Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

The “sound and fury” of U.S.-Pakistan ties (Part II)

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I have (somewhat belatedly) got around to reading the full text of the statement made by Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemning last week’s drone strike in North Waziristan which killed more than 40 people. The strike has reignited tensions with Washington, and came only a day after Pakistan released Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis, after a bruising row with the United States. 

The Pakistani media has put forward many reasons as to why Kayani issued such a public condemnation, and indeed on why the United States chose to  launch such a lethal drone attack just as tempers were beginning to cool over the Davis row (for a must-read round up of the different views of officials and analysts in Peshawar, see Cyril Almeida at Dawn.)

One of the more interesting explanations lies in the statement itself (my italics):

“Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, strongly condemns the Predator Strike carried out today in North Waziristan Agency resulting into loss of innocent lives. It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life. In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”

CFR on Pakistan: hold course (for now)

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damadola2The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a new report on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan based on a study by a bipartisan group chaired by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former national security adviser Sandy Berger and directed by CFR senior fellow Daniel Markey.

As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report broadly endorses U.S. policy of trying to build a long-term partnership, while also aiming to persuade it to turn convincingly against all militant groups. It reiterates a U.S. complaint that while Pakistan is ready to act against militants that threaten the Pakistani state, like al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, it continues to support or tolerate other groups it believes can be used as proxies against India, including the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Among a range of incentives to build a better relationship with Pakistan, the report argues for continued U.S. financial support for Pakistan, all the more needed after this summer’s devastating floods, along with more favourable trade terms to boost the textile industry, which it says provides 38 percent of the country’s industrial employment.

On U.S., India and Pakistan: maybe some transparency would help

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biden karzaiAccording to the Wall Street Journal, ”President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer. ”

“The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents,” it says.

India and Pakistan on the U.S. see-saw

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wagah2Few who follow South Asia could miss the symbolism of two separate developments in the past week –  in one Pakistan was cosying up to the United States in a new “strategic dialogue”; in the other India was complaining to Washington about its failure to provide access to David Headley, the Chicago man accused of helping to plan the 2008 attack on Mumbai.

Ever since the London conference on Afghanistan in January signalled an exit strategy which could include reconciliation with the Taliban, it has been clear that Pakistan’s star has been rising in Washington while India’s has been falling. 

Seeking Saudi cooperation on Afghanistan and Pakistan

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saudiPrime Minister Manmohan Singh is making the first visit to Saudi Arabia by an Indian leader since 1982, seeking to build economic ties and to enlist the kingdom’s help in improving regional security. While much of the focus is likely to be on securing oil supplies for India’s growing economy, the visit is also part of the complex manoeuvres by regional players jostling for position on Afghanistan and beyond.

Singh told Saudi journalists ahead of the visit that he would discuss with Saudi King Abdullah how to promote greater stability and security in the region.  “Both King Abdullah and I reject the notion that any cause justifies wanton violence against innocent people. We are strong allies against the scourge of extremism and terrorism that affects global peace and security,” he said.

On India-Pakistan thaw and the changing Afghan dynamics

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siachensaluteThere is a time and a place for everything and back in the days of the Obama election campaign the idea that progress on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan could help turn around the flagging military campaign in Afghanistan looked plausible. The argument, much touted by Washington think-tankers, was that Pakistan would not turn against Afghan Taliban militants on its western border as long as it believed it might need to use them to counter India’s growing influence in Afghanistan, and as long as it felt the need to keep the bulk of its army on its eastern border with India.

Even in the middle of last year, when Pakistan and India made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to revive peace talks which had been frozen since the attack on Mumbai at the end of 2008, the possibility of a “grand bargain” from Kashmir to Kabul still carried some resonance.

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

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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.”

U.S. aid to Pakistan: the law of unintended consequences

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U.S. plans to triple aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year appear to have run rather quickly afoul of the law of unintended consequences – by threatening to create tensions between the government and the army.

The Kerry-Lugar aid bill is meant to bolster Pakistan’s civilian democracy and help the country fight Islamist militants.  But it also stipulates that U.S. military aid will cease if Pakistan does not help fight the militants; seeks Pakistani cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and provides for an assessment of how effective the civilian government’s control is over the military.

On War in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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If you were to apply the advice of 19th century Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz that one of the objectives of war is to destroy the effective strength of the enemy, it is still not clear how that aim is to be achieved when it comes to fighting the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Predictably, the Taliban has melted away in the face of offensives in both countries, retaining its capacity to live to fight another day and to open new fronts in other areas.

from Global News Journal:

When is a coalition not a coalition?

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How can you tell when U.S. forces in Afghanistan are operating alone?

When they call it "the coalition".

That’s not a joke. It's just how things work in Afghanistan, where two separate forces with two separate command structures -- one completely American, the other about half American -- operate side by side under the command of the same U.S. general.

 "When we say 'coalition', basically that means it's just us," a helpful U.S. military spokeswoman explained last month to a reporter who had just arrived in country after being away for a couple of  years. "Otherwise, it's the 'alliance'."

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