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Pundita on Pakistan

Miss P. bangs pots and pans, shoots off fireworks, uses her knee to pound a bass drum while blowing a vuvuzela in an effort to draw attention to the Elephant in the policy room no one wishes to address.

It won’t work until a Pakistani-sponsored terrorist pulls off an act of catastrophic terrorism inside the United States and kills a large number of elite Americans in Manhattan or the Beltway. After that point, we’ll get serious and these views will become conventional wisdom.

I just hope the terrorists don’t succeed in Arizona or Kansas – the story will only make page 2, then and policy will stay the course:

Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell

On or about August 30, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received a detailed assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan that included a request for additional U.S. troops. The report was from General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. But as noted on the first page the assessment was a joint effort representing input from ISAF staff and the component commands.On the matter of Pakistan the report noted:

Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan’s lSI.

A year earlier McChrystal’s predecessor, General David D. McKiernan, delivered a franker assessment of the same situation. He stated flatly that he was certain there was a “level of ISI complicity” in the militant areas of Pakistan and within organizations like the Taliban.McKiernan’s observation came on the heels of a secret visit by a top CIA official to Islamabad; the visit was to directly confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new data about ties between the ISI and militants operating in Pakistan tribal areas.It seems the CIA met with the same stonewalling Britain’s government encountered in 2006 when they brought virtually the same charges to Pakistan because their next move echoed the one taken by Britain’s Ministry of Defense: the CIA leaked news of the trip to a major press outlet — in their case, The New York Times.These naive attempts to embarrass a government comprised of terror-masters, dope dealers and professional beggars skilled at wheedling billions in aid out of the West came to nothing, beyond the ISI’s decision to outsource more of their oversight of terrorist attacks on NATO troops to front agencies such as the SSG.

David Petraeus might study Kashmir if he doesn’t want to repeat Stanley McChrystal’s mistakes in Afghanistan

On Monday the RAND Corporation published a paper titled Counterinsurgency in Pakistan by Seth G. Jones and C. Christine Fair. I don’t agree with most of the authors’ recommendations. However, I think the section of the paper titled Pakistan’s Use of Proxy War, which goes into some detail about Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, will be instructive in light of Pakistani-sponsored actions against ISAF and the Afghans who resist Taliban rule.The section begins on page 6, chapter two. Although I don’t provide the footnotes I’ve kept the footnote numbering for ready reference. (The paper can be downloaded for free in PDF at the RAND website. A summary in PDF is also available):

Pakistan’s Use of Proxy WarfareMost accounts assume that Pakistan first engaged in using militants as a foreign policy tool during the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Pakistan, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others supported seven major mujahideen groups operating in Afghanistan.”The Mujahedeen could achieve nothing without financial support,” acknowledged Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, who headed the Directorate for Inter-services Intelligence’s (ISI’s) Afghan bureau from 1983 to 1987, and was responsible for the supply, training, and operation planning of the mujahideen. “Almost half of this money originated from the U.S. taxpayer, with the remainder coming from the Saudi Arabian government or rich Arab individuals.”3

In many standard accounts, Pakistan redeployed these battle-hardened operatives to Kashmir in 1990 when the Soviets formally withdrew from Afghanistan. In fact, Pakistan has relied on nonstate actors to prosecute its foreign policy objectives in Kashmir since its independence in 1947. In that year, the state mobilized lashkars (tribal forces) to seize Kashmir while the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, debated whether to join India or Pakistan….


Good things come in threes. A third post by Pundita – The last American helicopter out of Kabul

… Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.

Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. …

Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

“They know this creates a bigger breach between us and Karzai,” the American official said.

The best American general to replace McChrystal is not Petraeus but rather Curtis LeMay.

16 Responses to “Pundita on Pakistan”

  1. onparkstreet Says:

    The elites don’t think there is an elephant in the room. I bet higher-ups think they have an omniscient God-like view of the situation, and can perfectly calibrate between the Indians and the Pakistanis, and that the Indians, or the Indian diaspora, are just paranoid.
    Because if there is one thing our foreign policy and military establishments have shown for the past 50 odd years, it’s that they know South Asia very well. They never get gamed by any of the players. Money never disappears into the ether, there is no blow-back, and you can stage-manage an existential conflict between two countries composed of complicated groups of adults with their own histories, emotions, goals and drives.
    Seriously, please don’t ask for insight from that crew. You won’t get it. B. Raman actually called out the "West" and the Americans, sort of sotte voce, on his blog not so long ago. I linked it at Abu M.
    – Madhu

  2. onparkstreet Says:

    Did you listen to any of the CNAS panels? Ryan Crocker said his advice would be for a "Kerry-Lugar II." I know, I’m a broken record on aid and that aid bill in particular. But it gets old, you know, watching my fellow Americans get gamed and then be patronizingly treated as just a nutty member of the Indian diapsora (well, some of us are that, to be fair._ Why can’t some of you see it? Is there some latent Orientalism involved? Look at those funny brown people with their funny brown conflict? Ha ha, we know better?
    – Madhu

  3. Lexington Green Says:

    Say you have a really good conventional army.  Call it  a hammer.  So, everything looks like a nail.  Iraq looks like a nail.  But you drive the nail, and for some damn reason, the war is not over.  You find yourself in a war where you need a screwdriver.  So, you make a screwdriver.  There is a lot of conflict about whether you need a screwdriver, and how maybe you will forget how to use a hammer if you have a screwdriver, and the guys who sold you the hammer are freaking out about you buying a screwdriver.    Anyway, you do finally get yourself a screwdriver.  And you screw in the screw with it.  It looks like it worked.  It looks like the screwdriver guys were right all along.  The problem is, the well known rule “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” has a corollary.  It goes like this:  “if you have fought really hard to get yourself a screwdriver, the next thing you have to deal with looks like a screw.”  Afghanistan looks like a screw.  You learned to do COIN.  Afghanistan looks like a place to do COIN.    But, what it it’s not?    COIN can work if the enemy is mostly indigenous, and you can use these techniques to get the people on your side.    But the enemy is mostly supported by an outside enemy, you are not in an insurgency, you are in a proxy war.    The screwdriver you just bought, the one you fought so hard to get, is the wrong tool.    To fight a proxy war, you need to attack the party promoting the proxy, which is Pakistan.  But, if that party has nuclear weapons, you can’t.  Or, maybe, you can, but you can’t do it openly or directly.  Or maybe you can, but it will be really risky.    But, whatever you do, you cannot wage COIN without dealing with the outside force.  The screwdriver is at best not enough, and at worst irrelevant.    If you fail to attack the party promoting the proxy, or cut off the local enemy from their outside supporters, you will lose.  If pretend you can do COIN and win it that way, and not deal with the outside supporter, You are committing the ultimate sin in American strategy.    You are … get ready for it … refighting Vietnam. 

  4. T. Greer Says:

    Lex, that is a thought deserving its own post.

  5. Pundita Says:

    Lexington Green – Hear, hear! 

  6. Dave Schuler Says:

    You are … get ready for it … refighting Vietnam. .Last night on OTB Radio Pat Lang, James Joyner, and I agreed that’s a pretty fair characterization of the last 9 years.  With Pat and I having lived through that period (he in harm’s way in Southeast Asia) we both find it pretty darned sad.

  7. onparkstreet Says:

    I heartily second T. Greer and Pundita on Lexington Green’s excellent comment.
    Oh no, Pundita, I have no problem believing any of what you are saying. All of that is very interesting. I’d wondered about the Cold War left-overs and the Sahib aspect of it too.
    Also, apologies for the – what was the word zen used before? Sour? – sour nature of my comments. To be fair to former Amb. Crocker, he also mentioned removing tariffs on cotton in that talk.
    – Madhu

  8. Pundita Says:

    Mark, thank you very much. You have also done a great deal of drum banging on your blog about Pakistan.  Let’s hope the din is heard at CENTCOM.  .
    After 26/11 it became harder for Atlanticists to argue that Pakistan needed to remain a U.S. client state in case the Kremlin made contact with a Klingon battleship.  But Atlanticists are quite set in their view of the world. Witness Joyner patting the air with his hands about your last Pakistan rant lol.   .
    Madhu, if it’s any comfort the Get Russia crowd does not give a fig about the funny white people of the United States, either.  I doubt you’re ready to believe me but I tell you again that the studious blindness in Washington about Pakistan is propped up the enduring influence of the Get Russia crowd inside the Beltway.  .
    The crowd is comprised of Atlanticists — who believe European NATO countries are the Middle Kingdom — plus lumpenproletariat such as oil barons, bankers, and Russian oligarchs who don’t give a fig about NATO and just want to run Russia again.  (An American Atlanticist is someone who can name every major city in Romania but can’t find Mexico City or Pittsburgh on a map.)
    .The big obstacle the U.S. military has to overcome in dealing with Pakistan’s regime is the delusion that officers in the Pakistani military are ‘guys just like us.’  No they’re not; they’re just skilled at mirroring back to the American Sahib how he likes to see himself.  The skill was honed and passed down during centuries of dealing with the British Sahib. 
    . The American military, intelligence, and diplomatic establishments don’t understand how the caste system works in Pakistan and how it impacts the military class. They understand nothing about the Pakistanis.  When one doesn’t understand other peoples while fighting a war, one needs to fall back on common sense – on what one can do – and not try to refashion the other in one’s image.
    If Petraeus and his advisors can understand that much, and learn about the relevance of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir to the Taliban in Afghanistan, they’ll be able to throw together a better plan for Afghanistan.

  9. Pundita Says:

    Dave, IMHO Afghanistan is not Vietnam although I understand the temptation to see it as such.  The U.S. was not supporting the Red Chinese and Russian armies and collaborating with them while fighting their proxies in Vietnam, whereas  the U.S. is going a long way toward supporting the Pakistani military and collaborating with it while fighting its proxies in Afghanistan. 

     There are several other key differences but in short Afghanistan is a unique situation for the U.S. military; they won’t be able to fully appreciate this until they confront Pakistan’s role and admit that to leave Afghans in the care of Pakistan’s military would be to set off a humanitarian disaster on a scale the rest of the world would not accept.  And in these days of satphones, camera cell phones, and internet social networks there would be no way for the U.S.  government to  hide the atrocities.  That, too, is another difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan.

    If Americans throw up their hands and say we can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan forever — it won’t be forever, not with Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth — but let this be a hard lesson that there are consequences to treating entire peoples as chess pawns, which is what Americans did to Afghans during the Cold War.   The Pottery Barn rule does apply here, as it did in Iraq.  

  10. Lexington Green Says:

    This isn’t Vietnam because, unlike in Vietnam, we are supporting Diem (Karzai), building ARVN (ANA) and at the same time we are financing and arming the DRV (Pakistan), financing the Vietcong (Taliban), paying for the PAVN (Pakistani Army), and pretending that the country which is providing sanctuary to the VC (Pakistan) is our "ally."  We have been paying for both sides of the same war at the same time, while getting our own people shot on one side of it.  If there is a strategic "most stupid" scenario, that may be it.  If it were only as bad as Vietnam, it would be progress.  The one thing that was worse about Vietnam was we were sending draftees over there, getting them killed in droves, and pretty much blowing up our own society in the process.  If Petraeus cannot restore some sanity, no one can.  If he stays on the current course, we will lose, and Pakistan will win, and we will never have acknowledged who our real enemy was. 

  11. Pundita Says:

    Lexington Green — Hear, hear!  Hear!  Hear! Hear!  [thumping the table] Hear!  LOL     

  12. Pundita Says:

    As fate would have it two press reports from yesterday and today (NYT and Washington Post) quote sources that as much admit Pakistan has been fighting a proxy war against ISAF in Afghanistan — and that the U.S. government is preparing to capitulate to Pakistan’s terms. I’ve quoted the reports in my post today and added remarks from this comment section about Vietnam.  The way it looks now, Dave Schuler was right —  Afghanistan has more in common with the Vietnam War than I could have imagined 24 hours ago.

  13. MM Says:

    Pakistan, India, Russia, America, Iran, A disinterested EU, China what an interesting mix.  Stir with Islam and you got game.I heard on NPR and interesting comment from an Afghani in the US that the US position was so wrong because it did not understand Afghanistan and that the war right now only involved the Pashtuns.  The Uzbeks and other groups could become radicalized and make it much much worse.What about those states that Stalin carved up in the north?  Joe Balkanized them deliberately, like the Soviets divided Germany.  The Uzbeks have the only real army there and Russia is scrambling to get Kyrgyzstan in a proper orbit to make a border in its south and keep China from doing an end run under it.  If China pokes in there economically it has people to spare to fill it it and tie it up.But if the Uzbeks put Humpty Dumpty back together again then it gets even more interesting if they steal a march on everybody while "The Great Powers"  China, Russia, US, India have a food fight and the wannabes Pakistan and Iran fight for their seat at the table.  They might ignore the reassembly of Humpty.  Stranger things have happened.Just musing.Still have to ask, why is the US there?  Why it is bad if the US steps out and lets the vortex suck in the other "Great Powers" so they have to spend their money and lives on it instead. 

  14. Ralph Hitchens Says:

    The ISI has always been a problem.  Those guys are the reason Ahmed Shah Masood isn’t President of a successful coalition government in Kabul.

  15. A fine comment by Lexington Green « OnParkStreet Says:

    […] 25, 2010 · Leave a Comment As long as I am in the mood to link to comments, here is a fantastic and insightful comment at zenpundit: This isn’t Vietnam because, unlike in Vietnam, we are supporting Diem (Karzai), building ARVN […]

  16. Seerov Says:

    "if it’s any comfort the Get Russia crowd does not give a fig about the funny white people of the United States, either." (Pundita)
    Ha ha…who are the "funny white people of the US?"  lol

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