5 years ago
Another nonsense Strategy Page article.
The U.S. believes that many al Qaeda leaders have fled to southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) to escape the increasing number of U.S. UAV missile attacks in the Pushtun tribal areas along the Afghan border. The UAV attacks are apparently following al Qaeda into Baluchistan. Both Britain and the U.S. are sending more trainers to Pakistan, to show the paramilitary Frontier Corps better techniques for dealing with the Taliban. The Frontier Corps recruits from the local tribes and normally acts as a rural constabulary. Fighting the heavily armed and fanatical Taliban is often more than the Frontier Corps troopers can handle.
The Baluchi tribes are not as violently opposed to the government as the Pushtun ones. While the Pushtun tribes want independence, the Baluchis mainly want more autonomy (and a larger share of the money from the oil and gas fields on their territory.) The Pushtun tribes (15 percent of the population, in the north and east, along the Afghan border) and the Baluchi tribes (four percent, in the southwest) do not get along with the majority Punjabis (45 percent of the population) or Sindhis (14 percent) in the eastern lowlands. The resulting violence has been going for over a thousand years.
Many Indians are coming to regard Pakistan as a failed state. Politically and economically unstable, with far more factional violence than India, the Pakistani leaders seem unable to agree among themselves, or act in concert, to solve fundamental problems. Not a lot of change since the nation was created 60 years ago, and many aspects of Pakistani society have gotten worse. Prospects are not good.
The big problem with Pakistan is that the many factions are more into themselves than they are “Pakistan.” The military, the Pushtun tribes, the Baluchi tribes, various religious factions and the few hundred families that own most of the country, all see themselves as more important than Pakistan. For the country to survive, there has to be more “civil society” (lots of Pakistanis of put the needs of the country above their partisan goals.) The Taliban are basically another faction, combining conservative tribal and extremist religious elements. The Taliban solve nothing, and just cause a lot of violence. Most Pakistanis realize this, and are willing to fight against the Taliban, but less enthusiastic about fighting for Pakistan.
In Indian controlled Kashmir, about twenty soldiers, civilians and terrorists were killed in the last few days. While the Islamic radicals have lost much of their capabilities there, the intense hostility between Kashmiri Moslems and Indian police remains.
In the Swat Valley, the Taliban have ordered all aid or advocacy groups out of the area. The Taliban plan to impose a strict Islamic lifestyle, which won’t work. Just like it didn’t work in Afghanistan in the 1990s. But the idea lives on.
Sometimes I wonder what those guys are smoking over at the Strategy Page. So much of their analysis is interesting and timely, but they don’t do a good job of staying between the ditches.
Where to begin. First of all, the Taliban are more than just troubling folk who cause violence. They are taking over much of Pakistan, and their leaders, Baitullah Mehsud and others, have communicated a global ambition and vision.
Second, the Pakistanis have done nothing to cause us to believe that most of them are willing to fight the Taliban. “Settlement” after “ceasefire” after “settlement” with the Tehrik-i-Taliban has allowed the continuing strengthening of the Taliban and the diminution of the writ of state in the NWFP and FATA.
Third, a strict, Islamic lifestyle has worked in the NWFP and FATA because of the threat of death to those who oppose it. It also worked in Afghanistan until the Taliban were overthrown during the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. Have the analysts at the Strategy Page forgotten that the Taliban were still in charge of Afghanistan during 9/11?
Finally, while the Pakistani political leadership has certainly shown the factious nature and incompetence in governing, that hasn’t caused the Taliban extremism in the NWFP and FATA. Pakistan may be an almost failed-state, as are many nations in the world. Not all of them have al Qaeda or the Taliban. Poverty doesn’t lead to militant, Islamic radicalism, and militant, Islamic radicalism isn’t just another brand of insurgency seeking more influence and governmental legitimacy.