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Direckshun
03-22-2009, 10:55 PM
I know ChiefsPlanet generally doesn't give a shit about Pakistan or Afghanistan, even considering the fact that these two countries will likely determine the public's perception of the success of Obama's foreign policy.

But some serious shit went down over the past few weeks and there was not nearly one peep in this forum about it. This shit was discussed everywhere from the NYT to the Economist to the Nation to the Baltimore freakin' Sun.

Here's how I understand the crisis, let me know what your thoughts are.

Pakistan's controversial and largely secular president Asif Ali Zardari, widower to Benzir Bhutto (hottest woman evar), just took another step to turn an already fragile nation against him, sparking popular revolt. He basically decided that he hated the Chief Justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court so much, he'd single-handedly remove him from the bench.

Outraged at this act of tyranny, the entire country rallied against him. The good news is that this was done popularly, sparking a populist revolt that makes our AIG outrage look downright mousey. They took to the streets, and after several humongous demonstrations and countless arrests and, let us not forget, endless coaxing from Hillary Clinton and the State Department, Zardari decided to reinstate the Chief Justice, a guy named Iftikhar Muhammad Chaundhry. The good news continues: Chaundhry was removed by Zardari so that Zardari could claim amnesty of his corruption charges. Reinstating Zardari constricts Zardari's own power. So this is literally a nation keeping a potential tyrant in check.

Applause.

The bad news here is that the rally was largely led by Nawaz Sharif, a politician who is now viewed as the nation's preeminent political authority and the sure ascendant to Zardari's power whenever he's ousted, peacefully or otherwise. Sharif is not necessarily a crazy hardliner, but he is far less secular than Zardari, and like Zardari has an extensive history of corruption. It's possible that Sharif could take the low (and easy) road and simply turn himself into an Islamist candidate, swearing to push Pakistani law deep into the Koran and make the country more susceptible to extremists.

Speaking of extremists, Pakistan's democracy faces a violent threat as well. The Taliban that control Waziristan now control territory that is an hour's drive to Islamabad. Sharia law inevitably follows them. Extremist pockets are popping up from place to place, creating a pseudoinsurgency that threatens to further destabilize a country that's facing a Talibani threat. If these disturbing trends continue, with Osama bin Laden safely ensconsed in the north, we could be looking at Afghanistan With Nukes.

It's difficult to say what to think of Pakistan. The pro-democracy will of its people is encouraging, but a weakened President, a popular opposition leader tied to both Islamicism and corruption, and a violent threat at bay, makes this country an incredibly nerve-wrecking situation.

patteeu
03-23-2009, 09:27 AM
What do you want us to say? Things are shitty in Pakistan. In hindsight, Musharraf and his military power base sure look good by comparison.

One thing I do know is that it's a bad time to have a president who's in over his head.

Direckshun
03-23-2009, 03:20 PM
Didn't Musharraf basically surrender Waziristan to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and allowed a huge infusion of these assholes to pass through the border.

HonestChieffan
03-23-2009, 03:22 PM
Windy as sin today and they are calling for storms.

patteeu
03-23-2009, 04:12 PM
Didn't Musharraf basically surrender Waziristan to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and allowed a huge infusion of these assholes to pass through the border.

Sure. The "by comparison" part was supposed to indicate that the "sure looked good" part was relative. The current government has all of the same flaws with the added drawback of increased instability throughout Pakistan and less buy-in among the military toward the government.

Direckshun
03-23-2009, 04:18 PM
I haven't the slightest idea how on earth we're supposed to remedy that situation. As far as I'm concerned, it's a miracle that Clinton was able to put a band-aid on the crisis.

I simply think we have to allow Pakistan's own democracy to take its course with minimal political propping up of favored candidates. The people seem resilient enough to fight off tyrants, which is a welcome change-of-pace in the Middle East.

Minimally influencing their elections also allows their military to buy in as well, or at least be more likely to. It's hard to see, with so much of the country dominated by the Taliban, how they'd be unable to budge those folks.

A stepping-up of our Predator attacks could be a necessity. And by stepping-up, I mean a mini Shock and Awe in Waziristan that routed them in Afghanistan the first time in a span of six weeks.

patteeu
03-23-2009, 04:27 PM
I haven't the slightest idea how on earth we're supposed to remedy that situation. As far as I'm concerned, it's a miracle that Clinton was able to put a band-aid on the crisis.

I simply think we have to allow Pakistan's own democracy to take its course with minimal political propping up of favored candidates. The people seem resilient enough to fight off tyrants, which is a welcome change-of-pace in the Middle East.

Minimally influencing their elections also allows their military to buy in as well, or at least be more likely to. It's hard to see, with so much of the country dominated by the Taliban, how they'd be unable to budge those folks.

Minimal influencing may well do the opposite and embolden the military to retake the government. That's my bet and it might not be the worst thing in the world either.

A stepping-up of our Predator attacks could be a necessity. And by stepping-up, I mean a mini Shock and Awe in Waziristan that routed them in Afghanistan the first time in a span of six weeks.

I don't think that's at all likely and I'm not sure Pakistan would tolerate it. Besides, who's going to be our northern alliance ground force in this shock and awe campaign? If the Pakistan military is on board, it sounds like a great idea to me. If not, no way.

Iowanian
03-23-2009, 05:20 PM
I'm not that interested in Pakistan or Afganistan, though I'll be paying far, far more attention to them for the next 15-18 months than I ever hoped to care.

If our guys have to be there to fight these assholes, let them kill who they need to at will without retribution or remorse.

mlyonsd
03-23-2009, 05:26 PM
I'm not that interested in Pakistan or Afganistan, though I'll be paying far, far more attention to them for the next 15-18 months than I ever hoped to care.

If our guys have to be there to fight these assholes, let them kill who they need to at will without retribution or remorse.

If I were a betting man I'd say our tactics going forward will be questioned less than the last administration.

Direckshun
03-23-2009, 05:27 PM
Minimal influencing may well do the opposite and embolden the military to retake the government. That's my bet and it might not be the worst thing in the world either.
What's your understanding of the military force in Pakistan, should it do just that? Are they more theocratic ideologues, or are they just hardcore security types, who may rule secularly, but with an iron fist.

I don't think that's at all likely and I'm not sure Pakistan would tolerate it. Besides, who's going to be our northern alliance ground force in this shock and awe campaign? If the Pakistan military is on board, it sounds like a great idea to me. If not, no way.
Uh, who would our northern alliance be? Allow me to introduce you to Afghanistan.

But I'm pretty sure Pakistan would not allow such a thing to happen EARLIER, when Musharraf had at least a semblence of security in the country. At this point? With the country at risk of succombing to some nasty characters that have pissed off Muslims everywhere they've conquered? I think Pakistanis may find the idea a little more alluring during a national security crisis. We CANNOT allow the Taliban to fight their way to relevance. Taliban running Pakistan is The Worst Thing That Could Happen To This Planet.

HonestChieffan
03-23-2009, 05:28 PM
More bullets. More bombs. Sounds like a good start. Dont stop till they cry uncle for a change.

patteeu
03-23-2009, 07:25 PM
What's your understanding of the military force in Pakistan, should it do just that? Are they more theocratic ideologues, or are they just hardcore security types, who may rule secularly, but with an iron fist.

The Pakistani military is like separate authority structure, social class and lifestyle choice in Pakistan. The civilian government only has as much control over the military as the military allows. They are open to the lower classes and provide a form of upward mobility for those who join and can rise through the ranks that is generally unavailable in the civilian world. They aren't generally theocratic ideologues, but there are elements within the military who sympathize with the islamists and/or think they are useful (e.g. pre-invasion Afghan Taliban, Kashmir terrorists).

I don't know if another military coup is best or not. If the civilian government can hold the country together then that's probably best. But if they can't the military leadership has more inherent power. Neither one looks real good to me, but I'm far from an expert.

Uh, who would our northern alliance be? Allow me to introduce you to Afghanistan.

But I'm pretty sure Pakistan would not allow such a thing to happen EARLIER, when Musharraf had at least a semblence of security in the country. At this point? With the country at risk of succombing to some nasty characters that have pissed off Muslims everywhere they've conquered? I think Pakistanis may find the idea a little more alluring during a national security crisis. We CANNOT allow the Taliban to fight their way to relevance. Taliban running Pakistan is The Worst Thing That Could Happen To This Planet.

If the Pakistanis were at the point where they'd allow this, they'd provide the ground troops. I don't think they're anywhere near that point. I think their leadership approves of what we're doing and probably wishes we could do more of it, but I think that the general population tends to be radicalized a little bit with each incursion. We're walking a tightrope. I hope Obama and his people can come up with some good ideas. I don't think the Taliban are going to take over Pakistan though. The Pakistani leadership doesn't want that, the Indians don't want that, and we don't want that.

Hog Farmer
03-23-2009, 07:47 PM
I personally have a lot of interest in the issues there as I have a close relative working there as a civi contractor. The afghani army guys are mostly loyal people and hate the Taliban but bad guys infiltrate the army too. The bad guys are very stupid there.

I was told of one incident where one of our big guns shot at the bad guys and missed , blowing a large crater in the ground, the bad guys have been told that our weapons will neverhit the same place twice, so they run and jump in the crater for protection. The spotter is heard saying ,"redirect fire, wait , repeat fire" ROFL

They're friggin idiots, I hope like hell we stay there long enough to wipe out the whole friggin region. They do not belong in a civilized world.

WoodDraw
03-23-2009, 07:48 PM
FTR, Musharraf removed the Chief Justice. Zardari had promised to reinstate him, but had not yet. He finally did last week, after Western pressure and widespread protests.

Zadari is losing support and acts a lot more authoritarian than many hoped. Not a good situation.

Hog Farmer
03-23-2009, 07:50 PM
Oh yeah. They say that you don't see any women there and all the men fuck their sons and goats.

BucEyedPea
03-23-2009, 08:43 PM
Oh yeah. They say that you don't see any women there and all the men **** their sons and goats.

At least they're not procreating. :D And they don't masturbate hogs either.

RJ
03-23-2009, 09:16 PM
At least they're not procreating. :D And they don't masturbate hogs either.



Yeah, I suppose if they can't eat bacon.....well, you know.

Hog Farmer
03-23-2009, 09:51 PM
At least they're not procreating. :D And they don't masturbate hogs either.


Masturbation of swine really makes a person want to blow shit up. Maybe they should not engage such activities!

Direckshun
03-26-2009, 09:45 PM
Obama holds a briefing to discuss plans with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the near future, and Republican leaders stood the President up.

Because, you know, this isn't important or anything.

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/gop-senate-leaders-skip-obama-briefing-on-afghanistan-and-pakistan/

March 26, 2009, 3:57 pm
G.O.P. Senate Leaders Skip Obama Briefing on Afghanistan and Pakistan
By Peter Baker

President Obama briefed Congressional leaders at the White House on Thursday on his new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Senate Republicans did not show, citing scheduling conflicts. Instead, they met separately with aides to the president.

Four Democratic senators joined a half dozen House leaders from both parties at the session with Mr. Obama, but Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, were absent. Spokesmen for the Senate Republican leaders said they got the invitation so late on Wednesday that it was not possible to shift their calendars.

Instead, they said, the two senators were briefed separately by senior administration officials. Mr. McConnell attended a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill later Thursday afternoon led by Richard Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Mr. Kyl’s office said he had a separate classified briefing by the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, in the White House Situation Room on Wednesday.

Spokesmen for both senators said no slight was intended in skipping the president. Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, said he had asked the White House to schedule the meeting with the president next week, but then heard back late Wednesday afternoon that it would be Thursday.

“He had a long-scheduled, multi-member meeting here at the same time,” Mr. Stewart said. “And as the invitation came in late yesterday, it was tough to move things around.” Mr. Stewart noted that Mr. McConnell has met with the president on health care and fiscal responsibility.

Ryan Patmintra, a spokesman for Mr. Kyl, likewise noted that he had been to the White House several times since Mr. Obama’s inauguration. “There wasn’t any specific reason or slight intended,” he said. “The briefing was noticed late yesterday afternoon and Sen. Kyl had a long-standing members meeting that conflicted with the time.”

patteeu
03-27-2009, 07:25 AM
Spokesmen for the Senate Republican leaders said they got the invitation so late on Wednesday that it was not possible to shift their calendars.


I hope the incompetence of the Obama administration eases soon.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 10:42 AM
I hope the incompetence of the Obama administration eases soon.

el oh el

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:35 PM
Thank god for foreignpolicy.com.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4782

The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan

Everyone in Washington is talking about Pakistan, but few understand it. Here’s how to dazzle the crowd at your next Georgetown cocktail party.

By Nicholas Schmidle
Posted March 2009

After eight years of a White House that often seemed blinkered by the threats posed by Pakistan, the Obama administration seems to grasp the severity of the myriad crises affecting the South Asian state. The media has followed suit and increased its presence and reporting, a trend confirmed by CNN’s decision to set up a bureau in Islamabad last year.

And yet, the uptick in coverage hasn’t necessarily clarified the who’s-doing-what-to-whom confusion in Pakistan. Some commentators continue to confuse the tribal areas with the North-West Frontier Province. And the word lashkars is used to describe all kinds of otherwise cross-purposed groups, some fighting the Taliban, some fighting India, and some fighting Shiites.

I admit, it’s not easy. I lived in Pakistan throughout all of 2006 and 2007 and only came to understand, say, the tribal breakdown in South Waziristan during my final days. So to save you the trouble of having to live in Pakistan for two years to differentiate between the Wazirs and the Mehsuds, the Frontier Corps and the Rangers, I’ve written an “idiot’s guide” that will hopefully clear some things up.

1. The Troubled Tribals

Bring up the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at a Washington cocktail party are you’re sure to impress. Tick off the name of a Taliban leader or two and make a reference to North Waziristan, and you might be on your way to a lucrative lecture tour. The problem, of course, is that no one knows if you’ll be speaking the truth or not. A map of the border region is crammed with the names of agencies, provinces, frontier regions, and districts, which are sometimes flip-flopped and misused. With only an unselfish interest in making you more-impressive cocktail party material (and thus, getting you booked with a lecture agent during these economic hard times), I want to straighten some things out.

First off, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are not part of the North-West Frontier Province. The two are separate entities in almost every sense of the word. While the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is, well, a province with an elected assembly, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are geographically separate areas governed through “political agents” who are appointed by the president and supported by the governor of NWFP (who is also a presidential appointee). Residents of NWFP technically live according to the laws drafted by the Parliament in Islamabad, while the only nontribal law applicable to residents of FATA is the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a colonial-era dictate sanctioning collective punishment for tribes and subtribes guilty of disrupting the peace.

Within FATA, there are seven “agencies” and six “frontier regions.” The agencies are Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan; the somewhat more governed frontier regions (FRs) cling like barnacles to the eastern edge of FATA and include FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki, FR Tank, and FR Dera Ismail Khan, each of them named after the “settled” districts they border.

All residents of FATA and the vast majority of those in NWFP are ethnically Pashtuns. Pashtuns also make up the majority in Baluchistan, the vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan, which is named after the minority Baluch. Besides NWFP and Baluchistan, there are two other provinces in Pakistan; Punjab is populated mostly by ethnic Punjabis, and Sindh was historically dominated by Sindhis until millions of Muslims migrated from India at the time of Partition and settled in Sindhi cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, Sindh is composed of ethnic Sindhis and the descendents of these migrants, known as mohajirs.

Foreigners are prohibited from entering FATA without government permission. If you see a newspaper dateline from a town inside FATA, chances are that the Pakistani Army organized a field trip for reporters. Those traveling unaccompanied into, say, South Waziristan have either a death wish or a really good rapport with the Taliban, who effectively run North and South Waziristan and large portions of the other agencies and frontier regions. The recalcitrance of the tribesmen is hardly something new. In the words of Lord Curzon, the former viceroy of India: “No patchwork scheme -- and all our present recent schemes, blockade, allowances, etc., are mere patchwork -- will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.”

2. A Taliban Who’s Who

In December 2007, the smattering of bearded, black-turbaned, AK-47-toting gangs in FATA and NWFP announced that they would now answer to a single name, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban Movement. For decades, Pakistani jihadists have used such fancy names to declare splinter groups (many of which go unnoticed), but some analysts latched onto the TTP as gospel and postulated that, overnight, the Talibs had become disciplined and united. In the process, such analysts have overlooked important distinctions and divisions within the pro-Taliban groups operating in Pakistan.

Let’s start with a little history. In 1996, Mullah Mohammed Omar and his band of “Taliban” -- defined in Urdu, Pashto, and Arabic as “students” or “seekers” -- conquered Afghanistan. Five years later, the United States routed the Taliban government and the al Qaeda henchmen who had been operating under Mullah Omar’s protection. Many of them escaped into FATA, which is of course technically part of Pakistan but truthfully ruled by tribes whose loyalty, in this instance, fell with the Taliban and their foreign guests, al Qaeda. Before long, groups of men from FATA had begun banding together and crossing the border to fight against the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pashtuns ignore the border separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, named the Durand Line after the Englishman who drew it in 1893; the Pashtun “nation” encompasses wherever Pashtuns may live. Fighting the Americans, therefore, was seen as self-defense, even for the residents of FATA. Meanwhile, al Qaeda was entrenching itself more and more in FATA. These largely Arab and Uzbek outsiders influenced a new Taliban mind-set, one far more aggressive toward the Pakistani military and disruptive toward the local, tribal traditions.

So, back to the cocktail party: Someone mentions Baitullah Mehsud, the man accused by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence of masterminding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Mehsud is the nominal chief of the TTP, he has plenty of rivals, even in his native South Waziristan. Two major tribes populate South Waziristan: the Mehsuds and the Wazirs. The Wazirs dominate Wana, the main city in South Waziristan. But the ranking Taliban leader from the Wazirs, Maulvi Nazir, is a darling of Pakistan’s military establishment.

You’re probably scratching your head right now, a bit confused. You see, Nazir is only interested in fighting U.S., Afghan, and NATO forces across the border. He is not part of the TTP and has not been involved in the wave of violence sweeping Pakistan of late. Therefore, in the minds of Pakistani generals, he is a “good” Taliban versus Baitullah Mehsud, who is, in their mind, unequivocally “bad.” That’s just one example of Talibs living in Pakistan who do not necessarily come under the title “Pakistani Taliban” or the “Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan” moniker.

In Swat Valley, where Islamabad recently signed a peace treaty with the Taliban, the fissures among the militants are more generational. Swat, unlike South Waziristan, is part of NWFP and shares no border with Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, a group calling itself the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, TNSM or the Movement for the Establishment of the Law of Mohammed, launched a drive to impose Islamic law in Swat and its environs. They resorted to violence against the state in the 1990s on numerous occasions, including once taking over the local airport and blocking the main road connecting Pakistan to China.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the leader of TNSM, Sufi Mohammed, organized a group of madrasa students and led them across the border to combat the Americans. But only Sufi Mohammed returned. The legions who had followed him were “martyred,” or so he told their parents. Sufi Mohammed was thrown in jail by then president and Army chief Pervez Musharraf, and so he named his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, to run TNSM in his stead. But Fazlullah had wider ambitions and assembled a several-hundred-man army vowing to fight the Pakistani government. The senior leadership of TNSM soon disowned Fazlullah, who happily embarked on his own and is now Mehsud’s deputy in the TTP. For the past year and a half, Fazlullah’s devotees have bombed, kidnapped, and assassinated anyone who’s dared to challenge their writ in Swat.

By 2008, Sufi Mohammed looked like a moderate in comparison to his son-in-law. So the Pakistani government asked him to mediate. Perhaps he could cool Fazlullah down. The recent treaty you’ve heard about in Swat is between the Pakistani government and Sufi Mohammed, who has pledged to bring Fazlullah on board. So far, the treaty has held, unless you count the soldiers who were killed by Fazlullah’s Talibs for not “informing the Taliban of their movements.”


3. Kiss My Lashkar

You might have heard the word lashkar of late and wondered what a science fiction character was doing in Pakistan. This past fall, two distinctly different stories featured lashkars carrying out two distinctly different missions. In one, Lashkar-e-Taiba was executing a murderous campaign of violence in Mumbai; in another, lashkars were fighting against the Taliban in FATA. In other words, one was having a terrible effect while the other seemed to be doing some good. (Oh yeah, in another, less read story, Lashkar-e-Janghvi was killing Shiites in the southwestern city of Quetta.) So what gives? What’s a lashkar?

In Arabic, the language of Islam, a lashkar describes an irregular tribal militia. Say you’re a tribesman in South Waziristan who has beef with a member of a rival tribe. You need a posse. So you raise a lashkar. When news broke in October that the Pakistani government was sending Chinese-made AK-47s to tribesmen willing to defy Taliban rule in FATA, the weapons were said to be sent to lashkars. That’s a lashkar in the traditional sense of the word.

But Pakistan’s jihadi groups, to glorify their agendas, have long used the word lashkar in their names. (Other common Arabic names for army include sipah and jaish.) Although Lashkar-e-Taiba is committed to fighting the Indians over Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Janghvi is bent on killing Shiites, and Jaish-e-Mohammed seems ready to attack anyone. The proliferation of these terrorist militias became so bad that in January 2002, Musharraf was obliged to declare, “Our army is the only sipah and lashkar in Pakistan.”

4. Border Guards

If there was so much confusion over who was and wasn’t the real army in Pakistan that the Army chief had to intervene and clarify, perhaps someone from the Pakistani military should set the record straight on who’s fighting whom in FATA. This confusion came to a head last June, when a contingent of Pakistani forces, known as the Frontier Corps, was locked in a gun battle with U.S. soldiers across the border. The U.S. troops were pursuing Talibs attempting to retreat back across the border into Pakistan. The kerfuffle ended -- at least the armed one, the diplomatic one was just starting -- when a few bombs dropped by U.S. planes landed on the Frontier Corps outposts and killed 11 Pakistani border guards. So what’s the deal with the Frontier Corps? Whose side are they on anyway?

The Frontier Corps (FC) are a paramilitary force composed of roughly 80,000 men tasked with border security, law enforcement, and increasingly, counterinsurgency in FATA, NWFP, and Baluchistan. (Rangers fill similar tasks in Punjab and Sindh, the provinces bordering India.) By almost any definition outlining the ideal counterinsurgent, the FC would be it: They are almost all Pashtuns, more familiar with the language, the people, the tribes, and the terrain than any regular Pakistani soldier or U.S. troop could ever be. But their biggest advantage also happens to be their biggest liability, because Pashtuns are renowned for their sense of community; asking one Pashtun to kill another, especially when it’s seen as being done at the bidding of an “outsider,” be it Punjabi or American, would be like your boss telling you to kill your cousin. Not gonna happen, right?

The Pakistani leadership, and before them, the British, weren’t blind to this issue. To try to limit potential conflicts of interest, they said that Wazirs wouldn’t serve in Waziri areas, Afridis (based in Khyber agency and FR Kohat) wouldn’t serve in Afridi areas, and so on. Questions over ethnic sympathies simply couldn’t be surmounted, but this way at least concerns over clan and family sympathies could.

In the past few years, Washington has realized the significance of the FC and tried to enhance its fighting capability. (Traditionally, an FC corpsman would sport a salwar-kameez -- the baggy trousers and tunic get-up -- leather sandals, and an AK-47.) But the problems of getting money to the right FC units have been numerous.

First off, the FC falls under the Interior Ministry, not the Defense Ministry, which overseas the half-million-member Army and has received the lion’s share of U.S. aid since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Defense Ministry’s dominance of the aid game means that the money Washington gives Islamabad to reimburse Pakistani security forces for operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda, money known as Coalition Support Funds, hardly, if ever, trickles down to the FC units manning a border post in South Waziristan who are, truly, on the “front lines” of the so-called war on terror.

Second, there is an issue of command structure because the FC is officered by regular Army colonels and generals. And finally, there is the problem that, owing to the widespread anger among Pashtuns toward the United States and the Pakistani establishment, no one can say whether the FC won’t simply hand over night-vision goggles and new weapons to the Taliban, especially when oversight by U.S. officials in FATA, parts of NWFP, and Baluchistan is so scarce.

5. Finger on the Trigger

There is some leeway in the grooming standards and fitness levels expected by the Pakistani Army -- especially for officers. Mornings are for praying and sleeping; lunches are for buffets; and evenings are for gallons of tea. Not much time for exercise, is there? And mustaches? The thicker, the better. Beards? The longer, the better. Does that mean that the Pakistani Army is composed of Islamic fundamentalists salivating at the opportunity to fire some nukes? Yes and no.

First a disclaimer: Most Pakistani soldiers consider India to be their mortal enemy and would like nothing more than to incinerate their neighbor. They get that from the grade-school textbooks. And they will usually frame the conflict between them and India as one between Islam and Hinduism. This ground has been pretty well covered by others who write about Pakistan.

But we should realize that anti-Indianism doesn’t translate to Talibanism, what with locking up womenfolk and caning criminals and all. Consider the serving chief of Army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who is beardless, reportedly enjoys an occasional Scotch and a game of bridge, chain-smokes cigarettes through a long plastic tip, and is a favorite of the Americans. In other words, he’s not likely to declare himself “Commander of the Faithful” anytime soon.

But what about the ISI? We hear so much about the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, being manned by al Qaeda sympathizers, sponsoring regional terrorism, and forming the vanguard of Islamism in Pakistan. Aren’t they Islamist?

Let’s complicate matters before we take up this question. The ISI is the intelligence wing of the military. The Army, meanwhile, has its own intelligence wing, confusingly named Military Intelligence (MI). The Interior Ministry has its own: Special Branch. And so on and so forth; there are more intelligence wings in Pakistan than there are varieties of dal. And when Pakistanis on the street suspect that they’re involved in something nefarious, they simply refer to “the agencies.” That way, there’s no need to specify which agency was responsible because no one has any idea who is behind what, frankly.

Are people within the ISI any more Islamist than any of the others? I don’t see why they would be. The ISI draws from the ranks of the regular Army (in addition to some civilians), the same Army that is commanded by Sandhurst-educated, Johnnie Walker Black Label-loving Anglophiles. What makes the ISI different is not so much its personnel as its agenda, an agenda that might, on any given day, include ferrying money to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan or training Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters to wage jihad against India in Kashmir. These programs are considered to serve Pakistan’s national interests, not the religious preferences of its generals.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any kind of soft corner for the agencies and certainly don’t want to seem an apologist for them. They kicked me out of the country once via deportation and chased me out another time by planting stories in the local press that I had been kidnapped. I feel no love for the ISI, MI, Special Branch, or any of their shady affiliates. But they’re not all the same. Keep that in mind at your next cocktail party. We should know what we’re talking about when we talk about Pakistan.

Direckshun
03-27-2009, 11:35 PM
Thank god for foreignpolicy.com.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4782

The Idiot's Guide to Pakistan

Everyone in Washington is talking about Pakistan, but few understand it. Here’s how to dazzle the crowd at your next Georgetown cocktail party.

By Nicholas Schmidle
Posted March 2009

After eight years of a White House that often seemed blinkered by the threats posed by Pakistan, the Obama administration seems to grasp the severity of the myriad crises affecting the South Asian state. The media has followed suit and increased its presence and reporting, a trend confirmed by CNN’s decision to set up a bureau in Islamabad last year.

And yet, the uptick in coverage hasn’t necessarily clarified the who’s-doing-what-to-whom confusion in Pakistan. Some commentators continue to confuse the tribal areas with the North-West Frontier Province. And the word lashkars is used to describe all kinds of otherwise cross-purposed groups, some fighting the Taliban, some fighting India, and some fighting Shiites.

I admit, it’s not easy. I lived in Pakistan throughout all of 2006 and 2007 and only came to understand, say, the tribal breakdown in South Waziristan during my final days. So to save you the trouble of having to live in Pakistan for two years to differentiate between the Wazirs and the Mehsuds, the Frontier Corps and the Rangers, I’ve written an “idiot’s guide” that will hopefully clear some things up.

1. The Troubled Tribals

Bring up the Pakistan-Afghanistan border at a Washington cocktail party are you’re sure to impress. Tick off the name of a Taliban leader or two and make a reference to North Waziristan, and you might be on your way to a lucrative lecture tour. The problem, of course, is that no one knows if you’ll be speaking the truth or not. A map of the border region is crammed with the names of agencies, provinces, frontier regions, and districts, which are sometimes flip-flopped and misused. With only an unselfish interest in making you more-impressive cocktail party material (and thus, getting you booked with a lecture agent during these economic hard times), I want to straighten some things out.

First off, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are not part of the North-West Frontier Province. The two are separate entities in almost every sense of the word. While the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is, well, a province with an elected assembly, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are geographically separate areas governed through “political agents” who are appointed by the president and supported by the governor of NWFP (who is also a presidential appointee). Residents of NWFP technically live according to the laws drafted by the Parliament in Islamabad, while the only nontribal law applicable to residents of FATA is the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a colonial-era dictate sanctioning collective punishment for tribes and subtribes guilty of disrupting the peace.

Within FATA, there are seven “agencies” and six “frontier regions.” The agencies are Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan; the somewhat more governed frontier regions (FRs) cling like barnacles to the eastern edge of FATA and include FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu, FR Lakki, FR Tank, and FR Dera Ismail Khan, each of them named after the “settled” districts they border.

All residents of FATA and the vast majority of those in NWFP are ethnically Pashtuns. Pashtuns also make up the majority in Baluchistan, the vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan, which is named after the minority Baluch. Besides NWFP and Baluchistan, there are two other provinces in Pakistan; Punjab is populated mostly by ethnic Punjabis, and Sindh was historically dominated by Sindhis until millions of Muslims migrated from India at the time of Partition and settled in Sindhi cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad. Now, Sindh is composed of ethnic Sindhis and the descendents of these migrants, known as mohajirs.

Foreigners are prohibited from entering FATA without government permission. If you see a newspaper dateline from a town inside FATA, chances are that the Pakistani Army organized a field trip for reporters. Those traveling unaccompanied into, say, South Waziristan have either a death wish or a really good rapport with the Taliban, who effectively run North and South Waziristan and large portions of the other agencies and frontier regions. The recalcitrance of the tribesmen is hardly something new. In the words of Lord Curzon, the former viceroy of India: “No patchwork scheme -- and all our present recent schemes, blockade, allowances, etc., are mere patchwork -- will settle the Waziristan problem. Not until the military steamroller has passed over the country from end to end, will there be peace. But I do not want to be the person to start that machine.”

2. A Taliban Who’s Who

In December 2007, the smattering of bearded, black-turbaned, AK-47-toting gangs in FATA and NWFP announced that they would now answer to a single name, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban Movement. For decades, Pakistani jihadists have used such fancy names to declare splinter groups (many of which go unnoticed), but some analysts latched onto the TTP as gospel and postulated that, overnight, the Talibs had become disciplined and united. In the process, such analysts have overlooked important distinctions and divisions within the pro-Taliban groups operating in Pakistan.

Let’s start with a little history. In 1996, Mullah Mohammed Omar and his band of “Taliban” -- defined in Urdu, Pashto, and Arabic as “students” or “seekers” -- conquered Afghanistan. Five years later, the United States routed the Taliban government and the al Qaeda henchmen who had been operating under Mullah Omar’s protection. Many of them escaped into FATA, which is of course technically part of Pakistan but truthfully ruled by tribes whose loyalty, in this instance, fell with the Taliban and their foreign guests, al Qaeda. Before long, groups of men from FATA had begun banding together and crossing the border to fight against the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Pashtuns ignore the border separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, named the Durand Line after the Englishman who drew it in 1893; the Pashtun “nation” encompasses wherever Pashtuns may live. Fighting the Americans, therefore, was seen as self-defense, even for the residents of FATA. Meanwhile, al Qaeda was entrenching itself more and more in FATA. These largely Arab and Uzbek outsiders influenced a new Taliban mind-set, one far more aggressive toward the Pakistani military and disruptive toward the local, tribal traditions.

So, back to the cocktail party: Someone mentions Baitullah Mehsud, the man accused by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence of masterminding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Mehsud is the nominal chief of the TTP, he has plenty of rivals, even in his native South Waziristan. Two major tribes populate South Waziristan: the Mehsuds and the Wazirs. The Wazirs dominate Wana, the main city in South Waziristan. But the ranking Taliban leader from the Wazirs, Maulvi Nazir, is a darling of Pakistan’s military establishment.

You’re probably scratching your head right now, a bit confused. You see, Nazir is only interested in fighting U.S., Afghan, and NATO forces across the border. He is not part of the TTP and has not been involved in the wave of violence sweeping Pakistan of late. Therefore, in the minds of Pakistani generals, he is a “good” Taliban versus Baitullah Mehsud, who is, in their mind, unequivocally “bad.” That’s just one example of Talibs living in Pakistan who do not necessarily come under the title “Pakistani Taliban” or the “Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan” moniker.

In Swat Valley, where Islamabad recently signed a peace treaty with the Taliban, the fissures among the militants are more generational. Swat, unlike South Waziristan, is part of NWFP and shares no border with Afghanistan. In the late 1980s, a group calling itself the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, TNSM or the Movement for the Establishment of the Law of Mohammed, launched a drive to impose Islamic law in Swat and its environs. They resorted to violence against the state in the 1990s on numerous occasions, including once taking over the local airport and blocking the main road connecting Pakistan to China.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the leader of TNSM, Sufi Mohammed, organized a group of madrasa students and led them across the border to combat the Americans. But only Sufi Mohammed returned. The legions who had followed him were “martyred,” or so he told their parents. Sufi Mohammed was thrown in jail by then president and Army chief Pervez Musharraf, and so he named his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, to run TNSM in his stead. But Fazlullah had wider ambitions and assembled a several-hundred-man army vowing to fight the Pakistani government. The senior leadership of TNSM soon disowned Fazlullah, who happily embarked on his own and is now Mehsud’s deputy in the TTP. For the past year and a half, Fazlullah’s devotees have bombed, kidnapped, and assassinated anyone who’s dared to challenge their writ in Swat.

By 2008, Sufi Mohammed looked like a moderate in comparison to his son-in-law. So the Pakistani government asked him to mediate. Perhaps he could cool Fazlullah down. The recent treaty you’ve heard about in Swat is between the Pakistani government and Sufi Mohammed, who has pledged to bring Fazlullah on board. So far, the treaty has held, unless you count the soldiers who were killed by Fazlullah’s Talibs for not “informing the Taliban of their movements.”


3. Kiss My Lashkar

You might have heard the word lashkar of late and wondered what a science fiction character was doing in Pakistan. This past fall, two distinctly different stories featured lashkars carrying out two distinctly different missions. In one, Lashkar-e-Taiba was executing a murderous campaign of violence in Mumbai; in another, lashkars were fighting against the Taliban in FATA. In other words, one was having a terrible effect while the other seemed to be doing some good. (Oh yeah, in another, less read story, Lashkar-e-Janghvi was killing Shiites in the southwestern city of Quetta.) So what gives? What’s a lashkar?

In Arabic, the language of Islam, a lashkar describes an irregular tribal militia. Say you’re a tribesman in South Waziristan who has beef with a member of a rival tribe. You need a posse. So you raise a lashkar. When news broke in October that the Pakistani government was sending Chinese-made AK-47s to tribesmen willing to defy Taliban rule in FATA, the weapons were said to be sent to lashkars. That’s a lashkar in the traditional sense of the word.

But Pakistan’s jihadi groups, to glorify their agendas, have long used the word lashkar in their names. (Other common Arabic names for army include sipah and jaish.) Although Lashkar-e-Taiba is committed to fighting the Indians over Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Janghvi is bent on killing Shiites, and Jaish-e-Mohammed seems ready to attack anyone. The proliferation of these terrorist militias became so bad that in January 2002, Musharraf was obliged to declare, “Our army is the only sipah and lashkar in Pakistan.”

4. Border Guards

If there was so much confusion over who was and wasn’t the real army in Pakistan that the Army chief had to intervene and clarify, perhaps someone from the Pakistani military should set the record straight on who’s fighting whom in FATA. This confusion came to a head last June, when a contingent of Pakistani forces, known as the Frontier Corps, was locked in a gun battle with U.S. soldiers across the border. The U.S. troops were pursuing Talibs attempting to retreat back across the border into Pakistan. The kerfuffle ended -- at least the armed one, the diplomatic one was just starting -- when a few bombs dropped by U.S. planes landed on the Frontier Corps outposts and killed 11 Pakistani border guards. So what’s the deal with the Frontier Corps? Whose side are they on anyway?

The Frontier Corps (FC) are a paramilitary force composed of roughly 80,000 men tasked with border security, law enforcement, and increasingly, counterinsurgency in FATA, NWFP, and Baluchistan. (Rangers fill similar tasks in Punjab and Sindh, the provinces bordering India.) By almost any definition outlining the ideal counterinsurgent, the FC would be it: They are almost all Pashtuns, more familiar with the language, the people, the tribes, and the terrain than any regular Pakistani soldier or U.S. troop could ever be. But their biggest advantage also happens to be their biggest liability, because Pashtuns are renowned for their sense of community; asking one Pashtun to kill another, especially when it’s seen as being done at the bidding of an “outsider,” be it Punjabi or American, would be like your boss telling you to kill your cousin. Not gonna happen, right?

The Pakistani leadership, and before them, the British, weren’t blind to this issue. To try to limit potential conflicts of interest, they said that Wazirs wouldn’t serve in Waziri areas, Afridis (based in Khyber agency and FR Kohat) wouldn’t serve in Afridi areas, and so on. Questions over ethnic sympathies simply couldn’t be surmounted, but this way at least concerns over clan and family sympathies could.

In the past few years, Washington has realized the significance of the FC and tried to enhance its fighting capability. (Traditionally, an FC corpsman would sport a salwar-kameez -- the baggy trousers and tunic get-up -- leather sandals, and an AK-47.) But the problems of getting money to the right FC units have been numerous.

First off, the FC falls under the Interior Ministry, not the Defense Ministry, which overseas the half-million-member Army and has received the lion’s share of U.S. aid since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Defense Ministry’s dominance of the aid game means that the money Washington gives Islamabad to reimburse Pakistani security forces for operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda, money known as Coalition Support Funds, hardly, if ever, trickles down to the FC units manning a border post in South Waziristan who are, truly, on the “front lines” of the so-called war on terror.

Second, there is an issue of command structure because the FC is officered by regular Army colonels and generals. And finally, there is the problem that, owing to the widespread anger among Pashtuns toward the United States and the Pakistani establishment, no one can say whether the FC won’t simply hand over night-vision goggles and new weapons to the Taliban, especially when oversight by U.S. officials in FATA, parts of NWFP, and Baluchistan is so scarce.

5. Finger on the Trigger

There is some leeway in the grooming standards and fitness levels expected by the Pakistani Army -- especially for officers. Mornings are for praying and sleeping; lunches are for buffets; and evenings are for gallons of tea. Not much time for exercise, is there? And mustaches? The thicker, the better. Beards? The longer, the better. Does that mean that the Pakistani Army is composed of Islamic fundamentalists salivating at the opportunity to fire some nukes? Yes and no.

First a disclaimer: Most Pakistani soldiers consider India to be their mortal enemy and would like nothing more than to incinerate their neighbor. They get that from the grade-school textbooks. And they will usually frame the conflict between them and India as one between Islam and Hinduism. This ground has been pretty well covered by others who write about Pakistan.

But we should realize that anti-Indianism doesn’t translate to Talibanism, what with locking up womenfolk and caning criminals and all. Consider the serving chief of Army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who is beardless, reportedly enjoys an occasional Scotch and a game of bridge, chain-smokes cigarettes through a long plastic tip, and is a favorite of the Americans. In other words, he’s not likely to declare himself “Commander of the Faithful” anytime soon.

But what about the ISI? We hear so much about the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, being manned by al Qaeda sympathizers, sponsoring regional terrorism, and forming the vanguard of Islamism in Pakistan. Aren’t they Islamist?

Let’s complicate matters before we take up this question. The ISI is the intelligence wing of the military. The Army, meanwhile, has its own intelligence wing, confusingly named Military Intelligence (MI). The Interior Ministry has its own: Special Branch. And so on and so forth; there are more intelligence wings in Pakistan than there are varieties of dal. And when Pakistanis on the street suspect that they’re involved in something nefarious, they simply refer to “the agencies.” That way, there’s no need to specify which agency was responsible because no one has any idea who is behind what, frankly.

Are people within the ISI any more Islamist than any of the others? I don’t see why they would be. The ISI draws from the ranks of the regular Army (in addition to some civilians), the same Army that is commanded by Sandhurst-educated, Johnnie Walker Black Label-loving Anglophiles. What makes the ISI different is not so much its personnel as its agenda, an agenda that might, on any given day, include ferrying money to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan or training Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters to wage jihad against India in Kashmir. These programs are considered to serve Pakistan’s national interests, not the religious preferences of its generals.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any kind of soft corner for the agencies and certainly don’t want to seem an apologist for them. They kicked me out of the country once via deportation and chased me out another time by planting stories in the local press that I had been kidnapped. I feel no love for the ISI, MI, Special Branch, or any of their shady affiliates. But they’re not all the same. Keep that in mind at your next cocktail party. We should know what we’re talking about when we talk about Pakistan.