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Entries in Pakistan (49)


Obama zigged in India when he should have zagged

Good FT op-ed by Mansoor Ijaz, who "jointly authored the blueprint for a ceasefire of hostilities between Indian security forces and Islamist militants in Kashmir in July and August 2000," so he knows from where he speaks.

In line with my bit about making India happy before Pakistan, he says you need to make India happy enough to chill Pakistan if you want any sort of real answer on Afghanistan, which I would thereupon say needs some Indian effort/presence to boot (piling on, perhaps, but if you're going to make such effort, why not get maximum response?).

Starts with story about how in 2004 the Indian intell discovered a jihadist plot to kill Musharraf and immediately decided to tell the Pakistanis about it, averting in their minds that disaster.  The logic?  The terrorists were now everyone's problem, says Ijaz, "for Pakistan is a country that can no longer manage the monsters it has created."

Ijaz's primary sale here is an "open security architecture" for the region, by which he means one helluva lot more transparency than currently exists.  

Frankly, the same should be done on the South China Sea with China, to include the subsets of NorKo and Taiwan.  There simply should be no joint exercises that don't include damn near everybody.  Why?  We are fooling around with very important countries in a fairly fragile global economy--simply put, bigger fish to fry.

Ijaz argues that if we got the Pakistani and Indian militaries/security forces cooperating openly, then:

Such co-operation would reduce stress not only along the Indo-Pakistani border, enabling those resources to be spent elsewhere in stabilising Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan, where Islamabad perceives an Indian effort to squeeze it out of a traditional power base. Defusing mistrust here is critical. As a confidence-building measure, India could for example ask Pakistan’s military to join its own in training the new Afghan army.

Same trade answer useful here as in the Korean peninsula, where the US should ratify its free trade agreement with South Korea immediately:  get an Indian-Pakistani free trade accord.

And so on and so forth.

My point:  Obama comes and makes this empty gesture of supporting India's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat. "Empty" because it's not his to give and very unlikely anytime soon, so he offers it at zero cost/risk.

Instead, as all the media coverage notes, he references common terror threats and totally sidesteps the Kashmir issue--again an empty gesture as far as the Indians are concerned, because their terror fears start there, as do Pakistan's need to keep those networks and militias available for employment against India. Unless we eliminate that requirement, Pakistan will continue double-dealing with us, and the Afghanistan solution will not come.

Good piece, good logic.

So far Obama's done an unimaginative rerun in Afghanistan of Bush logic in Iraq:  surge + no real regional diplomatic dealmaking. We get away with it in Iraq because the dominant group was allowed to win, and its tentativeness ever since has been due to our letting the dominant group win.  We face no such neat opportunity in Afghanistan. To settle that place, we need to settle the Pashtun, and to settle the Pashtun, we need to settle Pakistan, and to settle Pakistan we need to get India in the right space with Pakistan.

The bold move would have been to get that rolling on Obama's big-time trip to India, but, unless I'm missing something here, that did not happen. The coverage I've read said Kashmir was strictly avoided.

And that, to me, sounds like a president--notwithstanding the Nobel--overmatched by the dealmaking required to make some genuine peace happen.  Obama either lacks the imagination or the will, because that was a wasted trip.

Again, cool all right, just empty in outcomes.



The Politics Blog: The Problem with David Petraeus Talking to the Taliban

Much has been made of the new "talks to end the war in Afghanistan" as General David Petraeus "rewrites the playbook in Afghanistan." The King of Counterinsurgency has shelved his nation-building effort to broker a near-term peace accord with Hamid Karzai, say the journalists fed information by the very man who's given up on Karzai, ambassador Karl Eickenberry. (Or so says Bob Woodward.) And while informed observers are quick to note that U.S. armed forces are still laying it on thick — with real success, it now appears — not enough has been made of the dangerous game Petraeus is playing for the long term. It's a bet that could end up putting U.S. arms back in the hands of a new wave of terrorists.

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog. 


WPR's The New Rules: Nation-Building, not Naval Threats, Key to South Asian Security

It is hard for most Americans to fathom why the U.S. military should be involved in either Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan for anything other than the targeting of terrorist networks. And since drones can do most of that dirty work, few feel it is vital to engage in the long and difficult task of nation-building in that part of the world. These are distant, backward places whose sheer disconnectedness relegates them to the dustbin of globalization, and nothing more.

If only that were true. 

Read the rest of the column at World Politics Review.

The book reviewed in the piece is Monsoon:  The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.


Report: NATO members foil Mumbai-style wave of attacks on Europe


From Michael Smith, the gist of the Sky News report:


Intelligence agencies have intercepted a terror plot to launch Mumbai-style attacks on Britain and other European countries, according to Sky News sources.


... militants based in Pakistan were planning simultaneous strikes on London and major cities in France and Germany . . . the plan was in the advanced but not imminent stage and the plotters had been tracked by spy agencies "for some time".

Intelligence sources told Sky the planned attacks would have been similar to the commando-style raids carried out in Mumbai . . . the European plot had been "severely disrupted" following intelligence sharing between Britain, France, Germany and the US.

It is not known whether the attackers are already in Europe.

News of the planned strikes came as the Eiffel Tower in Paris was evacuated because of a bomb scare for the second time in two weeks . . .

When the terror plan came to light, the US military began helping its European allies by trying to kill the leaders behind the plot in Pakistan's Waziristan region.

There have been a record 20 missile attacks using drone aircraft there in the past 30 days.


Why it's important to pay attention:


  • It's long been my contention that extremists operating in NW Pakistan, most likely in some collusion with al Qaeda (not a big leap), will keep trying to make some big splashy strike in the West.  Many experts saw the Times Square bombing attempt as a practice run using an expendable. Figuring how hard that is to pull off--in a relative sense, and with AQ and its net falling from our collective memory thanks to the economy, the default alternative for such groups to regrab the headlines is to do something easy and cheap like Mumbai II and to do it in Europe.  So yeah, I find this whole logic believable.


  • I think Obama is right when he says, we can absorb another attack without freaking out.  I don't think we would, having gone through Afghanistan and Iraq since and understanding that such unilateralism just leaves us holding the bag.  So the next strikes, I believe, can lead to more interesting and better cooperative opportunities with Russia, China, India, Turkey, et. al, if done well.  Is Obama the guy to do it?  While I don't think Americans would freak, I fear another attack would simply give the man another chance to come off as far-too-Vulcan for the average American voter.  While I think we're still in philosopher-king political mode and will be for a while, I think his off-putting style will mean we'll stop reaching for the smartest-guy-in-the-room option, because that guy should be the brilliant adviser (which Obama lacks because his smartest-guy-in-the-room mindset attracts other big egos and sycophants and apparently not much in between) and not POTUS himself, who should be all about leading and not aspire to such a title.  Therefore, I do not see a rally-round-the-prez dynamic unfolding when it eventually happens.  That bad feeling will simply be piled upon the existing glut of bad feeling about the economy.


  • The other side's ability to sked our counter-reactions is a real problem, because, in our habits, we feel the need to "keep all balls in the air," so terror competes with WMD in NorKo and Iran competes with our growing fears of Chinese military build-up competes with global warming competes with . . .. What was nice about the post-9/11 period was the willingness of great powers to clear the decks on most everything else, keeping them in some big-picture perspective mode, and exploiting the common threat opportunity embodied by AQ to contemplate a serious recasting of the great power relationships for the better.  But then Bush-Cheney went wild on the unilateralism/primacy and that moment was largely wasted.  Can it happen the next time a crystalizing attack occurs?  Sadly, I don't see the leadership anywhere in the world to take advantage, so we go on with the current situation, where everybody is juggling balls and no serious progress is being made on anything. Meanwhile, mutual suspicions pile up, and increasingly we've all got enough gripes with every other great power to make cooperation an almost tortured affair. I'm not secretly wishing for something bad to happen; that is a dangerous intellectual route to go for someone who thinks seriously about the future. The point is, I don't have to. Globalization's penetrating speed has not abated one whit with the great recession--anything but. We're only dimly aware of that here in the States because we think that drawing down in Iraq and hoping to do the same in Afghanistan is a big deal for the system, when, in truth, it barely notices it right now and continues down its aggressive integrating path.  In short, we assume it's Old-Core-does-Gap-or-nobody-does-Gap, when in truth, it's New-Core-does-Gap-systematically and compared to that, the West's efforts are marginal and concentrated in bits and pieces.  I'm not looking to go back to the frantic push the US made after 9/11.  I'm looking for a better marrying up of those two efforts, because the mismatches in resources are vast and the big opportunities for new collaborations are slipping away.  AQ or others will accommodate that need whether we want it or not.  That's the dynamic we're in right now with globalization pushing into previously disconnected places with such force that serious blowback will be the norm for the foreseeable future.  Yes, we can dream it'll all come down to some naval battle in the South China Sea, but that's just habit talking.  And that's what I find so sad right now:  that whole "juggling the balls and keeping all of them in the air" mentality of Clinton and Obama is just a placeholder for real leadership, which events will eventually demand.  Why?  Because they will keep trying and eventually they'll get our attention.  As always, what we'll do in that moment will be far more important than the vertical shock laid on us.  Nation-states still run horizontal scenarios to ground, meaning the question of the day is, "When the next vertical shock comes, where will go with it?"



And that's why I pay attention to stories such as this.


What India is getting wrong on the Kashmir

Guardian column says India's policies in the Kashmir account for the recent unrest, despite New Dehli's claims to the contrary:

In an echo of Iran's lost "green revolution", the youthful protesters organised using text messaging and social media such as Facebook and YouTube. Their wrath focused in particular on the so-called "black laws", otherwise known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, that authorises Indian security forces to stop, search, arrest and shoot suspects with impunity. As the beatings, detentions and curfews made matters worse, chief minister, Omar Abdullah, elected in 2008 as Kashmir's bright new hope, fell back on an old expedient – requesting army reinforcements from Delhi.

Despite plenty of evidence that the unrest was both spontaneous and rooted in decades of neglect, discrimination and repression of Jammu and Kashmir's Muslim majority, the Indian government has also stuck to an old story: blaming Pakistan. Delhi has repeatedly accused Islamabad of covertly backing efforts by militant Islamist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, held responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to destabilise Kashmir. Now it says that Pakistan, switching tack, is at it again.

The longer-term indictment is that India works the political disconnect too much and the economic reconnect too little:

But Delhi's blinkered Kashmir policy since partition in 1947 – ignoring UN demands for a self-determination plebiscite, rigging elections, manipulating or overthrowing elected governments, and neglecting economic development – lies at the heart of the problem, according to Barbara Crossette, writing in the Nation.

The violence "is a reminder that many Kashmiris still do not consider themselves part of India and profess that they never will," she said. "India maintains a force of several hundred thousand troops and paramilitaries in Kashmir, turning the summer capital, Srinagar, into an armed camp frequently under curfew and always under the gun. The media is labouring under severe restrictions. Torture and human rights violations have been well documented." Comparisons with Israel's treatment of Palestinians were not inappropriate.

India's failure to win "hearts and minds" was highlighted by a recent study by Robert Bradnock of Chatham House. It found that 43% of the total adult population of Kashmir, on both sides of the line of control (the unrecognised boundary between Indian and Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir), supported independence for Kashmir while only 21%, nearly all of whom live on the Indian side, wanted to be part of India. Hardly anyone in Jammu and Kashmir wanted to join Pakistan.

The problem with this path, of course, is that proud India is strong enough to prevent any such splitting.  Fine and dandy, as the economic viability of any such breakaway state is likely very low.  But that reality doesn't obviate making the locals happy, and India has failed at this for reasons unrelated to Pakistan's meddling.


Pakistan's government: always quick to blame the world for its inadequacies

WAPO story on how Pakistan (canubelieveit!) complains that the world's aid response to the recent flooding is inadequate. Granted, it's the nation's worst disaster, but it's also a clear sign of the government's near-failed-state status.  The clearest sign of a competent government is its ability to handle a system-perturbing event of this magnitude, and Pakistan is a lot closer to helpless than help-able.

I'm not saying Pakistan isn't correct, because, by recent measures (like Haiti's earthquake), it is being shortchanged, but I suspect a certain amount of that stinginess comes from the sense that Pakistan is an incompetent, ungrateful, hate-filled place as far as the West is concerned.  How much of that is true is obviously up for debate, but the argument cannot be dismissed out of hand--and yeah, those dynamics limit the love that comes back to you in your moment of need.

Of course, the US military steps up (a generosity that will be instantly forgotten) and--as usual--the lack of helos is the long pole in the SysAdmin tent.

I will naturally be accused of blaming the victim here, but when the victim is so willing to blame the responder, that sort of feedback is to be expected.  Nobody deserves this level of pain, but people, I have learned, tend to suffer and die the same way they love and live.  That's not karma; it's human nature.  A let's-all-pull-together place goes down fighting, while a let's-point-fingers place just goes down.  Granted, you can always blame the Brits for Pakistan's fake-state status, and you can always blame us for abusing the place plenty ever since, but Pakistan--in pockets--is a place of highly inventive and ambitious people who are nonetheless trapped in a nation-state cell with a collection of Gap populations that will not be dragged into the future without a huge fight.  America was once that state:  an ambitious and go-getting East simultaneously saddled with a crazy West that needed to be tamed.  We were fairly brutal in the latter process, and succeeded dramatically on that basis.  We were lucky to be relatively isolated from threats--unlike Pakistan, but that nation faces a very similar choice on which it has punted for decades now, preferring to nurture its hatred toward India and the West in general (the source of all its woes [at least those beyond that created by nefarious India], according to the nation's unreal conspiratorial mindset), and yeah, that narrow mindset comes back to haunt the place at moments like this--which is shameful for all sides but a cruel fact.

One can only hope the disaster pushes ordinary Pakistanis to expect better from their own government and not instinctively ask what the world owes it, because, quite frankly, the world is not in a good mood right now with regard to Pakistan, and to me, that's the real tragedy here.


The counter-argument: Pakistan's image in the West is a perversion of reality

To be fair to Pakistan after my mini-rant above, try this column from the Guardian (WPR Media Roundup).

The gist:

Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m. .

The reasons for this disparity aren't complex. There has been a slow steady drip of negative media coverage of Pakistan since the 1980s, and if it lessened a little in the 90s as civilian governments went in and out of administration, it became inevitably tougher with the return of a military government, 9/11, the "growth" of Islamic extremist organisations in Pakistan, and the ins and outs of apparent ISI-sponsored terrorism in both Mumbai and Afghanistan. At home, Pakistan's image has been affected by debates about burqas, the bombings in London in 2005 and the country's perennial linguistic association with "terror".

Some good perspective at an angry moment in an angry relationship.


Pakistan finally wakes up on its own insurgency

WSJ story on how Pakistan now admits its own internal militant insurgencies problem is a bigger threat than India.

Hmmm.  About ten years and $10B in military aid too late.

No impact yet seen on troop positioning.  Pakistan has about 150k soldiers in the Taliban fight, with 100k in reserve.  350k keep a close eye on India to the south.

Experts say that the ISI (intell service) may be leaning this way, but the military still likes to use the militants as a tool against hated India.

America gives upwards of $2B a year in military aid to Pakistan.  No ultimatums issued by Team Obama--unlike in the case of Turkey.

The Pakistan Taliban kill about 1,000 Pakistanis every year since 2003.


The Af-Pak trade pact--45 years in the negotiating!

Score two for Hillary in July: the proposed internationalization of a legal process to resolve South China Sea claims and then this Pakistan-Afghanistan trade deal.

The United States had prodded the two countries to sign the accord, calculating that it would bolster the Afghan economy by expanding its trade routes and curbing rampant smuggling. The pact could cover a multitude of trade and transit issues, ranging from import duties to port access. Example of progress: killing the requirement to reload all Afghan exports at Pakistan’s border instead of at some downstream port.

The two countries have been working on the deal since . . . oh, when did it start?  Oh right, 1965!

I’m happy to say I lived long enough (born 1962) to see this day come.


Pakistan: a taxing issue of a more prosaic sort

Depressing NYT front-pager on how the rich-poor divide in Pakistan is made to order by self-serving politicians who give themselves 100% tax breaks.  It is a system in which the poor subsidize the rich, or, as one retired gov worker put it, “This is a system of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.”

Fewer than 2% of Pakistanis pay income tax.  The rules say, if you make over $3500, you pay something, but few do.

One angry politicians says we should stop bailing out Pakistan’s government with aid and force it to start truly self-financing itself.  Last year Congress pledged another $8B over five years.


The right kind of aid for Pakistan


Ignatius in WAPO complaining bitterly about Congress' inability to make special investment/jobs-creating zones in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

I am embarrassed when I think back to a conversation last October in Wana, South Waziristan -- deep in the tribal areas -- with Maj. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, the commander of Pakistani forces there. He was about to launch an offensive against Taliban fighters, but he worried that the "clear and hold" phase of the campaign would fail if Pakistan couldn't also "build" through economic development.

Be patient, I told him. Congress is working on a bill that will take a first step toward bringing more jobs to the region.

Nine months later, Congress is still caught in partisan gridlock over the plan to create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. 

Usual fight back here about jobs being lost, but if you don't incentivize the "build," there ain't no sense in Pakistan sacrificing much in the "clear," argues Ignatius.

It's a very valid point.  

But I have to wonder:  should we be aspiring to this A-to-Z coverage?  Or, if Obama is going to use political capital, as Ignatius encourages him to do, shouldn't we more logically entice regional powers into the economic "build"?  I mean, if something this logical and simple encounters such political resistance here, shouldn't we be encouraging more localized stakeholders--the kind who would remain interested long after we're gone?


The Politics Blog: Seven Things to Remember When We Talk to the Taliban


Is your stomach churning yet? The occasionally salacious but usually accurate Guardian is reporting that Team Obama is signaling that it's ready to negotiate with the Taliban. Through "trusted" intermediaries like the Pakistanis and Saudis, naturally, and via plausibly denied channels, of course, but... really? Is this what a peace-in-your-first-term, Nobel Prize-winning president looks like? If we're going to reconcile ourselves to this kind of indecent proposal — the last one led to the bloody Swat Valley offensive — the U.S. had better not lose site of reality. Here's how. If it's not too late.

Read the entire post at Esquire's The Politics Blog.


WPR's The New Rules: U.S. Must Expand its Pool of Allies in Afghanistan


With his recent selections of Gens. David Petraeus and James Mattis for command in Afghanistan and Central Command respectively, President Barack Obama signals his understanding that his previously established deadline of mid-2011 to begin drawing down combat troops in the “good war” cannot be met.  The two were co-architects of the military’s renewed embrace of both counterinsurgency operations and the associated nation-building project that by necessity goes along with it. Neither flag officer can be expected to preside over a Vietnam-like exit that once again puts troubled and untrustworthy Pakistan in charge of Afghanistan’s fate.

Read the rest of the column at World Politics Review.


The answer to our bad reliance on Pakistan is diversification/regionalization

Rand report described in AP piece by way of Our Man in Kabul.

Gist is unsurprising:

Pakistan hasn't quit its habit of courting insurgents, and extremist networks with current or former ties to the government pose a significant risk to the United States and Pakistan's elected government itself, a new study concludes.

A rising number of terrorist plots in the United States with roots in Pakistan stems in part from an unsuccessful strategy by the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan to blunt the influence of militant groups in the country, the report by the RAND Corp. said.

The report to be issued Monday says the May 1 failed car bombing in New York's Times Square is an example of how militant groups, some with shadowy government backing, can increasingly export terrorism far beyond the country's borders.

The United States isn't getting its money's worth for all the billions in aid pledged to the strategically located, nuclear-armed nation, the report concludes. The U.S. should withhold some aid until Pakistan makes "discernible progress," authors Seth Jones of RAND and C. Christine Fair of Georgetown University wrote.

The answer?  Diversification of allies, or what I've long described as the regionalization of the solution set. In the report, rapprochement with Iran is promoted.


Do as I say, not as I do

Economist piece on China’s proposed sale of nuclear reactors to Pakistan, the argument being it will only intensify a nuclear rivalry.

Our problem:  by winning an exemption from the Non-Proliferation Treaty for India under Bush-Cheney, we’re now not in the position to do anything about China’s supplier relationship with Pakistan.

America argued that India had a spotless non-proliferation record (it doesn’t) and that brining it into the non-proliferation “mainstream” could only bolster global anti-proliferation efforts (it didn’t).  The deal incensed not just China and Pakistan but many others . . .

What particularly riles outsiders is that American did not get anything much out of India in return . . . India has since designated some of its reactors as civilian, and open to inspection, but other still churn out spent fuel richly laden with weapons-usable plutonium . . .

Pakistan suffers no such uranium shortage and is determined to match India . . .

China is trying a legalistic defence of the sale of the third and fourth reactors at Chasma.  But its real point is this:  if America can bend the rules for India, then China can break them for Pakistan.

Pakistan hopes that it will eventually get a deal like India’s.

I personally would describe such a scenario as just this side of crazy-town, but I wouldn’t rule it out either.  Some in the Obama administration are said to favor this, to win Islamabad’s help on the Taliban.  You just know how such a deal would work out:  nice show from Pakistan as they continue to build nuclear devices and buy fighter jets—or pretty much what the Pakistanis have done to us since 9/11 triggered the great money flow.

Again, I choose India every single time I can in this equation—not to hedge against China but simply to do the right thing.

Or we continue to pretend we can make two fake countries (Af-Pak) become real ones, stiffing New Delhi in the process.

Obama seems to be traveling down that second path, and I think we’ll all regret it soon enough.


Pakistan's active terror inside Afghanistan to stem Indian influence

NYT story simply makes clear what's been suspected by damn near everybody--and known by plenty--up to now:

A Pakistani-based militant group identified with attacks on Indian targets has expanded its operations in Afghanistan, inflicting casualties on Afghans and Indians alike, setting up training camps, and adding new volatility to relations between India and Pakistan.

The group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is believed to have planned or executed three major attacks against Indian government employees and private workers in Afghanistan in recent months, according to Afghan and international intelligence officers and diplomats here. It continues to track Indian development workers and others for possible attack, they said.

Lashkar was behind the synchronized attacks on several civilian targets in Mumbai, India, in 2008, in which at least 163 people were killed. Its inroads in Afghanistan provide a fresh indication of its growing ambitions to confront India even beyond the disputed territory of Kashmir, for which Pakistan’s military and intelligence services created the group as a proxy force decades ago.

Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But Lashkar’s expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan’s proxies to counteract India’s influence in the country.

They provide yet another indicator of the extent to which Pakistani militants are working to shape the outcome of the Afghan war as the July 2011 deadline approaches to begin withdrawing American troops.

Recently retired Pakistani military officials are known to have directed the Mumbai attacks, and some Lashkar members have said only a thin line separates the group from its longtime bosses in the Pakistan security establishment.

How such behavior separates Pakistan from Iran is beyond me. They've got the bomb and they shared it indiscriminately for cash. They actively support terror groups that target our troops and our allies in a next-door war zone.  Worse, they take our money--and lots of it--to do it.

I bet Pakistan would love to see us get embroiled with Iran, but frankly, one of the reasons why I'm adamantly opposed to such logic is my sense that we eventually mix it up with Pakistan directly.

Because when the next 9/11 happens, that is where we will trace it to.

I choose India.


The army as the source of most problems in Pakistan

Banyan deconstructs the sins of the Pakistan military in The Economist.

The country is described as “economically backward, politically stunted and terrorized by religious extremists”—in effect, not much of a nation.

The “charge sheet” on the military?

One, too much adventurism on the “eastern front” (i.e., Kashmir).  Today, we are told, the army “remains wedded to the ‘India threat.’”  Meanwhile, the Indians focus on a growing middle class.  Guess who wins that contest?

Two, “endangering the state’s existence by making common cause with jihadism,” a strategy wholly tied to the first sin.  Why?  Better to make mischief against India, work the Kashmir fight, and keep the “strategic depth” that is Afghanistan (or at least the Pashtun south) deep enough.

Three stems naturally from 1 and 2:  the undermining of democratic institutions.  Why?  The fight with India must come first.

The optimistic note:  the military went back to the barracks in 2008 and civilians once again rule—to a certain extent.  Current political reform efforts seek to empower the parliament over the president.  Banyan’s fear:  checks and balances today become gridlock tomorrow in this scheme, thus getting the military back involved.

Hard to see any good way forward.  “Three score years” of nation-hood and this is all Pakistan has been able to manage—all foreign meddling aside.  Can Pakistan expect the rest of the world to wait on this lack of progress?  Hardly.

So expect all the more foreign “meddling.”  Aggressiveness to some, defensiveness to others.  Pakistan prefers to live in Friedman’s “olive tree” world, or what I call the Gap.  That willful disassociation used to work just fine, but the margin shrinks with each passing year that the global middle class grows in size and demands.  Soon enough, the country isn’t merely dismissed as the cranky nutty neighbor with guns.


Chart of the day: Kashmir fatalities

From WSJ story on Indians considering limits on use of military force.  Accompanying picture looks right out of Israel’s intifada database:  rock-throwing young males wearing bandanas to hide their faces.

 What attracted me to the chart:  the tremendous drop in fatalities of all sorts (militants, security forces, civs) since the dangerous peak in 2001, which almost lead to war.  About 4500 deaths that year, and then the drop to maybe 250 in 2009, or a decline of virtually 95%.

But, of course, we know this must be a lie, because warfare and casualties are rising the world over!  I know this because, on the back-office Wikipedia page where the authors of my bio argue over my ideas, one person wrote that my whole Core-Gap stuff is bunk because conflicts around the world are growing in number and intensity.  And you know that must be true, because it’s on Wikipedia.

Civilian deaths last year were less than 100—a historic low, so yeah, I guess it makes sense to rein in the troops a bit.


Will Pakistan uphold its end of the clear-and-hold effort?

Map here

Pakistani member of parliament via Times of India via Our Man in Kabul.

I quote at length:

There is a saying in Pakistan that if you can’t defeat your enemy, befriend him. This is particularly true in the tribal areas that border Afghanistan, where, in six agencies, there’s an unprecedented military offensive against militants. Despite many tactical alliances and ceasefire pacts in Waziristan, Pakistan has gone in with firepower backed by US drones. The cornerstone of the security policy here is to attack militants close to the al-Qaida, but spare armed syndicates that protect Pakistan’s flanks. 

The turbulence in the Af-Pak border zone has led Washington to put out strategic leaks about possible military intervention inside Pakistan. The heart of the problem is what could alter the dynamics of declining US-Nato successes in the Afghan theatre. North Waziristan agency (NWA), and what the Pakistan army is able to do there, seems to have become the litmus test for US-Pakistan relations. After Faisal Shahzad’s attempted bomb attack in Times Square, the pressure on Islamabad to act against anti-US Taliban in NWA has increased. Islamabad pleads capacity constraints; the US cites commitment gaps. 

The stakes are high. After failing to build institutional structures in Afghanistan, the test for Washington is linking US-Nato ground offensives in the south and Loya Paktiya to Pakistan’s push on the militant Haqqani-led groups from NWA. The Obama presidency needs a game-changer in a theatre where success is elusive despite a COIN (counter-insurgency) strategy that focuses on population safety. The expected Taliban reversals have not happened despite a massive offensive in Marjah. In Washington’s view, Pakistan is pulling its punches as it may need the Taliban when the US exits Afghanistan. 

For Pakistan, this is a battle for its stability and survival. Action is overdue against terrorist and sectarian groups in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. There is a compelling need to act against extremist groups after the massacre of nearly a hundred Ahmadiyas in Lahore recently. The Punjab government needs to do a counter-terror sweep of its cities . . . 

The challenge in NWA is that Islamabad does not have the military or civilian capacity to open all fronts at the same time. Enmeshed in a blighted strategic endgame, with a growing terrorist threat, tanking economy and India posturing to the east, the military option in NWA cannot be a hair-trigger decision . . .  Islamabad’s fear is that if it shoves a fist into this hornet’s nest, maintaining the fragile consensus against terrorists at home would be difficult, as well as protecting its cities from further attacks. 

This can be no “shock and awe” exercise that can be switched off by remote control. Pakistan has already lost over 3,000 people in two years as a result of the terrorist backlash; the economy has taken a $35 billion hit. The question is, will the US be around to help hold down Pakistan’s fist when its army swoops on al-Qaida strongholds such as Mir Ali? The military’s tactic in any counterinsurgency initiative in mountainous terrain is ‘pincer and choke’ the enemies’ escape routes . . . If the NWA is grand central for terrorists, then the Afghan border provinces provide strategic depth. While the US-Nato forces in Afghanistan need to do their bit, Pakistan will have to step up border checks and review unwritten peace deals with tribal leaders who change sides too often. 

The other question is: how long can the Pakistani army stay in the agencies it has secured? Is there a civilian ‘build, hold and transition’ component to the project? Once again, before putting pressure Pakistan with an escalating war, huge governance commitments such as ROZ (reconstruction opportunity zones) assistance will have to roll off the US machine . . .

What will help is a phase-by-phase plan for securing the area, holding it until the tribes that have been terrorized by the Taliban are able to return and do business. Second, though the elites in Waziristan’s tribal areas have been marginalized by the Taliban, they will resist governance models that diminish their pre-Taliban political powers. The military will have to stay in Waziristan until the police and frontier corps in that area is strengthened, and the tribal leadership prepares for critical reforms and political activity by mainstream parties. FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) reform will only work if introduced incrementally, and the government’s recent announcements, if implemented, will be a brave start . . .

A glass-half-full take in the near-term, in the sense that Pakistan's serious efforts are acknowledged.  The usual doubts expressed about US staying power--sensible.

But what depresses is the realization that unless the two efforts match up, most of this will have been a complete waste of time--the same old, same old effort.

Most telling, none of this seems like it can credibly wrap up by the summer of 2011, when Obama wants to start leaving.


Karzai has already cast his lot with Pakistan

Subtitle of Guardian piece (via WPR Media Roundup) says it all:

Afghanistan's former head of intelligence says President Hamid Karzai is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end insurgency

Even with the evolution of our tactics, it's hard to blame Karzai for the choice. Obama gives him all indication of bailing before 2012, and the rushed effort in the south seems increasingly bogged down thanks to a very patient and brutal response from the Taliban.

There's been no effective regionalization of the solution set, leaving Pakistan the looming large neighbor of note, so what else do we expect of Karzai?

He's covering his bets.