Reaping the Whirlwind: Pakistani Counterinsurgency Campaigns, 2004-2010

By Breyman, Steve; Salman, Aneel | The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Reaping the Whirlwind: Pakistani Counterinsurgency Campaigns, 2004-2010


Breyman, Steve, Salman, Aneel, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs


The success of President Obama and NATO's escalation of the war in Afghanistan depends to a considerable extent on events in Pakistan. The two countries share a long and notoriously porous border that permits violent extremists to pass back and forth with impunity. Both countries are home to tens of millions of Pashtuns (called Pathans or Pakthuns in Pakistan) straddling the border. Pashtuns comprise the vast majority of insurgents and terrorists in both countries. Pakistan serves as a sanctuary for a number of Afghan insurgent groups including Hezb-i-Islami (led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar), the Haqqani network, and elements of the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has decades-long relations with Afghan insurgents, and demands a place at the table when Kabul, Washington, and Brussels finally agree to negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan suffered greatly from the global financial crisis of the past few years; its shaky civilian government struggles with past and present corruption, inflation, a powerful and popular military, dependence on foreign aid, and electricity outages. As if these difficulties were not enough for any country in transition from military rule, Pakistan continues its expensive and dangerous nuclear-armed face off with congenital archrival India, and wages an increasingly brutal and deadly war against its own Taliban. A peaceful and prosperous future for Pakistan depends on its capability to degrade, dismantle, and ultimately defeat its own domestic Islamist insurgency as a precondition for long-term development.

We thus critically analyze two interrelated questions in this article, the answers to which will determine the prospects for Pakistani success in defeating its insurgency. First, how did the Pakistani military fare in its counterinsurgency campaigns from 2004-2008 under then-President Pervez Musharraf? And, second, what does the present and future hold for Pakistan's efforts under current President Asif Ali Zardari to root out its armed militants? We devote one section of the paper to each period. Each section highlights key trends, the factors that matter most, and persistent barriers to progress. Each section closes with a summary answer to the question of Pakistani counter insurgency (COIN) effectiveness during the period under review. The overall conclusion consists of a prescriptive "to do" list for Pakistan-lessons learned from our analysis-designed to ensure that the country stays on a path toward domestic and regional peace and prosperity.

BUSH, MUSHARRAF, AND CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN, 2004-2008

Pakistan and India fought three major wars and one minor war since partition in 1947. The Pakistani military has, consequently, directed the vast majority of its resources, men, and equipment toward what it considers the existential threat from India. The Pakistani Army's conventional force structure, doctrine, and training-a legacy of its rivalry with India-is the first of several factors that hindered its counterinsurgency campaigns during the Musharraf era. Three of the four Indo-Pakistani wars were over control of Jammu and Kashmir. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has long helped train and arm militants bent on causing trouble for India in the latter's portion of Kashmir.1 It appears that the ISI may have been behind the brazen and deadly 2008 attack on Mumbai as well.2 Along with the ISI (and with funds and equipment provided by the United States and Saudi Arabia), the Army played the central role in training, organizing, and supplying the mujahedin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1979-1989.3 Pakistani intelligence remained in Afghanistan during the years of civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, and what became the Afghan Taliban grew with ISI support from the Pashtun madrassas and refugee camps in and around Peshawar. Direct Pakistani logistical, command, and control support was an essential element in the Taliban's seizure of power. …

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