Is Pakistan the Next Failed State?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

Concerns are being raised about the potential instability of the most populous province in Pakistan.

Taliban insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country.

The deadly assault in March in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing last fall of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign, they said.

Now police officials, local residents and analysts warn that if the government does not take decisive action, these dusty, impoverished fringes of Punjab could be the next areas facing the insurgency. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials also said they viewed the developments with alarm.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue,” said a senior police official in Punjab, who declined to be identified because he was discussing threats to the state. “If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab.”

Attacks intended to intimidate and sow sectarian strife are more common. The police point to a suicide bombing in Dera Ghazi Khan on Feb. 5. Two local Punjabis, with the help of Taliban backers, orchestrated the attack, which killed 29 people at a Shiite ceremony, the local police said.

The authorities arrested two men as masterminds on April 6: Qari Muhammad Ismail Gul, the leader of a local madrasa; and Ghulam Mustafa Kaisrani, a jihadi who posed as a salesman for a medical company.

They belonged to a banned Punjabi group called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, but were tied through phone calls to two deputies of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the police said.

“The phone numbers they call are in Waziristan,” said a police official, referring to the Taliban base in the tribal areas. “They are working together hand in glove.” One of the men had gone for training in Waziristan last summer, the police said. The operations are well-supported. Mr. Kaisrani had several bank transfers worth about $11 million from his Pakistani account, the authorities said.

people complain that landowners and local politicians have done nothing to stop the advance and, in some cases, even assist the militants by giving money to some of the religious schools.

“The government is useless,” said Mr. Ali, the local landlord. “They live happy, secure lives in Lahore. Their children study abroad. They only come here to contest elections.”

The police are left alone to stop the advance. But in Punjab, as in much of the rest of Pakistan, they are spread unevenly, with little presence in rural areas. Out of 160,000 police officers in Punjab, fewer than 60,000 are posted in rural areas, leaving frontier stations in districts virtually unprotected, police officials said.

Analysis & Commentary

As feared by the senior police official in Punjab, a lot of people truly don’t understand the gravity of the circumstances in Pakistan.  The Captain’s Journal is not one of them.  Six months ago we said that Pakistan was on the brink of collapse, and just recently David Kilcullen sounded the alarm.

Pakistan could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says.

The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House …

Laying out the scale of the challenges facing the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dr Kilcullen put the two countries invaded by US-led forces after the September 11 attacks on the US on a par – each had a population of more than 30 million.

“But Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control,” he told the Herald.

It’s really worse than just the concern for al Qaeda.  We’ve discussed the morphing of al Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban into a conglomerate globalist organization with the Pakistan Taliban being led by Baitullah Mehsud. (who had made threats against both the U.S. and Britain).  There are now even indications that the Afghan Taliban may have morphed into a more globalist organization than before under the influence of al Qaeda.

Control over the North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas has allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to merge ideologies, recruit fighters and extort money for their operations.  In fact, the recent Pakistani approval of the “peace” agreement in Swat has allowed more recruitment through the local Mosques in that area.  Each successive agreement with the Taliban strengthens the Taliban and weakens the Pakistani government.

It is not apparent yet that the Pakistani army has lost its neurotic obsession with India and begun to focus on the internal threat within.  But army headquarters in Ralwalpindi is at risk as much as any other city in Pakistan.  So are Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon, gaming should be occurring concerning use of U.S. military assets to ensure the security of the Pakistani nuclear ordnance, because if it becomes necessary to implement these plans, it will be no game.  But the continual degradation of logistics through Pakistan has led us to strongly recommend another route, free from influence by Russia.

From nuclear assets to logistics, to potential Taliban operations in Kashmir and certainly the affects to the campaign in Afghanistan, the failure of Pakistan will indeed dwarf the previous problems that we have seen in that region of the world.  Comprehensive planning should be underway to address the exigency of Pakistan as the next failed state.



  • TSAlfabet

    Classic example of the law of unintended consequences.

    By wiping out Al Qaeda in A-stan, we pushed them into P-stan which, as it turns out, is a much more hospitable host: little to no government intrusion, relative protection from direct U.S. attack, and a native poplulation that not only is more numerous than A-stan but is ideally suited for international terrorist operations by virtue of the diaspora of Pakistanis throughout the Western world, including the U.S. Not blaming U.S. action against A-stan; it had to be done, but the question is what is the U.S. (and Obama specifically) prepared to do now that the new contours of the war are emerging?

    Well past time to stop playing the Pak Army/ISI game of giving them U.S. money for duplicitous ops against the Taliban. Perhaps it is time to start talking quietly with India about ending the 60-year old experiment called “Pakistan.”

  • Pingback: The Captain’s Journal » Taliban Control Expanding Towards Pakistan Capital()

  • rrk3

    Let us not forget the Predecessors of al-Qaeda have been in the FATA since the 80s that combined with Pakistani military and intelligence services that act like they don’t know where they stand yet and we have a recipe for disaster.
    For those that do not know Musharraf actually considered going to war with the U.S. to protect the Taliban. Afghanistan gives Pakistan strategic depth they feel they need against India which is the only thing they seemed to be worried about as long as they can fight India I think the Pak army and ISI would make a deal with the devil.
    Here is a novel idea lets get India and Pakistan to the negotiating table and see if they can hash out some type of agreement over Kashmir and other sticking points they have. It would be even better if we did not hold the talks in the U.S. This would go a long way to make it look like we were not trying to dictate terms.
    Unless the Pakistani people, government and military do not grow a set and want to take back their country they will lose it. This is going to have to be a nationwide counter-insurgency effort as kinetic operations are going to be needed as well massive infrastructure and governmental improvements. Even if you cannot bring the tribal areas under the full fold of the central government a way to give them representation and an improved way of life is vital.
    If Pakistan does not do this I give them 6 months and the world had better have a plan on how to manage the nuclear weapons issue. From what I have seen and read AQ and the Taliban would not have any problem using them against India or Afghanistan.

  • Pingback: The Captain’s Journal » Taliban Expansion and Nuclear Weapons: Where is the Pakistan Army?()


You are currently reading "Is Pakistan the Next Failed State?", entry #2686 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Featured,Pakistan,Tehrik-i-Taliban and was published April 15th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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