Imperial Eye On Pakistan [2 of 5]

According to the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution, two of the most prominent and influential think tanks in the United States. military solutions are “daunting” as Pakistan is a nation of 187 million people. Estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of that size, which means if US have any hope of success; it would have to act before a complete government collapse.  Moreover, America would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces. So, one plan should be to deploy Special Forces “with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hand.” However, they admit that, “even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate.” 
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TARGET: PAKISTAN

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by Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Going back to the later years of the Bush administration, it is apparent that the US strategy in Pakistan was already changing in seeing it increasingly as a target for military operations as opposed to simply a conduit. In August of 2007, newly uncovered documents revealed that the US military “gave elite units broad authority” in 2004, “to pursue suspected terrorists into Pakistan, with no mention of telling the Pakistanis in advance.”[11]

In November of 2007, an op-ed in the New York Times stated categorically that, “the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss,” and that, “we need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.” The authors, Frederick Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon are both well-known strategists and scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution, two of the most prominent and influential think tanks in the United States.

While stating that Pakistan’s leaders are still primarily moderate and friendly to the US, “Americans felt similarly about the Shah’s regime in Iran until it was too late,” referring to the outbreak of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. They warn:

The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. [12]

They state that the military solutions are “daunting” as Pakistan is a nation of 187 million people, roughly five times the size of Iraq. They wrote that, “estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size,” which led them to conclude, “Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.” They suggested one plan would be to deploy Special Forces “with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hand.” However, they admit that, “even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate.” Another option, they contend:

would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership. This would require a sizable combat force — not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations. [13]

The authors concluded, saying that any state decline in Pakistan would likely be gradual, therefore allowing the US to have time to respond, and placed an emphasis on securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and combating militants. They finished the article with the warning: “Pakistan may be the next big test.”[14]

In December of 2007, the Asia Times Online ran a story about the US plan to rid Pakistan of President Musharraf, and that the US and the West, more broadly, had begun a strategy aimed at toppling Pakistan’s military. As part of this, the US launched a media campaign aimed at demonizing Pakistan’s military establishment. At this time, Benazir Bhutto was criticizing the ISI, suggesting they needed a dramatic restructuring, and at the same time, reports were appearing in the US media blaming the ISI for funding and providing assistance to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. While much of this is documented, the fact that it suddenly emerged as talking points with several western officials and in the media does suggest a turn-around against a long-time ally. [15]

Both Democratic and Republican politicians were making statements that Pakistan represented a greater threat than Iran, and then-Senator (now Vice President) Joseph Biden suggested that the United States needed to put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan in cooperation with the “international community.”

Biden said that, “We should be in there,” and “we should be supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the reemergence of a democratic process.” [16]

In American policy-strategy circles, officials openly began discussing the possibility of Pakistan breaking up into smaller states, and increasing discussion that Musharraf was going to be “removed,” which obviously happened. As the Asia Times stated:

Another worrying thing is how US officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Bhutto.

If she is killed in this way, there won’t be enough time to find the real culprit, but what’s certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. [17]

Of course, this subsequently happened in Pakistan. As the author of the article pointed out with startlingly accurate foresight, “Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.” He observed that, “the US is very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands.” [18]

Thus, it would appear that the new US strategic aim in Pakistan was focused on removing the Pakistani military from power, implying the need to replace Musharraf, and replace him with a new, compliant civilian leadership. This would have the effect of fracturing the Pakistani elite, threatening the Army’s influence within Pakistani politics, and undertaking more direct control of Pakistan’s government.

As if on cue, in late December it was reported that, “US special forces snatch squads are on standby to seize or disable Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the event of a collapse of government authority or the outbreak of civil war following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.” [19]

The New York Times ran an article in early January 2008, which reported that, “President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.” The article stated that the new strategy was purportedly in response to increased reports of Al-Qaeda and Taliban activity within Pakistan, which “are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government.” Bush’s National Security team supposedly organized this effort in response to Bhutto’s assassination 10 days previously. [20]

Officials involved in the strategy discussions said that some “options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces,” and one official said, “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself.” Of pivotal importance to the strategy, as the Times reported: “Critics said more direct American military action would be ineffective, anger the Pakistani Army and increase support for the militants.” [21] Perhaps this is not simply a “side-effect” of the proposed strategy, but in fact, part of the strategy.

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