Monday, November 05, 2007

Who's On First?

And can you tell the players apart without a program? Bill Roggio, who had predicted the crisis in Pakistan while most media outlets were obsessed with Iraq notices that while Musharraf is cracking down in Islamabad, he is cutting deals with the Taliban.

While Musharraf cracks down on his political opposition in the heart of the country, deals are already being cut with the Taliban. In South Waziristan, a deal has already been made with Baitullah Mehsud’s Taliban. In Swat, negotiations are underway to acquiesce to Maulana Qazi Fazullah.

At the risk of oversimplification, politics in Pakistan is a three cornered game between the Army, political parties of various ideological persuasions, and Islamic militants. The three groups infiltrate each other to some degree yet are also engaged in bitter rivalry. The recent declaration of Martial Law by President Pervez Musharraf has suddenly created a nostalgia for the status quo ante. But the recent past was far from ideal. The situation before martial law was itself described as repressive and far from stable. The basic problems of Pakistani politics led directly to the present crisis. But there are fears that with the declaration of Martial Law the situation will go from bad to worse.

Stratfor believes that Musharraf declared Martial Law not so much in order to gain the power to cut the Gordian Knots of Pakistani politics so much as to stay in office a little while longer -- an ambition in which he appears to be supported by the officer corps. With his footing in the Army firm, Musharraf may be cutting deals with the Islamic radicals in order to clamp down on the political parties, who have been giving him trouble of late, in particular challenging his legitimacy through the Pakistani Supreme Court. This will enable him to pit two apexes of the political triangle against the third. Bill Roggio remarks:

In yesterday’s article on the assessment of Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution and declaration of a state of emergency, we noted the government was more likely to cut deals with the Taliban as Musharraf consolidates power in the capital. The release of 25 Taliban leaders and the reinstatement of the Sararogha accord in South Waziristan, along with the formation of a jirga to renegotiate the peace accords in Swat are bad signs of Musharraf’s intentions with respect to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The question is whether Musharraf will go for the double play. Having forced the political parties out -- temporarily at least -- will Musharraf turn against the Islamic militants after he has consolidated power? Although one might be tempted to view Musharraf's apparent deals with the Taliban has a tactical move to crush the political parties in preparation for a final showdown with the militants there are reasons to suspect otherwise. The question turns on capability.

Does the Pakistani Army have the capability to settle accounts with the militants after declaring Martial Law? Of the three major political forces in Pakistan: the Army, the political parties and the Islamic militants, two have substantial military capability. But while the Army can crush the civilian political parties with relative ease, any campaign against the militants will probably take months and years to execute. It will be difficult. Moreover, creating a military dictatorship in Islamabad makes it internationally difficult even for the countries against terror to support Musharraf.  In other words, if Musharraf's eventual intention is to settle accounts with the Taliban he has put himself in a very poor position to undertake it. Therefore the question is whether he intends to challenge the Taliban at all.

If Stratfor is correct and Musharraf's objective is only to stay in power,  he need not defeat the Taliban comprehensively; he only needs to reach a stable modus vivendi with them. In other words, he can buy his seat at the expense not only of the tatters of Pakistani democracy but on the account of his international ally: the United States. By narrowing the choices in Pakistan to a horse race between his military government and the Taliban/al-Qaeda, Musharraf may be calculating that America will have no choice but to bet on him. And keep betting on him as long as he is willing to stay in play. This could hold policy hostage to one man. Already Pakistan is being compared to Iran before Khomeini, though we should remember that Iran, unlike Pakistan, did not have nuclear weapons.

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Republican candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., looks at the situation in Pakistan and sees Iran in the '70s.

He looks at Iran today and sees short-sightedness in US foreign policy in the '70s.

He is not the only one, but for different reasons. Gary Sick was the desk officer on Iran in the '70s at the National Security Council and now a professor for Columbia. Sick wrote recently for Newsweek and the Washington Post that there are similarities, at least topical ones, between Iran in the '70s and Pakistan now.

Sick complains that the US seems, as with the Shah, to have "put all our eggs in one basket."

Actually I think America actually tried to put its eggs in different baskets. The return of Benazir Bhutto was probably a long shot at reinvigorating the legal political process by creating a viable, but legal opposition. Those efforts have failed for the moment both in the clouds of the recent bomb blasts and the declaration of Martial Law. The question is whether they have failed permanently.


Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Not all terrorists are created equal. The Taliban became the bad guys, in America's eyes, when they shielded Al Quada after 9/11. An event that has been underreported in American media is that the Taliban is currently at war with Al Quada.

Ray Robison at The American Thinker observes:
Already beleaguered in Iraq, where tribal leaders have turned against it, al Qaeda faces a crumbling of its tribal alliances in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderland regions. New reporting reaffirms my belief that substantial portions of the Taliban, a tribal entity which is under the influence of the Maulana Fazlur Rahman, have turned against al Qaeda. To be sure, not every Taliban leader is going to turn, but a significant portion of them will.

The Maulana is already a target of al Qaeda, and he is working against them.

President Mushareef finally showed the will to act against the Maulana and his jihadists with a raid on a mosque a few months back, letting him know there is pressure. In addition, Mushareef is now sending forces -- which have been getting trounced by Taliban and tribal forces so far -- into tribal lands.

Enter back into the Pakistani political mix former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazeer Bhutto. She worked closely with the Maulana when she was PM. He was then and is still the political leader of the militant Islamic faction in Pakistan. Bhutto will help bring him back into the inner circle. Though he will not act by proclamation and his changes will be covert, he will affect the Taliban by internal political maneuvering within his jihad-centric political parties.

Al Qaeda has targeted the Maulana. Undoubtedly the U.S. is applying more than a little bit of pressure on him, and his former foreign sponsors Saddam and Qaddafi are no longer pumping millions to his jihad groups. The new Bhutto/Mushareef alliance leaves him divided from the military and democratic political interests of Pakistan. He is increasingly isolated.

But Bhutto also gives the Maulana an escape valve; a chance to earn a powerful ally. The Maulana is no fool and he sees the weakness of al Qaeda and the end of the current incarnation of its international jihad just around the corner. Already his vitriol against the United States has lessened.

Ironically, at the same time America is considering cutting off financial aid to our Pakistani allies, the World Bank is lending $900 mill of mostly American money to the nuke-seeking mullahs in Iran!

11/05/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger TmjUtah said...

Do the Saudis or other Gulf States have formal financial ties with any of Musharef's domestic Islamofascists?

IF there is a Musharef long - term strategy, it has to include defanging the Islamists. Even if his ambition is merely to remain a dictator.

There's ample motive for a lot of killing, especially in the tribal lands. When viewed through the eyes of Musharef, how many tribal leaders, questionable ISI apartchiks, and high profile mullahs have to go before he begins to feel even the slightest possibility of continued rule.

11/05/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

If the Mullahs have turned on Al Q, then the situation in Pakistan has more in common with the recent turmoil in Thailand, than what occurred in Iran some nearly thirty years ago.
The Taliban are hard core and fiercely independent, it will be interesting to witness what alliances form in the coming weeks. And what form of government results. It will not be the Pakistan we knew.

11/06/2007 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

Given the confusion and reduction of communications would not this be a good time for some covert liquidation of top al Qaeda commanders?

I would say yes.

Our intelligence community must have a list of al Qaeda members who hiding in Swat and the Waziristan area. A few well placed Hell fire missiles and some bullets could eliminate a number of very bad players.

Even if Musharraf is blamed for their deaths and resulting damage to al Qaeda, it can’t get any worse for him. In fact, if a group of al Qaeda leaders are killed it would force him to watch his back and cooperate more with the USA.

Strike while the Iron is hot. Eliminate as many bad guys as possible. This fog of war will not last long.

11/06/2007 02:28:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

One of the problems with the situation is that the US can't have any more degrees of freedom than the situation allows. The "preferred option" -- which is a democratic political force opposed to extremism -- may not exist. All that may be available right now are unpalatable choices.

For the present it may prove necessary to choose the lesser evil without becoming wedded to it. In order to influence Musharraf and the Army, he must not become too strong. But the Army, undemocratic though they may be, cannot be allowed to collapse without a successor political force or else Islamic radicals will reprise Iran, only with nuclear weapons. This means alignments will be subject to change and that's risky, but inevitable because the ball can't stop where it is on the wheel. In a longer term sense the situation must be regarded as in flux.

Musharraf's declaration of Martial Law will likely spur new alliances which did not previously exist. For the moment the important thing is not to get sucked into a losing position but play for positional advantage, like a chess player in the middle game. I hope the Foreign Service people have got the countermoves plotted out. Because the more mischievous capitals of the world may be examining the situation for an opportunity.

11/06/2007 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

I can only hope that there is a plan to grab the nukes in case of a collapse, which I really think inevitable.
Pakistan is a rolling boil of instability. There are no good choices and even fewer acceptable likely outcomes. The current state of Iraq is nothing short of a miracle given where that country was a year ago. Where would it be absent the Allied forces?

Lets remember Gary Slick's last public contribution to the area: His assertion that the release of the hostages was the result of Bush41 negotiations with the mullas after a preelection SR71 flight from DC to Teheran.

Another post addresses the moonbats at large in State and CIA. They have a heritage.

11/06/2007 07:47:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger