Some Pakistan GWOT Updates…

A slew of interesting updates on Pakistan have popped up in the past few days and I thought Mutineers would enjoy some quick summaries.

First on the docket is an NYT investigative report on the depth / breadth of Bush-administration sanctioned covert ops in Pakistan as well as other countries in the pursuit of Al Qaeda –

WASHINGTON — The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.

These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.

One particular raid described in the NYT piece brings to mind a pivotal scene from Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games

In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.

One of my fav milblogs, StratPage, has a long piece on the state of military affairs within Pakistan and the game of political charades required for strikes like the one described in NYT –

November 10, 2008: In the last three months, there have been over 20 U.S. missile strikes (usually with 107 pound Hellfires launched from Predator or Reaper UAVS) in Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda have tried to respond to each of these attacks with a suicide bombing, but have only managed one such attack for every two or three Hellfire strikes…

…These Hellfire missile attacks are not popular with most Pakistanis, who see these UAV operations as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. At the same time, Pakistan wants the attacks to continue, as the Hellfire missiles have killed dozens of key Taliban and al Qaeda leaders so far this year. This has helped make it possible for the Pakistani army to attack the Taliban and al Qaeda bases in Pakistan, without taking heavy casualties (and the risk of being forced to call off the attacks because of that). But why not give Pakistan the UAVs and missiles and let them do the deed? Not possible, because of the large number of pro-terrorist personnel in Pakistani intelligence. With the U.S. making the attacks, there are no leaks.

The US’s Hellfires are thus the conventional equivalent of a decapitation strike – our hi-tech work from above clears the path for the low tech “clear and hold” operations the Pakistani troops perform aferwards. Not a bad division of labor if you ask me.

One example of a bright spot is the Pakistani’s great and little reported progress in Bajaur –

In the Bajaur district of Pakistan, nearly two thousand Islamic militants have been killed, and over a thousand arrested (about a third of those were foreigners). The Taliban had been sending about a hundred additional fighters a day into Bajaur, mostly from across the border in Afghanistan…In three months of fighting, the Taliban have lost over 5,000 men (dead, wounded, captured, illness, desertion) in Bajaur. The army has lost about one tenth as much, mainly because the army has refused to expose their troops to ambush and the other tactics favored by the Pushtun tribesmen.

All things being equal, there is great hope that the Pakistani army’s success in Bajaur is will “spill over” into other, similarly “less governed” parts of the country.

However, a pretty massive tide is now gathering momentum and threatens the equation. In contrast to Mushie who was capitalistic but not democratic, the new regime is ostensibly democratic but not doing a good job on the capitalism front. Given today’s economic winds, this is not a good posture to adopt –

Pakistan has another serious problem. The new government is seen as anti-business, and this has caused capital flight. That, and the growing global recession, has caused many export businesses to cut back or shut down. Foreign reserves (to pay for imports) are down to about a month’s worth of imports.

Odds are that between global trade + macro economic trends + domestic policies, Pakistan may be forced to declare bankruptcy in 2009

The country, a frontline ally in the US-led campaign against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, has been forced to seek 10 billion dollars from western backers to stave of the threat of going bankrupt as early as February 2009.

…Pakistan saw years of rapid growth after Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999, with former Citibank executive-turned-premier Shaukat Aziz overseeing an apparent turnaround in the country’s finances.

…The largely impoverished population of 168 million is suffering from inflation that hit a 30-year-high in June, the last available figure, of 25.33 percent, making staple foods and fuel unaffordable.

…The country is still reeling from the bombing last month of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel, one of the few remaining symbols of foreign investment.

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p>So what can we do from over here? For starters, the post-2004 military plan towards Pakistan appears to finally be yielding fruit. Predator airstrikes may not be popular for the crowd camped in front of the US embassy, in press conferences, or within the Pakistani legislature but they do appear to be creating the critical room for action for the Pakistani military on the ground. And it certainly beats the alternative of US troops directly performing “take, clear, hold” operations on Pakisani soil.

The Pakistani economy is a tougher nut to crack. There’s probably some pushing we can do from over here w.r.t. more pro-business economic policy within Pakistan. However, in the long run, the far more resilient action is to incent or “pull” through such policy by more broadly embracing trade and globalization over here.

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11 thoughts on “Some Pakistan GWOT Updates…

  1. It is interesting to see this aggressive turn of tactics rather than the very risk averse first days of the Afghan campaign. Seems a case of too little, too late. Excerpts from an interview with a Delta Force member who led a crucial mission in 2001:

    Delta Force Commander Says The Best Plan To Kill The Al Qaeda Leader In 2001 Was Nixed But the administration’s strategy was to let Afghans do most of the fighting. Using radio intercepts and other intelligence, the CIA pinpointed bin Laden in the mountains near the border of Pakistan. Following the strategy of keeping an Afghan face on the war, Fury’s Delta team joined the CIA and Afghan fighters and piled into pickup trucks. They videotaped their journey to a place called Tora Bora. Delta developed an audacious plan to come at bin Laden from the one direction he would never expect. “We want to come in on the back door,” Fury explains. “The original plan that we sent up through our higher headquarters, Delta Force wants to come in over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the Pakistan side, over the mountains and come in and get a drop on bin Laden from behind.” But they didn’t take that route, because Fury says they didn’t get approval from a higher level. “Whether that was Central Command all the way up to the president of the United States, I’m not sure,” he says. link

    We should know soon enough via the NY Times whether the new administration will follow these or other covert strategies.

  2. It is interesting to see this aggressive turn of tactics rather than the very risk averse first days of the Afghan campaign. Seems a case of too little, too late. Excerpts from an interview with a Delta Force member who led a crucial mission in 2001:

    Delta Force Commander Says The Best Plan To Kill The Al Qaeda Leader In 2001 Was Nixed But the administration’s strategy was to let Afghans do most of the fighting. Using radio intercepts and other intelligence, the CIA pinpointed bin Laden in the mountains near the border of Pakistan. Following the strategy of keeping an Afghan face on the war, Fury’s Delta team joined the CIA and Afghan fighters and piled into pickup trucks. They videotaped their journey to a place called Tora Bora. Delta developed an audacious plan to come at bin Laden from the one direction he would never expect. “We want to come in on the back door,” Fury explains. “The original plan that we sent up through our higher headquarters, Delta Force wants to come in over the mountain with oxygen, coming from the Pakistan side, over the mountains and come in and get a drop on bin Laden from behind.” But they didn’t take that route, because Fury says they didn’t get approval from a higher level. “Whether that was Central Command all the way up to the president of the United States, I’m not sure,” he says. link

    We should know soon enough via the NY Times whether the new administration will follow these or other covert strategies.

  3. Odds are that between global trade + macro economic trends + domestic policies, Pakistan may be forced to declare bankruptcy in 2009 -

    From “Defence faces dose of reality in feeling the pinch”

    At the weekend the International Monetary Fund told Pakistan it must dramatically slash its military spending (by up to 30 per cent) if it wants to qualify for a bail-out package. Pakistan won’t do this,…

    Currently, Pakistan is spending 4.5 percent of the GDP on defence. A 30% cut will still mean that it will spend 3.15% .

    India for comaprision spends 2%. (The base is larger, but so are the threats and India) and India does not get huge US subsidies on defense, the way Pakistan does.

    As this is going on, Pakistan is pushing for a $1Billion upgrade of its F-16s, purchasing new submarines that are more advanced that what Indian Navy has, and is purchasing new Anti-Submarine frigates. (note purchasing, not buying, so the money does not go into the economy). Almost all of the spending has nothing to do with GWOT.

    Pakistan’s population is growing at an average of 1.86 (India’s is 1.4, the world average is 1.17). Almost all the countries with a larger rate than pakistan are TPLACs (tin pot little aftrican countries) or oil rich Sheikdoms. Pakistan actually has a pretty decent growth rate, but they have screwed up priorities.

    Pakistan has the right to set its priorities without International influence. But the filp side of it is should not expect international assistance either.

    Unless the international community insists that Pakistan is defanged, I do not see why they should come to Pakistans assistance.

  4. So Pakistan will go bankrupt?? Good, i hope they will and that they all starve to death. Hopefully the americans bomb the shit out of pakistan. India should take an example from america and bomb the hell out of the terrortrainingscamps in paki occupied Kashmir instead of doing the whole useless diplomatic protest thingy every time an infiltration attempt (supported by the cover fire of paki military) happens

  5. Once pakistan does go bankrupt, India should use the opportunity to push Pakistan out of Kashmir. I do hope they’re discussing this scenario in Indian military headquarters…

  6. Once pakistan does go bankrupt, India should use the opportunity to push Pakistan out of Kashmir. I do hope they’re discussing this scenario in Indian military headquarters…

    Every professional self respecting military force should have plans for every possible scenario. I am sure that in the indian military circles they are discussing all posible scenario’s and making their plans but i have serious doubts about the political class. History has proven that they have no balls to finish off the kill. Military takes orders from civilian politicians and they have no balls to go out and truly kick pakistani butt in such a way that the paki’s never again try to do something (harmfull) against India.

    A essential part of every military campaign against Pakistan should be a preemptive strike against pakistan’s nuke’s. I hope that the RAW has it’s agents in the paki military to find out the position/location of those nukes and missiles so they can be taken out in an eventual Indian preemptive strike. If that is done than it is over and out with pakistan because there is no way that the pakistani military can win a conventional war against India. They have never been able to acheive their goals in their wars against India and i don’t think they ever will.

    BTW, this whole Kashmir issue wouldn’t have been a problem if that morron Nehru didn’t stop the advances of the Indian army and didn’t declare a cease fire and take that issue to the U.N. That was one of the big foreign policy blunders India made.

  7. idk about this pakistan invasion guys. Obama has made some comments on how he will give special attention to the Kashmir conflict which in western politico speak regarding this issue usually means to pressure India to give something up as the other side is too indebted to the cause (ie if Pakistan gave up on Kashmir their country would further loosen by the screws and very nearly fall apart) to make any sort of concessions. The best case scenario is Pakistan finally acknowledging its losing the war of attrition with India that has played out for the past 20 years and just concentrating on putting itself back together rather than dismembering India. This would allow it to ease up on defence spending and give it easier access to IMF funds. It would also make it far more palatable for western governments to give money to them.

    They can choose to focus their efforts on getting Kashmir back militarily but it would be at the risk of their own national disintegration as the Talibanization of the western provinces would occur unabated. As for what the Taliban are doing there, you reap what you sow.

  8. BTW, this whole Kashmir issue wouldn’t have been a problem if that morron Nehru didn’t stop the advances of the Indian army and didn’t declare a cease fire and take that issue to the U.N. That was one of the big foreign policy blunders India made.

    Do you know the circumstances around 1946-48 ?. Another basic question. Do you know who headed the Indian Army at that time and what kind of control that Nehru/Patel had over the army and similarly what kind of control Jinnah had over the Pakistani army?.

  9. 4 · down with pakistan said

    So Pakistan will go bankrupt?? Good, i hope they will and that they all starve to death. Hopefully the americans bomb the shit out of pakistan. India should take an example from america and bomb the hell out of the terrortrainingscamps in paki occupied Kashmir instead of doing the whole useless diplomatic protest thingy every time an infiltration attempt (supported by the cover fire of paki military) happens

    Why was this comment not deleted? It seems to fall under sepia’s own rules regarding racist, abusive and intolerant comments. It’s reading things like this that makes people like me feel that this blog and its commenters/readers have an anti-pakistan bias (however subtle they try to be about it at times). thanks.

  10. 9 · Kabir Altaf said

    Why was this comment not deleted? It seems to fall under sepia’s own rules regarding racist, abusive and intolerant comments. It’s reading things like this that makes people like me feel that this blog and its commenters/readers have an anti-pakistan bias (however subtle they try to be about it at times). thanks.

    are you just out to look for excuses to cry victimization? if you are going to cherrypick the odd undeleted comment – as this one clearly is, you can find examples of anti-pakistan, anti-india, anti-women, anti-men, anti-hindu, anti-america, anti-brown (cue the periodic spam about smelling like curry) and anti-anything under the sun.

    further, vinod is much worse at moderation than other bloggers. for example, his previous post still has incorrect information on the mob despite multiple comments to the contrary.

    you would be better served to examine contents of legitimate arguments instead of constantly trying to paint people as having an anti-muslim/anti-pakistan bias, often purely because they state uncomfortable facts, as you did on the other thread.

  11. I’m not out to look for excuses to cry victimization. Almost this entire comment thread is full of vitriol against Pakistan, people glefully discussing what would happen should the state go bankrupt and Pakistanis all “starve to death”. Then, India can use the opportunity to “kick them out of Kashmir”. The fact that this vitriol has been left standing for a whole month almost, and that no one who commented on the thread even bothered to rein in the unacceptable discourse is extremely disturbing. And to address your final paragraph: don’t tell me what I should or should not do, I find that extremely condescending. Anyway, I’m done with Sepia Mutiny. I have been successfully turned off. It’s your blog. Go ahead and be as anti-Pakistan or anti-anything else as you want. Good luck to you.