Small Wars Journal

None Dare Call it a Rogue State

Mark does at Zenpundit...

... The horns of our dilemma is that our long time "ally" whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States - justifiably in my view - to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state.

It is the elephant in our strategy room - if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still —to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. That Pakistan's deeply corrupt elite can be "rented" to defer their ambitions, or to work at cross-purposes with Pakistan's perceived "interests", is not a game-changing event. Instead, it sustains and ramps up the dysfunctional dynamic we find ourselves swimming against...

More at Zenpundit and the commentary, "Little Monsters", at Dawn that got him thinking about this issue.


tequila (not verified)

Thu, 12/10/2009 - 9:15am

Agree completely with Omar's last point.

This is a war within Pakistan and its own Army, elements of which are shooting at each other. This will be a bloody and gutwrenching crisis for Pakistan but one which it must go through in order to excise the cancer of violent jihadism.

Treating Pakistan and its Army as one monolithic enemy will guarantee victory for jihadism. Not sure why we would want to down that bloody road.

What is needed is the right sort of aid and advice to assist those elements of Pakistani society that oppose the violent jihadist right wing, not the demonization of Pakistan et al.


Thu, 12/10/2009 - 2:31am

Thanks for the link Dave!

Omar - I thank you for your extended response. I do not think that the general officer corps of Pakistan's army has it in them, politically speaking, to carry out the seven point program you enunciated - not without a collective feeling that the jihadis will bring down the Army itself. The generals still seem to believe that they can profit by riding the Islamist tiger much the way the Weimar German conservative-nationalist elite and Reichswehr thought they could make use of and then discard the Nazis. They keep rolling the dice even as their odds grow worse.

Jeremy Kotkin (not verified)

Thu, 12/10/2009 - 1:33am

"Whether the taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is a good thing or a bad thing, its an AFGHAN problem and we cannot allow OUR soil to be used to fight that war because that only invited NATO and the Afghan govt to attack OUR territory."

That's a convenient washing of the hands. What the issue really is is that, whether its a good thing or a bad thing, Pakistan made their bed and now they have to lie in it so to speak (just as much as US policies during the Cold War helped create the latest round of Afghan instability). PAK has an existential Taliban problem; the US has a Taliban problem that *somehow* is existential to us too. Both countries probably added equal amounts of ingredients for the final recipe. Its been said innumerable times that the 'two' wars are inseparable and, in fact, the same. Therefore, its not YOUR war anymore than its OUR war. Neither of our countries want this but its looking more and more like we can't fight it separately. A hammer needs an anvil, not a sponge.


Thu, 12/10/2009 - 12:23am

My comment on zenpundit..hastily put together, so please excuse the errors and omissions.
I think the correct way to look at it is this:
1. The whole "we were abandoned and betrayed" narrative is not worth the toilet paper it is written on. Thats just convenient propaganda, but all states indulge in some propaganda so lets skip that whole crock of shit and get to brasstacks.
2. CIA/USA did indeed fund and train Islamist terrorists in the eighties. Hell, the university of Nebraska even wrote the jihad manuals. America's hardcore cold war reasons for doing so are so obvious that many American analysts have trouble understanding why anyone would have trouble understanding them. But even at that point, the jihadi branch of the pak army had its own agenda and it is disingenious in the extreme for Pakistan to pretend they were somehow taken for a ride. If anything, the morons at CIA were taken for a ride by Zia and company.
3. The whole "abandonement" phase is a joke. Pakistan took the jihadi network set up in the afghan war and ran with it until it grew tenfold bigger.
The army high command completely succumbed to a relatively small number of Jihadi officers (due, in my opinion, to the extraordinary incompetence of our senior officers and their total tunnel vision) and gave them free rein throughout the nineties.
During this time, half a million men were trained by various jihadi organizations and a nationwide culture of jihad was allowed to take root in rural punjab as well as in the less fashionable sections of major cities. It was mostly off the radar of the English speaking classes (and hence off the radar of foreign journalists who fly in and meet some English speaking friends for whisky and soda and fly out), but it was a very major social shift. In the tribal areas as well as in Pakhtun Karachi and in most of South Punjab, it was easier to get justice from these people than from the existing state.
To avoid international pressure and to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of the English speaking classes, the endgame of this jihadi enterprise was never publicized outside their own groups. The extensive links of the army with the taliban and of the taliban with these jihadi networks were also kept off the front pages.
4. All jihadists were never under Pak army control and some Arab extremists based in Afghanistan attacked the US, probably without Pak army knowledge. The US invasion that followed was assisted by the Pak army under the assumption that the Americans will one day leave and the good taliban will then come back. For that purpose, the good taliban were not hampered in their escape and sanctuary in Pakistan. Under American pressure, some jihadi groups were shut down while others were told to lie low. Unfortunately, the army then discovered that the jihadis were using the army more than the army was using the jihadis and many of them refused to lie low, leading to problems with the US and with India. I am not sure if the Mumbai attacks were done with Pak army knowledge or not, but am working on the assumption that they were NOT known to the army beforehand.
Members of this network have set off bombs in London, Barcelona, India, bali and more.
This network is now striking against the army, so my assumption is that the army has really started to move against the jihadists (except for some like LET, which continue to accept some supervision... again, whether they pulled off mumbai without Pak army permission is an interesting question)
And so on.
As you can see, in my version, leaving the jihadists alone is not really an option because they will not leave us alone. Their project was real, it was international and it would have led to war IN ANY CASE even if 9-11 had not happened (though the initial war may have been against India in that case). Tactical decisions are always open for debate, but the overall strategic issue is clear to me: the Pakistani state has to either openly side with the jihadists, in which case the anti-taliban Afghans, India, Russia, Iran and NATO will look for ways to bring us down (some jihadists have told me that in that case we will have Chinese support, though I doubt it), OR we have to take on the jihadist network by working WITH the Americans, the Afghans, the Indians and so on, and in the course of this, still safeguard national interests of a more secular nature (water, boundary disputes, trade disputes and so on).
There is no negotiated settlement because THEY will not negotiate peace except as a temporary reprieve in which to build up strength. Sorry, no time for references, though they exist for most of the above assertions. Anyway, you are free to find your own version.
5. The idea that Pakistan is some kind of total jihadi state is also wrong. In fact, the jihadi/salafi/takfiri enterprise is supported by only a very small minority of Pakistanis (more so in some areas and in some groups). The fact is, the army as well as the rest of the permanent (corrupt) establishment ultimately has no choice but to side with the non-jihadi world. That is where their bread is buttered and they know it. But the army faces problems over and above the thousands of terrorists they trained or allowed to be trained. That is the issue of trying desperately to preserve some good taliban and good jihadis for what it considers its prime mission, taking on India. I dont think the army high command is actually looking for a jihadi takeover. But they cannot bring themselves to fully abandon a project that seemed to promise so much in their stupid zero-sum competition with India (a stupid competition in which india is capable of its own stupidities but nothing on this scale). This leads to confusion and a constant suspicion that the army is not serious. This whole issue of "non-seriousness" is at the heart of our problems. Its terrible if its true, but what is worth noting is that it is also terrible even if not true. Just the perception that the army may be in cahoots with the taliban or some of the taliban is enough to prevent local people from cooperating with the army and hedge their bets....these anti-jihadi operations are not going to work unless the army comes out and makes it clear that:
1. There are many jihadi tanzeems.
2. They all cooperate with each other.
3. Their aims are not compatible with normal function of the Pakistani state.
4. They have ALL committed murder, torture, school burning and hundreds of other crimes.
5. The army used to have some relationship with many of them but those days are long gone.
6. The army is going to take action against ALL these armed groups because no modern state can allow "non-state actors" to go around shooting people and imposing their own laws on people.
7. Whether the taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is a good thing or a bad thing, its an AFGHAN problem and we cannot allow OUR soil to be used to fight that war because that only invited NATO and the Afghan govt to attack OUR territory.

Unless the army makes this clear, this war is unwinnable. At some point, they will recognize this too. Unfortunately, they seem to do the right thing at the last possible moment and with the worst possible grace. Still, they ARE being attacked now, so one has to assume that many jihadis are now enemies and know it.
The worst thing would be for Westerners to finally recognize the army as a problem at the very moment when they may be close to thowing in their lot with the West.


Wed, 12/09/2009 - 7:10pm

One of the ideas that I liked in Obama's Audacity of Hope was when he talked about politics not being carved in stone allegiances and alliances but the shifting sands of relationships. Now, that might just be a politician's way of saying that he is not going to stay firm on anything - or - it could be an acknowledgement of the way the world is going to be.

We have moved on from the decades of firm alliances to the shifting sands on coalitions and it is not too hard to see a time when our right flank to today faces us across the wire next week. Probably not too different from Royal Navy Orders from 2-300 years ago: "We are at war with France/Holland/Spain (delete as applicable) and our allies in this fight are France/Holland/Spain (delete as applicable. You are to go forth and engage the enemy wherever they may be found. These orders subject to change at any time."

Much as the US has found its 'allies' to be fickle in times of its own need, maybe it now needs to adopt a pragmatically fickle doctrine for itself and feel to cut loose those allies of convenience when suffer changes of policy and allegiance contrary to US policy and objectives.