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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Schizo is the English title of a Kazakh movie (Shiza, from 2004) I happened to like, a couple of years ago when I saw it. But that's not the reason for the title. Instead, what I have in front of me, are four rather different takes on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, and that's what gave me the idea. I'll compare them one by one now, to see if one can have some aggregate emerge from all of this.
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The first source is former CIA operative Michael Scheuer's piece for Jamestown, titled India’s Strategic Challenge in Pakistan’s Afghan Hinterland.
"since its inception more than 60 years ago, Pakistan’s government and military have, with reason, regarded India as a moral threat to the country’s survival."
Note: Scheuer calls India a moral threat, whatever it exactly means.
"Immediately after 9/11, President Musharraf allied Pakistan with the United States and helped it and NATO remove the Taliban regime from power, thereby wrecking one-third of Pakistan’s national security strategy by dethroning a pro-Pakistan, Islamist, and Pashtun-dominated Afghan government."
Note: two-thirds of Pakistan's strategy weren't wrecked according to Scheuer.
"at least there has been a payback for Pakistan - $10 billion dollars in U.S. aid and the chance for Islamabad to buy a new generation of F-16s"
Note: OK, even that one-third wasn't clearly wrecked.
"the word “paranoid” seems to have been created for how New Delhi and Islamabad perceive each other’s intentions, the response of President Musharraf and the Pakistan government toward India’s actions in Afghanistan is not surprising"
Note: Paranoid is an interesting choice of word in supposedly cool-headed analysis, not to mention my suspicion that Scheuer doesn't seem to take into account that for India there is another country called CHINA whose actions it has to look out for, strategically. Scheuer says that India acts, Pakistan responds, which is not exactly equally dividing up the blame, for all that's wrong, between them. By India's "actions" he means the opening of the dubiously useful Indian consulates in places like Jalalabad and Kandahar, the scholarships India offers to Afghan students and bureaucrats, and the road-building by Indian firms.
"India’s strengthening presence in Afghanistan puts the Pakistani government and military – at least in a de facto manner – on the same side as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Pakistan’s Islamist Pashtun organizations."
Note: if these are on the same side, be it de facto or de jure, it would have some implications for U.S. policy.
Summing up: Scheuer regards the Pakistani security sector as a unitary actor, under effective oversight. He is understanding, in an analytical sort of sense, in case the Indian embassy attack was carried out by ISI. Somewhat as an aside, I'd also add that since he clearly would like to exclude India from Afghanistan for what he regards as the latter's unpleasant impact on the situation there, and since things are going pear-shaped with NATO-Russia relations, while Iran has always been a black sheep for U.S. policy, Scheuer's prescriptions would leave the U.S. giving in to whatever, supposedly or according to Scheuer, may be Pakistan's preferences. I.e. accepting a "pro-Pakistan, Islamist, and Pashtun-dominated Afghan government." In case some don't remember, Scheuer is the man who was hunting for that most known global terrorist leader hosted by the earlier such "government."
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Quoting Saleh: "The tribal agencies of Pakistan, like Bajaur and North and South Waziristan, are kept by the government as a strategic pool of fighters."
"In 2008 alone, according to our very conservative estimate, the Taliban have probably fired 30 million rounds from their Kalashnikovs. Where did they get their weapons and munitions? Can you go to Russia or China today and say, "Hey, I'm a member of the Taliban, please send hundreds of AK-47s and weapons to my village." Is that possible? No. It's the Pakistani army that is providing them."
"The Pakistani army is a very disciplined force, and I respect that. And there are no rogue elements in the army as is often claimed."
"Nobody lost control. Pakistan is staging controlled chaos in order to undermine Afghanistan's development. The Pakistani army is very strong and when the government has achieved its aim, it will immediately take control again of the tribal areas."
Summing up, my notes: Amrullah Saleh claims, just like Michael Scheuer, that the Pakistani security sector is capable of acting as a unitary actor. He says that they control the FATA quite firmly, releasing the territories from their grip only so much that they could grab them back once that would be necessary. I can't help but note that this seems to be a bit at odds with the FATA's entire history. "Control" is a very elusive concept in that area. Another thing to consider is whether truly everyone in Pakistan's security sector could be capable of playing the Realpolitikers' game, in unison, claiming cooperation with the U.S. all the time, sometimes even, inevitably, acting on it, while sabotaging it at every stage at the same time? E.g.: is sabotaging cooperation easy for a Punjabi officer from a wealthy family who received his education in the U.S. and may have lost relatives in terrorist attacks? Or is accepting the slaughtering of militants from the FATA easy for an Islamist Pashtun (sorry, I mean Pakhtun) officer? Can a schizophrenic policy be executed by people of diverse backgrounds and views in perfect unison? Or is this rather playing out in the interaction of factions that I have once tried to conceptualise?
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The third source is the Pakistani Daily Times, where Khalid Hasan sums up Eric Margolis' views about the ISI. Margolis is a journalist who has even been allowed to visit the ISI HQ in the 1980s.
"Margolis writes that on his subsequent trips to Pakistan he was routinely briefed by succeeding ISI chiefs. He maintains that before Gen Pervez Musharraf took over, the ISI was the Third World’s most efficient, professional intelligence agency. “It still defends Pakistan against internal and external subversion by India’s powerful spy agency, RAW, and by Iran. ISI works closely with CIA and the Pentagon and was primarily responsible for the rapid ouster of Taliban from power in 2003. But ISI also must serve Pakistan’s interests, which are often not identical to Washington’s, and sometimes in conflict,” according to Margolis."
Note: actually there's not that much to take issue with, save, perhaps, for that one would not want to omit stories like that of the Kunduz airlift to complete the picture. And, to accept the statement as it is, it might also need to be reformulated a little: Pakistan is a U.S. ally except when it only claims to be one.
"All senior ISI veterans deemed “Islamist” or too nationalistic by Washington were purged at Washington’s demand, leaving ISI’s upper ranks top-heavy with too many yes-men and paper-passers. Even so, there is strong opposition inside the ISI to Washington’s “bribing and arm-twisting the subservient Musharraf dictatorship into waging war against fellow Pakistanis and gravely damaging Pakistan’s national interests.” "
"The ISI is trying to restrain pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen while dealing with growing US attacks into Pakistan that threaten a wider war. India has an army of agents in Afghanistan and is arming, backing and financing the Karzai regime in Kabul in hopes of turning Afghanistan into a protectorate."
Note: the latter take suggests that while India has an army of agents in Afghanistan, Pakistan is powerless, although trying hard, to stop people from going over the border to fight them. That's a contradiction from Margolis with his own words, cited in the previous excerpt.
Excerpt from the part where Margolis manages to go over the top like a human rocket:
"Pakistan’s historic strategic interests in Afghanistan have been undermined by the US occupation. Now, the US, Canada and India are trying to eliminate Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. The ISI, Margolis argues, has every right to warn Pakistani citizens of impending US air attacks that kill large numbers of civilians. The agency also wants to prevent the resurgence of the Pakhtunistan demand. “Washington’s bull-in-a-china shop behaviour pays no heeds to these realities. Instead, Washington demonises faithful old allies ISI and Pakistan while supporting Afghanistan’s Communists and drug dealers, and allowing India to stir the Afghan pot, all for the sake of new energy pipelines,” he concludes."
Note: it's always nice when a journalist doesn't forget to mention the name of his own country (Canada) as involved in doing generally bad things. Tying this to one dubiously feasible pipeline project out of so many others, that was actually discarded in 1998 (although stability wasn't then missing in southern Afghanistan), a project that still reads like science fiction in 2008, though it enjoys some backing from circles in both Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan - lovely. But that's not the point here, and sorry that time and again I let these remarks slip in. Getting back to the point, which is Margolis' picture of the ISI here: acccording to him, ISI is a unitary actor. It tries to save as many Pakistani lives as possible, by giving advance warning to people whom the U.S. wants to kill, and by trying to stop militants from crossing the border, even though on the other side one finds a future Indian protectorate.
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The fourth source then is a piece from the NY Times, with the title India frustrated by a rudderless Pakistan.
"the problem, the Indian side contends, is that by talking to the new civilian government of Pakistan, it is no longer negotiating with those who have the power to decide between war and peace.
"The real power," said one Indian official, "is so far away from the structures the world deals with."
For India, argued the official, that distance has become all the more vast in recent months, since it is negotiating with an elected Pakistani government that has little influence over the country's more powerful army and spy agency."
" "You're talking at two or three removes from the real power," added the Indian official. "They have to talk to the people who do control this." "
"The official and other Indian and American officials spoke on the condition of anonymity"
Note: the sources are not only Indian, but also American. Perhaps the material was assembled for the article already (by Somini Sengupta) and was then shown to U.S. officials who nodded (or what).
Some more is revealed by this excerpt:
"In Washington, American intelligence officials hinted at a new shared worry for India and Afghanistan. Militant groups that had been operating inside Indian-controlled Kashmir have been carrying out attacks inside Afghanistan lately. They include, according to American officials, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group dominated by ethnic Punjabis from Pakistan that New Delhi blames for several terrorist attacks inside India.
"The foreign-fighter problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan is growing, and we consider non-Pashtun Pakistanis, such as elements of formerly Kashmiri groups, a part of that growing problem," said a United States Defense Department official."
Note: the Pakistani security sector is still viewed as in control, despite the word "rudderless" in the title. The hypothesis is that there is a real power centre, but it's only scarcely visible. The fighting in the FATA as well as any fragmentation within the security sector itself, is still kept under control, by some people.
* * *
Whichever of these views is proximate truth, schizo seems to be an apt word to describe the picture that emerges from all of them, together.

1 comment:

Patton said...

God, what a muddle! It's interesting how (presumably) otherwise smart people can so easily subscribe to these conspiracy-theory-esque concepts of the omniscient, omnipotent intelligence agency, or the constant double game. For Christ's sake, leave that stuff to Oliver Stone and paranoid radicals.