Skip to comments.Crunch Time in Pakistan
Posted on 10/23/2007 9:31:39 AM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
Bill Roggio looks at the worsening situation in Pakistan and argues that only a determined effort against the Taliban and al-Qaeda has any hope of succeeding - and that this effort must be led by the Pakistani government itself, however difficult that would be to arrange.
The assassination attempt on former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan after eight years in exile to reenter politics, serves to highlight the continually deteriorating security situation inside the Pakistan. Al Qaeda, with the help of their Taliban allies, has carved out a mini state in the Northwest Frontier Province, and threaten the very existence of the Pakistani state. The current approach adopted by the Pakistani government negotiations, limited raids, and abbreviated attacks has failed, and Pakistan must consider fighting a counterinsurgency campaign to uproot the Taliban and al Qaeda from their havens in the Northwest Frontier Province.
The attack on Bhuttos procession, which occurred less than 24 hours after she returned to Pakistan, was a coordinated, sophisticated strike consisting of a car bomb, a suicide bomber, a grenade attack, and a sniper team. The attack was carried out by al Qaeda, Taliban, and their Pakistani allies, very likely with help inside the Inter Service Agency, Pakistans infamous intelligence service; the military is a possible participant. It resulted in the largest terror toll in the countrys history, with over 136 killed and upwards of 500 wounded.
The Bhutto assassination attempt was but the latest in escalating violence since the North Waziristan Accord, which essentially ceded the tribal agency to the Taliban, was inked September 2006. Within months the North Waziristan Accord was followed by agreements in Bajaur, Swat, and Mohmand agencies. News from the tribal agencies of Kurram, Orakzai, and Khyber has gone dark. These tribal agencies are very likely under Taliban control. Open source reporting indicates all or portions of the settled districts think of these as counties in the US of Dera Ismail Khan, Laki Marwat, Tank, Khyber, Bannu, Hangu, Kohat, Charsadda, Dir, Mardan, and even the provincial seat of Peshawar are under Taliban influence to some degree or another.
The Taliban conducted a series of suicide bombings and conventional attacks against civilian and military targets during the winter, spring, and summer of 2007. Hundreds of police and soldiers were killed along with hundreds more civilians. During this time, the Taliban and al Qaeda attempted to assassinate President Musharraf in Rawalpindi, Prime Minister Aziz in Islamabad, and Interior Minister Sherpao in the Northwest Frontier Province, while soldiers were butchered in their barracks and savaged on the streets.
In Islamabad, the government allowed the Taliban-led leaders of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, to kidnap police and civilians while enforcing their radical version of Islamic law in the heart of the city. This occurred for almost a year until the military and police assaulted the mosque in July. The assault resulted in over a dozen soldiers and over 100 civilians killed. Every student of the Lal Masjid was released from custody within weeks after the assault was carried out.
Last week, the Taliban and al Qaeda fought the Pakistani army to a standstill in North Waziristan. In early September 2007, the Taliban captured a company of Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan without firing a shot. The soldiers are still in Taliban captivity.
Band-aids wont work
Prior to 2007 the Pakistani military fought a failed and flawed military campaign in North and South Waziristan from 2005 through the spring of 2006. The Pakistani military was neither trained nor prepared for the fight. In the Northwest Frontier Province, they met a determined enemy in the Taliban and al Qaeda. The military was demoralized by the heavy losses in fighting in the province, while some resented fighting their own countrymen. Official estimates place military casualties at about 1,000 killed, but unofficial estimates put them at 3,000 killed or higher.
Since the Pakistani military defeat, the Pakistani government has resorted to negotiations with the Taliban, under the guise of negotiations with tribal leaders, as well as attempts at bribery. The US has contented itself with backing Pakistani policy, despite its ineffectiveness.
Thus far, American policy toward Pakistan has amounted to unconditional support for Musharraf, coupled with occasional air strikes against high-level al Qaeda targets in the tribal areas, writes Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who looks at the policy options for Pakistan. In interviews with national security experts, Gartenstein-Ross notes the suggested way forward in dealing with Pakistan includes incentives tied to the killing or capture of senior al Qaeda leaders, pinprick strikes using special forces, an air campaign, a campaign of assassins, or an Anbar Salvation Front model to recruit tribal leaders on the side of the government were proposed. Alone, these solutions will not work.
The problem is that most of these options, other than an Anbar-like tribal engagement, have been tried. And the US has had such success in Anbar because it maintained a permanent, beefed-up military presence in the region to ensure the locals willing to back the US against al Qaeda in Iraq could rely on reinforcements, logistical, financial, and other support.
The Pakistani government, backed by US special operations forces, attempted to halt the rising power of al-Qaeda by conducting precision strikes against camps and high value targets. Between 2006 through 2007, airstrikes hit several handfuls of al Qaeda camps and meeting places including Chingai, Danda Saidgai (twice), Damadola, and Zamazola. The strikes yielded few high-value targets, and the Taliban and al Qaedas power and support in the Northwest Frontier Province only grew.
These strikes also came at a political cost to Musharraf. He was attacked politically for bombing his own citizens, while portrayed as an American puppet for allowing US forces to operate inside Pakistan.
The Pakistani government has also tried political solutions to no effect. The peace accords were abject failures. The government promised billions of dollars in aid and paid off Taliban leaders to quell the violence and stop cross border raids into Afghanistan. The result was that as the Taliban coffers filled, the attacks in Afghanistan tripled, and the Taliban consolidated its power in the Northwest Frontier Province and struck outward at government and military targets throughout Pakistan.
Despite the Pakistani military and political failures in the Northwest Frontier Province, the problem is inherently a Pakistani problem that needs a Pakistani solution. The government must somehow muster the elements of national power and build real support within the population for a hard and difficult fight. Whether the Pakistani government wants to recognize it or not, it is fighting an insurgency within its borders. A full-scale counterinsurgency campaign must be launched.
The US cannot lead a counterinsurgency campaign inside Pakistan for both military and political limitations. On the military side, US forces are extended to the limit with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military was forced to extend tours in Iraq to facilitate the surge in forces, and will be forced to draw down in April, despite the fact that al Qaeda could be dealt a death-blow in Iraq if the US maintained or increased forces in theater.
US forces are also stretched in Afghanistan. NATO has failed to live up to its commitments in providing combat troops or has handcuffed troops on the ground with caveats that prevent forces from deploying in combat regions. Commitments in the Horn of Africa, South Korea, Europe, and elsewhere tie up the remaining US forces, while the troops returning from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan require time to rest, refit, and train for the next deployment.
Politically, a full-scale deployment of US forces into the harsh terrain of the Northwest Frontier Province to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda is unfeasible at this time. America has shown little will to fight protracted counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The over 3,000 combat deaths in Iraq in four years of fighting would likely be childs play compared to the casualties taken fighting a battle-hardened Taliban and al Qaeda on their home territory where they have real local support.
Pakistan is still a sovereign state, and any US involvement inside Pakistan must have the governments, and by extension the peoples, approval. Anything short of this constitutes a US invasion of a nuclear-armed state and will only increase al Qaedas propaganda and recruiting capacities. The US can and should play a supporting role inside Pakistan, but the Pakistani government and its military must bear the brunt of the fight and the political consequences.
The situation in Pakistan has reached the stage where only drastic solutions hold out any hope of working. While there is a major difference between what is possible and what is practical, there is no other effective means to dislodge the core of al Qaedas leadership and their Taliban allies from the Northwest Frontier Province short of a real counterinsurgency campaign.
But how can al Qaeda be dislodged when US forces cannot enter Pakistan? The Pakistani government must come on board. This is easier said than done. The US has thrown about $11 billion at Pakistan so far, has begun transferring F-16s, and has given other diplomatic, political, economic, and military incentives. Despite these incentives, the Pakistani government has failed to meaningfully address the terrorist threat.
Good article. The Taliban used to have no better ally than Pakistan. After 9/11 that changed.
So I am not sure how to take this commentary from Newsweek, but it seems (as many of us have been saying) that the build up of al-Qaeda in Pakistan is obvious for many clear (and surprising reasons). It seems that Iraq and Afghanistan are so harsh for al-Qaeda it is no surprise they are moving to safe havens in Pakistan
What does Al Queda spokesperson Anne Curry have to say regarding this subject? I await her next op-ed video.
I am hopeful that the recent assassination attempt will rally the Pak government and people against the terrorists in their country.
Time will tell, I suppose.
Pretty soon either all our guys or all theirs will be turned or dead. Guess whos winning at this point. The less we meet terrorists on their terms the more they'll push their terms upon us.
The attack on Bhutto's procession... was a coordinated, sophisticated strike consisting of a car bomb, a suicide bomber, a grenade attack, and a sniper team. The attack was carried out by al Qaeda, Taliban, and their Pakistani allies, very likely with help inside the Inter Service Agency, Pakistan's infamous intelligence service; the military is a possible participant. It resulted in the largest terror toll in the country's history, with over 136 killed and upwards of 500 wounded....and not a scratch on Bhutto. Either the car bomber, suicide bomber, grenade attacker(s?), and sniper team were the worst in history (or at least since the multiple attempts made on the Archduke Ferdinand, who was riding in an open car), or the attack was intended to politically further divide Bhutto and Musharraf, undermine Musharraf, and lay the groundwork for public support of the violent, bloody military coup that is coming.
According to ABC News, Osama has begun singing a different tune in his latest missive to the ummah. Bin Laden's video and audio messages usually contain plenty of triumphalism for Islamists, but in a new message to his fellow terrorists, he sounds a little more desperate about their prospects:
Perhaps we should try pushing OUR terms on the terrorists.
What a novel f*&%$#@ concept!
I think Bhutto going back to Pakistan is a move that we are pushing....
I was speaking about terms of conduct as opposed to terms of negotiation.
As was I.
I will take no prisoners; if I do, they will be disposed of after deeemd no
I will kill everything that moves; I will offer NO medical assistance.
I will destroy all property personal or otherwise assoc w/ a raid/attack.
I will NOT respect you or your religious beliefs.
I will hit you at a time & place of MY choosing.
I will hit you early, often and for an extended duration.
Safe havens will not be.
I will facilitate your face-to-face w/ Allah.
In short, in the words of the immortal John Wayne: “Out here,
due process is a bullet!”
Cold comfort is the best we can hope for.
By Aaron Mannes
There are other, more harrowing potential motives behind the attempt on Bhuttos life. In courting Western support for her return to Pakistan, Bhutto promised that the International Atomic Energy Agency would receive access to A. Q. Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear program and head of an international clandestine nuclear proliferation ring, who is currently under house arrest. The full extent of Khans network remains unknown. It is inconceivable that Khan carried out his operations without substantial assistance from figures in Pakistans military and intelligence services. This is information that the intelligence services would not like to see revealed. Another player that would prefer that the IAEA not have access to A. Q. Khan would be his leading customer.
Khan may be able to reveal critical details about Irans nuclear program that would galvanize the international community against the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has launched suicide terror attacks around the world in support of their strategic interests, and there are militant Shia organizations in Pakistan with links to Iran.
Because of the long links between Pakistani intelligence and the Islamists, none of these scenarios are mutually exclusive. The government has refused Bhuttos request for international participation in the investigation, which will only foster conspiracy theorists. But, in all likelihood, the attack on Bhutto was linked to a Pakistani Islamist organization. However, it is a cold comfort that attributing a massive terror attack to the Islamist usual suspects is the least disturbing scenario.
Aaron Mannes, editor of TheTerrorWonk, researches international security affairs at the University of Marylands Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland.
Despite ample warning that an attack on Bhutto was likely, security was inadequate to control the massive crowds that formed to meet Bhutto. Because of these crowds Bhutto's convoy took about ten hours to travel about ten miles, while Karachi became a giant street party -- and a perfect target for terror. Oddly, streetlights along the convoy's route were turned off, complicating security efforts to spot possible attackers. In fairness however, Pakistani infrastructure is spotty at best, and these failings may have been due to raw incompetence. The government's response to Bhutto's accusations is that Bhutto ignored their security advice and insisted on a massive rally..."... we showed up in huge numbers, and the government didn't send troops to keep us from mobbing the procession, making us targets." That's some Moslem 'thinking' for ya.