Pakistan’s War of Choice

ajtr

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Pakistan’s War of Choice

WHAT are Americans to make of all the good news coming out of Pakistan in recent weeks?

First, the Afghan Taliban’s military chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was arrested in a raid in February. Around the same time, several of the Taliban’s “shadow governors” who operate out of Pakistan were captured by Pakistani forces. Last week, the C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta, announced that thanks in large part to increased cooperation from Pakistan, drone strikes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are “seriously disrupting Al Qaeda,” and one killed the terrorist suspected of planning an attack on an American base in December that caused the deaths of seven Americans. Meanwhile, Pakistan has mounted major operations against its own extremists in places ranging from the Swat Valley in the north of the country to Bajaur on the Afghan border to South Waziristan further south. Yes, extremists continue to do great damage, as at Lahore on March 14 when about 40 civilians were killed in bombings. But after traveling across the country in recent days as a guest of the Pakistani military, I was convinced that Pakistan has become much more committed to battling extremists over the last couple of years, as the country felt its own security directly threatened.

Things are complicated, as always in this fractious land. Pakistan’s resolve is clearest against its own internal enemies. And while its will to pursue the Afghan Taliban has grown, its policies are changing incrementally, not fundamentally. It is rebuilding trust with America only slowly. And its obsession with India will continue to constrain its ability and willingness to act against the groups that threaten the NATO mission across the Afghan border.

First, though, give credit where credit is due. Pakistan has become deadly serious about its own insurgency, loosely referred to as the Tehrik-i-Taliban. Total Pakistani troops in the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and the tribal areas now number about 150,000, up from 50,000 in 2001. In addition, there are 90,000 paramilitary troops of the Frontier Corps in the area, and they are far better equipped, paid and led than in years past.(numers are up to sudue Baloch freedom fighters not to fight taliban.)

As I toured the nerve center of the Pakistani military in Rawalpindi, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army’s spokesman, recited an impressive list of statistics. The army now has 821 posts on the Afghan-Pakistan border, as opposed to just 112 manned by NATO and Afghan forces on the other side. Pakistan carried out 209 operations in 2009 of brigade size or larger (that is, involving at least 3,000 troops), twice as many as in the previous two years combined. Convoys bringing supplies for the NATO mission in Afghanistan used to be preyed on frequently by terrorists and thieves; but as a result of the improved security, NATO is now losing only about 0.1 percent of the goods it ships across Pakistan.

Carrying out all these operations has been very costly, though. The Pakistani military says it had some 800 soldiers killed in operations last year, in contrast with NATO’s total losses in Afghanistan of 520. Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in terrorist attacks, and several hundred village elders, critical figures in any efforts to pacify the tribal areas, have been killed as well.

Most Pakistanis feel, with some justification, they have suffered all this as the result of American decisions and interests. Pakistan didn’t experience suicide bombings until the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. Pakistanis do not begrudge us that act of self-defense, but do expect us to appreciate the sacrifices they have made. And, while Pakistanis acknowledge American economic help, they consider the $17 billion or so that we have provided since 9/11 to equal only about half their total costs, direct and indirect, from the war on terrorism.

Still, Pakistan is hitting the terrorists hard. As a top commander of the Frontier Corps told me from his centuries-old fort here in Peshawar, since 2007 or 2008 he has known that there has been “no turning back.” This means ensuring that militants — or “miscreants,” as Pakistanis like to say — do not return to those areas that have been cleared in recent months.

This won’t be easy. Often, Pakistani military tactics amount to notifying the local population of a pending mission and asking people to leave before the assault. Afterward, the population is allowed to return — but any extremists who had snuck out with the people can then try to sneak back in with them.Pakistan also doesn’t want to fight over too much of its territory at any one time. The other day I visited a camp for the displaced near here, with about 100,000 residents. Most fled from recent military operations in Bajaur and Khyber, near the Afghanistan border. Fortunately, the camp’s previous residents, from Swat, were able to go home before the new influx. Conditions at the camp are tough but tolerable, partly because Pakistan has not launched additional operations recently. Islamabad’s deliberateness makes Washington impatient at times, but there is a strategic logic to it.(this is wat the shadow boxing pak army is actually doing.pretend to fight rather than actually fighting)

In the near term, any progress will be fitful. Pakistan seems unwilling to move much more of its army away from the Indian border, meaning a further delay before operations commence in North Waziristan — home to the Haqqani network, a radical group headed by the Taliban commander Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, which is believed to be behind some of the largest attacks in recent years.

I did not meet any Pakistanis who actually seemed to wish to see the Afghan Taliban back in power. But the country simply does not have the military capacity to make major moves against the Afghan fundamentalists. And, less understandably, Pakistanis tend to see Indian conspiracies behind what is happening in Afghanistan, and fear being trapped between their longtime nemesis on one side and an Indian puppet on the other.

At the headquarters of the Pakistani spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, I was told that India was suspected of providing explosives to Tehrik-i-Taliban extremists through Afghanistan. Many Pakistanis claim that the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai is essentially a reincarnation of the old Northern Alliance from the Afghan civil war — a union largely made up of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks and partly financed by India. (This despite the fact that Afghanistan’s ministers of defense and interior are Pashtun, as is President Karzai.)Pakistanis wonder why India is building so many consulates in Afghanistan, and even Indian-subsidized health clinics are considered suspicious.

As he departed for a “strategic dialogue” this week in Washington, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, announced that “it’s time for the United States to do more.” This isn’t what America wants to hear from an oft-unreliable ally. But we must bear in mind that the Pakistani government rules one of the most anti-American populations in the world, and even its elites see us as oft-unreliable ourselves. Washington must stay realistic, and patient, about what can be expected of Pakistan.
 
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Solid Beast

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Pakistan crossed a certain threshold when certain influential segments gave the go ahead to fully support and nurture the Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan and northern areas of Pakstain. Once you make such an ideologica keystone decision there is no turning back, rest assured Pakistan's strategy of depth has not changed a bit. Their forces are doing nothing but strategic maneuvring with regards to this war against extremism, making a big hubbub and sounding victory cries for nothing, a few skirmishes may have been won but there is no underlying war being fought, it's a big smokescreen. Like before they are only eliminating figureheads and pieces that are expendable for the cause of stifling criticism from the west mainly America with regards to eliminating Taliban. A point to be made is that the face of the Pakistani created face of Islamic terrorism has shifted from a ground roots social engineering experiment to a billion dollar full fledged industry. This is not some sort of arcade game where every time the mole lifts it's head you smack it with a hammer. The enemy is being made to look like one thing when in fact they are neatly entrenched already in the intelligence and political establishment, all these terrorists are the same tribesmen who made pacts with the government to defend Pakistan, and what you are seeing is a sort of "Red force vs Blue force" highly compartmentalized internal operation going on with the aims of deceiving the forces in the neighboring country. Do not buy into the marketing campaign of the Pakistani defence establishment like the people have in Pakistan and like the US establishment has swallowed up like toffee. In a few years from now you will see overt backing of extremists to be used against Afghanistan, the minorities of the country (mainly to suppress Turkic nationalism which is a threat to their Pakhtunkwa vehicle of expansionism) and of course India all over again.
 
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ajtr

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A 'Pakistan surge'

The Obama Doctrine for the region had incorrectly put in order of priority a "Pakistan surge," an effective partnership with Pakistan, the most important element, to come after the "military" and "civilian surge" in Afghanistan. The US has belatedly recognised that Pakistan is central to any lasting solution in Afghanistan, a yawning gap (and some reluctance) remains in translating rhetoric into reality. The "Strategic Dialogue" intends to correct this major anomaly. Failure would render gains made in Afghanistan reversible.

Nations must hold their own interests uppermost. Compromise comes only in exceptional circumstances. For Pakistanis to believe that the US will tailor its "national security strategy" to dovetail with Pakistan's core interests is naïve, and dangerous. For the US to believe the same in reverse would not be realistic. However, narrowing down the gaps is possible. A comprehensive review encompassing mutual interests in geopolitics and economics is necessary. While not reducing the importance of our dispute with India over Kashmir and water, these need a separate tripartite dialogue later.

Pakistan is getting only a fraction of the military support it should get. Comparatively, Afghanistan is budgeted much more for doing far less. Weapons and equipment desperately needed to continue our counterinsurgency operations include helicopters, night-vision devices, mine-resistant armoured carriers and laser-guided bombs. With Kayani and Pakistan's secretary of defence, Athar, in the government "A" team negotiating in Washington DC, the military wish-list can be quickly finalised.

Glaring deficiencies need overcoming and/or rectification for lasting economic stability. In a recent memo to the Executive Council of the American Business Council, IBM's Humayun Bashir noted that "energy shortages are choking. Pakistan needs short-term and long-term help in the following order: (1) onetime help to overcome circular debt, (2) rental power plants, (3) nuclear plants like India, and (4) water and hydel power (projects), Basha, etc." The Executive Council echoed his suggestions about (1) effective policing for better law-and-order enforcement, (2) job creation, with emphasis on the IT sector, (3) agriculture promotion in order to double the yield in five years, (4) effective healthcare, and (5) developing the railways as the transportation backbone to reduce freight charges.

Other then a new road and rail axis to augment north-south communications, our existing roads and bridges need compensation for heavy and constant wear and tear. Fees for "transit of supplies" may be negotiable but it is our right. The Musharraf regime failed to drive a hard bargain for reimbursement for the use of our air bases, direct military costs, etc. Musharraf's personal survival made his position weak.

Instead of using whatever money we did get by investing in socioeconomic projects of substance wisely, the funds were frittered away to keep the population happy (through a feel-good environment) by supporting a consumer-oriented economy. Contrary to public perception, funds meant for the military were diverted to supporting consumer imports, all adding to our deficit fuel and electricity. Funds must be targeted to practical projects, and audited for good effect. Holbrooke is making efforts to keep 30 per cent being siphoned off by the "Beltway Bandits."

While electricity drives both agriculture and industry, the physical discomfort for the common man facing up to 10 hours of load shedding is unbearable. For overcoming energy shortages there is no substitute for cheap nuclear energy. To quote my recent article, "Coming out of the nuclear cold": "Pakistan has the nuclear bombs and the means to deliver them many times over. Warding off dire warnings of terrorists taking over our nuclear assets rather well, no interference was permitted. Pakistan desperately needs large nuclear-power plants to overcome its severe energy shortages.

"The US-India nuclear accord has created a dangerous imbalance in nuclear détente with India that Pakistan has to address. Denying us cheap energy from nuclear plants makes no sense except cause hardship for our people." A nuclear energy deal may be on the table in Washington DC, the acid test of a long-term meaningful relationship will be if Pakistan gets a similar nuclear pact as with India. If correcting misconceptions about the US image is also an objective, there is nothing more effective for a positive public perception in Pakistan than a nuclear deal.

The Pakistani granary that currently feeds Afghanistan and other countries in the region can be enhanced many times over by giving agriculture top priority. Mechanisation aside, better storage facilities, farm-to-market access roads, irrigation canals, tube wells, etc., are all needed. Since cotton serves our textile industry, this cash-earner is what holds up the economy. We need free access to US markets. Trade, not aid! To be practical and realistic, instead of having ROZs, the entire Fata must be made a free trade zone. Challenging adversity with imagination will ensure economic activity both sides of the Durand Line. Providing means of livelihood will give the inhabitants reason to protect the means thereof.

Neither funded, trained or equipped to the standards required, our civilian law enforcement agencies badly lack the leadership and organisation necessary to confront our major challenge of terrorism. To quote my article "Countering insurgency and terrorism": "The army should not face another debilitating exercise 'in aid of civil power.' Their major mission is on our borders. A Counter-Terrorism Force (CTF) in Pakistan, officered by the army, must be developed on the pattern of the tremendously successful Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) that almost eliminated poppy cultivation and drug smuggling. Using the ANF's existing structure as a nucleus, it should be converted into the CTF. What about reallocating $5-6 billion to form the CTF and replenish/refurbish the Pakistani army's capacity?"

The US Defence Department has an office called SOLIC (Special Operation and Low Intensity Conflict) created in the 1980's. Within SOLIC there is an office called CN (Counter-Narcotics) whose funding is authorised directly by Congress. After 9/11, Congress expanded the Defence Department's authority to use CN funds for counter-terrorism purposes, justified by the interplay between terrorist and insurgent groups and their funds-raising from narcotics trafficking. Given this nexus (narco-terrorism), why not convert the "ministry for narcotics control" into the "ministry for narcotics control and counter-terrorism"?

Our doctors are conceivably among the best in the world. Pakistan has, barring the odd exception, the worst healthcare facilities in the world. The deficiencies have been spelt out superbly by Dr Sania Nishtar in her must-read recent book Instead of criticism, she has taken the positive route of comprehensive recommendations of how to overcome glaring shortcomings. Choked Pipes is an excellent primer on how to go about setting up and managing meaningful healthcare in a developing country.

The change in US mindset has been bought and paid for by the precious blood of our soldiers in the battlefield and our innocent bomb victims in the streets of Pakistan, not by duplicitous glib talking or by endless posturing in the media while rendering endless bogus "last warnings" to the Taliban. Describing Hillary Clinton's visit last October, "The ultimate defining moment": "it came at an 'interesting time' internally for Pakistan. It could turn out to be of great importance for the Pakistan envisaged by the Quaid, if not the Pakistan we know presently." The impending "Strategic Dialogue" confirms the visit really made a difference!

An effective partnership is only possible if the people of Pakistan gain confidence that the US is genuine about sustaining a meaningful long-term relationship, which is going to be long-term, and that the US will sustain it. Any partnership that is unequal has the element of failure inherent and no amount of rhetoric can paper over the imbalances in such a relationship.
 

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