The Problem is Pakistan

This past Sunday in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian counter-insurgency specialist David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House, warned that Pakistan could collapse within months.

The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we're calling the war on terror now," said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House.

"You just can't say that you're not going to worry about al-Qaeda taking control of Pakistan and its nukes," he said.

As the US implements a new strategy in Central Asia so comprehensive that some analysts now dub the cross-border conflict "Obama's war", Dr Kilcullen said time was running out for international efforts to pull both countries back from the brink.

When he unveiled his new "Afpak" policy in Washington last month, the US President, Barack Obama, warned that while al-Qaeda would fill the vacuum if Afghanistan collapsed, the terrorist group was already rooted in Pakistan, plotting more attacks on the US.

"The safety of people round the world is at stake," he said.

Reading the Indian and Pakistani press, the sense I get from the Indian press is that Pakistan refuses to confront the obvious and the sense that I get from the Pakistani press is that India is the problem which only confirms the former. Even as the Baitullah Meshud claim responsibility for recent attacks in Lahore and promise more, Pakistani authorities continue to cast blame on India's intelligence  agency, RAW. Too many Pakistani still just don't see the problem. Until the Pakistanis themselves realize in full the scope of their problems, it seems foolhardy to believe that Pakistan is capable of tackling its problems. And this, of course, presents a problem for the United States.

Furthermore while the drone attacks do seem to have disrupted the operations of Al-Qaeda, the Afghani Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, these groups are adapting and changing tactics. For starters, they are now cooperating to a greater extent and they are also moving away from the border and into the heart of Pakistan. And today as if on cue there is this from the New York Times:

insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country.

The deadly assault in March in Lahore, Punjab's capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing last fall of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign, they said.

Now police officials, local residents and analysts warn that if the government does not take decisive action, these dusty, impoverished fringes of Punjab could be the next areas facing the insurgency. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials also said they viewed the developments with alarm.

"I don't think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue," said a senior police official in Punjab, who declined to be idenfitied because he was discussing threats to the state. "If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab."

As American drone attacks disrupt strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, the insurgents are striking deeper into Pakistan -- both in retaliation and in search of new havens.

Telltale signs of creeping militancy abound in a belt of towns and villages near here that a reporter visited last week. Militants have gained strength considerably in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, which is a gateway both to Taliban-controlled areas and the heart of Punjab, the police and local residents say. Many were terrified.

Some villages, just north of here, are so deeply infiltrated by militants that they are already considered no-go zones by their neighbors.

In at least five towns in southern and western Punjab, including the midsize hub of Multan, barber shops, music stores and Internet cafes offensive to the militants' strict interpretation of Islam have received threats. Traditional ceremonies that include drumming and dancing have been halted in some areas. Hard-line ideologues have addressed large crowds to push their idea of Islamic revolution. Sectarian attacks, dormant here since the 1990s, have erupted once again.

"It's going from bad to worse," said a senior police official in Dera Ghazi Khan. "They are now more active. These are the facts."

American officials agreed. Bruce Riedel, who led the Obama administration's recently completed strategy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Taliban now had "extensive links into the Punjab."

Again from Dr. Kilcullen:

"In Afghanistan, it's easy to understand, difficult to execute. But in Pakistan, it is very difficult to understand and it's extremely difficult for us to generate any leverage, because Pakistan does not want our help.

"In a sense there is no Pakistan - no single set of opinion. Pakistan has a military and intelligence establishment that refuses to follow the directions of its civilian leadership. They have a tradition of using regional extremist groups as unconventional counterweights against India's regional influence."

I am beginning to realize that Pakistan is a lost cause.

Tags: Afghanistan, David Kilcullen, pakistan, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

27 Comments

lost cause?

they aren't a lost cause as long as they have nuclear weapons.
cause we will have to keep funneling money and troops into pakistan to make sure those nukes stay away from those islamic extremist.

man.... i seriously hate that whole part of the world, nothing but trouble and insane douchebag zealots

by theninjagoddess 2009-04-13 11:41PM | 0 recs
Just great

What "some analysts now dub the cross-border conflict "Obama's war" is directly responsible for producing the instability in Pakistan.

What a frame. I'm sure that has just terrific political rewards in the upcoming elections too.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-04-14 12:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Just great

I don't know how you draw these inferences but being from that part of the world and having followed the escalation closely this was a long time coming. The seeds of Islamic fundamentalism was sowed during the 80s under Gen. Zia. That the Pakistani army was working hand in glove with extremists did not stop the US congress (both Democratic and Republican) from keeping the awash in cash and weapons. If that was not enough, in spite of warnings the world turned a blind eye when the same Pakistani army fought the war (not just logistics, but equipment as well) for the Taleban in the 90s. To go further on, the nuclear supermarket that was setup in Pakistan by the AQ Khan network with the full knowledge of ISI and the army was allowed to flourish and NOTHING was done to stop it. What the US took as a decisive step to stop this network eventually was one of the sloppiest cover-ups in history.

So this infiltration of the army and the secret service as well as the NWFP stretching to the POK has been going on since the 80s unabated. If anything presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan, while providing a much needed fig-lead mislead people here, also happens to give them pause. The fact is the radicalization of Pakistan has been going on for 20+ years and only now due to political instability, emboldened by the accomplices in the army and ISI, the radicals have finally surfaced to take over the society. To deny that or obfuscate it with terms like "Obama's war" is revisionism.

by tarheel74 2009-04-14 06:45AM | 0 recs
With the Pakistani govt agreeing to sharia

in the northwest areas controlled by Taliban - - a classic state within a state situation - - isn't it already "lost"?

by kosnomore 2009-04-14 03:48AM | 0 recs
And - - btw - - in anticipation of question - -

get the heck out of the region and cordon off the crazy as best we can.  We're not going to convince them by guns or butter to because moderate socialists or liberal democrats or neo con capitalists or whatever today's dream may be.

by kosnomore 2009-04-14 03:51AM | 0 recs
Re: The Problem is Pakistan

The problem is not Pakistan.  The problem is that we have exposure in that part of the world.

by wilhoit 2009-04-14 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: The Problem is Pakistan

The US has been asleep on the Pakistan problem for decades under both Democratic and Republican party administrations. Obama has 30 years of stupidity to undo.

by Pravin 2009-04-14 05:45AM | 0 recs
Ah, Scenic Peshawar!

Far off, in the distance - you can even hear the sound of gunfire. Its probably just the local villagers, celebrating a marriage by firing their weapons in the air.

Come visit Peshawar, the "city of flowers"

by Trey Rentz 2009-04-14 06:29AM | 0 recs
Some People Say..

Some people say that G.W. Bush gave Musharraf a bunch of nuclear technology in return for his loyalty and support in the "War on Terror".  If true, this could be the greatest Bush blunder of them all, since it gave Pakistan THE BOMB.  When you think of the timing of that first successful PAK bomb test, it really seems to add up.

by baghdadjoe 2009-04-14 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Some People Say..

GW Bush did not give any nuclear technology to Pakistan.  They have had the nuclear technology since the late 1980s..and they tested while Clinton was President.

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:04AM | 0 recs
Kashmir

Over at CounterPunch someone finally reminds us what is at the heart of the matter. Sort of like Palestine is at the heart of our bad relations with the Muslim world, so Kashmir is at the heart of our Indo-Pak problems. While India probably felt that China was the reason it needed nukes, it probably figured that nukes and Pakistan was a bonus. Pakistan then needed nukes to defend against India, natch.

But it all revolves around Kashmir. Like Palestine, solve that one and you are on the road to real peace.

Anyway Conn Hallinan has a good analogy for the problem, Rubiks Cube:

The inclusion of Iran suggests that U.S. is correctly viewing the Afghan war as a regional problem, but one that will force the White House to grasp one of South Asia's thorniest problems: Kashmir. While New Delhi says this issue if off the table, if the U.S. is serious about resolving regional tensions it will eventually have to visit the what may be the most dangerous flashpoint on the planet.

To make all the Rubik's cubes fit together, the Obama Administration will have to recognize that the U.S. is only one player at the table, and that the interests of other parties, both inside and outside of Afghanistan, must be given equal weight. It will also need to reconsider the Bush Administration's ill-advised nuclear agreement with New Delhi, which not only increases tensions in the region, but also threatens to unravel a critically important international nuclear treaty.

The nuclear deal mentioned is one that Bush recently added to the mix.

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-04-14 07:31AM | 0 recs
Interesting

So, in order to solve Afghanistan, you must first solve Pakistan.  But in order to solve Pakistan, you must first solve Kashmir... I am guessing "solving Kashmir" involves some form of giving Kashmir to Pakistan.  Course, I am sure you have thought of all the implications of blowing up India's secular polity, and having a full scale blood bath that will likely involve a few million dead...

Why didn't I think of that one before ?

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Interesting

It is such a no-brainer. Jokes aside I sometimes wonder whether foreign policy simpletons are part and parcel of the right and left wing fringes.

by tarheel74 2009-04-14 08:26AM | 0 recs
Kashmir probably

needs to be it's own country, sort of like Kurdistan and Basque need to be their own countries. Ideally they would be countries that are part of a larger economic union sort of like the E.U.

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-04-14 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Kashmir probably

I am sure you have canvassed every person in Kashmir before you made that determination that Kashmir probably needs to be it's own country!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:52AM | 0 recs
Didn't Muslim / Hindu animosity, the partition
of the subcontinent, deadly sectarian riots, and mass ethnic and religious cleansing PRE-DATE the rise of the Kashmiri conflict?  In fact, didn't the Muslim Kashmiri leadership of the '40's reject sectarianism, and alone among all Muslim regions stay with India rather than join Muslim-majority Pakistan?  And, wasn't the most deadly and violent episode in the subcontinent's post partition history the war between the eastern and western halves of Muslim Pakistan, resulting in the death of millions of Muslims in what is now Bengladesh at the hands of Muslims from rump  Pakistan?  I don't think Kashmir was a factor in those episodes.
Sorry to toss facts into the discussion.
by kosnomore 2009-04-14 09:12AM | 0 recs
Fact away

I appreciate them. I certainly don't have very many.

Yes history certainly trumps lots of "good ideas." I'm just throwing out "good ideas" here and doing so with a minimum of facts.

Often in order to move forward we need to have some ability to move-on from history. Like "hill-billy"  feuds, trying to justify all the various wrongs just becomes counter-productive to a real solution. Israel and Palestine are likely well past the point of deciding who is right and who is wrong based on historical "facts." So too likely with Kashmir.

So lets take off our real-world glasses and put on rose-colored ones here for a moment and try to imagine what a solution might look like. Why. Because it's always best to begin with an end in mind. Having a goal helps find a way through a torturous path.

So I suggest an independent Kashmir as part of a Pakistan/India and others economic union in order to side-step who gets Kashmir and I tie them all together where it counts most economically. See, we free two birds with one feather.

But yes there's a lot of history we would have to tip-toe around, eh?

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-04-14 09:25AM | 0 recs
Are you kidding

I don't even know an ex-pat from Kashmir. Hey this is just a blog. I don't have any influence on this reality so I can throw out all kinds of solutions without talking to anybody. Anyway see my next comment where I brag about not working with any facts. ;-)

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-04-14 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Are you kidding

Well, I appreciate the honesty.  I was prepared for a belligerent stand ... which is the normal reaction on such forums.  I suspect you will do well in life!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Kashmir probably

My thoughts are somewhat similar but the hour for that solution may have passed. I went to Kashmir in August 2001 and things were quiet. Srinagar was calm but the rise of Islamic extremist groups and India's clamp down have radicalized and polarized the population.

I do think Pakistan is destined to fail. Have believed that for some time now. It might have been a country given an elite that actually cared about developing institutions but for the most part they cared about enriching their own pockets and pursuing internecine conflicts. Zardari's nickname is Mr. 10% and I read somewhere in a Pakistani blog that that actually underestimate his take by 30%. The Sharifs are originally from Indian part of the Punjab. That worldview is beyond belief. To them, India is the anti-Christ. The Sharifs are actually industrialists but Bhutto pere nationalized their steel mills and set in motion a deep and enduring hatred between the two families. Ironically, Mushraff probably long-term might have been the best bet to turn the country around but power in Pakistan is an uneasy divide between the Army, the ISI (a state within a state), the various states, an aristocracy that makes the French aristocracy of the late 18th century look liberal by comparison, and of course, the Pakistani street that has over the past 20 years become increasingly Islamic following the tenets of Deodandism and Wahhabism as opposed to the Sufism prevalent prior.

I have one hope, Imran Khan, in his late 40s, he's the former captain of the Pakistan's national cricket team and he's now in politics. Though Punjabi, he's from a well-respected clan in the north of the Punjab. As the only captain of a Pakistani team to win a World Cup, he has street credentials. The question is whether the Zardaris and the Sharifs will allow Khan to become the saviour of Pakistan. And then he has to rein in the Army and the ISI.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 03:05PM | 0 recs
I have to admit

that it sure does look like Pakistan is going down the tubes, as it were. So then the question that needs answering is who exactly in the country has effective control over the nukes and can those nukes be a) disarmed and b) the radioactive material collected and removed to a safe location. Are there enough people not looking out for themselves and in positions of enough power to even do that kind of work. Do you have any clues?

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-04-14 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: I have to admit

Both India and the United States have contingency plans to seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

My understanding is that Pakistan has about 100 nuclear devices spread out across three locations and that the weapons are not deployed, that is that they require assembly. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security defines deployment as weapons having been transferred to military units for storage and rapid mating with delivery systems at military bases.

My understanding is also that the Bush Administration provided a grant ($100 million I think) to the Pakistanis to help them secure their nukes after the AQ Khan debacle. The Army has the nukes under its control.  

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 08:28PM | 0 recs
I hated Imran

as a boy. I lost count of the number of occassions when I (and everyone I knew) would wish him dead... or at the very least, paralyzed with a broken right hand!!

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Kashmir

Kashmir is of course the main bone of contention between Pakistan and India. For Pakistan, Kashmir is the limb severed at birth and for India, Kashmir represents a confirmation as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious yet secular Republic. While India has 130 million Muslims, only in Kashmir & Jammu are Muslims a majority.

Kashmir was a raj, a princely state and thus its ruler had authority to decide whether to join India or Pakistan. Though largely Muslim, its Raj was a Hindu and an indecisive one at that. Come midnight on August 15, 1947, he still hadn't made a decision. Pakistan sent in troops and it went down hill from there.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 02:47PM | 0 recs
I too have lost hope...

I have read the Pakistani papers diligently for the past 12 years or so... and I stopped reading about 1 month back.

I hope they have a bit more than a few months though...  I hope they have enough time to sort it out.  I still have family in India.. my mother lives there; and her grandfather built all the dams that made the Punjab such a prosperous region before independence.  She is devastated by the impending sense of doom...

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:03AM | 0 recs
Re: I too have lost hope...

The Punjab is magic. Actually all of India is.

The Punjab is still the wealthiest part of India, I think.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-14 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: I too have lost hope...

My mother's grandfather was in the Pakistani portion of Punjab.  She describes a wonderful life, growing up there.

The Punjab was the most prosperous region of both India and Pakistan...because of it's dams.  They could do 3 crops a year whereas most places in India could barely do one.

But it is not the most prosperous region anymore.  They were overtaken by Kerala, with it's higher literacy rate, quite some time back.  And these days, the BPO and software/high tech boom has spread it's wealth elsewhere.

by Ravi Verma 2009-04-14 08:56PM | 0 recs

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