Pundita on Pakistan

Miss P. bangs pots and pans, shoots off fireworks, uses her knee to pound a bass drum while blowing a vuvuzela in an effort to draw attention to the Elephant in the policy room no one wishes to address.

It won’t work until a Pakistani-sponsored terrorist pulls off an act of catastrophic terrorism inside the United States and kills a large number of elite Americans in Manhattan or the Beltway. After that point, we’ll get serious and these views will become conventional wisdom.

I just hope the terrorists don’t succeed in Arizona or Kansas – the story will only make page 2, then and policy will stay the course:

Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell

On or about August 30, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received a detailed assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan that included a request for additional U.S. troops. The report was from General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. But as noted on the first page the assessment was a joint effort representing input from ISAF staff and the component commands.On the matter of Pakistan the report noted:

Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s lSI.

A year earlier McChrystal’s predecessor, General David D. McKiernan, delivered a franker assessment of the same situation. He stated flatly that he was certain there was a “level of ISI complicity” in the militant areas of Pakistan and within organizations like the Taliban.McKiernan’s observation came on the heels of a secret visit by a top CIA official to Islamabad; the visit was to directly confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new data about ties between the ISI and militants operating in Pakistan tribal areas.It seems the CIA met with the same stonewalling Britain’s government encountered in 2006 when they brought virtually the same charges to Pakistan because their next move echoed the one taken by Britain’s Ministry of Defense: the CIA leaked news of the trip to a major press outlet — in their case, The New York Times.These naive attempts to embarrass a government comprised of terror-masters, dope dealers and professional beggars skilled at wheedling billions in aid out of the West came to nothing, beyond the ISI’s decision to outsource more of their oversight of terrorist attacks on NATO troops to front agencies such as the SSG.

David Petraeus might study Kashmir if he doesn’t want to repeat Stanley McChrystal’s mistakes in Afghanistan

On Monday the RAND Corporation published a paper titled Counterinsurgency in Pakistan by Seth G. Jones and C. Christine Fair. I don’t agree with most of the authors’ recommendations. However, I think the section of the paper titled Pakistan’s Use of Proxy War, which goes into some detail about Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, will be instructive in light of Pakistani-sponsored actions against ISAF and the Afghans who resist Taliban rule.The section begins on page 6, chapter two. Although I don’t provide the footnotes I’ve kept the footnote numbering for ready reference. (The paper can be downloaded for free in PDF at the RAND website. A summary in PDF is also available):

Pakistan’s Use of Proxy WarfareMost accounts assume that Pakistan first engaged in using militants as a foreign policy tool during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Pakistan, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others supported seven major mujahideen groups operating in Afghanistan.“The Mujahedeen could achieve nothing without financial support,” acknowledged Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, who headed the Directorate for Inter-services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) Afghan bureau from 1983 to 1987, and was responsible for the supply, training, and operation planning of the mujahideen.“Almost half of this money originated from the U.S. taxpayer, with the remainder coming from the Saudi Arabian government or rich Arab individuals.”3

In many standard accounts, Pakistan redeployed these battle-hardened operatives to Kashmir in 1990 when the Soviets formally withdrew from Afghanistan. In fact, Pakistan has relied on nonstate actors to prosecute its foreign policy objectives in Kashmir since its independence in 1947. In that year, the state mobilized lashkars (tribal forces) to seize Kashmir while the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, debated whether to join India or Pakistan….

11 thoughts on “Pundita on Pakistan”

  1. Say you have a really good conventional army. Call it a hammer.

    So, everything looks like a nail. Iraq looks like a nail.

    But you drive the nail, and for some damn reason, the war is not over.

    You find yourself in a war where you need a screwdriver.

    So, you make a screwdriver. There is a lot of conflict about whether you need a screwdriver, and how maybe you will forget how to use a hammer if you have a screwdriver, and the guys who sold you the hammer are freaking out about you buying a screwdriver.

    Anyway, you do finally get yourself a screwdriver. And you screw in the screw with it. It looks like it worked. It looks like the screwdriver guys were right all along.

    The problem is, the well known rule “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” has a corollary. It goes like this: “if you have fought really hard to get yourself a screwdriver, the next thing you have to deal with looks like a screw.”

    Afghanistan looks like a screw. You learned to do COIN. Afghanistan looks like a place to do COIN.

    But, what it it’s not?

    COIN can work if the enemy is mostly indigenous, and you can use these techniques to get the people on your side.

    But the enemy is mostly supported by an outside enemy, you are not in an insurgency, you are in a proxy war.

    The screwdriver you just bought, the one you fought so hard to get, is the wrong tool.

    To fight a proxy war, you need to attack the party promoting the proxy, which is Pakistan. But, if that party has nuclear weapons, you can’t. Or, maybe, you can, but you can’t do it openly or directly. Or maybe you can, but it will be really risky.

    But, whatever you do, you cannot wage COIN without dealing with the outside force. The screwdriver is at best not enough, and at worst irrelevant.

    If you fail to attack the party promoting the proxy, or cut off the local enemy from their outside supporters, you will lose.

    If pretend you can do COIN and win it that way, and not deal with the outside supporter, You are committing the ultimate sin in American strategy.

    You are … get ready for it … refighting Vietnam.

  2. Exactly. What we have in Afghanistan is Vietnam with the sanctuaries and it will not end until the sanctuaries are gone. I don’t think flattening Pakistan is the answer although it might come to that. Probably just shutting off the money spigot would do a lot. India would be a powerful ally and China can’t do much power projection.

    Will we come to that conclusion ? I doubt it.

    Lyndon Johnson said he would not be the first American president to lose a war. Obama ran on the policy of withdrawal so that means he can’t do it.

    I gave up on Afghanistan some time ago. I was all for smacking the Taliban around but the country has no prospect of being anything but the hell hole it has been for 3,000 years. Read Kilcullen’s book to see how incredibly difficult it would be to make anything of it.

  3. I gave my full analysis in Zen’s post of last week:
    Rogue State Pakistan by Zenpundit on June 14th, 2010

    As to Pakistan’s ISI, I wrote:

    Real bad guys. There is no evidence that they believe the Islamism they sell, but sell it they do, and they have peddled atomic weapon technology and helped set up Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan is a failed state with a successful army and a rogue secret service. We will need India’s help to untangle that one, but it means undoing the remnants of cold war ideology in India — tough assignment.–


    Afghanistan is even more of a failed state than Pakistan. Only India has the strategic interest and the resources to help manage this situation.

    The ultimate solution would be to reintegrate Punjab and Sind into India, and to have India treat the Tribal areas and Pakistani Baluchistan, and all of Afghanistan as a protectorate.


    “I was all for smacking the Taliban around but the country has no prospect of being anything but the hell hole it has been for 3,000 years.”

    Afghanistan is a tribal society that has not integrated, and cannot integrate, with the modern world. The last time we (the USA) confronted this situation was on the Great Plains at the end of Century XIX. We could apply the lessons learned, but we have lost our cultural confidence. Letting India quarantine them is sort of 2nd best.

  4. It is a proxy war. Iran is one of our enemies there as in Iraq. Iran will become more of an enemy, and more difficult for us to deal with, if/when it gets nuclear weapons.

  5. The hard reality of terrorism is that the best defense against nation-state sponsored terrorist attacks is preemption. Eliminate terrorist bases and state support by eliminating the supporting governments.

    The key issue at hand is that Pakistan, as it exists today, is what we fear Iran will become — a nuclear armed, irrational, terrorist supporting, rogue, failed state.

    Pakistan is Somalia with nukes.

    It has a successful nuclear weapons program thanks to Chinese nuclear proliferation through North Korea to the dysfunctional & failed Pakistani state. That is why it is a deadly threat to India.

    America does have a few allies in that mess, but we don’t know from day to day who is a nutball there and who is not.


    See this comment from the threat watch blog on Pakistani senior general General Kiyana:

    …it has to be understood that General Kiyani – head of Pakistan’s military and thus effectively its military intelligence (ISI) – while admirably stalwart against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the North West and tribal areas, has always been equally stalwart regarding the Pakistani conflict with India over disputed Kashmir.

    General Kiyani may have intended a minor operation for Kashmir and was almost certainly in the dark about the metamorphosis of the operation into a Mumbai massacre, but the law of unintended consequences holds little acquittal when leaders play with the fire of terrorism.

    At this point, it is really hard to tell the difference between low to mid-level ISI, L-e-T, and Al-Qaeda — even for Pakistani generals.

    The principal product, and principal export, of Pakistan is woe.

    This will be repaid many times over.

    It is only a question of who and how many will die from this hard reality, and how many nuclear detonation will be involved.

    People forget we are not the only actors in this play. There are other nuclear powers involved here.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened because America had the economy and the political will to both forge nuclear weapons and to use them to eliminate the threat.

    All it took was a Pearl Harbor to fatally enraging the American people.

    Our Islamic terrorist foes in Pakistan are seeking to provide the Indian people with that same motivation to eliminate the threat a’la “Pakistan Delenda Est.”

    And there is nothing we can do to stop this.

  6. But Obama’s ill-treatment of India pushes away our best hope of a good ally in the region, one with common security and commercial interests with the US.

    The big question is how much damage to US interests can Obama do before his replacement in January, 2013.

    Then, what kind of leader would it take to repair our interests and position in the world and how long would it take.

  7. “Iran is one of our enemies there …”


    Iran is opposed to the Taliban and is no friend of Pakistan. Iran attempted to cooperate with us in Afghanistan against our mutual enemy.

    Things are bad enough as it is.

  8. Is Iran attempting to cooperate with us now? McChrystal said not to worry, Teliban in Iran are an aberration. He wouldn’t mislead us, would he?

    It may be in Iran’s current interest that we provide an anti-Pakistan buffer in Afghanistan. That’s not incompatible with being our enemy.

  9. Lex,

    It is too flipping late to save Iran.

    The decision by Bush 43 to forgo pinning the ears of the CIA & State department back and hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities has made catalytic nuclear proliferation inevitable.

    Given the example of Iranian nuclear break out, we are now going to see a Cuban missile crisis a month from the Norks selling turn key nuclear missile complexes to irrational regimes — primarily Muslim — until the resulting nuclear chaos so infuriates the American people that we establish an American imperium in self-defense.

    In the interum, people like me will be gainfully employed policing defense contractors making missile defense systems and ISO container spy technology.

    By defeating the Soviet Union we have traded the larger body count risk of Western Civilization in the northern hemesphere dying from nuclear war for the a a larger risk of a smaller body count nuclear detonation by a Muslim nut, most likely outside the USA.

    I prefer the the post Soviet world, even with catalytic nuclear proliferation, to the Soviet Union’s “stability” as their existance meant we risked nuclear exchanges the four times before in my life time — 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the Aborted 1969 Sino-Soviet Border War, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War Defcon 3 crisis, and 1983 when Pres. Reagan accidentally convinced the KGB America was about to launch a nuclear first strike.

    As for what the world will look like with catalytic nuclear proliferation, think of how the Indonesian Tsunami was handled.

    Wall to wall coverage because of the visuals, US Military aide, Lots of relief agency appeals, Joint Ex-President relief funds, then a slow headline fade as other events wash over it.

    The recent Haitian earth quake certainly followed that script.

    Horror, then the slow ‘life goes on’ fade from sight.

    There are something like 2.5 million cities, towns, villages,and hamlets in the world. Over 3,000 have populations of over 100,000, and at least several hundred with populations over one million.

    If we figure the centers of the last are the most likely targets, then, at five nukes per decade, it’ll take at least 400 years to destroy them all.

    We’ll react to them as we do to really big natural disasters. We’ll pray for the victims and the survivors, give a sigh of relief that neither we nor any of our families were there at the time, and maybe send a check to the Red Cross.

    We will, in a sense, become numb to them.

    Governments won’t, of course. We can expect a lot more surveillance, a lot more wire-tapping, and a lot more “clandestine activity” intelligence agencies and special forces.

    And here is the really scary part, pointed out by Daniel Ellsberg, of all people, just after the Falklands War.

    The QE2 was being used as a troop ship, and the Ark Royal was carrying more than 2000 Royal Marines in addition to its large crew, so if either of those had been hit by the Argentine sub Santa Fe, it could have meant Britain’s biggest by far military loss of life since WW2.

    The Brits, via the US, told the Argentines that if the Santa Fe was picked up anywhere within too close to either of the big targets, they would hit it with an airdropped nuclear torpedo.

    The Argentines decided to send the crew of the Santa Fe on cruise around the Horn for their health, and the sub spent the war off the Chilean coast.

    But, as Ellsberg said, suppose the Brits had had to carry out the threat?

    His basic observations were:

    1. They sure as hell would have to. A bit over 100 Argie lives against many thousands of UK? And it’s a war, you know, old boy ….

    2. Argentina couldn’t retaliate; it was a right wing generals regime so the support from the 3rd World caucus would have been miminal; the Sovs and Chinese would have said it was very naughty, and so might the US, but the Brits would have suffered no penalty and the result (Argies got no modern attack sub) would surely stand.

    3. And at that point you’ve got a precedent of a fully justified nuclear strike (no civilian casualties, imminent danger, absolutely for a militarily justifiable end), and, as Ellsberg put it, “A lower wall for next time.”

    So first the Iranians nuke somewhere, and are nuked back at a purely military facility; then a terrorist group uses a nuke, and a training camp with some civilians around it is hit; then a Somali pirate base or a ship carrying nuclear materials at sea …. and then, really, the things are so damned handy, why reserve them just for infidels?

    What about a city rising in rebellion against the true Islamic regime? (See Hama, Syria)

    What about preemptive shots at terrorist facilities … or ….?

    So the problem, is apt to begin Islamic — but it won’t stay Islamic. Not if it goes any length of time.

    Consider, you’re the American president after we’ve had a couple of nuclear strikes on American bases and a few on European cities, and after we’ve hit ten targets in the Islamic world (and the Israelis have hit five and, say, the French have hit a couple). You’ve got a drug-and-illegals fortress over the border in Mexico and the Mexican government has declared that they can’t take it with their remnant army, and has asked for help.

    Storm it with a few thousand marines or paras?

    Or drop one air burst tac nuke?

    Now you’re the Chinese premier, and all this has been going on, and that miserable goddam Southeast Asian border is acting up, and you’ve got a warlord over the line in Laos or Burma …

    “Hey, you tell the Americans and the Russians, if we stop bugging you about Mexico and Chechen, can we get an quiet okay here?”

    The Islamic terror problem is only the crack in the bottle that the genie is most likely to come out through. Once the genie is all the way out, you won’t be able to get it back in just by patching the big crack.

    _Until America gets hit a home by a terrorist nuke._

    Then the American public’s response will be with full-bore threat elimination, starting with the elimination of American politicians who get in the way of full-bore, immediate, aka nuclear, threat elimination via reducing terrorist supporting states to subsistance agriculture.

    Then followed up by 2-5 nukes a year in what had been Arab countries plus Pakistan and Turkey, which would be subsequent pest control.

    Not a cheery future.

  10. Trent, I made the narrow point that Iran is not aligned against us in Afghanistan, from anything I have seen. They, too, have a lot on their hands elsewhere. I do not say anything about trying to “save” Iran.

    Your scenario may come true.

    We are going to find out, those of us not killed by the initial blast.

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