years to destabilize other countries. Terrorism infact is cottage industry of pakistan, only thing they have been exporting in large doses.

Unless until pakistan realizes that terrorism can destroy not only other countries but also the sponsor , there is no way around.

America and radical middle east countries put it bluntly to pakistan to end state based support. The only problem is even if terrorism is brought down to some extent , pakistan will loose its relevance . Hence they continue to support breeding centres.

One irrelevant opinion among ppl is that bush war has created greater terrorism. True to some extent, but if there is no opposition to terrorism then they will have their way around the world creating havoc

Posted by Ajmal | Report as abusive

Pakistan has always fooled us. We have been very patient with them. Waited 8 years to the date. Poured billions of dollars into their country. All resources were mis-utilised by Pakistan to strengthen their fight with India. Bush has finally taken a sensible step. US must continue to attack that tribal belt that is creating so many Islamic terrorists.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

It sounds like Cambodia all over again!
An insidious escalation of a secret war.

Will there be the killing fields next?

Do we not read history?…is not Vietnam enough of a history lesson?

Posted by Raymond | Report as abusive

The key word here is coordination. Pakistan’s government has to make noise against US incursions, while carefully avoiding putting its regular troops in the areas of US operations. By complaining and making empty threats, they keep the populace from another revolt.

The other issue with the news of these attacks is that each and everyone of them, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan, always kills hordes of women and children.

Anyone familiar with the history of the region knows that this technique for gaining, not just sympathy, but good hard cash for each of the “dead” relatives, depends on the cultural and religious mandate to bury the dead quickly whenever possible, by sunset or within 24 hours. This makes the verification of the dead nearly impossible.

The Brits began this payoff system to keep the tribes in order during the days of the empire and the locals practice the scam today, only with a little more sophistication: Cell phone images of bloody sheets wrapped around bodies of the dead.

Since the heart stops beating and blood stops flowing after death, that all the sheets are bloody becomes an indicator of stagecraft, rather than fact. And goats bled and butchered for the best meat leave enough bones and bulk to be the “bodies” of children. And there are always far more children than women. The adult bodies probably are real, with some goat blood for effect, but also those of the men who were killed in the fighting.

Posted by Charles Griffin | Report as abusive

Pakistan has run out of resources to fight terror and jihadi’s. But we cannot let Pakistan divide or fall into the hands of extremists. It is the very reason why US / Western forces every thing in their control to eliminate fanatics from Pakistan – to protect unity, sanity of Pakistand, to safeguard its economy and more than any thing else – to protect its people. Pakistani politician’s are drowned in corruption and cannot take independent / brave decisions. High time US acts and acts decisively.

Posted by razak | Report as abusive

The problem is Pakistan has no identity on its own. it is a failed country. Pakistan should join back with india and live peacefully.

That is the only way. I doubt that happen. I really think Balochistan will separate from pakistan an punjab and sindhi provinces will also separate.

Whether after USA nuke pakistan or india nuke pakistan is up to pakistanis. Ofcoursan will provoke it by nuking bombay and delhit and wiped off the map by USA and RUSSIA AND INDIA.

China can’t do anything. US military base will be established in idia secretly neat chinese border. Why USA give Nuke gift?. They will make India colonized like USA colonize japan and Germany and south korea.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Pakistan is a failed state. There is no question about it. A ‘country’ where not a single civilian government served out its full term, claims to be the only ‘hope’ for the free world! How ironic!

George Bush made several mistakes as the President, and it includes siding with Pakistan in the war on terror. Every intelligence agency in the world knows that Pakistan is the SOURCE of terrorism. Their open support to Taliban when they were in power, AQ Khan’s Nuclear weapon bazaar speak for themselves.

It is foolish to think that any civilian Pakistani government can control its military. Army still calls the shots and governments just sing along…. You didn’t read what their PM said today?

Posted by KK | Report as abusive

i dont thinks u.s.a will be please to pakistan any means
so for pakistan had help to u.s.a lot what they want more from pakistan.u.sa will regret if they loose pakistan as friend

Posted by hussain | Report as abusive

Pakistan is not only a failed state it has got the every reason to spoil world’s peace.Behind every terror act on earth there would be Pakistani muslim terrorists with certainty.Pak military and ISI have converted this failed state into terror factory and they are exporting throughout the world to kill innocent people.
A full fledge war on Pakistan ,eliminating their military,ISI,mosques and madrasas would bring peace to the world .Pakistan must be ruled by international forces led by India to unroot terrorists inside Pakistan.

Posted by Kumar | Report as abusive

The duplicitous Musharraf played GWB off a break, pandering to the US for the foreign aid while running dead on chasing nasties. Now that the US has woken up to the deadly danger posed by the situation in Pakistan, the centre of world terrorism, it is blundering around in typical fashion, its answer to invade the sovereignty of another country with shock and awe stuff.

Every bomb, every dead civilian adds to the ranks of the insurgency and alienates ordinary Pakistanis, the majority of whom loathe what America is doing in its foreign policy (that should read ‘foreign policy’).

No one has ever been able to control the remote north of Pakistan. No one ever will.

If the government of Pakistan disintegrates it will increase the power of militant Islamists. Rampant inflation, food shortages, high unemployment and high prices are not helping the cause. One can but hope that someone reliable has the keys to the nuclear arsenal.

Bush has wasted years distracted by the sideshow in Iraq. He is now playing catch-up in the manner of a headless chook.

There is another threat inherent : the continued presence of AQ Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Kahn is sympathetic to al-Qaeda. He ran (probably still runs) a clandestine network to supply nuclear technology. He knows where to get anything he wants. We can but hope that his help is not enlisted to build the ‘nuclear suitcase’ which could be transported up a people smuggling track into the south of America, thereafter taken to New York or Washington or Los Angeles or…

The situation in Pakistan is very, very dangerous. If it descends into chaos, the position of troops in Afghanistan could become periilous.

Posted by john b | Report as abusive

Going back to topic..Is there a methid to madness ?? yes i think there is a method to this madness.. When we think what is the source of money for terror groups to buy ammunition, modern weapons and from wher do they get money to pay theri suicide bombers and how do they pay their air ticket to send them to foreign countries ? and then where do they get money to eat their food ?? Immediate answer is they sell drugs to make money and may be they are looting the govt godowns to get all those bombs and explosives to fight US and NATO army.
All said with strict rules on drug prohibition in contries around the world and no news of terrorists looting the army godowns, there is only one possiblity for these terrorists to run their operations so smoothly with out a hick-up..they are getting all those aid money from US to pakistan. US with out realizing they are only fighting their own funded terrorists keeps making the same mistake of trusting and funding pakistan.

Posted by Om | Report as abusive