INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

November 26, 2008

The Taliban and Our National Interest!

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:26 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Afghanistan does not have any economic base to survive

By HP

The Pakistan government on many occasions has stated that it would talk to the extremists only after they lay down their arms. After a long in-camera presentation, debate, and arguments in the Parliament, it seems that the Pakistan government intends to take a firm line against the extremists in FATA.

However, the PPP government has still not been able to convince a good number of politicians, intellectuals, and general public that a strong action in FATA is the best way to go.

A healthy but emotions packed debate of the Law Makers in the parliament as well as the Opinion Makers in the media is a tremendously welcome sign for the democracy. Pakistan has been trying to shed the stigma of secretive closed door decisions of a few, for the last many years. This debate would enormously help build confidence in democracy. The patience shown by the ruling party on this issue is commendable and the extensive input of the Pakistanis at home or abroad through the media has given people a strong sense of participation in the national affairs.

There is an elementary principle of reasoning: it’s known as making distinctions. The Government is facing a rough and highly charged resistance on this issue because the ruling party has not been able to frame the issue in the right context. Majority of Pakistanis absolutely would not connect with the global war on terror and the trepidations are not unreasonable. The issue really is not whether this is Pakistan’s war or it is being forced on Pakistan. The subject of the discussion should be: what our national interests’ demand? As long as the government persists with framing the issue in the context of the global war on terror, the issue would remain divisive. People all over the world are distancing from the GWOT. The current US administration’s abuse of the term GWOT has made it synonymous with the cultural war against the Muslims. The repeated mention of the clash of civilization, the crude invocation of the crusades, calling Iraqi resistance–terrorism, and the hounding and bullying of the Muslims in the Western media over the last seven years has toughened resistance to the idea of participating in a cause that is so heavily tied with the US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decline of U.S. credibility is hampering the progress on the FATA issue in Pakistan.

The government would have a hard time overcoming both emotional or realist objections, unless it is able to effectively demonstrate to the people that there are many distinctions between the situation in FATA and some other places.

Making this case is not all that hard. The Pakistanis have learned many things over the last several years. They have seen the humiliations of the nation, they have seen the falling opinions about Pakistan throughout the world and they are now more conscious of the enormous mistakes made in the past. The previous regime and the way it operated have given people a strong sense of right and wrong. The reaction to the dismissal of the Chief Justice finally proved once and for all that Pakistanis are looking for justice and are ready to stand up for the truth. While the PPP government vacillated on the Chief Justice issue, transparency on FATA is vital. Rationalizing and leveling with the people are the keys to garner support.

There is no ambiguity now about the fact that the Pakistani decision to interfere in Afghanistan after the leftists’ takeover in 1978 deeply impacted subsequent events in the area. The ideology and the influx of the refugees in Pakistan were the prime reasons. However, what aced all other reasons was the doctrine of Strategic Depth. The doctrine placed against the ground realities in Pakistan, appears to have more holes than Swiss cheese. A good faith discussion on the doctrine would benefit the people. An unconfirmed availability of fissionable material in Afghanistan might also be a factor in the decision. The implausible shortsightedness at the top in 1978 to a great deal hurt Pakistani national interests. A course correction was needed after the Soviets left Afghanistan but the involvement intensified even further. However, there is more in the history then just the Pakistani mistakes.

Afghanistan never in the history had and still does not have any economic base to survive on its own. As long as the Achaemenids and the Greeks controlled large areas, the Ghaznavids, the Ghorids, and the Durranis kept on plundering and conquering the neighboring territories, the current Afghanistan survived economically and was relatively peaceful.

From the Mid 19th century on, the Afghan State was kept afloat by the British subsidies.

When the Indian independence struggle intensified, Afghanistan stepped up efforts to reclaim NWFP, FATA and parts of Balochistan lost to the Sikhs and the British in the 19th century principally for the economic survival. The relatively well off, fertile, and arable NWFP offered a hope to replace the British subsidies for the economic survival of the Afghan state. Afghanistan actively supported Faqir Ipi in FATA and political groups in both NWFP and Balochistan to position itself favorably with the Pushtoons. The persistent refusal by the successive afghan governments to accept Durand Line as the permanent borders should be looked at in the right background. Ignore these facts at your own peril. Analysts would fail to highlight Pakistan’s national interests, if they do not account for these realities.

In the recent history, the drought and the famine in 1972-73 brought King Zahir Shah down. The drought in 1997-2001 forced the Taliban to ignore the poppy crop and when they tried to control it, they lost support–one of the main reasons of fast retreat in 2001.

The dwindling support of Karzai and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan now are directly related with the international pressure to curtail the poppy crop. The poppy crop is a major source of reliable income for the Afghanistan peasantry. Any afghan government that would attempt to curtail that would lose support instantly.

The constant changes in the strategies, the rivalries between the players in the Capital, and the domestic politics exigencies make the US policies in Afghanistan perceptibly overweening. However, a deep analysis would reveal and reinforce the American Vertigo scenarios. Still, the elephant in the room has to be accounted for. US may be weary of fighting in Afghanistan but it would continue to maintain its presence in the area by forging new alliances with different groups. Its new ally could very well be some breakaway Taliban group.

The continued insurgency in FATA, now extended to parts of NWFP creates conditions that would allow some groups to strengthen their positions for a future unification of the Pushtoon speaking areas. With NWFP and FATA joining in, the chances of economic viability of any such area would increase manifold. That is where the Taliban role in the area is of prime concern.

FATA has been in a state of semi-war for the last thirty years. Especially the last seven years of intense war like conditions in the area have contributed to the collapse the traditional cultural, tribal, and familial relations. The tribal areas lack any infrastructure for remedies. Residents have abandoned their fields; number of jobless is on the rise. Many villages have already been abandoned by its residents; some residents are in the process of moving from the vulnerable areas. The increasing numbers of jobless youth provide perfect environments for the Taliban recruitment. This is a replica of South American guerrilla movements where uneducated and unemployed youth from the countryside joined the insurgencies for obscure reasons they did not understand. The Taliban make the religious pitch; provide opportunities to youth to assert power, and promise financial rewards to help out the already strapped parents, brothers and sisters. In a collapsing social structure militants’ numbers swell up fast.

The Pakistani Taliban is not an ideological but an opportunistic anarchic group. Unlike the afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban do not have a country to fight for nor do they have deep ideological roots and a history of struggle to qualify as legitimate holy warriors. The farrago of Sharia is just a cover to step up recruitment to create anarchy in FATA and NWFP. The FATA is already conservative and deeply religious. The Taliban Sharia just means removal of all schools and entertainment outlets in favor of Madrassah and Jihad.

The Taliban like groups can be easily manipulated by many interested parties. The most likely manipulators could be the Afghan Taliban and some foreign groups. They encourage insurgency in Pakistan to loosen the state structure by spreading lawlessness. With the anarchy spreading to the settled areas, state would lose the apparatus to maintain the physical integrity of the country. The Taliban appears to be a classical separatist group!

With international forces on Pakistani borders, Pakistan needs to manage the area to safeguard its legitimate borders. The Taliban has become a vehicle for the disruptive forces that intend to break up the country. How is it not in our National Interest to deal with the Taliban effectively?

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10 Comments »

  1. Nazar Hayat Khan Said,
    We are stuck with Islam & cannot do anything about it.

    We are also stuck with Afghanistan & cannot do anything about it.

    That leaves the Talibans & the Americans.

    The Americans are, hopefully, now a dwindling power. And cannot AFFORD financially to stay for long in Afghanistan.

    Therefor, the best of the worst choices is to join the Americans & try to eliminate or weaken the pest called Taliban.

    But unfortunately, a sizable portion of Pakistanis support the Taliban – living upto to their historical role of inviting and/or supporting all invaders from the North West.

    If Kyber is lost, India should get the Panipat cleaned & cleared for the main Battle.

    regards

    NHK

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:32 am

  2. Romair said,
    i wonder if indians have realized that pakistan is not only fighting the battle of its own stability, but that of india’s stability also….

    ….if taliban or some version of them, sweeps through nwfp and punjab, i doubt it will stop in lahore…..it will sweep, downwards, towards india…..

    unlike before, it will not be able to conquer india (it cannot conquer pakistan either), however, it will destablize it so hugely (specially so, with india’s multi-religious demographics) that the complete region will be up in flames…..

    interestingly chaudhry rehmat ali wrote the following in his now or never text:

    “This Muslim Federation of North-West. India would provide the bulwark of a buffer state against invasion of India either of ideas or of arms from any quarter

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:33 am

  3. HP wrote,

    “the worst choices is to join the Americans & try to eliminate or weaken the pest called Taliban.”

    This choice has already been made. The problem is that we are not acting on it. The Pak army should have been active a long time ago but now when the Taliban numbers have swelled, the army is scared. The army expects a breakdown in ranks; it may be bad for the army but is good for the country. Pak army will never eliminate the Talibans because they are the internal enemy the army needs to maintain grip on the power, now that Kashmir issue has lost its security value for Pakistanis.
    More than that, please think about this: why the Pakistan Taliban and their actions get prominence in the International media? The Afghan Talibans are certainly more active and the US needs not drones, but the regular air force to attack them every day. Watch some action here and see what kind of war we are talking about.
    http://www.vbs.tv/shows.php?show=1830065032

    “a sizable portion of Pakistanis support the Taliban – living upto to their historical role of inviting and/or supporting all invaders from the North West.
    If Kyber is lost, India should get the Panipat cleaned & cleared for the main Battle.”

    I have done some research on it and I will be writing on this soon. The only way the NW invaders can go to Panipat is when they have a unified command like in the Durrani era. Guerilla groups cannot have this long a reach. Otoh, Indian interests are with a continued insurgency in FATA

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:35 am

  4. Agha Amin,
    the historical reasons for the whole malaise have been ignored in the article.

    the muslim elite right from 1858 used religion to further their own class interests fooling the common man in name of islam.the high point of this was the afghan war when the illegitimate military regime used afghan war to get US Dollars.

    the analysis ignores the fact that US aim is to use the pakistani mercenary army ,because it is far cheaper than US forces and the fact that US forces and NATO have miserably failed to achieve any of their military or political objectives in afghanistan.

    the analysis ignores the fact that pakistans parliament lacks the moral authority to enforce its writ because most of its members are manipulated by the intelligence agencies.

    the analysis ignores the fact that the pakistani military has consistently failed in pacifying the ongoing low intensity war.

    the analysis ignores the fact that the policy of aerial bombardments of tribal areas and swat has been convincingly counterproductive.

    the analysis ignores the fact that afghanistan however unproductive and economically weak has asias largest proven oil and gas reserves ( refers BP reports which are available) vast copper deposits etc and has great potential for development.

    the analysis ignores the fact that Russia and India and even Iran are permanent allies of all forces of relative moderation notably Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and just USA and its NATO lackeys are not the main players.

    the analysis ignores the fact that once US/NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan the militants in tribal areas will lose all moral authority to fight against the state.

    the central issue is that the NATO and USA need to withdraw from Afghanistan retaining some key bases in Bagram etc.Once that happens the situation will be pacified.After all the Pakistani forces are being pressurised to attack because the US forces are under attack from militants with bases in NWFP/Balochistan.

    On the whole HP its a good analysis but it has vulnerable flanks

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:38 am

  5. Agha,
    the analysis ignores the fact that pakistans parliament lacks the moral authority to enforce its writ because most of its members are manipulated by the intelligence agencies.the whole present political set up is a combined test tube baby of US State Department ,tinpot Musharraf and the Pakistani intelligence agencies in the final summing up.This political change in Pakistan occurred because the Pakistan establishment is ready to sleep with the devil and to sacrifice its own children at the altar of power.How on earth can it ever have the moral authority to enforce anything.In an year there will be a transition to pure military rule in Pakistan with civilian rubber stamps and Pakistan will follow the Algerian model and later the Somalia model.The whole process may take ten to fifteen years but we can see the writing on the wall.

    As an ex army officer my gravest apprehension is that the Pakistani army may crack internally if constantly engaged in war against the Islamists.Now that would be the gravest threat for USA ! Now the billio dollar question is if the USA wants that ! So that it can use this as an excuse to denuclearise Pakistan ! Any suc exercise would be a threat to world peace ! The USA needs to withdraw from Afghanistan immdiately.That would save USA the bad name and preserve Pakistans mercenary army,the best guarantee for US interests in the region ! The solution lies in withdrawal,demilitarisation and de escalation !

    The Pakistani army (although I dont really admire it) is the best guarantee of peace in the region ! It is the army that is holdin Pakistan i one piece !

    All including USA ,India,China,Russia,the whole world would lose if Pakistans army is weakened and loses its military virtue ! Even the Indians dont want disintegration of Pakistan ! Their main appregension are the Pakistani nukes !

    Remember what happened to Iraq after USA’s Quixotic attack.The main difference is that Iraq did not have nukes ! The Pakistani nukes have the potential of being remembered as more notorious than the US nukes that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki ! The USA needs to reflect !

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:39 am

  6. HP,
    My article was about the current situation and specifically what is in Pakistan’s interests. I can understand from your misguided ultra Pashtoon pov that my analysis presents some contrary ideas. However, if I were to start from “the muslim elite right from 1858”, I would have to write a book, this piddly under 2000 words article clearly would not cover more than 150 years of history. My reference to the old history was to show the economic base that is required to keep a country afloat, does not exist. So the future of Afghanistan is and will remain on either the plunder or massive dole outs from other countries.

    “US aim is to use the pakistani mercenary army ,because it is far cheaper than US forces and the fact that US forces and NATO have miserably failed to achieve any of their military or political objectives in afghanistan.”

    I don’t know, I had asked this question before but I have never gotten any answer: What are the US military and political objectives in Afghanistan? We need to determine that first.

    The stated goal is to clear that area with Alquaeda and arrest or kill its leadership especially OBL and Alzawahri. If you agree with these goals, then as a former army strategic thinker, you will agree with me that the large armies cannot achieve these goals. Finding the two is basically an intelligence job. The Pakistan army will not find them because there is no incentive for the Pak army to do that. The US army cannot enter Pakistan in thousands and millions because the US or NATO would be fighting the wars on several fronts including in the international media and the public opinion. After the Iraq fiasco, no US admin would risk that. So the game is to wear everyone out. Just keep enough forces, just enough fight to hang on the whole thing until someone’s will is broken. Now the Taliban and the Aquaeda would love to see the US will broken first..

    “the fact that pakistans parliament lacks the moral authority to enforce its writ because most of its members are manipulated by the intelligence agencies.”

    The Pak parliament has nothing to do with this. We all know it is not a factor. We need to see where the Pak army stands on this. The army is the primary US collaborator. The civilians have been brought in to save the army face so they are dependent on the army and they have no way of ordering the Pak army or the US in any direction. I thought we all know this then why it needs to be repeated in every analysis?

    “the pakistani military has consistently failed in pacifying the ongoing low intensity war.”

    Which army has succeeded in that goal recently? The US army, the Indian army, the Russian army and name any other army and they have all struggled with that.

    “the fact that the policy of aerial bombardments of tribal areas and swat has been convincingly counterproductive.”

    No, it is not counterproductive. You have to prove that. Just an empty assertion would not help.

    Using the aerial raids is an important part of fighting the Guerrilla forces. Pakistan needs Helicopter gunships to inflict more loses at a closer range. When you fight the Guerrillas entrenched in civilians populations, you have no choice but to force the people to leave the area so the Guerrillas are unprotected. SO it does cause some discomfort but opens up the criminals for further ground action.

    “the fact that afghanistan however unproductive and economically weak has asias largest proven oil and gas reserves ( refers BP reports which are available) vast copper deposits etc and has great potential for development.”

    Are you kidding me or believe in fairy tales? Afghanistan only has some copper around the Kandahar area. Not enough to sustain the country. There is no oil or Gas in Afghanistan I would really love to see the BP study. The Russians drilled but couldn’t find anything. There was a talk about the Pipeline through Afghanistan but that is not Oil from Afghanistan.

    “Once US/NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan the militants in tribal areas will lose all moral authority to fight against the state.”

    Not true. The history suggests that either you beat the guerrilla forces or get beaten down by them. As soon as the US leaves; the Taliban will go for the jugular in Pakistan. We can’t let that happen.

    “After all the Pakistani forces are being pressurised to attack because the US forces are under attack from militants with bases in NWFP/Balochistan.”

    That is true and that is point of the article. It is in Pakistan’s national interest to beat them out of Pakistani areas.

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:41 am

  7. I will consistently maintain that this so called WOT has run out of the control of both USA and Pakistan mainly because both are not sincere to each other. By the day, people see the present political regime as a US progeny created over the security compulsions of Pakistan and the pyre of Benazir. In Punjab and Sindh, the hate against the Government and the army is growing. From here on, I adopt the same line as Nazar Hayat Khan.

    Comment by sharafs — November 26, 2008 @ 4:49 am

  8. so how long will this regime last i pakistan and what is your assessment of General Kiani…you are as non committal as ever and are not boldly analysing this aspect….i was expecting more forthrightness and solid assessments and judgements from you….for Gods sake you should set aside your fears and be bold and blunt in your assessments in your od age at least

    Comment by Agha — November 28, 2008 @ 10:56 am

  9. Having been put into the box, Pakistan after this Bombay incident could be forced into the corner of the box.
    If Kiani and Co comply further, we head for a Place de la Bastille.

    Comment by sharafs — November 28, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

  10. I agree with you Sharaf and I mentioned that the US has no control over it. The reference to American Vertigo was about that. (see the last few paras). Benazir was expected to be the stop gap arrangement. She would have lasted longer because she at least had some political bones in her body. Zaradri has no vision he is just a his master’s voice. I am working on the second part of this article and will notify you as soon as it is ready.
    Please also check my blog http://pakghq.wordpress.com/

    Comment by HP — November 29, 2008 @ 2:46 pm


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