Pakistan and Afghanistan: “the bad guys don’t stay in their lanes”

November 14, 2009
Given the debate about whether the United States should refocus its strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan more narrowly on hunting down al Qaeda, it’s worth looking at what happened immediately after 9/11 when it did precisely that.
 
In a new book about his years fighting terrorism, former French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere casts fresh light on those early years after 9/11. At the time, he says, the Bush administration was so keen to get Pakistan’s help in defeating al Qaeda that it was willing to turn a blind eye to Pakistani support for militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, nurtured by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency to fight India in Kashmir.
 
Basing his information on testimony given by jailed Frenchman Willy Brigitte, who spent 2-1/2 months in a Lashkar training camp in 2001/2002, he writes that the Pakistan Army once ran those camps, with the apparent knowledge of the CIA. The instructors in the camp in Pakistan’s Punjab province were soldiers on detachment, he says, and the army dropped supplies by helicopter. Brigitte’s handler, he says, appeared to have been a senior army officer who was treated deferentially by other soldiers.
 
CIA officers even inspected the camp four times, he writes, to make sure that Pakistan was keeping to a promise that only Pakistani fighters would be trained there. Foreigners like Brigitte were tipped off in advance and told to hide up in the hills to avoid being caught.
 
Reluctant to destabilise Pakistan, then under former president Pervez Musharraf, the United States turned a blind eye to the training camps and poured money into the country. In return, Pakistan hunted down al Qaeda leaders — among them alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, captured in 2003. ”For the Bush administration, the priority was al Qaeda,” writes Bruguiere. ”The Pakistan Army and the ISI would focus on this – external – objective, which would not destabilise the fragile political balance in Pakistan.”
 
Pakistan denies that it gave military support to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and has banned the organisation. But India at the time accused western countries of double standards in tolerating Pakistani support for Kashmir-focused organisations while pushing it to tackle groups like al Qaeda which threatened Western interests. Diplomats say that attitude has since changed, particularly after bombings in London in 2005 highlighted the risks of “home-grown terrorism” in Britain linked to Kashmir-oriented militant groups based in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
 
Last year’s attack on Mumbai, blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and more recently the arrest in Chicago of David Headley, linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and accused of planning attacks in Denmark and India (pdf document), has underlined international concern about the threat posed by the group.
 
But for Bruguiere, one of the major lessons was that Islamist militants can’t be separated into “good guys and bad guys”, since they were all inter-linked. 
 
“You should take into account, this is crucial, very, very important,” Bruguiere told me in an interview. “Lashkar-e-Taiba is no longer a Pakistan movement with only a Kashmir political or military agenda. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a member of al Qaeda. Lashkar-e-Taiba has decided to expand the violence worldwide.”
 
Bruguiere said he became aware of the changing nature of international terrorism while investigating attacks in Paris in the mid-1990s by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA). These included an attempt to hijack a plane from Algiers to Paris in 1994 and crash it into the Eiffel Tower — a forerunner of the 9/11 attacks. The plane was diverted to Marseilles and stormed by French security forces.

This new style of international terrorism was quite unlike militant groups he had investigated in the past, with their pyramidal structures. ”After 1994/1995, like viruses, all the groups have been spreading on a very large scale all over the world, in a horizontal way and even a random way,” he said. “All the groups are scattered, very polymorphous and even mutant.”

Gone were the political objectives which drove terrorism before, he writes, to be replaced with a nihilistic aim of spreading chaos in order to create the conditions for an Islamic caliphate. For the hijackers on the Algiers-Paris flight, their demands seemed almost incidental. “We realised we faced the language of hatred and a total determination to see it through.”

Many have argued against this view of international terrorism as a new and nebulous Islamist network without obvious political objectives, which found its most powerful expression in al Qaeda. Just as Lashkar-e-Taiba grew out of rivalry between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the GIA sprang from anger about the annulment of elections in Algeria that an Islamist group was poised to win. Its attacks on Paris in the mid 1990s were seen as a reprisal for France’s role in supporting the government in its former colony. Many of those who support al Qaeda and other Islamist groups are driven by anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other perceived injustices across the Middle East. 

Yet if he is right that the United States and its allies are facing a loose international network of Islamists with no clear pyramid structure, then it would suggest that no amount of drone bombing of al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership of the kind promoted by counter-terrorism supporters would work. Nor would it be enough, alone, to address political grievances at a national level without taking account of a network which operates globally and does not recognise the validity of the nation state. Rather, you would need a sophisticated and comprehensive strategy which went far beyond the kind of focused counter-terrorism first used by the Bush administration.

Browsing through the New Yorker profile on U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke, I noticed the same argument was raised there:

“A pure counter-terror approach had, in fact, been the Bush Administration’s policy for years: kill or capture terrorist leaders, with minimal support for political institutions in Kabul and Islamabad,” it said. “It had created the mess that (President Barack) Obama inherited, with two countries under threat from insurgents and Al Qaeda’s strength increasing.

“‘Al Qaeda doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” it quoted former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who led Obama’s first review of strategy, as saying.  “They’re part of a syndicate of terrorist groups. Selective counterterrorism won’t get you anywhere, because the bad guys don’t stay in their lanes.”

(Photos: Jean-Louis Bruguiere; Pervez Musharraf, the Taj in Mumbai, the Marriot in Islamabad)

Comments

Rajeev,

It is not that I agree with the Iraq War or I am defending it out of some misplaced pride about the West. I think it was a strategic error that ultimately severely jeapordized the security of the US and the entire Western world
However, to call it a genocide is quite a stretch. And I really do think it cheapens the value of the word to use it so liberally.

First off, I refer you to the UN convention on Genocide:

http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html

The first part of the definition says, “…genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group…”

Do you have any evidence to suggest that the US undertook its actions specifically to target the Iraqi people?

Was the war unnecessary? Sure. Did the Bush administration lie about the casus belli? Yes. Does that make it a genocide? No. A bumbling administration launching an unnecessary war is tragic. But its not genocide. It’s not like the US Army was issuing orders to kill civilians. To call it a genocide, you’d have to have concrete evidence that the US government was setting out to deliberately killing Iraqi civilians, not as collateral, but as the actual main target.

Your comparison of the US military to Pakistani terrorists is a reasonable if you accept the argument that the US’ main goal was to terrorize Iraqis. I hardly think that’s the case. Are you really suggesting that the US military has nothing better to do than to camp out in the Middle East and fight for no reason but to simply scare Iraqis?

If that’s your argument, I can’t see how Kashmir can be defended at all. If the Kashmiri population sees itself as an oppressed people (and there are at least a few Kashmiris that think so), than the Indian Army is perceived to be an occupying force and whatever actions they take to combat the insurgency, and result in civilian casualties should be considered genocide. Ditto for the Sri Lankan Army in the Tamil north-east of that country.

If your distinction is that it is genocide simply because the war was unnecessary. Well, then how do you decide when war is necessary? While we can agree on the Iraq War, you principle is still flawed here. What about Vietnam? Was the US committing genocide there? Or were they committing genocide in Korea? Was the Indian Army committing genocide when the IPKF essentially became embroiled in a counter-insurgency? After all, their presence there was unnecessary after peace talks broke down, and their combat actions were most certainly of little to no benefit for India. And what about Afghanistan? Many here have argued that the US should never have invaded Afghanistan, and NATO should never have become embroiled in a counter-insurgency. Does that means there’s a genocide going on in the Hindu Kush?

Your logic taken to its ultimate conclusion means that any war anywhere is genocide. And as long as someone considers it unnecessary, that person can label a war as genocidal.

Think about the implications here. Should the Kashmiris unilaterally declare independence and widespread revolt breaks out. And the world recognizes their independence, the Indian Army would then be considered an occupying force and if it accidentally killed civilians, that would be considered genocide. Moreover, since some countries would certainly recognize such a declaration of independence and agree that Indian military action in Kashmir is unnecessary, the label of genocide would be legitimate as per your definition.

This is why there are strict definitions and legal conventions for what is and is not a genocide. That label requires that a state demonstrate SPECIFIC INTENT and undertake SPECIFIC ACTION to target an ethnic, national, racial or religious. And that means the population. Not their government. Not their Army. The population. It means that soldiers are getting specific instructions to kill those civilians.

Are you suggesting US Army soldiers were given specific instructions to kill young boys or that USAF pilots were given specific instructions to bomb Iraqi homes?

The reason I take offence to such a liberal use of the g-word is because it cheapens the stories of those who have actually suffered from genocide. I know its fashionable these days to for any group that suffers any harm to claim to be victims of genocide or holocaust. However, just because somebody gets killed in a war does not make them a victim of genocide. If Iraq is a genocide, then what do you call what happened in Bangladesh? What do you call Rwanda?

ps. Try and stay away from Counterpunch. They are not as bad as Rupee News, but they aren’t that far off either. They are hardly considered credible by most people.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

Riedel saying bad guys do not stay in lanes sounds fancy, but there is not an iota of novelty here. I am talking from the West POV not about Indian interests only. Anyone with superficial knowledge of the region and history of terrorism will tell that’s the case—West will not remain peaceful until unless all terrorists in the region are dealt with. It is somehow very hard for those living in the West to understand. They need first-hand experience. LeT/JeMs or their subgroups and other similar sister hyphenated groups have long been known to have alliances with A-Q, sharing camps in Afghanistan for training terrorists to kill the Westerners and Jihadis for Kashmir against India (reference Ahmed Rashid). Mumbai 26/11 came late.
-Posted by Rajeev

I don’t know if its naivete on the part of the west or outright ignorance. But there’s always been the view that South Asia is too complex and that part of that complex terrain is all the terrorist groups in Pakistan. It was always thought best not to interfere in South Asia and let India and Pakistan settle the score by themselves.

Viewed from this angle, the tolerance of LeT was understandable. After all, if the Paksitani state has full control of them like they say they do than they would not be attacking the West or Westerners. So why should we interfere in their dispute with the Indians? Let the duke it out.

Of course, that understanding has come crashing down since 9/11. It’s clear that the Pakistani state has little to no control over these groups or their members. Either that or they simply aren’t willing to exercise control. I don’t know what’s worse.

For Pakistanis, that means their country is viewed as complicit with terrorism. And the terrorists will be considered as such, regardless of who they fight for and what cause they associate themselves with. The world’s mood with respect to terror groups in Pakistan has changed. I don’t quite know if the Pakistanis are fully cognisant of what this means for them.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

For Pakistanis, that means their country is viewed as complicit with terrorism. And the terrorists will be considered as such, regardless of who they fight for and what cause they associate themselves with. The world’s mood with respect to terror groups in Pakistan has changed. I don’t quite know if the Pakistanis are fully cognisant of what this means for them.
- Posted by Keith

This explains why Pakistan ‘tried’ so hard to distance itself from LeT by called them ‘non-state actors’. For many years groups like these had flourished in Pakistan, but since they posed no threat to the state or US interests, they were left to their own devices. However, after the Mumbai attacks (1st anniversary soon), the USA realised that they could not afford to ignore these groups. They can pose a threat to American interests anywhere in the world.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive
 

Keith,

Of course, that understanding has come crashing down since 9/11. It’s clear that the Pakistani state has little to no control over these groups or their members.

In fairness your statement exposes double standards of the west.Individual life in the west is precious to normal ordinary people in other countries.And what gives them this strength, it is their plundering habit taught to them from history.

I don’t know if its naivete on the part of the west or outright ignorance

This was one of the reasons why i said in all my posts of why India should be non aligned & work towards sharpening its weapon system. The responsibility of GOI is to its citizens who have given them the responsibility to protect us.You can’t wait for the west to understand the undercurrents of South Asia,don’t abrogate that responsibility to some other country.Don’t get persuaded by their sugar coated language think about the language what their president said ” either you are with us or you are not with us”.This is plain bullying relying on the imperial power of their military strength which gives them confidence to humilate other countries & stripping people of normal pride. We have seen history of how bullies laid destruction of their empires be it genghiz khan,Alexander,Ghazni or the british or Nazis they sow their own destuction.

In what way would genocide be different, it is nothing but the state “where powerful people wreak havoc on powerless people through emotional,physical or economical means”.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive
 

kp Singh–

I did not know he was Candian, simple as that even though I have asked him on previous bloggs to disclose where he is from but did not so I pursumed! I was talking about West I think Canada is part of West – Westerly located.

Stop picking bones, come with facts. Can I ask you guys are on paid rosters to defame Pakistan on this blogg so much intrest indians have for Pakistan.

By the way Indina have handed over another dossier Pakistan I hope it NOT in Marathi language this time lol or it will be simply put in the nearest bin as already been told to provide evidence NOT lectures please.

Posted by Majid | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Majid:

“I was talking about West I think Canada is part of West – Westerly located”

That is a gross extrapolation. On one side I see many Muslims claim that they are peaceful and it is a small group of them that has given Muslims a bad name worldwide. Here you are willing to club all Westerners together and blame the deeds of one country on the entire West. But when it comes to Muslims, in general, most of the world attention today is on Islamic terrorism. We talk about Pakistan as a whole entity when it comes to accusations on abetting terrorism. But I see comments from you and others that most of Pakistan is peacful, vibrant, Lahore is a great city etc. Why this double standard? When the fingers are pointed at Pakistan, you people immediately want everyone to be specific to those who are the culprits. When it comes pointing fingers at others, you are willing to ignore that and accuse the whole West. It is because of these Western powers that this world is at least hanging in some balance. Surely they are human and have made their mistakes. But without them your country today will be only in history and not in geography.

“Stop picking bones, come with facts. Can I ask you guys are on paid rosters to defame Pakistan on this blogg so much intrest indians have for Pakistan.”

A number of people have provided the needed references and links. I wonder if you read them at all before you make your counter point. But on the other hand, I have never seen you provide concrete evidence or references from neutral sources. Again, why this double standard? One for you and your people and another for others. I think you are not being fair.

“By the way Indina have handed over another dossier Pakistan I hope it NOT in Marathi language this time lol or it will be simply put in the nearest bin as already been told to provide evidence NOT lectures please.”

It does not matter in which language it has been written. As far as Pakistan is concerned it already belongs to the garbage bin. Your country has come so far on this case only because the FBI is pushing them. The reluctance to work on this case and the delay etc are too obvious to everyone. And that makes us suspect if the Pakistani establishment itself might be involved in the Mumbai attacks and closing this case will end up exposing its ugly truths.

Remember the law of Karma. What you sow, you shall reap. At least you people should change your mindset with sincerity if you want your country to recover. If you still hang on to the old anti-Indian mindset, it will ruin you completely. It already is.

 

Can I ask you guys are on paid rosters to defame Pakistan on this blogg so much intrest indians have for Pakistan.
- Posted by Majid

The interest that Indians have in Pakistan is similar to the interest that a law-abiding & civilized person would have in a criminal-minded convicted felon, who happens to live in the neighborhood. It doesn’t even matter that Pakistanis like you accept the facts presented by Indians because the rest of the world certainly seems to be accepting them. In the mean while, you can keep following your own set of fictional ‘facts’, while your country implodes.

Posted by brewer | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Majid: “I was talking about West I think Canada is part of West – Westerly located.”

To club all of the West as one entity is like calling all Muslims as terrorists. Do you agree?

“Stop picking bones, come with facts. Can I ask you guys are on paid rosters to defame Pakistan on this blogg so much intrest indians have for Pakistan.”

Indians do not have interest in Pakistan. We are in the neighborhood of a nation in turmoil and it has engaged in terrorism inside our country for the past three decades. In addition it has nuclear weapons and has violated non-proliferation protocols. Indians are making sure that lies are not propagated.

“By the way Indina have handed over another dossier Pakistan I hope it NOT in Marathi language this time lol or it will be simply put in the nearest bin as already been told to provide evidence NOT lectures please.”

It does not matter in which language the dossier is written. As far as Pakistan is considered, it belongs to the garbage bin. The case has gone this far only due to American pressure. If India did not capture Kasab alive and if Americans had not died in the Mumbai attacks, by now this will be yet another case that no one will care about outside of India. We all know that it was an attempt to raise frustration level in India, hoping for a retaliation. If India had retaliated, Pakistani military would never have had to fight in Waziristan and suicide bombs would be going off inside Indian metros instead of Peshawar and Lahore. The whole thing would have gone in a different direction taking the whole sub-continent into a nuclear war and ultimate destruction. The belief was that India would be decimated and will not have the power to hold on to Kashmir, which could then be separated and India dismantled. I am glad Indian leaders did not take the bait. We know that more such attacks will come as soon as “things are settled” in Pakistan. The Americans are watching your country’s moves closely. So your country’s military has to be very careful. Clever tactics of the past will not work anymore.

 

@Myra,

As NATO soldiers die and Pakistan is increasingly unwilling to take on the Afghan Taliban, aka the Haqqani and Bahadur Militant network, both of whom have ties with the ISI, it is becoming more apparent that the U.S. and Pakistani Army will have a show down of some sort over this issue.

One one hand, Pakistan enables survival of the Afghan Taliban, perhaps even helping them to get “strategic depth”, on the other hand these same militants that Pakistan harbours and enables, butcher NATO soldiers, while Pakistan takes military and financial and at the same time claims to call itself an ally of the U.S., which is quite laughable.

The U.S. has a few options of its own. Make unilateral droning of the Afghan Taliban and Quetta Shura into Pakistan and or turn these Afghan Taliban against the Pak Army.

After all Athar Abbas and Kiyani claimed that terrorists are terrorists, but they don’t seem to view the Afghan Taliban, who butcher their allies soldier or jeopardize the Afghan mission, or those who bring tyranny on the Afghans as terrorists.

President Obama’s presidency’s success will lie on if he delivers Afghanistan or not, Pakistan Army’s unwillingness to undo its “strategic depth” seems to be one of the main roadblocks.

In short, on one hand Pakistan claims to be an ally on the other hand, it is the biggest roadblock to U.S. success. It is time for the Obama administration to make a style statement and let the Pakistani’s know who is boss there. U.S. citizens are not willing to see their children needless butchered in Afghanistan, due to an unwilling Pakistan.

Posted by GW | Report as abusive
 

Please note the correction to the previous posting:

The U.S. has a few options of its own. Make unilateral droning of the Afghan Taliban and Quetta Shura into Pakistan and or turn THE PAK ARMY AGAINST these Afghan Taliban.

Posted by GW | Report as abusive
 

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