Roggio on Pakistan

The following Pajamas Media overview of an article by Bill Roggio about the situation in Pakistan confirms in some ways the claims made by Syed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times Online that I discussed in yesterday’s post while, at the same time, painting a far more dire picture.

Bill Roggio looks at the worsening situation in Pakistan and argues that only a determined effort against the Taliban and al-Qaeda has any hope of succeeding – and that this effort must be led by the Pakistani government itself, however difficult that would be to arrange.

Shahzad claims that effort is already underway and will soon escalate. Roggio’s article is titled Crunch time in Pakistan and is far less optimistic. I’ve been following his reports on the military situation in Pakistan since 2005 and this recapitulation is consistent with what he has been reporting.

Prior to 2007 the Pakistani military fought a failed and flawed military campaign in North and South Waziristan from 2005 through the spring of 2006. The Pakistani military was neither trained nor prepared for the fight. In the Northwest Frontier Province, they met a determined enemy in the Taliban and al Qaeda. The military was demoralized by the heavy losses in fighting in the province, while some resented fighting their own countrymen. Official estimates place military casualties at about 1,000 killed, but unofficial estimates put them at 3,000 killed or higher.

Since the Pakistani military defeat, the Pakistani government has resorted to negotiations with the Taliban, under the guise of negotiations with tribal leaders, as well as attempts at bribery. The US has contented itself with backing Pakistani policy, despite its ineffectiveness.

Shahzad is also quite aware of the stakes but in quoting his apparently confident military sources I find thier optimism suspect in the light of Roggio’s summary:

“If the planned battle is successful and Waziristan is pacified, the global Islamic resistance would be back where it was in 2003, when it had fighters but no centralized command or bases to carry out organized operations, said a Pakistani security official. “As a result, the guerrilla operations were sporadic and largely ineffective.”

Underscoring the seriousness with which the military is planning for the coming battle, it is reported that Shi’ite soldiers from northern Pakistan are being sent to the Waziristans. In the past, the Pakistani Army has been plagued by desertions of Pashtun and Sunni troops who refuse to fight fellow Pashtuns or Sunnis.

If David Warren was correct that Pakistan is ‘the prize’ in the region far more than Afghanistan as I discussed in this post, then the true character of this fight within Pakistan is the critical question. Bill Roggio has this to say on what needs to be done:

Despite the Pakistani military and political failures in the Northwest Frontier Province, the problem is inherently a Pakistani problem that needs a Pakistani solution. The government must somehow muster the elements of national power and build real support within the population for a hard and difficult fight. Whether the Pakistani government wants to recognize it or not, it is fighting an insurgency within its borders. A full-scale counterinsurgency campaign must be launched.

Roggio continues at some length analyzing why the US is not in a position to help much either politically or militarily. As usual, it is well worth reading. I suspect that the rulers of Pakistan and its Army are in more dire straights that Shahzad’s informers are letting on. The return of Benazir Bhutto represents a de facto recognition by Musharraf that his policies have failed and that the ruling elite must unite against its internal enemies. It is hard to see a major military offensive being launched during this period of political transition so I don’t expect Shahzad’s predicted offense to materialize until after the presidency and prime ministership are settled. Neither do I expect, particularly after Benazir Butto’s response to the attempt on her life, for Pakistan’s ruling elite to succumb.

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