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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Riedel comparing two Afghan wars, and Pakistan with Pakistan

The CTC Sentinel's latest issue came out, and the Ministry feels the need to put out a statement, reacting to Bruce Riedel's article (Riedel was recently policy-overhaul minister for the new "Af/Pak/Af" strategy in the U.S.), Comparing the U.S. and Soviet experiences in Afghanistan.

First we are recommending a correction to one of the article's passages. Here is the original version:

"The campaign to assist the Afghan insurgency, the mujahidin, enjoyed the backing of countries around the world including China, the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others."

With the recommended correction then (modifications in capitals):
"The campaign to TRAIN AND ARM Afghan INSURGENTS, the mujahidin, enjoyed the LARGELY COVERT backing of countries around the world including China, the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, PAKISTAN."
These modifications are important if we do not want a naive reader to assume that worldwide condemnation of the Soviet intervention in 1979 means that pumping all that money and all those arms through ISI was an exercise in (good) global governance (with kind assistance from facilitating organisations such as Miktab al-Khidmat, and networks such as the Golden Chain).
Ok, but that is history. As far as the policy-relevant part is concerned, here is something else the Ministry wishes to react to.
Riedel rightly argues that key changes need to come from Pakistani minds. This is a position that this Ministry is voicing since a while now. But then Riedel argues that "the United States needs to engage intensively to convince them of this reality."
As far as the Afghanistan part of convincing is concerned, here is full support to the idea. Convince the key players that Afghanistan is not a place where you are mostly interested in finding the exit (which then may be open to people coming after you). Go ahead. As far as telling Pakistanis directly, that they have to do this or that, is concerned, because you know it is in their interest - no, that is not necessarily good. Opinions need to be known, of course, but if you are wielding carrots and sticks all the time, you may be just manufacturing consensus on the surface, instead of getting people to agree with you.
The Ministry has just recently authored an article for a Slovak journal, the Euro-Atlantic Quarterly (not published yet), and here is an excerpt from that piece, one that is relevant to the argument above.
"The (Pakistani) military’s standard procedure seems to be the heavy use of available air assets and artillery, and a dispreference of close-quarters combat by infantry. Problem number one with this approach to counterinsurgency is that it kills a lot of civilians – that is what makes the people flee the villages and other settlements that become targets in the military operations. Problem number two is that this approach likely does not kill many insurgents, despite claims to the contrary. „The Pakistani military levels large areas, claims success, and thinks we'll be conned into believing it if they pump up the Taliban body counts,” as one U.S. military intelligence official is reported to have summed this up recently.
... whatever NATO says or does, in Pakistani eyes this is a U.S.-sponsored offensive currently ongoing in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, and thus, to a degree, it is also NATO’s offensive. If done in a smart way, it could be in Pakistan’s interest. But it is not, and the U.S. and the West are seen as having recently pledged heavy billions of dollars of financial assistance both to Pakistan’s military, and to the Pakistani government, in order to pay for the devastating attack on millions of ordinary villagers."
Besides, let us do a little creative thinking. The militants were happy in the Swat valley for now. Some of them were pushed there from Bajaur, after last year's military operations there. Now they are likely to be pushed out of at least some of Swat.
So where will they go now? Peshawar? Karachi? Waziristan? Afghanistan?
Update (about 5 minutes after posting the original version): Having just read Mukhtar A. Khan's brief profiling of Quetta and Baluchistan, which follows right after Riedel's article in the CTC Sentinel, let us add to the previous list of questions: "Quetta? Baluchistan?" With 1,300 madaras and 13 refugee camps, that is one more destination where some may be booking tickets, post-Swat.


greatgameover said...

Some Taliban are just going to the IDP camps.

Péter MARTON said...

Probably yes - first off.