I generally am underwhelmed by Winston Churchill's writings about India, but I do think he captures a thought well when, in My Early Life, he summarizes the Pathan/Pashtun worldview: "Every man is a warrior, a politician and a theologian."
Best Defense: Do you think Pakistan turned against the United States in Afghanistan in 2005? What makes you think that?
Richard Armitage: "When I was deputy secretary [of state], from 2001 to February 2005, I looked constantly for information that the Pakistanis were aiding the Taliban.... I did see liaison, but I could not find" strong evidence of more.
"2005, if you look at casualties [in the Afghan war]. There was the beginning of a sharp rise. I believe two things happened. The Talibs started digging up their weapons and the Pakistanis thought, Maybe the Americans will prove short of breath, and so maybe we should keep our hand in.
"There was a background to this. From our point of view, it was black and white. From a Pakistani point of view, it wasn't. In their view, we are a very unfaithful partner, with four or five divorces since 1947. So in the back of their minds is always, When are they going to cut and run?"
BD: How does that inform your view of the current situation?
Armitage: "My present view of the situation is that the Pakistan government is persuaded of the ultimate ability of the Taliban to form a deal with the Afghan government, with a rough return to corners -- the Tajik in the north, Pashtun in the south and east, the Hazaras in the middle getting kicked by everybody, and so on.
"I think in addition, Pakistan dramatically increased its nuclear arsenal after 2008-2009. They fear that we will swoop in and take them.
"With India, they now are looking at tactical nuclear weapons." [Their fear, Armitage said, is that if there is another Mumbai-like attack, India will respond with a corps-sized attack on Pakistan.] "Tactical nukes is what you'd use against a corps." [This might provoke India to escalate further.] "But Pakistan would say that its tactical nukes would deter that."
BD: I saw today (Monday) that 3 SAMs were reported intercepted near the Pakistani border. What do you make of that?
Armitage: If it were true, "That would be seen as a very unfriendly act," one directed not against Afghan forces but against our airpower. "I'd be skeptical of that" report -- it more likely is MANPADs than larger SAMs.
BD: As the United States tries to draw down its presence in Afghanistan and turn over security to Afghan forces, what do you expect Pakistan to try to do?
Armitage: "I think they will remain on the trajectory they are on" -- that is, supporting Talibs in the south and east, and keeping an eye on Indian (and possibly Russian) dealing with the Tajiks.
If internal unrest grows in Pakistan, "they may have to spend a little more time at home," but still will likely remain on the same trajectory in Afghanistan.
BD: If you had lunch with President Obama today, what would you tell him about the Afghan war and about Pakistan?
Armitage: "Twenty-five years from now, Mr. President, I can assure you there will be a nation called Afghanistan, with much the same borders and the same rough demographic makeup. I probably couldn't say that about Pakistan."
On the Afghan war, "I would say, Mr. President, it is not worth one more limb." Perhaps just leave enough for counterterror missions and maybe some trainers.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
If surface-to-air missiles are being intercepted near the Pakistani border, where are they coming from?
The estimable Micah Zenko wants a "first draft" of "the Third War." Actually it has been written, and is being published this week. It is The Way of the Knife, by Mark Mazzetti. It has all sorts of interesting details, like that the United States has the ability to remotely turn on a cell phone in Pakistan and then collect the precise coordinates of whoever is carrying it.
Here is an interview I did with the author by e-mail:
Tom Ricks: What are we going to learn from your book that we haven't gotten from others, like those by Peter Bergen?
Mark Mazzetti: Peter's books are absolutely terrific, and a hard act to follow! And, there have certainly been a number of terrific books covering the war on terror. What I've tried to do in my book is tell a story of a secret war, and how that war has changed places like the CIA and parts of the Pentagon. The CIA is now at the center of waging covert wars in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The agency certainly has had a history of far flung military adventures, but then it tried to get out of the killing business -- only to come back at it in a big way since the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has become more like the military, sending soldiers into the dark corners of the world on spying missions. There's been a real blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies.
With the "big wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan either over or winding down, I think that these secret wars have become the default way of doing business. And, only now is the pressure growing for the White House to bring greater transparency to the shadow wars.
TR: What was the biggest surprise to you in reporting and writing the book?
MM: I think that the biggest surprise was how much this type of warfare brings various colorful characters to the forefront. When the United States determined it couldn't send the 101st Airborne into a country, it began to rely on private contractors and other types of individuals to do things like gather intelligence on the ground. I spent a chapter on the private spying network run by Duane Clarridge, a former CIA officer and one of the figures in the Iran-Contra scandal. A Pentagon official hired Clarridge's team to gather intelligence in Pakistan because there was a belief that the CIA wasn't up to the task, but the entire operation ended up in recriminations and a Pentagon investigation. It's stories like this that I really tried to highlight in the book.
TR: Why do you think drones have become so controversial only recently in the United States?
MM: That's a good question. I think that up until recently, at least in Washington, you had both Republicans and Democrats uniformly supporting targeted killings and there was no constituency calling for greater transparency and accountability for these kinds of operations. Since the November election, you have seen Democrats become more vocal in challenging the Obama administration on the use of targeted killings. And, of course, there is Rand Paul's now-famous filibuster that captured concerns among Libertarians about secret government operations.
TR: Which of our three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and "knife") do you think historians ultimately will find the most significant?
MM: This might sound like I'm avoiding giving a direct answer, but all three wars have impacted each other, and so in some ways I think that some historians will look at this entire post-9/11 period as one that fundamentally changed both U.S. foreign policy and how the United States conducts war. Certainly, the Obama administration has relied on these shadow wars because it considers them cheaper, lower risk, and more effective than the big messy wars of occupation like Iraq and Afghanistan. But, so much of the way that an organization like the Joint Special Operations Command does business is a direct result of its work in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They took parts of what they were doing in those countries and brought outside of the "hot" battlefields.
TR: What do you think are the lessons of this third war?
MM: There's no question that the United States has become dramatically better at manhunting than it was on September 11, 2001. There is better fusion of intelligence, and the Pentagon, CIA, and other intelligence agencies are working more closely together. I think, though, that one of the lessons is that secrecy can be very seductive and that it might be too easy for our government to carry out secret warfare without the normal checks and balances required for going to war. As you well know, as much as the Pentagon can be a lumbering bureaucracy, there is a certain benefit of having a good many layers that operations must pass through in order to get approved. When decisions about life and death are made among a small group of people, and in secret, there are inherent risks.
No Pakistani distributor has bought the rights. I imagine that the Taliban and al Qaeda might violently object.
Here is the "lede," or first sentence, of an article from the Pakistani newspaper Dawn:
The father of a Pakistani officer investigating a corruption case against the prime minister has questioned whether his son's death was an act of suicide.
I've long found Paul McHale, a former member of Congress and also a former Pentagon official, a clear thinker. Here he questions the Pentagon's "pivot" to Asia:
"Does it make sense for the United States Army to prepare for a protracted land war against China? . . . Should the Army really be focused on North Korea while paying insufficient attention to Iran? And if a post-2014 civil war in Afghanistan spills over the Durand Line and threatens the stability of Pakistan's government, are there any issues in Myanmar that trump the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by the Taliban?"
More babbling at the UN today.
SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
This is from the odd Wikipedia entry about the guy: "He has complain from pathan youth. He always uses to say that pattan youth does not know about Kalabagh. They should get all the knowledge regarding to this project and should come forward to protest against it. Whenever you pay a visit to his office you will come to know that how tremendously he explains the whole project."
The Pakistani government said he was expressing his own opinion.
Remember the Clash song "I'm So Bored with the USA"? Similarly, over the summer I noticed that I am finding it harder and harder to read about Pakistan, though more out of frustration than boredom. I have no hope for the place. Its elites strike me as fundamentally irresponsible and destructive to their nation.
I know, the same might be said about American economic elites, who over the last three decades have relentlessly grabbed a bigger piece of the economic pie even as inequality increases and our infrastructure crumbles. But I am pretty sure that this situation eventually will be corrected. I sense no such resilience in Pakistan. I am thinking of just stopping paying attention to Pakistan, at least for a year or so.
I wonder what a "Pakistani spring" would look like. Bloody, probably.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on September 20, 2011.
By Tom Lynch
Best Defense department of dysfunctional diplomacy
Recent comments by Senator Kirk from Illinois exemplify a familiar pattern by senior U.S. political, military and diplomatic officials struggling to understand the devilish intricacies and deep challenges of South Asian politics through the constrained access portal of experience in or focus on Afghanistan. This struggle all too frequently takes the pattern of a seven-step process of "discovery learning" regarding the complexities of South Asia security by Americans first introduced to Afghanistan without background in the wider region. That process goes something like this ....
STEP 1 - MEET Afghans, find them engaging, look for the quick way to help them with a "hand up," ignore the vexing, decades-long regional security dilemmas underpinning their plight.
STEP 2 - DISCOVER Afghans suffer from multiple internal and external challenges -- take the (northern) Afghan viewpoint that theirs is all a problem of Pakistan's making.
STEP 3 - BLAME Pakistan for all Afghanistan's ills and despair of American engagement with Pakistan or Afghanistan, throw out the "I" word suggesting that more India in Afghanistan would "teach" Pakistan a lesson (and presumably save some cash).
STEP 4 - DISCOVER Pakistan already believes there is an Indian under every rock in Afghanistan - and that threatening a quicker Coalition departure and greater Indian involvement won't faze Pakistan.... Rawalpindi will move more quickly to bolster its Afghan Taliban allies for a proxy war.
STEP 5 - DETERMINE that India isn't really interested in bailing out the Coalition (or American politicians and diplomats) on western terms, has its own regional objectives and timetables, and isn't much responsive to boisterous American rhetoric accelerating the timelines on a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan. That proxy war may come, but India will work to prolong its onset as long as possible.
STEP 6 - RECOGNIZE that a rapidly-accelerating proxy war between two nuclear-armed nations encouraged by a precipitous withdrawal of US/Coalition forces before some political mechanism in place to limit the possibilities for that war is irresponsible, an approach that is all too similar to America's walk away from Afghanistan and Pakistan back the early 1990s that led to a proxy war in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan before both were fully tested nuclear-armed states.
STEP 7 - RESOLVE either to remain engaged with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India for a lengthy and challenging diplomatic-military process (including some level of non-trivial economic and military aid to both Afghanistan and Pakistan for some time); or, SUCCUMB to the personal frustrations of it all and quit the field, making room for the next nouveau American to start the process at STEP 1.
Tom Lynch is a research fellow for South Asia & Near East at NDU. A retired Army Colonel, he was a special assistant focused on South Asian security for the CENTCOM Commander and later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during 2004-2010. The opinions here are his own.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on May 9, 2011.
I think we need to have a short-term plan that temporarily keeps us close to Pakistan, followed by a much different long-run strategy that cuts us loose from this wreck of a state.
In the short run, our goal should be to collect our winnings. Pakistan screwed up, bigtime. We have them off balance, and the blustering of their officials isn't helping their cause. Over the next several months, we should aim to use this situation to get the terrorists and information we want.
And then get out. In the long run, we should back away from Pakistan. They believe they have us over a barrel, that (as Steve Coll has observed) they are too big to fail. They have nuclear warheads and they stand on our supply route to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. So I think we need to accelerate the troop drawdown in Afghanistan, and move from a large footprint of conventional troops to a smaller footprint of Special Operators and support units conducting counterterror missions. (But note Petraeus' pushback over the weekend: "Targeted military strikes don't produce security on their own.") This reduced force of perhaps 20,000 troops could be supplied by air and through Central Asia. Expensive, yes. But cheaper than giving billions of dollars annually to Pakistan and seeing it spent on its nuclear program and corruption. We also should encourage ties between Afghanistan and Central Asia.
With our military posture in Afghanistan shifted, we then could move to a purely transactional aid plan with Pakistan: "For doing X, you get Y amount of money." No more money for promises, and certainly not $4 billion a year for being a frenemy. In the long run, our interests are much more with India, anyway. If Pakistan wants to retaliate by allying with China -- knock yourselves out, fellas.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 16, 2010.
I am not advocating that we adopt an imperial stance, or even that everything the British did was right or even moral. But I do think we can learn from them, which is why I am dwelling this week on Roe's fine book on the British experience in Waziristan.
For example, in 1947, the new Pakistani government invited the former British governor of the North-West Frontier, Sir George Cunningham, to come out of retirement and administer the province, because he was seen as an honest broker. That might be the end-game we should aim for in Iraq, where the American officials eventually subordinate themselves to the Baghdad government and even are seconded to work for it.
That's my lesson, not Roe's. Here are some of his. You'll find more on almost every page:
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 11, 2010.
The British learned early on the price of underestimating their foe, who rarely allowed a tactical error to go unpunished, writes Andrew Roe in his very useful book, Waging War in Waziristan.
In one major triumph, in 1901, tribesman took over a British outpost. "The success of this attack," Roe states, "was in part due to a number of tribesmen disguised as shepherds who for a number of weeks prior to the attack observed carefully the habits and weaknesses of the garrison."
Think that IEDs are new somehow? In April 1938, "50 home-made bombs were laid on roads and railway lines," and even on military parade grounds.
Another interesting fact: Historically, Waziri villages have been located near cave complexes, in part because in winter the caves are warmer than their houses. (Tom: I remember being in a cave in Germany Valley, West Virginia, where American Indian tribes had done the same -- 55 degrees inside with a fire for light and warmth sure beat zero and windy in the mountains outside.) I also didn't know that the area was far more forested in the 19th century, but that a lot of trees were cut down, leading to erosion, loss of topsoil, and a drier climate -- not unlike today's Haiti.
I was also intrigued by an observation Roe mined about the personality difference between the two major tribes in Waziristan: "The Wazirs had been compared to a leopard, a loner, cunning and dangerous; the Mahsud to a wolf, most to be feared in a pack, with a pack mentality, single-mindedness, and persistence." (One of the benefits of this book is that he quotes memoirs and studies liberally.)
The best way to reach out to the tribes was through medical aid, especially to reach the fencesitters in the middle. When one tribe requested a female doctor, they remarked that she didn't need to bring instruments or drugs, as they still had the ones they had stolen in 1919.
But generally I found the book more illuminating about the British than about the tribes.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 15, 2010.
To my surprise, Roe in his book on Waziristan notes that the British in the 1930s had their own debate, similar to the one inside our military now, about whether they were too focused on small wars. As one officer wrote in 1932,
Surely no one wants an army trained on North-West Frontier lines only... Any tendency towards specialization for mountain warfare operations on the North-West Frontier must be resisted. These are a very small part of the Army's possible commitments, and specialization means a waste of part of our already very small army.
That officer was right, of course. On the other hand, in support of those who say that counterinsurgency is more difficult than conventional warfare is the testimony of an officer who fought in Gallipoli and France during World War I and then against Pashtuns in Waziristan: "I soon came to the conclusion that commanding a Company in Waziristan was far more difficult than commanding a Battalion in France."
As for the need for adaptive forces, emphasized so often lately, how pertinent is this observation? "How good or bad these regiments were on the frontier depended on one thing, and that was how ready they were to learn."
Roe also concludes that the best policy is a hands-off one, with military forces held in reserve, and the tribes essentially left to themselves, as long as they don't cause trouble. "The majority of tribal territory was left largely untouched."
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 10, 2010
At the center of British operations in Waziristan was not the military commander but the political officer, writes Andrew Roe in his useful study Waging War in Waziristan. As best as I can make out, we really don't have a parallel position -- the "political advisors" that senior generals have in the Army are nothing like it.
The British political officer frequently was someone of military background, holding a rank, but not in the military chain of command, and with his own small forces to use on a daily basis. When things fell apart, he would call in the army, and the military commander would take over. But most of the time, says Roe, he was "the central player around whom the entire local administration revolved."
One agent, Capt. Jack "Lotus" Lewis, was not only fluent in Pushtu, he was fluent in its local tribal dialects, Mahsud and Wazir. This appears to have been more the rule than the exception. The Indian Political Service was a popular destination for young Britons seeking excitement, and it could pick and choose from applicants. Those going to the frontier had to pass the Higher Standard Pushtu examination, and "mastery of tribal dialects was a matter of pride." Military commanders came and went, but the political officers stayed for several years -- and the tribes gave them their allegiance as individuals, Roe says.
Describing one successful political officer, Roe writes that he employed
steady and unfaltering conciliation, combined with personal interaction. It was reinforced with a range of tribal subsidies for undertaking militia duty.
There always was friction between political officers and military commanders, Roe notes, especially because the politicals would put limits on operations, or order them to stop altogether. Also, the better a political was at his job, the less he tended to be noticed. "[S]uccessful tribal management could consign the officer concerned to political oblivion," Roe notes. By contrast, combat operations led to medals and recognition.
His account of their role makes me wonder if we need to put political officers on multi-year tours in Afghanistan. I bet Capt. Matt Pottinger would volunteer.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on February 12, 2010
We bring Kilcullenpalooza to an end with his observations on a few ways of judging the performance of your local Taliban unit. Significantly, only near the end of the essay does he focus on the enemy. You listening, S-2s of the world?
So here are some ways to know your enemy:
That's it. Again, I think this is a terrific paper, one of the most insightful things I've read lately, and one of Kilcullen's best essays. I think it is most significant for the order of its recommendations. It tells you what not to track, and then emphasizes measuring the people, the government, the security forces -- and, lastly, the enemy. It is signed, "David Kilcullen/ Kabul, December 2009."
QAZI RAUF/AFP/Getty Images
Just when you think Pakistan couldn't make a stupider move, it does. Dissing Obama in his hometown was a dumbass play. Oddly, no American president probably had more initial sympathy for Pakistan, which Obama visited as a student. (He had Pakistani roommates at college, he said, and learned to cook Pakistani dishes from them.) Yet it looks like the Pakistani government has managed to piss him off.
Yesterday he pointedly left Pakistan out of the countries he thanked for help in Afghanistan: "I want to welcome the presence of President Karzai, as well as officials from central Asia and Russia -- nations that have an important perspective and that continue to provide critical transit for ISAF supplies."
Longtime grasshoppers know I am a big fan of the commentary of David Ignatius. So, no surprise, I think he is right in his comments on how Pakistan has blown it over the last decade:
Pakistan is losing the best chance in its history to gain political control over all of its territory -- including the warlike tribal areas along the frontier.
Pakistan has squandered the opportunity presented by having a large U.S.-led army just over the border in Afghanistan. Rather than work with the United States to stabilize a lawless sanctuary full of warlords and terrorists, the Pakistanis decided to play games with these outlaw groups. As a result, Pakistan and its neighbors will be less secure, probably for decades. . . . The Pakistanis lost a chance over the past decade to build and secure their country. It won't come back again in this form. That's a small problem for the United States and its allies, but a big problem for Pakistan.
"I think it's an intelligence failure from all over the world," Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani told a London newspaper.
But -- it happened in your backyard, dude. Not in Argentina's nor indeed in ours.
By LTC Kevin D. Stringer, Ph.D., USAR
Best Defense guest book reviewer
Robert Cassidy's War, Will and Warlords, (PDF will soon be made available for free), a study of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a must read for all scholars, policymakers, diplomats, and military practitioners seeking to understand the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus. Cassidy provides a number of salient points concerning uneven U.S. involvement in the region, the contradictions of Pakistan, and the counterinsurgency (COIN) approaches implemented on both sides of the porous region between the two states.
For the United States, Cassidy offers insights into how short-term and ill-advised American policies -- the support of the mujahedeen and Pakistani President Zia to name just two -- created the conditions that spawned Al-Qaeda and provided the Taliban on both sides of the Pashtun frontier a popular support base. Cassidy further demonstrates how U.S. financial aid underwrites Pakistan's military expenditures against India, which destabilizes the entire region.
Concerning Pakistan, the author explores its security policies, and how they contradict American strategy. Pakistan is Janus -- one "face" grudgingly supporting the United States with the Pakistani Army conducting operations against the Taliban on its side of the border, while the Pakistani intelligence service "face" promotes and supports the Afghan Taliban as a proxy against the Karzai government and India on the other side.
In his discussion of counterinsurgency, Cassidy illustrates that both the American and Pakistani militaries struggle in these operations because of embedded institutional and structural propensities for conventional war. For legitimacy, the insurgents challenge the Afghan and Pakistani administrations in the outlying tribal regions given low governmental presence and high levels of endemic corruption. For this theme, I would have liked to see the author engage in a more detailed critique of the quality of Afghan forces being trained by the United States for pacification efforts -- are they "shake and bake" or competent troops? Similarly, Cassidy's sober assessment of the capacity building projects executed to date would have added greater insight to campaign progress. These omissions left me with an uneasy feeling that Coalition and Afghan government efforts may not be as positive as described in the text.
The book is well-researched, and the author's soldier-scholar credentials are impeccable. Colonel Cassidy is a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College with both scholarship and experience in irregular warfare and stability operations. With a PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, he has served as a special assistant to two general officers, a special operations strategist, and published two previous books, one on peacekeeping and the other on counterinsurgency.
My one major concern with the book is the chosen publisher, the Marine Corps University Press, whose marketing capacities may limit its wider dissemination. This book definitely deserves a broad readership given its relevance to U.S. policy-making in the region and future military campaigns.
Kevin D. Stringer, PhD, is an associate professor at Webster University, Geneva campus, and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Wild boars are roaming the streets of Islamabad at night, and have even snuck onto the grounds of the presidential palace.
"The pig was like a terrorist. We shot him down," said station chief Fayaz Tanooli. "I have told the guards if another pig gets in then they will be dismissed." Alternatively, the chief could huff and puff and bloooooow their house down!
In Tuscany, the locals would stew that boar for hours with garlic, tomatoes, chili peppers, red wine, cloves, and fresh oregano, and then serve it tossed with papparadelle. But then, the Italians probably better than anyone else know how to appreciate life.
Since the 1950s every political crisis Pakistan has faced has been a result of civilians trying to wrest power and control from the military. This crisis is no different except for one important aspect - the military has no intention of seizing power. Instead it has allied with the Supreme Court in an attempt to get rid of a government that is widely perceived to be corrupt and irresponsible.
But in an era when hope of democracy is spreading through the Arab Muslim world and powerful armies in countries such as Thailand and Turkey have learnt to live under civilian control, Pakistan is an ongoing tragedy. Its military refuses to give up power, its huge stake in the economy and its privileges, while its politicians refuse to govern wisely or honestly and decline to carry out basic economic reforms such as taxing themselves.
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
The PM fired the defense minister, a former general, earlier today. The charges: "gross misconduct and illegal action which created misunderstanding."
Let's see how long the PM lasts.
Recently the def min stated publicly that the civilian government does not control Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the Icy Eye.
Franck Prevel/Getty Images
Best Defense guest columnist
A few years ago, two friends took me out for a boat ride in the waters off Karachi. We worked our way around a coastal peninsula, all of which was controlled by a single real estate developer. That developer was the Pakistani army.
A row of McMansions lined the water. Several upscale apartment towers clustered together, near a club that advertised "six-star" facilities, and a golf course equipped with stadium lights so that players could avoid the heat of the day and play in the evening in the ocean breeze. And most of the land was still awaiting development.
This stretch of prime real estate, roughly the size of midtown Manhattan, was just one of many sections of property throughout the city to be developed by the local Defence Housing Authority. It's so closely linked with the army that the commander of V Corps, which is headquartered in Karachi, is also the president of the housing authority. This would be the rough equivalent of, say, placing the current commander of the U.S. Army troops at Fort Hood, Texas in charge of downtown development in Houston.
That peninsula illustrates the way that Pakistan's army has taken many of the country's prime economic opportunities for itself. Military involvement in economic activity started in understandable ways -- for example, soldiers had a chance to obtain plots of land upon retirement, following a practice with precedents back to ancient Roman times -- but has grown until the military operates factories and construction companies as well as developing real estate in partnership with multinational corporations. When the army, in the face of protests, allowed free elections and surrendered control of the president's office in 2008, it held onto its economic power, just as it maintained its grip on foreign policy.
The military has, in other words, kept many privileges that it would be unlikely to have in a fully democratic state. And when I try to understand the disturbing news from Pakistan in recent months, the army's privileges come to mind.
The army, one of the world's largest with well over half a million troops, maintains its pre-eminence less through violence than through public opinion. It remains the nation's most trusted institution, and also influences a great deal of the media coverage that Pakistanis consume. But this past spring, after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the army's prestige was tarnished. The army faced rare public criticism -- if not for somehow allowing bin Laden to hide near a military academy, then at least for allowing U.S. Navy Seals to fly in and out undetected. Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who was the army's darling long ago, repeatedly criticized the army and demanded inquiries. Some of the pressure even came from within the army itself: Najam Sethi, a distinguished Pakistani journalist, spoke of unrest among junior army officers.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
By Ahmed Humayun
Best Defense guest reviewer
America's decade-long war in South Asia has prompted a spate of books that purport to explain how Pakistan really works. Though everyone agrees that insurgent-infested and nuclear-armed Pakistan is tremendously important to U.S. interests, few have been able to unravel the country's byzantine complexity. In the excellent Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, Steve Inskeep sidesteps the machinations of Pakistan's national politics, the grinding geopolitical competition in Afghanistan, and the apocalyptic scenarios of terrorists seizing nuclear weapons, and focuses instead on scrupulously narrating the everyday stories of the beleaguered citizens who inhabit Pakistan's most important city. This ostensibly narrow approach ends up illuminating a vast landscape, showing how decaying institutions have constrained Pakistani aspirations in tragic and tortuous ways.
According to Inskeep, an "instant city" is characterized by above average population growth relative to the rest of the country, often due to mass migration induced by severe political and economic unrest. Pakistan's partition from India in 1947 produced millions of desperate refugees on both sides of the bloody border; as a result, Karachi's population doubled overnight. Pakistan's largest city and a financial and industrial hub, Karachi still lures migrants in search of economic opportunities from all across the country. The unremitting influx has overwhelmed an inadequately resourced government's ability to provide basic services. The yawning gap between what people need and what the state can deliver, exacerbated by deep ethnic and sectarian cleavages, has spawned crime and corruption and violence. Karachi is a sprawling urban mess that cannot be cleaned up by a municipal authority which is hapless when it is not perfidious.
Nonetheless, desperate people keep streaming in and the city totters forward. Inskeep is best when delineating the tactics Karachites use to forge ahead in the face of improbable odds. The katchi abadis -- so-called 'temporary settlements' comprised of shacks made of mud and timber -- are technically illegal because they are created by people simply squatting on vacant land; in reality they house as many as half of the city's population. Bereft of amenities such as water and energy, residents devise expedient workarounds -- for example, by planting hooks on main electrical lines, siphoning off power, and bribing the police to look the other way. Over time, the process of illegal settlement has become regularized: profiteering land developers -- who include the local government, political parties, and the police -- have gained control over vast swathes of real estate which they rent out to individual residents and communities. As Karachi's titular government flails, an alternative form of government -- predatory but characterized by certain informal rules -- has sprung up.
A good beat, too. I was especially struck by the mocking sign claiming that "This video is sponsored by Zionists." In your face, ace.
I only understood a fraction of the references (like kojaks flying kites?), but an article in Dawn makes it clear this is nervy stuff for a bunch of kids in Lahore to put out. "Here was a bunch of raw, early twenty-somethings poking fun at the military chief," notes Dawn with some astonishment. There is indeed a shoutout to a certain Pakistan general. Btw, the band's Punjabi name means "the Dishonour Brigade."
The song also name drops Blackwater in an interesting way, implying (according to the article) that Pakistanis should stop blaming that company and instead look at internal sources of violence.
Meanwhile, here is a solid interview about the future of Pakistan and Afghanistan with the finely named Vanda Felbab-Brown. She speaks much truth.
I wonder which step Mullen is on?
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Pakistan's intelligence agency was in the background of the recent attack on our embassy, as well as a bunch of other assaults. But he seems happy to keep on chatting with them.
He also said a bunch of other stuff, like about where the fight is. My interpretation is that we have moved to a strictly transactional relationship. We will continue to deal with them but will call them out on occasion.
Just treat this as a guest column.
With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy. We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28th attack on the Inter- Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.
In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet. By exporting violence, they've eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being. Only a decision to break with this policy can pave the road to a positive future for Pakistan.
... As you know, I've expended enormous energy on this relationship. I've met with General Kayani more than two dozen times, including a two and a half hour meeting last weekend in Spain ... Some may argue I've wasted my time, that Pakistan is no closer to us than before, and may now have drifted even further away. I disagree. Military cooperation again is warming. Information flow between us and across the border is quickening. Transparent -- transparency is returning slowly.
... I actually believe that the ISI has got to fundamentally shift its strategic focus. They're -- they are the ones who implement as -- I would argue as a part of government policy the support of extremists. It's not just Haqqani because we've also had our challenges with LET, which is an organization they put in place. So in many ways, it's the proxy piece here. The support of terrorism is part of their national strategy to protect their own vital interests because of where they live. And that's got to fundamentally shift.
... it's very clear the toughest fight is going to be in the east, and the Haqqani network is embedded in Pakistan essentially across from hosts Paktia and Paktika, which, as General Petraeus said, is sort of the "jet stream to Kabul." And they want to own that. That's really their goal ... So I think the risk there is very high. Over the course of the next couple of years I think the biggest fight is going to be in the east, enabled certainly by us, but also Afghan security forces and coalition forces, more than anyplace else. The south I'm not going to say is not problematic, but we're in a much better place in Kandahar and Helmand than we were a couple years ago. It's going to be the east, I think, that in the end answers this from a security standpoint. And Haqqani is at the heart of that.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan's defense minister utterly rejects American allegations that his government is playing footsie with the Haqqani network. If the U.S. government has such information, it should pass it on, he says with some indignation.
Meanwhile, a little grasshopper/ant writes to ask if there is anything he can read to understand why Pakistan feels so threatened by India. "i'm a naive westerner and can't figure out why pakistan anticipates that india would want to invade - what does it have of value that india might wish to dispossess it of ? i understand the rudiments of the kashmir conflict and a disputed border, but i'm having trouble extrapolating that to existential threat levels."
Anyone got a good suggestion?
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.