Spearhead Analysis – 17.02.2017
A report titled A New U.S. Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions Without Cutting Ties released by the Hudson Institute and The Heritage Foundation in February 2017 observed,
“—–The new Trump Administration must review its policies toward Pakistan in order to more effectively contain, and eventually eliminate, the terrorist threats that continue to emanate from the country… Accordingly, the objective of the Trump administration’s policy toward Pakistan must be to make it more and more costly for Pakistani leaders to employ a strategy of supporting terrorist proxies to achieve regional strategic goals… It no longer makes sense to waive the counterterrorism conditions on U.S. aid to Pakistan. The U.S. can and must better leverage U.S. military aid to encourage tougher policies against terrorists who operate from within Pakistan–.”
This is a snapshot of the month of February 2017 in Pakistan:
—During a span of just seven days (February 13, 2017 to February 19, 2017) Pakistan accounted for at least 205 fatalities [100 civilians, 21 Security Force (SF) personnel, 84 terrorists) in 22 terrorism-related incidents.— On Feb 21 suicide bombers tried to enter court premises in Charsadda, Khyber PakhtunKhwa and one blew himself up when checked at the entrance killing several civilians and police personnel. On February 16, 2017, at least 88 civilians were killed and more than 343 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a historic Sufi shrine in the Sehwan town of Jamshoro District in Sindh Province. The shrine, built in 1356, was dedicated to Syed Mohammad Usman Marwandi, also known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. This was the worst attack, in terms of civilian fatalities, recorded in Pakistan since the December 16, 2014, Peshawar Army Public School attack which resulted in 150 fatalities, including 143 civilians—mostly school children. Jamaat ul Ahrar linked toDaesh (the Islamic State) claimed the attack. Earlier on February 15, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a government office in the Ghalanai area of Mohmand Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), killing five civilians. Another attacker was killed by the guards before he could explode his suicide vest. On February 13, 2017, at least 14 persons, including eight civilians and six policemen, were killed and another 85 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Punjab Assembly Building on Mall Road, Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. The attack was carried out during a protest by a large group of chemists and pharmaceutical manufacturers opposing a Government crackdown against the sale of illegal drugs. The dead included Captain (Retd.) Ahmad Mobin, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Traffic, Lahore, and Zahid Gondal, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Operations, Punjab Police. There was a significant presence of SFs in the area to manage the protest. The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for both the February 13 and February 15 attacks—.”( Extract from a South Asia Terrorism Portal Report)
What does this indicate? A country spawning terror across its borders or a country at the receiving end of terrorism from across its borders? It must also be noted that in February the Pakistan military launched a wide spectrum civil-military combined operation code named Radd ul Fasaad in the urban across Pakistan to eliminate extremism, terrorists and their facilitators and to expedite implementation of the comprehensive National Action Plan. This follows the successful long drawn out and costly Operation Zarbe e Azb that cleared the area right up to the western border with Afghanistan. This is more than any other country has done to secure itself internally. The government of Pakistan now aims to build capacity in its institutions to sustain and build on the success of the military. The US policy being advocated by the Hudson Institute paper would help neither the US nor Pakistan—it would be counterproductive on all counts. What would help is an appreciation of Pakistan’s resolve and determination and to support in every form possible in its fight against terror and the extremism that spawns it.
An article by Michael Krepon titled ‘US-Pakistan Relation and the Big Stick’ advocates continued engagement with Pakistan but with the focus on its nuclear program that in Krepon’s opinion poses a greater danger than terrorism. Lisa Curtis in her commentary on Michael Krepon’s article titled ‘Preventing Pakistan from becoming a Nuclear Hazard’ states“—-One of the primary U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is the danger that they could fall into terrorist hands. A second concern is that Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons in a potential conflict with India—-.Additionally, if the Taliban make further territorial gains in Afghanistan—aided by having a sanctuary inside Pakistan—this will facilitate the revival of al-Qaeda in the region and boost the morale of Islamist extremists across the globe. —–These are three potentially very dangerous scenarios that the U.S. must work to prevent.—– Putting pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist groups within its territory is key to making sure these scenarios don’t come to pass—–.It is precisely because of these dangers—the threat of an Indo-Pakistani conflict that could go nuclear, the potential nexus between terror and nuclear weapons, instability of the Pakistani state from the blowback of supporting terrorism, and the need to stabilize Afghanistan—that the U.S. must adopt a more pointed policy approach with Islamabad–.”
The concerns highlighted by Lisa Curtis are precisely the concerns that Pakistan has—it does not want its nuclear weapons to fall into terrorist hands and has taken every possible step to make sure that this does not happen. Pakistan understands its asymmetry with India and does not want a conflict with India—it wants wide ranging dialogue to eliminate this possibility and will never be the one create a situation in which the use of nuclear weapons is even a remote possibility. Sanctuaries within Pakistan or Afghanistan do certainly give Al Qaeda, IS and others the opportunity to make ingress—this is something that Pakistan does not want and its determined military operations in the western border and urban areas are meant to sideline and eliminate this threat. It is of course, up to the US to choose its policy for Pakistan but if Pakistan is already taking steps in its own interest that address US concerns then it does not make sense to put pressure on Pakistan through ‘a more pointed policy approach with Islamabad”—US needs to engage with Pakistan more deeply than ever before to get the results it wants and these may be the results that Pakistan also wants. Fortunately General Mattis and Nicholson both have a deep understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The first step has to be clarity on the US policy for South Asia and Afghanistan—this will remove the cloud of uncertainty that leads to ‘hedging your bets ‘policies. The next step has to be intra Afghan resolution of the conflict with Afghan Taliban who control almost 40% of Afghanistan and can nether be eliminated nor coerced and who do not have an agenda beyond their country-Afghanistan. Once these two steps have been taken it should be possible for convergence between the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries and terrorists/ militants on either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and within the two countries. Finally it would help enormously if India and Pakistan shifted from their present confrontational relationship to a comprehensive institutionalized dialogue that transcends disruptive actions by non state actors. For this to happen India should review its policy towards the uprising in Indian Held Kashmir—something that many voices in India are advocating.
(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual).