Small Wars Journal

Holding Pakistan

Holding Pakistan: The Second Phase of Pakistan's Counterinsurgency Operations - Haider Ali Hussein Mullick, Foreign Affairs.

Summary: Conventional wars are won by capturing territory, but counterinsurgencies are won by holding it. Rather than rushing to open new fronts against the Taliban, Pakistan must now focus on keeping the territory it has already cleared.

Much more at Foreign Affairs.



Sun, 03/28/2010 - 12:53am

Tirmizi sahib,

Your notion that this is "not our war" is a bit disingenuous. We expanded the jihadi machine 5 fold after the Afghan war. We established a proxy regime in Afghanistan. We encouraged the worldwide jihadi network to set up shop in our territory. "We" cannot get away from the consequences of that insane policy by now saying we created the monster (with generous CIA help, of course) but we did not want to kill it, so this whole bloody business of trying to kill the monster is "not our war". Our choice is not between "no war" and "imposed war". It is between fighting on the jihadi side or against them. Either way, a lot of other powers want the jihadis cut to size...
Which gives me an excuse to post my short history of this war:
Kindly excuse the flippant tone...
It would be more accurate to look at recent history as:
1. CIA arms and trains mujahideen to fight Soviets, Saudis pitch in with dreams of salafist empire, Pakistan army accepts contract in exchange for money, lots of money, chance to rule Pakistan forever, salafist empire dreams of its own.

2. CIA finishes its "task", lots of Afghans dead, Soviet Union humiliated, end of story.

3. Pakistan expands CIA initiated jihadi machine and points it East towards India. Thinks its proxies also occupy Afghanistan now (but the tail is actually wagging the dog; but the general staff is too moronic and blind to notice). Dreams of Central Asian empire. Dreams of humiliating India. Dreams of lots of cash. CIA joins in with pipeline dreams. Saudis contribute like crazy to the new Islamic wonderland being built by their students.

4. Saudis and CIA SLOWLY (painfully slowly) figure out that their students have ideas of their own. Pak army (bless the general staffs IQ) still clueless, still dreaming of Srinagar, Red fort, Samarqand and Bokhara... .

5. Students go berserk, bomb New York. CIA involved? probably not, but its a fun conspiracy theory and it will grow and grow... .

6. Pak army switches sides. Does it REALLY switch sides? who knows. General staff wargames 5 years of American presence, lots of cash...

7. General staff wrong as usual. CIA still around after 8 years. India not conquered yet. Samarqand and Bokhara pretty much out of reach. But of course, lots of cash. Also lots of dead Afghans and random Pakhtuns (especially poor khasadars, poorest and most upright and honorable soldiers in the country). To the armys dismay, also a few dead brigadiers and colonels... .

8. Kiyani sahib becomes chief. Probably the highest IQ person to ever do so (not saying much, this is the army... just kidding, just kidding). Army will now fight its creations, maybe even allow civilian rule. Maybe stop playing "regional power and start building country. then again, maybe not. ...

9. Obama is president. Wants to stop wasting money in Afghanistan. Willing to pay Pak army in exchange for services rendered. Who knows what the hell is going on behind the scenes... .Unfortunately, more dead people in Afpak.

10. Pak army declares total victory. Giant celebrations to be held in Minar e pakistan, OOPS,moved to Alhamra hall 2, double OOPS: end in fiasco ( .

11. unfortuntely, more dead people in the days to come. fortunately for some, also more cash... .kasb e kamal kun, key aziz e jahaan shwi (Achieve excellence and you will be the beloved of the world).

The Pak army seems to believe that they are "winning" in Afghanistan. If this is victory, then one shudders to think what defeat would look like. The narrative on the internet is that America is pulling out and Pak army are the gatekeepers and they will make the Americans pay throught their nose and bloody indians will get a black eye and whatnot. I think the only part of this theory that is correct is that America may pay them for the next 2-3 years. If India is foolish enough to get into a proxy war with them in Afghanistan, then India will bleed too, but if sardarji is smart enough to keep his head and work at a lower key, then Pakistan will end up with a marginally friendly regime in Afghanistan and a continuing civil war at home as well as in Afghanistan, with attendant costs for Pakistan.

Indian hawks (who are at least as dumb as Pakistani ones) will whine and cry about strategic setbacks and whatnot, but if they dont get into a shooting war with Pakistan, they will become a mid-level power in a few years and the hawks will make better money too, so the bitterness will be less painful with time... .
Anyway, the army's best laid plans and America's supposedly desperate need to save face and get out (which may be less desperate than our GHQ thinks) does not mean a return to the status quo ante. Nineties jihadism was wedded to salafist Islam, which is a real ideology, a religious movement with a 1400 year old history. The mashup of 8th grade islamiyat, pakistan studies and conspiracy theories that the army is trying to put in its place (via Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Qureshi and Shireen Mazari) is the emptiest of empty shells. There is no there there... Army fans will be repeatedly disappointed by the Pakistani "public", who will vote in "looters", indulge in "indiscipline", get distracted by "provincialism", produce far too many criminals and will generally behave much like any overpopulated third world country in transition, instead of holding fast to "Unity. Faith, Discipline and the rule of the blessed army"... ..

Very true, Pakistan is facing an unconventional WAR. We are paying high price for the war that was not ours , but lately very delecatly have been made ours.

Anyways my wishes and hopes are with Pakitan and its people.