The Restoration of Democracy, A Historic Moment for Pakistan

Though Pakistan continues to face a number of challenges, in its struggle for democracy it is, perhaps, a lesson for other nascent democracies. By tabling a package of constitutional reforms that will repeal several aberrations adopted under dictatorships in the 1980s and 1990s, the democratic government of Pakistan has achieved a landmark in democracy and brought hope to people around the world.

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Pakistan’s Economy Hurt By Attacks On Government

Attacks on Pakistan’s democratically elected government by opposition parties and a hostile judiciary are damaging the nation’s economy according to Moody’s Investor Services analyst Aninda Mitra. According to an interview Mr. Mitra gave to Reuters news service on Wednesday.

 

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Obama's Surge: The Real Reason

Every year on the anniversary of September 11, the same question pops up: where is Osama bin Laden? And for eight years various pundits, who hardly speak a word of Pashto, Dari, Urdu or any other language spoken in the region, play the guessing game, placing him somewhere along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

This week, President Obama took Gen. Stanley McChrystal's advice and ordered a surge in the war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more American troops there to help battle the Taliban insurgency. In a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, the President set out what he said was a new strategy to bring the war to a "successful conclusion" and reverse the momentum of Taliban gains.

The President did not mention Osama bin Laden, a frequent target of his criticism during the campaign when he criticized President Bush.

"We will kill bin Laden, we will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority," then candidate Barack Obama said during an October 2008 debate.

If the US goal remains to "crush" al Qaeda, then perhaps many Americans would not be as upset with Obama's Afghan surge; however, this is not the case.

As it stands, there will be nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with about 47,000 from allies. This is not to mention contractors, who already outnumber U.S. forces in the war-ravaged country. According to credible intelligence estimates, 100 al Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan, and 300 more have fled to Pakistan. As for the Taliban, conflicting estimates put their numbers anywhere between 7,000 to 25,000. Therefore, this build up does not make sense, and the numbers do not add up.

Also, why do the United States and its allies need close to 150,000 troops if they can negotiate with the Taliban? Mr. Karzai does!

"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said. "Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar. Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it."

Meanwhile, President Obama has increased US pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban in its territories. As an inducement, and a measure of heightened American concern for Pakistan, he has also helped bring a big increase in aid to the country, including $7.5 billion of non-military aid over five years, approved recently by Congress. The problem is that there is no certainty or confidence that the current Pakistani regime is going to last; Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari is one of the country's most discredited politicians and linked to corruption. There is a major question mark on who will be replacing him or what sort of a government Pakistan will have after his imminent fall.

President Obama has not been forthcoming with the American people. He should come clean and explain the real reason behind the surge. It's not because of bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. The real reason is Pakistan, a failed state with nuclear warheads!

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Shifting the 'Complex War' in Pakistan

The general perception that our investment in Pakistan has not produced results, that the military/intelligence community there is intransigent and ambivalent to our objectives and that their leadership has consistently been unable to deliver on promises made in exchange for large sums of US taxpayer money is grounded in reality, but it is the reality of decades of wishful thinking and inattention on the part of previous US administrations who were unwilling to press their case or distracted by events elsewhere.

And the notion that the Pakistani Army is unwieldy, suited to the overanticipated conventional war with India but incapable of fighting a 'complex' counterinsurgency conflict is also a 'given' of our current perception and the news from Pakistan is disquieting, as the Pakistani military response to our insistence on taking aggressive action against the Taliban, at first glance, seems a counter-productive humanitarian disaster:


Pakistan's government signed a peace agreement with the Swat Taleban in February, allowing Sharia law there, a move sharply criticised by Washington.

The militants then moved towards the capital, Islamabad, causing further alarm.

Up to 15,000 troops have now been deployed in the Swat valley and neighbouring areas to take on up to 5,000 militants. The military has said it intends to "eliminate" the Taleban fighters.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Saturday called the conflict "a guerrilla war".

"This is our own war. This is war for the survival of the country," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

The fighting has already displaced some 200,000 people, while a further 300,000 are estimated to be on the move or poised to flee, the UN says.

On Saturday the government said that refugee camps would be set up in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, and to the north-east in Naushara.

Flight from Swat as Curfew Lifted BBC 10 May 09

And it's hardly surprising that the Pakistani army seems to be a sledge-hammer where a scalpel is wanted, though they are doing exactly what we promoted and have responded to the insurgent threat with considerable energy, including rotating six brigades from the Indian border to support this operation.  But there are also signs that the military can learn the lessons of counterinsurgency, at least in regard to operations by the paramilitary Frontier Corps late last year which may be worth considering, at least in part:


At first, the Pakistani military's response to the Islamists had been disastrous. Caught off guard by their onslaught, the Army had responded with brute force, trying, in the words of one officer, to "out-terrorize the terrorist." Such heavy-handed tactics had alienated locals, even while the intelligence services played a double game, trying to crack down on local Taliban while supporting them in Afghanistan so as to counter Indian influence there.

On arrival, General Khan realized he needed a new approach, one that emphasized holding and building areas after freeing them of Taliban gunmen. He began eating and bunking with his men to improve morale, and seeking the counsel of his officers--not a common practice in the hierarchical Pakistani military--on how best to engage the enemy and attract local support. In August 2008 he launched Operation Shirdil ("lion heart"), similar to the U.S. "surge" strategy in Iraq. Khan encouraged his troops to work with local tribes, shrewdly dividing pro-Taliban from pro-government elements, and, to gain legitimacy, backed tribal militias and sought the acquiescence of local jirgas (tribal councils).

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick - Where Pakistan is Winning Newsweek 2 May 2009

While this may have been an isolated success within the context of traditional military thinking in Pakistan it does suggest that there is at least some field experience of modern 'complex' warfighting to leverage for this and future operations.  

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Pushback From Pakistan

An Asia Times report this morning basically wrote off the Zardari administration in Pakistan. There is definitely some pushback against that narrative coming out of Islamabad. From the Washington Post:

As criticism has dominated in recent weeks -- along with reports that the administration is wooing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's principal political opponent, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif -- the partnership has grown strained.

"What are the Americans trying to do, micromanage our politics?" a senior Pakistani official said testily. "This is not South Vietnam."

As Zardari arrives this week for his first official visit with Obama -- part of a tripartite summit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- the administration has asked Congress to quickly approve hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency military aid for Pakistan. That money, and billions more over the next several years, is to come with new authority for the Defense Department to decide what to spend it on.

Reuters is advancing a theory that Zardari has emerged from the recent crises stronger:

American faith in Zardari's ability to deliver appeared to wane after he emerged weakened from a crisis involving a showdown with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif in March.

Zardari's stock sank lower when he was forced to cave in to Taliban demands for the establishment of Islamic sharia courts across a large chunk of the northwest, including Swat.

He had little choice, given his own unpopularity, the threat by a coalition partner to quit, parliament's overwhelming support for sharia to appease the militants, and the army's reluctance to fight without public support.

U.S. officials had begun cultivating Sharif more actively, despite wariness over the ex-prime minister's Islamist leanings.

Analysts say the United States is now likely to try to persuade Sharif to work with Zardari's government once more.

They say Zardari always knew the so-called Swat deal, exchanging sharia for peace, was doomed, as the Taliban would overplay their hand. Zardari didn't have to wait long.

He can tell the Americans "I did it my way, and I'm doing it the right way," said Najam Sethi, a leading political analyst and editor of the Daily Times.

"He's got everybody on board against the Taliban ... without suffering the opprobrium of having done it at America's behest."


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