April 21, 2009

PAKISTAN’S TALIBANIZATION: INGLORIOUS RETREAT BY PAKISTAN ARMY OR CALIBRATED COLLUSIVE COLLABORATION?

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

Pakistan today is in dire straits where its very existence as a nation state is at stake. Pakistan’s creeping Talibanization is no longer creeping but now galloping from its explosive western peripheries to the very heartland of Punjab. The United States and the West stand focused on this menacing development for months now.

Pakistan’s galloping Talibanization is no longer a strategic menace for the United States and NATO Forces in Afghanistan only, or far that matter to India. Pakistan’s Talibanization has emerged today as an untreatable or malignant cancer afflicting Pakistan’s survival.

The United States and the West, long sedated by General Musharraf during his eight years military rule with duplications assurances on Pakistan Army’s committal to liquidate the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, continued in a “state of denial” on Pakistan Army’s perfidy, constantly highlighted by this Author in his Papers on Pakistan on SAAG website and elsewhere.

Pakistan’s meltdown and prospects of a civil war was covered in a consolidated Paper by this Author (SAAG Paper No. 2570 dated 29 January 2008) based on cumulative analysis of the previous five years. This Paper was entitled “Pakistan at Sixty: Meltdown and Prospects of Civil War.”

Nurtured by years of adulating the Pakistan Army as the glue that holds Pakistan together and denied access to analytical reports highlighting the military failures of the Pakistan Army in its wars with India from 1948 to Kargil War in 1999, Pakistan’s own strategic community was in a state of denial about the unholy and diabolical operations of the Pakistan Army and the ISI (intelligence organization) under its control.

Pakistan’s abject surrender in Swat of the state sovereignty and ceding a large tract of territory on the very steps of the national capital Islamabad has finally hit home and painfully hard on Pakistan’s strategic community, its academia and its civil society, however limited.

Their pain and horror is that much more because the western-aligned President Zardari maneuvered to get the National Assembly “to share his shame” (as one Pakistani Columnist put it) to rubber stamp endorsement of his signature on the law authorization of Sharia in Swat.

It was left to Ayaz Amir, the noted Pakistani Columnist, a former Pakistan Army officer and now a parliamentarian to reflect this anguish in his column “Wages of Fear and Appeasement” (The News, April 17, 2009). His anguished words which will echo in Pakistan need to be reproduced in original.

“When a state and its military forces mentally reconcile themselves to defeat, one can only mourn the event. There is nothing left to say.”
“But we are trying to put a gloss on it and are putting forward all sorts of justifications – that there was no way out and that signing the Nizam – e – Adul regulation will bring lasting peace to Swat and its environs – but in out heart of hearts we know that, our courage having fled and no vision worth the name to guide us, we have acquiesced in a great act of surrender”.
“Munich is written all over it”.
“Before India our Eastern Command laid down its arms in 1971, not its spirit or soul. Before the Taliban in Swat we have ceded a part of out national soul.”
Pakistan Army’s abject surrender of Swat sequentially crowns a long list of surrenders to the Taliban of Pakistan’s state-control of frontier regions along the Afghan border beginning with the infamous Waziristan Accords. In Swat, the Pakistan Army has surrendered to the Taliban in the hinterland too.

The United States and the West having invested in billion of dollars on the Pakistan Army and still persist in doing so as evidenced by the pledges made on April 17, 2009 at Tokyo meeting of “Friends of Pakistan”, should now feel entitled to question as to why the Pakistan Army has been an abject and mute spectator to the Talibanization of Pakistan.

The people of Pakistan too should be asking the Pakistan Army the same questions having denied themselves for 60 years, democracy and development, to sustain Pakistan Army’s grandiose military adventurism against India.

Pakistan Army’s accountability on the galloping Talibanization of Pakistan needs to be asked for, as to why this over-glorified Army has failed the people of Pakistan and its strategic patrons in not stemming the tide of Talibanization, This apparent military inaction of the Pakistan Army in not effectively combating the Taliban menace raises two separate questions as follows:

Pakistan Army – Is it in an inglorious retreat against the Taliban advances?
Pakistan Army – Is it involved in a calibrated and collusive collaboration with the Taliban for strategic reasons?
This Paper attempts to analyze the above under the following heads:

NWFP and FATA Regions: Talibanization Virtually Complete
Pakistan Army in Inglorious Retreat or Calibrated Collusive Collaboration with Taliban for Strategic Reasons?
United States AF-PAK Strategy Unravels
Pakistan: The Prospects of a Civil War.
NWFP and FATA Regions: Talibanization Virtually Complete

Pakistan’s NWFP and FATA regions bordering Afghanistan and of critical strategic interest to the United States, stand fully Talibanized, courtesy the Pakistan Army for whatever reasons.

The prospects of this taking place and the hard decisions that would be so forced on the United States was analyzed by this Author as far back as January 2006 in his Paper (SAAG Paper No. 1688 dated 25.01.2006) entitled “Pakistan’s Explosive Western Frontiers and Their Impact: An Analysis”.

Tthe strategic impact on the United States can be read in the quoted Paper. However the observations made on Pakistan were that this explosiveness on its Western frontiers would be “suicidal” for Pakistan. Two major points from this Paper of contemporary pertinence need to be highlighted:

“Pakistan in all these decades could smugly indulge in military adventurism against its predominant neighbour India, chiefly because its western frontiers were not explosive.”
“Pakistan’s revived strategy of Taliban resurgence via the Waziristan route may result once again in an over-stretch of Pakistan Army, continued explosiveness in NWFP and generate in its wake many crucial contradictions in Pakistan, domestically.”
Nemesis can be said to have caught up with Pakistan and the Pakistan Army where today the border region of NWFP and FATA depict the following pattern of Taliban control:

Full Taliban Control: The entire border areas of NWFP and FATA are under “Full Taliban Control” with two exceptions of Kurram and Chitral which are still contested.
Contested Taliban Control: An intermediate stretch between the border regions and the settled areas, a narrow strip is both contested between the Taliban and Pakistan Army.
Taliban Influence Areas: This comprises the settled areas bordering the Pakistan heartland and in this the Taliban has penetrated and can be said to be establishing influence.
Government Control: Only two regions of Abottabad and Haripur
Therefore, for all practical purposes of state sovereignty Pakistan has ceded control of NWFP and FATA to the Taliban. This is a severe indictment on the Pakistan Army's professionalism as the guardian of Pakistan.

For details of the various regions in terms of these three broad categorization of Talibanization control of NWFP and FATA, please refer to Annexure attached.

Pakistan Army in Inglorious Retreat or Calibrated Collusive Collaboration with Taliban for Strategic Reasons?

Pakistan Army has been projecting to the United States that it has more than 100,000 troops deployed in the NWFP and FATA engaged in military operations against the Al Qaeda and Taliban. If that is a military truth then it is inconceivable as to how the professionally renowned Pakistan Army, has failed to prevent the Talibanization of NWFP and FATA. This has not only endangered US strategic interests in Afghanistan, raised questions about Pakistan Army as a reliable strategic interest in US strategic calculations, but by ceding Pakistani territory to Taliban control has endangered Pakistan’s survival as a nation state.

Pakistan’s noted strategic expert, Ahmed Rashid, especially on AF-PAK affairs and intensely consulted by the United States presently, has implied that the Pakistan Army has been in an inglorious retreat against the Taliban. Some important observations made by him lately are pertinent:

“Rather than order the Pakistan Army to retake Swat, the PPP Government have capitulated to Taliban demands to avoid more violence”.
“Deal may be interpreted as an unmistakable defeat in the country’s losing battle against Islamic extremism”.
“Pakistan Army is demoralized and overstretched and has refused United States offers to retrain its regular forces in counter-insurgency”.
“Pakistan Government and the Pakistan Army have lost the will and capability to oppose the Taliban”.
As a strategic analyst, this Author in his opinion finds it hard to believe that the Pakistan Army has lost the will and capability to fight the Taliban. On the contrary, this Author strongly feels that General Kayani and the Pakistan Army have indulged in a calibrated, and collusive collaboration to let the Taliban over-run Pakistan’s western frontier regions of NWFP and FATA for strategic reasons to pressurize the United States.

It would not be a conspiracy theory or a cynical strategic analysis to assert the following:

Continued explosiveness in NWFP and FATA contributes to retention of centrality of Pakistan Army in United States strategic formulations in this region with particular relevance to Afghanistan.
Such centrality of Pakistan Army especially in the AF-PAK context would force the United States, despite a civilian government on Islamabad, to deal directly with Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Pakistan Army in such a calibrated strategy would place its bargaining chip on the table for the United States – the ISI under the Pakistan Army has a central role in helping US operations against the Taliban, USA should concede this role and stop criticizing the ISI.
As another quid-pro-quo make the United States to prevail over India for compromises on Kashmir and demilitarization of Kashmir and prevail over Afghanistan to recognize the Durand Line.
A detailed analysis of this calibrated strategy can be found in this Author’s Paper (SAAG Paper No. 3079 dated 03.02.2009) entitled Pakistan’s Talibanization is No Strategic Threat to India” and under the group heading “Pakistan’s Talibanization Facilitated by Pakistan Army Ceding Strategic Space by its Withdrawals from Frontier Regions”.

The Pakistan Army seems to be convinced in the belief that its well-crafted blueprint would ensure that it can retain calibrated control over Taliban escalation.

At best it can divert the Taliban drives towards India in Kashmir as part of its calibrated control. At worst, the Pakistan Army under intense American coercion could ultimately confront the Taliban in he plains areas of Pakistan with its traditional ruthlessness.

On both counts analysed above strategic concerns are generated for USA and the West and by extension to India.

United States AF-PAK Strategy Unravels

The United States major drawback in its strategic management of Pakistan has always been its single-point over-reliance on Pakistan Army Generals to deliver on its strategic objectives. Presently in Pakistan the United States has in place a decidedly pro-American Pakistani President and a perceived US inclined Pakistan Army Chief.

While the United States may persist in projecting that General Kayani is not a “political general” and would like to keep his nose out of politics, the record of the last year or so indicates otherwise.

President Zardari and PM Gilani had months back asserted that they have full faith in entrusting the sole responsibility for military operations in NWFP and FATA without political interference to the Pak Army Chief.

What have been the results of such a policy and the innumerable dialogues between General Kayani and US military hierarchy?

The state of affairs emerging in Pakistan hardly provide any sense of optimism that the United States AF-PAK strategy would succeed. On the contrary it may unravel even before it takes off.

One of the main props of the AF-PAK strategy is socio-economic development of the border regions of NWFP and FATA. Pray one may ask as to how the United States can achieve this when these regions are no longer under Pakistan Army control but under effective control of the Taliban.

The United States may be left with no choice but to reverse its priorities in AF-PAK Strategy from retrieving Pakistan from state-failure to reclaiming Afghanistan and assist nation-building as a bulwark against the impending chaos that is likely to engulf Pakistan.

Pakistan: The Prospects of a Civil War

The prospect of a civil war in Pakistan stands pointed out in my SAAG Papers quoted above. Such assertions then used to be met with amused reactions as the very thought seemed preposterous. But eminent Pakistanis too are seized with this worrisome prospect especially after the events of Swat.

Former Pakistan Ambassador Zafar Hilaly makes his concern in historical comparisons. In a recent commentary he has made the following observations.

“The Taliban are the 21st Century Mongols. Their mission too like that of 12th Century Mongols is to destroy the culture, faith and way of life to their opponents and to capture and kill if they resist. But unlike the Mongols hordes they (Taliban) do not simply terrorise the land like a swams of locusts, instead they stay.”
“The situation in Pakistan today is like a Greek tragedy: we all know the end but are powerless to prevent it.”
Rather ominous words coming from a thinking Pakistani. Another eminent Pakistani strategic and political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa states:

“Finally, we have a state that does not have any clue about where it wants to be in this century”.
“People have classifications for weak states such as banana republic, a term many despise”.
“Probably the right term for Pakistan is the “Jalebi Republic”, circles within circles and no clarity about the future”.
Many analysts in Pakistan have began to draw conclusions comparing the situation in Pakistan to the 1971 scenario when as a result of Pakistan Army transgressions, East Pakistan seceded to emerge as an independent entity of Bangladesh.

Close advisers to the Obama Administration are virtually coming to the same conclusion like David Kilcullen who has asserted that Pakistan could be facing an internal collapse within six months.

Concluding Observations

Pakistan and the Pakistan Army seem to have reconciled themselves to defeat at the hands of the Taliban and Swat portends that Pakistan Army’s abject indifference to uphold national integrity has ceded its national soul as observed by Ayaz Amir. He has always like may other thinking Pakistanis have been strong defenders of Pakistan’s honor. The seriousness of Pakistan’s crisis today echoes strongly in his words and many like him.

The United States with the most critical and massive strategic stakes in Pakistan’s stability needs to do a quick rethink and recast its AF-PAK strategy. The Pakistan Army cannot be counted as a reliable strategic asset in US strategic formulation for the region.

The United States has the strategic, political, military and financial leverage to bring around the Pakistan Army to stem the tide of Talibanization.

India has not contributed to the creation of the Taliban or the galloping Talibanization of Pakistan under way. The Pakistan Army is solely responsible for the grim state of affairs in Pakistan and the United States should call it to accountability, if for nothing else, to account for the billions of dollars invested in it to serve US strategic objectives.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email:drsubhashkapila.007@gmail.com)

Annexure:

NWFP AND FATA: PATTERN OF TALIBAN CONTROL

Areas Under Full Taliban Control

Swat, Shangla, Buner, Malakand, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Hangu, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Bannu

Areas Under Contested Taliban Control

Chitral, Kurram, Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar, Kohat, Karak

Areas Under Taliban Influence

Kohistan, Balagram, Manshera, Swabi, Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan

Under Pakistan Government Control

Abottabad and Haripur

1 comment:

BENGAL UNDER ATTACK said...

I am of the opinion while Pakistan Army went for collaborated collusion with Taliban, the Taliban may have some independent agenda of their own.

A clash, however limited, is expected.

A clash of ideologies within Paksitan army is expected. Maj. Gen Faisal Alavi was not murdered just like that - this incident is yet to play out.