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Pakistan's Jihadi Problem Worsens
January 21, 2009 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Pakistan in Peril. "The relative calm in Iraq in recent months, combined with the drama of the US elections, has managed to distract attention from the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America's response to September 11: the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan." [Via]
posted by homunculus (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obama's Worst Pakistan Nightmare - What to do About Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal
posted by homunculus at 5:37 PM on January 21, 2009


Socialist but worth reading on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:13 PM on January 21, 2009


MetaFilter: Socialist but worth reading.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:41 PM on January 21, 2009 [6 favorites]


Probably should link Ahmed Rashid's latest book here, since that article's a detailed review of it:

These events dramatically illustrate Ahmed Rashid's central contention in his brilliant and passionate book Descent into Chaos. Throughout the book Rashid emphasizes the degree to which, seven years after September 11, "the US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than existed on that momentous day in 2001":
Rather than diminishing, the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates has grown, engulfing new regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe and creating fear among peoples from Australia to Zanzibar. The US invasions of two Muslim countries...[have] so far failed to contain either the original organization or the threat that now comes from its copycats...in British or French cities who have been mobilized through the Internet. The al Qaeda leader...is still at large, despite the largest manhunt in history....

Afghanistan is once again staring down the abyss of state collapse, despite billions of dollars in aid, forty-five thousand Western troops, and the deaths of thousands of people. The Taliban have made a dramatic comeback.... The international community had an extended window of opportunity for several years to help the Afghan people—they failed to take advantage of it.

Pakistan...has undergone a slower but equally bloody meltdown.... In 2007 there were 56 suicide bombings in Pakistan that killed 640 people, compared to just 6 bombings in the previous year....

In 2008, American power lies shattered.... US credibility lies in ruins.... Ultimately the strategies of the Bush administration have created a far bigger crisis in South and Central Asia than existed before 9/11.
It is difficult to disagree with any of this. Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world...

posted by mediareport at 6:46 PM on January 21, 2009


Seymour Hersh is another good resource.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:41 PM on January 21, 2009


I'm actually reassured that there are Indian saboteurs going after Pakistan's arsenal. Hopefully, if they get really lax with their security, the saboteurs will destroy the weapons instead of terrorists getting them.

Of course, that would be a bit of a lucky save.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:43 PM on January 21, 2009


As mentioned in Dalymple's review, Shuja Nawaz's book Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within provides the background for Rashid's book. Nawaz writes once a month or so about ongoing developments in Pakistan.
posted by lukemeister at 8:44 PM on January 21, 2009


The greatest feasible threat of nuclear terrorism comes from Pakistan. Which really goads the old guard, because the Ruskies had far funnier hats.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:09 PM on January 21, 2009


I would be utterly surprised if the US didn't have an eye on the Pakistani nukes, and weren't fully prepared to help India incinerate them in a first strike should the need arise.

...I would be equally surprised if India didn't have their own eye on the Pakistani nukes, and weren't prepared to incinerate them in a first strike should the need arise & the US prove recalcitrant.

In fact, I'd be mildly surprised if India didn't have plans to incinerate everything in Pakistan should there be even a vaguely realistic threat of jihadi control over the Pakistani arsenal.
posted by aramaic at 9:17 PM on January 21, 2009


It's unrelated to Pakistan directly, but I found the following interesting and very scary in a sort of "holy crap, even with the best oversight things are still misplaced" sort of way: 400 mL of extremely high purity (99.96%) weapons grade Plutonium-239 was found in an old rusty safe in a dump near Hanford Site in Washington state in 2004. A recent study dates it back to the time of the original Trinity project.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:48 AM on January 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


A recent study dates it back to the time of the original Trinity project.

Holy shit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:12 AM on January 22, 2009


It's like the previous US administration just pretended there wasn't a problem and that by ignoring the situation in Pakistan it would go away. Bizarre - imagine if the US had been supplying their war effort in Vietnam by going overland through Cambodia, via the Ho Chi Minh trail. That is what is going on with Pakistan.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:01 AM on January 22, 2009


The most shocking bit for me was reading that the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province simply ran away from Peshawar when he saw a suicide attack on his officials, and that there was a leadership vacuum because of that. That is jaw-droppingly shocking; not only it shows how inept the local leadership is at the frontlines, it also raises grave grave questions on the national civilian leadership as well, specifically in terms of handling a transition in power. What happens at the national level if, god forbid, something were to happen to either the President or the PM? Do they have a transition plan in place?

This, even as it appears that the local police wants to fight the Taliban, but has neither the resources nor the political backing for waging war against them.

I would be equally surprised if India didn't have their own eye on the Pakistani nukes, and weren't prepared to incinerate them in a first strike should the need arise & the US prove recalcitrant.

Actually, the sad reality is that there's very very high chance that India _does not_ have a capability to make effective surgical strikes on the ground. Long story short, India's defence spending (and even in terms of conventional warfare, there's a need for a clearer strategic doctrine in arms procurement) is mostly in conventional warfare - missiles and such - while the real challenge is the ability to wage urban warfare in a hostile terrain.

The whole point about waging urban warfare is acting on real-time information on the ground; the most charitable thing one might say is that we've had an intel-gathering problem in Pakistan. This even as it's an open-secret as to where all these groups are based, as the article so rightfully points out. As much as I want India (and the US) to win this the "right" way (that is, take down these groups with minimal civilian damage), I can't escape the conclusion that India in particular simply does not have the ability to wage unconventional warfare on Pakistani soil. It has the intent, and it certainly has the capacity to build the capability in the short-long-term, but I don't think it has it now.

That said, I think the nuclear weapons per se are quite secure, in that the secular military and civilian leadership will closely guard these crown-jewels, that there's a reasonable command structure in place, and we know where those missiles are.
posted by the cydonian at 3:30 AM on January 22, 2009


It will be interesting to see what President Obama will do regarding Pakistan. Piling troops into Afghanistan isn't going to do much good if the jihadists just keep darting back across the border into Pakistan.

Will Obama attack Pakistan? Can Obama attack Pakistan?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 5:04 AM on January 22, 2009


Will Obama attack Pakistan? Can Obama attack Pakistan?

YES WE...oh, wait a sec....
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:20 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


very high chance that India _does not_ have a capability to make effective surgical strikes on the ground.

Oh, agreed. I was referring to India deciding to go with a nuclear first strike. They'll never allow the Pakistani arsenal to become even slightly "uncontrolled". Neither will the US, or China, for that matter.
posted by aramaic at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2009


While this is an interesting discussion, I'm alarmed that I don't see anyone offering or suggesting peaceful solutions. Incineration is a great idea for the approximately 150 million people in Pakistan. Indian incursion or the suggested kinds of military action could lead to mutually assured destruction of 1/5th of the world's population. I have relatives in Pakistan doing a ot of constructive work and this kind of mindset is really disturbing. Should the US export the same kind of chaos that it has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan to yet another country? A country where people are living and working in relatively peaceful surroundings?
posted by nikitabot at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


country where people are living and working in relatively peaceful surroundings

I think the presumption here is that if jihadis control the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan, people in Pakistan and across southeast Asia will no longer be living and working in even relatively peaceful surroundings. It's a presumption that might be fallacious, but would be difficult to buck in, say, New Delhi if such a situation came to be.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:05 AM on January 22, 2009


I would be utterly surprised if the US didn't have an eye on the Pakistani nukes, and weren't fully prepared to help India incinerate them in a first strike should the need arise.

I don't know. Deterrence really only works if the deterree knows he's being deterred (it's like the Doomsday Weapon being kept secret in Strangelove). Maybe there's been some under-the-table warning to Pakistan that they're being watched, I guess.
posted by COBRA! at 8:12 AM on January 22, 2009


I'm alarmed that I don't see anyone offering or suggesting peaceful solutions

Hey, I'm not saying that nuking large sections of Pakistan is a good thing, only that it's a possible outcome. There is no earthly way anyone in the region will allow the Pakistani arsenal to fall under extremist control. None. The only question is how that will be prevented, and by whom, should it appear likely to happen.

The nuclear option is a worst-case scenario, of course, but I think it remains possible. I think the most likely solution, should Pakistan fall or appear likely to fall in the immediate future, would be covert extraction of the weapons from Pakistan with the collusion of remaining moderates in exchange for their removal as well.
posted by aramaic at 8:54 AM on January 22, 2009


“holy crap, even with the best oversight things are still misplaced”

It’s the most important thing to focus on. This and Pakistan.
Unfortunately the prior administration used it as a punchline and excuse to pad their wallets.

“It's like the previous US administration just pretended there wasn't a problem and that by ignoring the situation in Pakistan it would go away”

Like? That’s exactly what it was. Stuck their fingers in their ears and went ‘LA LA LA This is about Iraq LA LA LA Iraq Iraq Iraq LA LA LA.’

The real danger isn’t a traditional MAD style exchange like what we were looking at from the Soviets. It’d be a slow-motion limited exchange nuclear war.
So - one goes off. Boom. Pakistan uses a limited yield nuke against troops. Ok, now what?
From the U.S. POV - do you carpet the country with mushrooms? That’d be a bit of overkill wouldn’t it?
So India responds. Bam, nails some of Pakistan’s troops. Maybe within the country at a base when an actual battle isn’t going on.
So Pakistan maybe hit a small city where a base is. So India hits outside a larger city, uses the fallout to force evacuation.
Your move?
It’s just going to get worse and worse. But you can’t directly nuke a city. So, ok, you do the same thing - force an evacuation, but then saturation bomb the city with conventional firebombs. Or you hit the evacuated civilians with conventional weapons.
Any number of rather filthy options that don’t invite full on nuclear realiation.
Indeed, it’s a tactical nuclear was as soon as you have troops in the field you can’t or don’t want to pull back. Gotta nuke around them. That’s problematic.

But as far as I can tell this *is* almost certainly what is to come (given things stay on course. Obama is smarter than me, so...)
What puts my nuts into my stomach is, yeah, the China factor.
They’re probably not going to like fallout in their country.
It’d be nice if we could do the Solomon thing (threaten to cut the baby in half) or say ‘imperius rex’ and nuke the whole disputed territory. One less thing to argue about anyway.
It would avoid the slow motion nuclear war, but of course, not everyone believes it’s absolutely going to happen otherwise.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:15 PM on January 22, 2009


I don't often link to Fox News, however: Petraeus: Afghan, Pakistan problems are really one.
The last administration poured money into Pakistan supporting both Musharraf and by definition the ISS. The Pentagon refused to see that nation building was in order in Afghanistan and State was supine.
An interesting but dated article from Jochen Hippler and recently from CSM helps explain part of the problem. Human rights could be another place to start improvement.
posted by adamvasco at 7:27 AM on January 23, 2009


Pakistan Strike First On Obama's Watch. Officials: Missiles From U.S. Spy Plane Kill 18 Near Afghan Border; Protestors Demand Gov't Sever Ties With Washington
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on January 23, 2009


Progressives Launch Attack on Afghanistan: Group of Liberals Question Ramping Up Forces

Get Afghanistan Right
posted by homunculus at 11:17 PM on January 23, 2009


High Value Terrorist...Children
posted by homunculus at 10:56 PM on January 24, 2009


Obama ready to cut Karzai adrift: As support for Afghan leader wanes, rivals go to Washington for meeting with new President

Patrick Cockburn: Bush's 'puppet in Kabul' will not go quietly
posted by homunculus at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obama's Vietnam? Friday's airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war.
posted by homunculus at 10:40 PM on January 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pakistan to U.S.: Stop the Drone Strikes (And More Weapons, Please)
posted by homunculus at 6:51 PM on January 28, 2009


Military official: ‘Frankly, we don’t have’ an end game in Afghanistan.
posted by homunculus at 10:12 PM on February 4, 2009


While You Were Sleeping, the Taliban Took Control of the Swat Valley
posted by homunculus at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2009


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