Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistan has replaced the head of its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, following months of questions from the United States about its reliability in the battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, formerly head of military operations, will replace Lieutenant-General Nadeem Taj.
The change was part of a major overhaul of the military leadership by Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who also replaced the head of the 10 Corps in Rawalpindi, the most powerful corps in the army.
So to what extent was the United States responsible for the move? Or how far was it Pakistan’s own attempt to shore up its security operations as it cracks down on Islamist militants, who according to U.S. military commander David Petraeus threaten Pakistan’s “very existence”?
Washington has long suspected elements within the ISI of passing sensitive information to the Taliban –with whom the spy agency worked closely before the 9/11 attacks on the United States — undermining its campaign in Afghanistan. India and Afghanistan also accused the ISI of involvement in the July bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. Pakistan has denied the allegations.
I finally got around to reading Charlie Wilson’s War (much better than the film and considerably longer) about the U.S. Congressman who managed to drum up huge amounts of money to fund the mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980′s.
George Crile’s book - about how the CIA channelled money and weapons through Pakistan to defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan and helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union – was first published in 2002. But it’s even more relevant today as the United States struggles to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and realises it will never succeed as long as ”the enemy” has sanctuary in Pakistan. It is the only war that the United States has fought on both sides.
Five years after she vanished from her parents’ home in Karachi along with her three children, Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui appeared in a New York court last week accused of trying to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan
Accounts of her arrest and the shooting incident differ.
Siddiqui, 36, was arrested outside the governor’s office in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on July 17 after police searched her handbag and found documents on making explosives, excerpts from the book “Anarchist’s Arsenal” and descriptions of New York City landmarks, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Why now? Until this week, the ISI was an acronym for Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, that was little known outside of South Asia. Now it’s all over the American media as the organisation accused of secretly helping Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the country it works for is a crucial ally in the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The New York Times led the charge by reporting that the CIA had confronted Pakistan over what it called deepening ties between members of the ISI and militant groups responsible for a surge in violence in Afghanistan. It followed it up with a story quoting U.S. government officials blaming the ISI for an attack last month on the Indian embassy in Kabul. The Washington Post and TIME, amongst others, ran similar stories.
It’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”.
Much has been made of this week’s New York Times article accusing the Bush administration of allowing al Qaeda to rebuild in Pakistan’s tribal areas after it was chased out of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, not least because the White House took its eye off the ball as it turned its attention to Iraq.
“The United States faces a threat from al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” the newspaper quotes Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation, as saying. ”The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”
Despite the reservations of its principal ally, the United States, Pakistan’s new civilian leaders have gone ahead and sued for peace with militants in the Swat valley this week, and by all indications are about to cut another deal, and this with the head of the Taliban in the country.
While the politicians have repeatedly emphasised their independence of action with regard to militants and vowed to pursue a different course from President Pervez Musharraf, can they really see these deals through without the Americans on board?