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Pakistan: From Counter-Terrorism to Counterinsurgency

By Haider Ali Hussein Mullick

When a new government takes charge in Pakistan, there will be little time to celebrate the return of civilian rule. Faced with a plethora of socioeconomic problems made worse by rising suicide bombings, Pakistanis have not felt this insecure in their homes and cities since the conventional wars with India. The United States administration is equally nervous about its estranged, nuclear-armed ally facing the nearly insurmountable task of eradicating al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Given the electoral loss of Islamists in insurgency hotbeds in northern Pakistan, Pakistani civilian and military leaders, backed by the United States, have an excellent opportunity to go beyond short-lived counter-terrorism tactics to a multifaceted sustainable counterinsurgency strategy.

In most of the last six years, counter-terrorist military actions, focused on kinetically interdicting die-hard terrorists, dominated Pakistan’s security policy. These actions were assisted, although unsuccessfully and inconsistently, by counterinsurgency strategies of socioeconomic development and political reconciliation. Contrary to Washington’s misinformed dismal report card on Islamabad’s halfhearted efforts to curb terrorism, however, the Pakistani military did achieve major successes in the early years after 9/11.

Nearly half of Guantanamo Bay Prison is full of al-Qaeda operatives caught in Pakistan, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the chief plotter of 9/11. But selective treatment of the Taliban in hopes of finding a political solution, a reduction in human intelligence, and a failure to ‘sell’ the war to the Pakistani people have overshadowed prior victories. Today the realization is growing, among military and civilian leaders alike, that “America’s War” is “Pakistan’s War” and that mistakes have been made.

To remedy the situation, last fall General Ashfaq Kiani, former head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and current Chief of Army Staff, implemented a new guarded yet effective counterinsurgency strategy. Relying on credible human intelligence, winning over local support, and coordinating with American trainers and intelligence and military personnel in Afghanistan, General Kiani was able to bring Swat – a former Al-Qaeda stronghold in northern Pakistan – under state control.

Pakistani civilian leaders seem just as dedicated as their military counterparts to eradicating terrorist safe havens. The Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and the Awami National Party won last month’s national elections, ousting President Musharraf’s allies and the Islamists. Despite constitutional differences with the president, the victors agree that terrorism is a complex, multidimensional threat and not simply Musharraf’s bogeyman that would disappear if Pakistan severed its ties with the United States. Nonetheless, they also believe that Musharraf’s prior connivance in supporting a U.S.-centric counter-terrorism strategy was detrimental to Pakistan’s long-term stability.

In addition to Gen. Kiani’s approach and the next government’s desire to ‘talk’ to moderate Taliban, more needs to be done to endorse counterinsurgency strategies over brute-force counter-terrorist measures. Pakistani politicians are eager to take charge – but they must know that simply cutting deals with al-Qaeda or Taliban will not guarantee security. First, before hastily signing another truce with the ‘moderate Taliban’ in the tribal areas, the new government must investigate past failures of similar agreements.

Second, measures that promise better governance, more constitutional autonomy and socioeconomic opportunities to the tribal areas pending expulsion of terrorists will only succeed if Pakistani politicians guarantee consistent engagement. That includes, for example, asking the military to support Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) – similar to International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) role in Afghanistan – over large-scale military operations.

Third, the current U.S. plan to increase the training of Pakistani troops – paratroopers, Pakistani Special Forces, and Frontier Corps – is a step in the right direction. U.S. training programs must be supplemented by U.S. military hardware and intelligence exchange across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. A unilateral U.S. attack on Pakistan’s rustic tribal areas, however, will be devastatingly unsustainable and counterproductive.

A stable nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial for any successful U.S. effort to bring stability to the region. It holds the potential for intelligence exchange and military support, and holds a strategic geographic location next to Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban know this too well. With time running out, Washington should continue providing smart and targeted military, economic and diplomatic aid to all willing and capable Pakistani civilian and military leaders and institutions. Changing the counterterrorism-counterinsurgency calculus by focusing on active socioeconomic engagement over excess use of brute force is essential to achieving victory in the Global War on Terror.

Haider Ali Hussein Mullick is an independent policy analyst, and an Adjunct Fellow at Spearhead Research, Lahore, Pakistan. He can be reached at haider.mullick@gmail.com

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Comments (6)

SALAH :


IT IS SURPRISE ISSUE , WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT IRAQ WITHOUT GOOD KNOWLAGE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN IRAQ AND THE TYPES OF CALLANGE WHO FACAE IRAQIAN POEPLE FUTURE , SPECAIALLY WE SHOULD BE NOW THAT THE IRAQI LEADERSHIPE DO NOT HAVE THE KNOWLAGE ABOUT WHO TO RUN THEMSELIVES SO HOW CAN THEY RUN STATE LIKE IRAQ, ON THE OTHER HAND THE IRAQIAN LEADERSHIPE DO NOT HAVE EXPERIENCE ABOUT HOW TO MANAGE THE COUNTRY , SO THE PROBLEM IS NOT FROM U,S FORCES BUT FROM LEADERS WHO GOVENNER THE PEOPLE INSIDE IRAQ. WE HAVE DICTATORSHIP IN NORTH AND SOUTH THEY DO NOT SERIVE PEOPLE , JUST THEM SELIVES AND WHO PROTECTED THEM , SO WE SHOULD BE SOLVE THE IRAQI LEADERSHIP CRISS THEN WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE SITUATION AND IRAQ RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS .

misogynist:

Right from the birth of Pakistan, America has nurtured Pakistan just because of selfish interest. To have a foothold in the under belly of Russia. So most of the aid was as military hardware. As a true friend if US had tried to help the people of Pakistan to improve economically matters would not have come to this sorry state. Had there been not much poverty the poor would not have been forced to send their children to mdrassas, the breeding ground of terrorism. They could have gone to schools and have modern education. Not that there are no educated terrorists. But their percentage is much less. Only the illiterate can be moulded so easily.
Even now if America give more economic aid than F 16 and such, in course of time, terrorism can be brought under control.

simplesimon33:

Pakistan’s new plan to fight terrorism does not address the most fundamental problem that is plaguing the Afghanistan and Waziristan. How would a peace deal with Taliban elements now residing in Waziristan dissuade those elements from wanting to defeat US-NATO forces and reclaim Afghanistan? Pakistan’s military has been fighting these Taliban elements for last six years. If six years of that fighting did not train Pakistani Army, what else can?

Adnan Khan:

As for Nawaz Sharif, he publicly says he wants a peaceful solution to solve FATA issues. During last eight years, Musharraf regime has used extreme force in Balochistan and FATA. As a result, both areas are ripe with volunteer suicide bombers.

Pakistanis who know these areas realise that force has always failed in these regions. These areas are inhabited with tribes who fight for generations to revenge killing of their relatives. If you kill one family memeber, his 10 or 12 relatives are ready to fight you till the death is avenged. Pakistani army cannot accomplish what 3 super powers of their times, The British Raj, the Soviets, and now USA could not accomplish in Afghanistan and its neighbouring Pashtun belt.

PML-N (Nawaz Sharif's Party) has publicly stated that the terrorism is Pakistan's problem, and Pakistan should solve this issue by using her own mind. It is on PML-N's list of 3 or 4 most important issues to stop terrorism in the tribal areas and to bring peace in Balochistan.

No wonder that tribes only want to deal with Nawaz as he holds trust of both government (he is now part of it) and the tribes as he is not seen as an american puppet.

Taliban have already offered to stop their activities in Pakistan and they claim they want to fight with Americans in Afghanistan. With some negotiations through a trustworthy and respected figure, they can be made to soften their stance.

American blunder of sending Negroponte on the eve of oath taking of the Prime Minister has produced more respect for Nawaz due to his nationalist stance, and have offered more credibility to Zardari.

Currently, anyone who is pro-Musharraf or pro-USA is seen as evil by all quarters, including moderates and conservatives.

USA has blindly supported a dictator for 8 years without realising that the hatred for the dicator would turn toward his mentor as well.

grant marlier:

I generally agree with the author, but I wonder which types of socioeconomic engagement might be most effective in the Federally Administered Tribal Authorities (FATA)? The FATA seems like a difficult place to make inroads with the local Pashtuns. Are there any development plans that have been successful in that area? I know there has been success in other parts of Pakistan, what about FATA?

Dee:

How can the writer assert that ALL civilian leaders of Pakistan are a)commited to fighting exremists and b) realize that this is not just America's war but Pakistan's.

I for one, have not heard Nawaz Sharif even criticize Pakistani Taliban.

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