5 years ago
We have all followed the quaint Pakistani obsession with India as an existential threat. Stolid, dark, conspiratorial and pathological though it is, it has ruled Pakistani planning and execution of its military operations for decades. Could things be changing?
Pakistan’s main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security, a finding with potential ramifications for relations between the two rival South Asian nations and for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
A recent internal assessment of security by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful military spy agency, determined that for the first time in 63 years it expects a majority of threats to come from Islamist militants, according to a senior ISI officer.
The assessment, a regular review of national security, allocates a two-thirds likelihood of a major threat to the state coming from militants rather than from India or elsewhere. It is the first time since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947 that India hasn’t been viewed as the top threat. Decades into one of the most bitter neighborly rivalries in modern history, both countries maintain huge troop deployments along their Himalayan border.
“It’s earth shattering. That’s a remarkable change,” said Bruce Hoffman, a counterterrorism specialist and professor at Georgetown University. “It’s yet another ratcheting up of the Pakistanis’ recognition of not only their own internal problems but cooperation in the war on terrorism.”
It is unclear whether the assessment of the ISI—a powerful group largely staffed by active military officers—is fully endorsed by Pakistan’s military and civilian government. The assessment’s impact on troop positioning and Pakistan’s war against militants remains to be seen.
The assessment reflects the thinking in the mainstream of the ISI. But U.S. officials worry that elements of Pakistan’s military establishment, which they say includes retired ISI officers, continue to lend support to militants that shelter in Pakistan’s tribal regions, an effort these people say is aimed at building influence in Afghanistan once the U.S. pulls out.
And there should indeed be concern that this is the thinking of only several officers within the ISI. And also recall that there are games of duplicity to play in order to keep U.S. dollars rolling in. If this assessment is accepted within the larger defense community, that is indeed a change agent for the better. It remains to be seen if this assessment gets buried or if it gains traction.