As 2013 begins to close in on the expected changes within and outside Pakistan, various actors are repositioning themselves to move into the void for diverse interests. Some interests relate to their own narrow ambitions of political longevity while others relate to agendas that appease their outside mentors; deconstructing Pakistan.
In 2013 USA will give final shape to its preparations and military co-ordinations for a limited withdrawl from Afghanistan. These adjustments include measures ranging from pacifications, placations, negotiations to outright coercion and violence through its diplomatic, military and economic power on the Afghan resistance, countries surrounding Afghanistan and shaping of environments for achievement of long term strategic objectives.
The biggest factor to govern the size, composition and location of stay behind groups in strategically located military bases in Afghanistan is the threat of Afghan resistance comprising Mullah Omar led Taliban, Haqqani Group, Hizb-e-Islami led by Gulbadin Hikmatyar and sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Though Pakistan as suggested in these columns has facilitated negotiations by releasing some Afghan Taliban, it appears that either USA wants Pakistan to do more or that its objectives relate to a scenario beyond Afghanistan. It is interesting to note that in two recent incidences of drone attacks USA has targeted Mullah Nazir and Wali ur Rehman Mehsud; two individuals challenging Hakim Ullah Mehsud of TTP in the FATA Region. As the withdrawal time frame closes, USA will not hesitate to use its relatively secure bases in Afghanistan for Cold Start Operations inside Pakistan. Civil unrest and failure of state institution is designed to give an impetus to instability in Pakistan and therefore completion of US agendas in the region.
The new team that President Obama has appointed is diverse in nature. The main focus seems to be Middle East and Pakistan. Its composition and frame of reference is obvious in its structural threat.
Chuck Hegel, the appointed Defence Secretary is known for his strong positions on Israel and soft stance on Iran. As the top man of National Security, his appointment means that work on co-opting Iran in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria and Lebanon) and post withdrawal Afghanistan is already well on its way. USA will also exploit differences between Pakistan and Iran over the Afghan Taliban to counter Pakistan’s influence North of Kandhar. In AFPAK the secretary of defence will play minion to the State Department and CIA.
Appointment of the old CIA veteran John Brennan as head of CIA is a reward for his planning of the Abbotabad raid, handling of the Arab spring operations, targeted killings in Yemen, enhanced and crueler interrogation techniques and perhaps also Salala. His appointment is an explicit message to Pakistan’s security establishment about the levels of ruthlessness and violence USA could go in pursuit of its objectives in the region. The appointment also means that the major feature of operations in AFPAK will be higher intensity intelligence led sting, covert, drone and military operations in tandem with Pakistan’s internal instability.
John Kerry, apparently soft on Pakistan will be used to placate and persuade within the construct of a comepellence strategy framed to make a constantly under pressure Pakistan, pliable and compliant. This strategy is considered most appropriate to control and subsequently defang a nuclear Pakistan without resorting to the dangerous and flat trajectory of a nuclear escalation. Comepellence methods will involve diverse trajectories of violence, drones, economics, diplomacy, internal instability, unrest in Balochistan and mundane propaganda against Pakistan Army.
Elections in Pakistan favorable to US policies in the region are crucial to US interests in the region. As discussed earlier in these columns, US in the past with help from the Pakistani establishment succeeded to influence electoral results in its favour. This means coalescing and backing a group of apparently liberal, secular, anti right, progressive, tolerant inclusive groups. The most obvious choice is the continuation of the NRO coalition boosted with a few old and new rising political stars.
It also appears that the new scene of destabilization and agitations will focus on Punjab the Clausewitzian centre of gravity of Pakistan. If this is not the case, them why all long marches must begin from Lahore and not Karachi. Much will depend how Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz reacts to this scenario? Will it like the NRO, join the band wagon or will it as a reassertion of patriotism hold out an olive branch in the best interests of the country to its political opponents who do not share the American dream?
Meanwhile the deconstruction of the state through bad governance, faulty policies, use of proxies and non state actors will continue. These are the auxiliary operations to eat the state from within like a moth. This reminds me of my favorite strategist Chanakya Kautilya who said that to dismember a state, it is best to get into the very womb and disembowel it. This is what is happening to Pakistan.
Pakistan Army is under lots of pressure caused by the post 9/11 events. It is into its 11th year of counter terrorism operations at a very high cost to its men and equipment. All its operations are conducted without a higher direction of conflict clarified in a National Counter Terrorism Policy. In fact the absence of such a political initiative keeps the army busy in its lonely war. Many areas like Swat that the army now controls lack political pacification operations rendering long term peace elusive.
Pakistan’s security planners also realize that the nuclear capability minimizes the risk of a conventional conflict with India and enhances the probabilities of proxy wars. In fact it has been asserted in these columns for many years that Pakistan is under siege through economic hit-men, diplomatic adventurists and non state actors for a very long time. With the military inextricably involved in counter terrorism operations and the limited capability of law enforcement agencies, it will be a nightmare to control the mushrooms of rising levels of violence. The use of remote control detonations in Karachi and Balochistan is a reminder that either the militants are changing their tactics or new ones have entered the melee. It was therefore within the constitutional ambit of the army to shift its focus to sub conventional threats that are the real moths eating into the state. However, instead of analyzing the issue and highlighting the true dimensions of the threat, the better part of the vitriolic media portrayed the BBC news as a contemplated adventure by the army on the heels of instability that Allama Tahir Ul Qadri’s long march to Islamabad will create. Some channels even went to the extent of implying the neo reformist as a military proxy. Does this imply that some segments of the media are also part of the sub conventional threat to Pakistan?
It appears that though some political parties may be eager to cash the environments, Pakistan as a state is not prepared for the impending changes. No one in the corridors of power has carried out a political and strategic appraisal for what future holds for Pakistan and how best Pakistan’s interests can be hedged against destabilizing policies, men of elastic conscience within and diverse form of floating and sub conventional threats.