October 21, 2007

Problems for Pakistan

Abu Muqawama is under the mistaken impression that Charlie knows something about strategy (he has no such misconceptions regarding her knowledge of tactics). To the extent that she thinks more "strategically," she does tend to worry more about Pakistan and Iran than Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, unlike her counterpart on this blog, she is not an area expert (unless that area is NE Kansas or the shoe department at Nordstrom's). Corrections and comments from veteran Pakistan watchers are welcome.

And as readers of this blog likely already know, there was serious news out of Pakistan this past week as a suicide bomber killed 134 people in an effort to assassinate former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto responded by accusing Pakistani military officials of ignoring warnings about the attack, suggesting senior members of the Army and ISI were complicit.

This follows a miserable summer for the Pakistani Army, as Musharraf bent to US pressure and ordered a new offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Apparently, it's not only the US Army that has difficulty in COIN campaigns:

In late August, for instance, some 250 Pakistani soldiers, including officers, surrendered to a smaller group of militants without firing a shot. Since then only 30 have been released. Meanwhile, conservative estimates suggest that 1,000 of the 90,000 soldiers deployed in the three-month operation have been killed.


But now, an Army built to counter the massive threat of the Indian military is being asked to fight its own citizens in an unpopular counterinsurgency campaign that it has neither the will nor the skill-set to fight.

So to recap, Pakistan has 1) a military dictator who relies on; 2) a moribund army; 3) a corrupt former prime minister, back with a bang, and; 4) suicide bombers.

Apparently, US officials have taken notice of this confluence of events and also remembered "Omg, these guys have nukes!" Unfortunately, it appears as though policy makers in Washington are about as unskilled at strategy as Charlie:

“It never stitched together,” said Daniel Markey, a State Department official who dealt with Pakistan until he left government earlier this year. “At every step, there was more risk aversion — because of the risk of rocking the boat seemed so high — than there was a real strategic vision.”

Should the US ease up its pressure on Musharraf in the FATA? Back the political parties opposed to both Bhutto and Musharraf? Write them all off and go it alone in our anti-Taliban CT campaign? Readers with suggestions for the State Department (and this blogger) are invited to submit them in the comments page, alongside come good reading recommendations for Charlie.

Update: Excellent analysis and reading suggestions in the comment section.