What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Less IEDs in Pakistan

I can't say exactly how much less, but definitely less. Now, isn't that worth looking at? IEDs cause most casualties for the ISAF coalition. That, of course, is to a degree the consequence of more of an asymmetry in lethal force pushing guerrillas in the direction of fighting with more asymmetrcial tactics in the Afghanistani theatre. Yet this is not sufficient explanation itself. Pakistani convoys are generally more vulnerable to IEDs than ISAF convoys. The Pakistani Taliban control much off-road terrain and they could carry out complex ambushes greatly aided by IEDs. Explosives are available in the "federally administered" tribal areas. And there are lots of unpaved roads.
Well, obvious answers include:
- If you don't go somewhere, you won't be blown up there. Which is what happens when the Pakistani military stays away from areas.
- If you control terrain you can afford to, say, just stop vehicles, set fire to them, and kidnap even soldiers. You don't need to use IEDs. Which is what the Pakistani Taliban do sometimes.

Photo: Tankers hit by rockets in an attack on the Torkham border crossing in May, 2007 (Getty Images)

Fairly obvious answers, alright. But there are contested areas, and even the numerically significant but territorially non-extensive presence of the Pakistani military requires logistics that have to be taken care of somehow. One source I found thanks to Péter Wagner's always useful Biztonságpolitika és terrorizmus blog recounts that: "Custom Agent Ziaul Haq Sarhadi at the Torkham border claimed the average number of trucks had dropped to 250 a day from 500 early this year, before violence escalated." If logistics are a headache to NATO, they are equally a headache to the Pakistani military, right?

Right indeed. Two excerpts follow in this somewhat inconclusive post to shed light on two ways route security is provided (inconclusive because I have quite obvious difficulties in quantifying much of what I'm writing of here).

Firstly, from Bajaur Agency: route security provided in the spirit of the isolationist school of force protection.

"In Khar, the headquarters of Bajaur Agency, the political administration ordered the closure of business centres for two hours to ensure the safe passage of security forces personnel, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and other weapons and ammunition. Sources said the political administration made strict security arrangements and ordered the closure of trade centres at Khar, Yousafabad, Haji Long and other areas to ensure safe arrival of fresh Bajaur Scouts personnel. Public transport remained off the road and a helicopter hovered over the area to monitor the situation."

Secondly, from Khyber Agency: route security provided by paying for protection:
"Shah, the former regional security chief, said the government paid a stipend to secure the route for regular trade and military supplies."

No comments: