Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pakistan v. Taliban Part Two

I have been away from Spell Hegemony for a while. We just had a baby – a new baby girl. Woohoo! She is very precious and very time consuming. Anyway, here is a recent essay for class. I'll admit. I was a bit distracted when I put it together so it needs some refinement. The thoughts are only partly put together. I think the research is sound, but I need to refine some of my criticism of the UN and NATO with respect to what is going on in Pakistan. Also, it may seem that what I say about the U.S. actions in Pakistan are sensitive, but what I say is very much open source information. I am not revealing anything new. Thoughts?
Pakistan v. Taliban: An Intra/Interstate Conflict Part Two
    It is clear that Pakistan is in conflict. Pakistan struggles with internal politics. They struggle economically. They struggle with a decades long territorial dispute with India. And, most recently they struggle with an ethnic Pashtun militancy known as the Taliban. The Taliban, a militant Islamist organization once ruled over Afghanistan. Although they are most notably associated with Afghanistan, the Taliban have found roots in the neighboring border region of Pakistan. NATO and the U.S. have been actively at war with the Taliban since 2001. As the war in Afghanistan wages on so does a new war in Pakistan. The two are closely linked, but what began as a problem for Pakistan has become a potential breaking point.
    Factions of the Taliban, once supported by Pakistan (Innocent, 2009), have taken aim at Pakistan's military, its politicians, its people, and its power. This tinderbox has the potential to flame out of control. Yet who has water to help put out the fire? Three bodies representing distinctly different levels of international support have either been mildly, moderately or mostly at work resolving this conflict. One player may be missing an opportunity to intervene; one may be doing too little, and one may be missing the point of their intervention. This second part of a two part analysis of Pakistan's Taliban conflict seeks to analyze what the international community has done to help resolve Pakistan's growing problem.
The Players
    Pakistan's problem with the Taliban today originates from its support of the Taliban in the past. In part one of this study, we found that Pakistan had once been a supporter of the Taliban but has been forced to take a stronger stand against them. This forced stance is a result of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. So, the Taliban problem in Pakistan is largely seen as an extension of the bigger Taliban fight in Afghanistan. Pakistan's internal struggle takes a back seat in terms of international priorities. It is because the conflict is viewed as more interstate rather than intrastate that the Taliban-Pakistan conflict has grown worse and will continue to get worse. Strangely it is both the lack of international intervention and international meddling in the Afghan-Pakistan border that perpetuate the problem. The first player, the United Nations would seem to be a logical source of support in this struggle. They have the international interest and means to provide an array of diplomatic and humanitarian aid support. But where are they? The second player, NATO, much like the U.S., has a vested interest in seeing a more stable Pakistan because the mission in Afghanistan is so closely linked. Success in Afghanistan to a certain extent hinges on success in Pakistan. But, again where is NATO? The third player, the United States, is most heavily involved in Pakistan right now. But U.S. involvement is not entirely welcome and may be narrowly focused.
The UN
    Examining what the United Nations has done to contain the conflict in Pakistan is really to examine what the UN has not done. The evidence of the UN's role in Pakistan with regard to its Taliban conflict is minimal at best. Even a visit to the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations is absent any substantive mention of efforts to intervene in the Taliban conflict (PAKUN, 2010). Similarly a search of UN databases produces few results. Most of those include condemnations of recent bombings. Those condemnations come from a committee formed in 1999 known as the "Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee" (United Nations Security Council). Of the relatively few steps the UN has taken is a measure to sanction specific terrorist related networks, namely Al-Qaida and the Taliban. In 1999 this body was established to block activities by Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Then in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UN passed resolution 1390 which among other things sought to freeze funding of the Taliban's access to arms – essentially an arms embargo. Although this embargo was directed at Afghanistan, the impact would have been felt throughout the entire region.
    This measure is interesting because it has been virtually ineffective. In a 2003 report to the Al-Qaida and Taliban committee, the Pakistani representative concluded that with regard to the arms embargo that (2003), "Sale and purchase of arms and explosives is strictly regulated…[and] Pakistan follows most stringent controls over export of arms" (Khalid, 2003). In this UN report Pakistan suggests that they had arms control under control. What is troubling is that it is difficult to find any further action by the UN to either follow-up on or implement other measures to combat terrorist networks in the region. In effect the position of the UN at that time was that Pakistan was complying with and handling the Taliban situation themselves. Unfortunately that was not the case.
    This may be one reason why Pakistan's growing troubles in the conflict are only getting worse. Pakistan has not handled the Taliban situation themselves. In fact, more and more we see an increase in the violence from the Taliban with more and more sophisticated bombs and more sophisticated coordinated attacks. The question the UN must raise now is where are the arms coming from? With little outside support, Pakistan is fighting alone against the Taliban. It is important that the UN take a more active role in this conflict. If they do not, Pakistan could reach a similar flash point with the Taliban as it did with India.
    In a 2002 Stimson Center report, Colonel Rafi uz Zaman Khan analyzed the tension between India and Pakistan. Khan points out that (2002), "Conditions for stable deterrence are absent, and an accident or miscalculation during a crisis has become increasingly possible" (p. 2). There is no real UN deterrence right now against the Taliban. The Taliban continue to seek their objectives with little regard to social concerns and little regard to themselves. The Taliban's favored tactic, suicide bombing, indicates their intent is so radical and so extreme that very little by way of deterrence will sway them or turn them from their objective. A failure to recognize this and a failure to do something constructive about this reality could result in a severe miscalculation of the Taliban threat.
    In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria makes a point about the misdirection of the U.S. in Pakistan. He says (2009), "What the United States is lacking in a place like Pakistan is a broader effort to assist that country in its modernization and an effort that makes it clear that the United States wants to ally with the people of that country and not merely its military" (p. 246). This is where the UN could help. The UN could be more visible in broader efforts to assist with infrastructure, economy, technology and other quality of life functions that Pakistan needs. Pakistan is not a desolate country. Compared to Afghanistan, Pakistan is a veritable powerhouse. But, all the attention right now is focused on Afghanistan and other causes. Until the UN realizes Pakistan is not so much of a powerhouse and that it has more than just a Kashmir problem, Pakistan will remain embattled with militant fundamentalist organizations.
    It would make sense that NATO would take on a greater role in Pakistan because the fight in Afghanistan is so closely linked. In a 2009 New America Foundation report, Sameer Lalwani points out that NATO is a target of the Taliban. He says (2009), "While some pro-Pakistani TTP leaders exclusively focuses on carrying out cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, others are committed to a more expansionist vision, including Talibanizing (sic) and spreading Sharia law in the NWFP and perhaps even deeper into Pakistan" (p. 17). This statement points to two interesting aspects of NATO and their interest in Pakistan's fight. First, NATO has a vested interest in assisting Pakistan inside the Pakistan border. But, NATO as a body does not show any signs of engaging with the Taliban except inside the Afghan border.
    This may be a function of Pakistan's sovereignty which has been more explicitly tested in recent years. Pakistan still remains a sovereign state that, as the aforementioned UN involvement indicates, is allegedly capable of handling its own internal conflicts. But, when Pakistan fails to contain the Taliban in Pakistan the repercussion spills into neighboring Afghanistan. For instance, supply lines passing through the Kyber Pass, a significant source of ground supplies, are routinely attacked for instance (Innocent, 2009). This costs NATO money, supplies, and time. NATO's reaction has been to make a stand at the border and no further. In essence, NATO has attempted to establish a blockade along the AFPAK border, but strictly limits cross border operations.
    This poses a problem for NATO, not the Taliban. And it poses problems too for Pakistan. Malou Innocent points out in a CATO Institute report that (2009), "Aside from pockets of Wild West conditions, another factor contributing to Afghanistan's downward spiral is the de facto al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in Pashtun and Balochi areas of western Pakistan. NATO's stalemate will continue so long as militants remain protected across the border" (p. 7). By creating this stalemate, NATO does very little to inhibit Taliban activity in Pakistan. Further, they do very little to inhibit the Taliban from impacting ground supplies going into Afghanistan intended for NATO. Additionally this stalemate only enhances the continued protection al Qaeda and Taliban members maintain in the border region of western Pakistan.
    Second, NATO is best positioned to act with Pakistan against the Taliban. If the intended target of the Taliban is control deeper into Pakistan, then stopping that control at the fringe is essential. With NATO forces on one side and Pakistani forces on the other, it is the Taliban that is most at risk of failure. Coordinated measures between Pakistan and NATO could limit Taliban activity. With a limited NATO supply of troops along the border (Johnson, 2007) and increased attacks on the supplies coming through Pakistan, one such measure NATO has sought is to find alternate routes of supply.
    C. Christine Fair pointed out in a 2009 Washington Quarterly essay that (2009), "Motivated by increasing Pakistani attacks on convoys carrying supplies for the war in Afghanistan, the United States and NATO are seeking new logistical supply routes" (p. 164-165). While finding new supply routes is a step, it is only a limited step to contain the Taliban in Pakistan. Pakistan is still left with a growing Taliban problem that, as Sameer Lalwani indicates, is turning away from Afghanistan and toward Pakistan (Lalwani, 2009). The startling reality is captured in the following from Lalwani (2009), "As of mid-July, the Pakistani military's casualties from the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda outstripped the combined losses of U.S. and NATO contributors by almost 50%" (p. 55).
The U.S.
    With a limited UN role and a limited NATO role the international community's response to the Taliban threat in Pakistan has fallen most heavily on the U.S. This fact is troubling because the situation in Pakistan is ripe for a virtual meltdown of control. The UN and other allied nations need to be worried that Pakistan not becomes one of the next terror havens. Some might argue that it has already become so. This would explain the great interest the U.S. has along the AFPAK border. In a Washington Quarterly paper, Michael Chege, remarked about former British foreign secretary Jack Straw in which he said (2002), "'when we allow governments to fail, warlords, drug barons, or terrorists fill the vacuum…Terrorists are strongest where states are weakest'" (p. 147).
    The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan was in large part due to a vacuum created by the Soviet and U.S. interests fleeing the country. When Afghanistan fell into a state of anarchy, the Taliban gained power. Similarly, Pakistan could fall into a state of anarchy. If it is not anarchy per se, Pakistan could reach such a point of complete dysfunction that it would be hard to tell the difference. It is that point that the Taliban operating inside Pakistan and the Taliban operating across the border may be trying to reach. If they can influence political and social unrest, then factions of the Taliban may have a shot at gaining more formidable power.
    This greatly concerns the U.S. because Taliban chaos in Pakistan impacts directly the protracted fight in Afghanistan. It is possible that the U.S. views Pakistani success as U.S. success. Quite possibly the converse could be true. So, the U.S. has stepped up aggressive cross-border operations most notably precision munitions attacks including Predator strikes. Despite the apparent infringement upon Pakistan's, sovereignty the U.S. continues to strike targets deeper and deeper into Pakistan (Lalwani, 2009).
    Recently brought to light, is the small number of U.S. forces training Pakistani forces in Pakistan. Malou Innocent points out that (2009), "During the late summer of 2008, a small number of U.S. Army and special operation forces began training the Special Services Group, a commando division in Pakistan's army" (p. 12). Along with Pakistani commandos, Innocent reveals that the U.S. has been engaged in a "train the trainer" campaign to train Frontier Corps forces to "[enhance] the fighting capability of the Frontier Corps" (p. 12). This kind of direct involvement is the only visible action by the international community that is producing any relative results.
    Unfortunately, those results are currently met with criticism. Lalwani makes an important point about the effect of continued U.S. involvement in Pakistan. He says (2009), "Finally, Pakistan's reliance on American support to conduct a COIN campaign and offset its disadvantages actually could prove counterproductive, intensifying public resentment, further eroding morale, and strengthening militant recruitment and cohesion" (Executive Summary). Because the U.S. carries the heaviest load of international support for Pakistan, it must be cautious of second and third order effects caused by pushing Pakistan to engage in a terrorist fight that, in Pakistan's view, is largely a Western issue (Lalwani, 2009).
    Ultimately, the battle continues in Pakistan. Despite its interstate feel, the conflict in Pakistan today is very much an internal struggle. Absent from their struggle has been relevant support from the international community. The UN and NATO have been largely absent from Pakistan's struggle, while the U.S., whether helpful or not, continues to be actively engaged. Limited or even failed action by the international community may validate Michael Chege's point that (2002), "Full-blown state failure requires opportunistic intervention by external actors" (p. 155).

Chege, M. (2002, Summer). Sierra Leone: The State that Came Back from the Dead. The     Washington Quarterly , pp. 147-160.
Fair, C. C. (2009, April). Time for Sober Realism: Renegotiating U.S. Relations with Pakistan.     The Washington Quarterly , pp. 149-172.
Innocent, M. (2009). Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy. Cato Institute. Washington, D.C.:     Cato Institute.
Johnson, T. H. (2007). On the Edge of the Big Muddy: The Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan.     China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly
, 5 (2), pp. 93-129.

Khalid, M. (2003, April 24). Reports from Member States. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from     Security Council Committee 1267:     http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/memstatesreports.shtml
Khan, C. R. (2002). Pakistan and India: Can NRRCs Help Strengthen Peace? Washington, D.C.:     Stimson Center.
Lalwani, S. (2009). Pakistani Capabilities for a Counterinsurgency Campaign. Washington, DC:     New American Foundation.
Pakistan Mission to the United Nations. (2010, February 6). Retrieved 2 7, 2010, from Home     Page: http://www.pakun.org
United Nations Security Council. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2010, from Al-Qaida and Taliban     Sanctions Committee: http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/index.shtml
Zakaria, F. (2009). The Post-American World. New York: Norton.


  1. What is holding the UN and NATO back from taking a stronger, more effective participation in this fight against these militant Islamist organizations that promote terrorism? It seems to me that so many of the countries under Islamic rule are all plagued with the same affliction of militant terrorists, which makes it difficult to give focused attention to any one country. It's like these countries are all tied together and to affect one requires affecting all; and all or none approach. To abolish terrorism, as you keenly pointed out, requires establishing sound infrastructure, economy, technology and quality of life... without 'Westernizing' their culture, since that seems to be the poison they so hate.

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Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your interest in the topic. It adds a little more to how we understand our world.