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On “do more” – by Omar Ali

I had a facebook exchange after the news. A senior journalist in Pakistan had complained that we are suffering in the war on terror and the US is asking us to “do more” without realizing how hard things are. This is a common complaint in Pakistan. I am copying my reply here since I think it is relevant:

According to your timeline (if i read it correctly), the US and other powers got a military dictator to raise these maniacs, then things sort of coasted along happily for 12 years, then the US came and said we want them dead now and the current Pakistani govt is trying its best to kill them and its unfair of the US to ask us to “do more”? Is that a correct reading of your line of thought? If so, I think it misses some points.

First of all, the jihadi project was also OUR project from the very beginning. America wanted Russia humbled in Afghanistan. WE wanted that humbling to be done by Islamist jihadis under our control. Second, after the CIA finished its dirty business in Afghanistan and left, WE multiplied the jihadi infrastructure by 10. We redirected it to Kashmir and spread it throughout Pakistan. It is disingenuous to think that was also America’s fault (though they did ignore it because they may have thought it improves their leverage over India). Then, after 9-11, WE (meaning our security services) protected good jihadis and failed to go after the indoctrination or finance pipelines because :we” wanted the infrastructure kept alive for future use against India.

The current government may be “doing more”, but how will “doing less” help in any such plan? And if the army is now on board with stopping this menace (and I think it may be that their leaders indeed are on board by now, thought the rank and file is being fed a diet of anti-Indian and anti-Israeli propaganda to justify this action) then why are army-sponsored PR operators and ex-generals and admirals still writing op-eds as if the jihadis are our heros and America is the enemy? How does that help what you say is now “our” war on terror? I suspect “we” are paying a price because some of “we” are still determined to protect these people. America may be gone from the region in a few years and the jihadi project may have to be restarted. That hedging of bets is contributing to keeping it alive…

Of course, even if the rickety state apparatus does determine to go all out against the jihadis, the process will neither be pretty nor quick. There is no simple way to put the genie back into the bottle. The half million who are already trained (Arif Jamal’s figure in Shadow Wars) will have to be dealt with. Luckily, some have already moved on to other occupations and others have become simple criminals, busy with kidnapping and armed robbery. The more committed ones will have to be disarmed and jailed or killed. But in order to do that the state will have to shut down their financing, crack down on their above-ground supporters and win the battle of ideas in the mind of the public. None of that can succeed if the state’s own paid propagandists are busy spreading confusion and propaganda that undermines the psy-ops effort. It will also not succeed if the army is simultaneously trying to protect assets it hopes to use against India (because the good jihadis also help out the bad jihadis). it will also not succeed if Saudi and Gulf financing is not being intercepted. In short, It will not stop unless the India-centric, zero-sum national security mindset is changed because that mindset leads to these people and their mentors being protected. Some people do think that the primary reason this effort is not being conducted effectively is not because of any real or imagined Indian threat but because the existence of this insurgency is in fact our ticket to more aid and assistance. I personally think this is too conspiracy-minded, but who knows.

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Laila Ebadi

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  • A relevant comment on another blog by commenter IZ:

    http://asiancorrespondent.com/fiverupees/some-initial-thoughts-on-the-karachi-blast#comments

    The American ‘do more’ refrain is born out of a combination two things. Firstly, domestic political pressures in the USA (after every plot is uncovered or stopped, the US gov has to appear to be “taking steps” to do more) and extorting Pakistan to do more is one way to look like you are “taking steps”. The second is the fact that Pakistan is simply not being proactive enough. Why has their been a lull in the military campaign in 2010? Is it because the Pak army has to consolidate its previous gains and is stretched thin or is it because it wants to retain Haqqani Group and other militants as leverage? Pakistan invites the impression that it is the latter.

    Even if we buy in to the Pak army’s narrative, in any military campaign, one has to maintain the momentum and keep the enemy off balance. Allowing safe havens (N. Waziristan) to remain and giving long lulls (almost all of 2010) for militants to re-group and rebuild is bad strategy particularly when you have such overwhelming advantages in fire-power and manpower (and hey, if you have the forces available to blockade and bombard the anti-Taliban Turi tribe, then surely you can be somewhat more proactive in Waziristan? Even if its just limited operations to keep the TTP off-balance. What are their priorities?)

    Furthermore even if we accept that military operations in Waziristan is not an option, what about more effectively tackling militants in the rest of pakistan, such as the cells responsible for yesterday’s bombing? There has been a great deal of reporting on how the military intelligence agencies will step in to appropriate militants arrested by the police, and return them months or years later after interrogation, and not cooperate with civilian agencies or prosecutors so that actually prosecuting a militant in a court of law becomes virtually impossible. because of this a whole slew of militants are arrested and then freed after a few months or years. The agencies either need to work with the police to ensure prosecution, or step aside and let them do their work if law-enforcement in the rest of Pakistan is going be effective. Intelligence-sharing is also non-existent. It does not require time-tables and the build-up of forces etc. but rather the will and interest in getting the job done.