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Stratfor Afghan Study - Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan - Deeply Flawed

September 29, 2010


September 27, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - - In Stratfor scholar George Friedman's thought-provoking treatise [see, Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan] on resolving the Afghan conflict, the author makes a number of assumptions which we feel ultimately lead to an incorrect suggested endgame, "Pakistanization" of the war, essentially turning the outcome of the conflict over to our "ally" Pakistan.

Hearing the juxtaposing of the phrase American ally and Pakistan in the same sentence should provoke serious concern among those interested in seeing this war concluded on grounds favorable to U.S. interests rather than to our Islamist adversaries. One problem with this thesis is that in order to reach such a conclusion, the significant role our "ally" played in creating the Taliban in the first place must be ignored.

A May 11, 2009 article published by the Times of India is one of many demonstrating the ubiquity of this knowledge, in this case rather nonchalantly tossed off by someone-in-the-know despite it possibly reflecting negatively on Pakistan.

"In a new revelation, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the CIA of the United States and his country's ISI together created the Taliban. "I think it was part of your past and our past, and the ISI and CIA created them together," Zardari told the NBC news channel in an interview." [source, CIA and ISI together created Taliban: Zardari,]

When Pakistan's ISI created the Taliban it was greatly aided by its on-again-off again PM, Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan's intent here was to be able to exert influence over Afghanistan in pursuit of extending its hegemony Westward while also serving as a check on the Soviet presence there.

Assessing the alleged role of the Central Intelligence Agency in creating the Taliban is really immaterial to this discussion, if ultimately only because the exact nature of that agency's involvement will probably never be known with any great specificity, aside from the fact that military aid and hardware was funneled, probably through Pakistan, to the Afghan mujahideen who were engaged in fighting the Soviets. What is important however is that the ISI's Taliban role is more or less common and unchallenged knowledge among observers of this conflict.

What Pakistan sought to secure by its intervention was influence, but one borne on the wings of a brand of Islamism that was compatible with the views of the ISI's leadership.

Despite longstanding efforts by the Foggy Bottom folks to convince us that the Paks are somehow inherently our friends, the fact remains that all that stands between the Islamists and that country's nuclear stockpile is a very thin line of unreliable but Westernized politicians who have so far been able to cling to power.

It is this same class of ruling elite which are hated by the Pakistani Taliban and its equivalents and against which war is incessantly waged.

This is not to argue against a continuing alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan, but rather to see this relationship for what it really is, two countries attempting to push events in a favorable direction, but with a very different interpretation of what "favorable" might mean.

Regardless of the relative acuity of Pakistan's rulers and their desire to ally with the U.S., it must be understood that the relationship exists only to the extent that doing so is motivated by self-interest on the part of both parties.

It is at this juncture where the logic of Pakistanization becomes wobbbly, simply because the vision of what is acceptable in Afghanistan is not shared by the United States and its reluctant ally.

Though it may be viewed with a sense of regret by the Pakistanis in hindsight that its neighbor was allowed [encouraged?] to become a haven for foreign mujahideen with a very different and more revolutionary ideology, the fact is that it did happen and was at the time perfectly acceptable to our "allies."

Therefore if one is to rely on Pakistanization as a solution to extricating ourselves from a war which we have been adjudged to have become tired of, the success of such a strategy must rely on a similarity of goals nowhere in evidence.

What possible influence could DC exert over Pakistan's actions after U.S./NATO forces have been withdrawn from the country in a tacit admission of defeat?

The first response might be that U.S. monetary assistance could be used in a carrot and stick effort to keep the Pakistanis in line, but such a conclusion does not bear up under scrutiny in that since 9/11 the total amount of overt monetary aid from Washington to Islamabad has been a little over $6 billion [with a promised aid package of 7.5 billion over the next 5 years] chump change in international politics, an amount clearly incapable of imposing our national will on a recalcitrant ally. [source,]

Though in some ways Pakistan's ruling elite is temporarily supportive of a conciliatory relationship with Washington, that masks the underlying reality that the country in general is adamantly anti-American and Islamist in outlook. In a 2009 Gallup poll, Pakistan was the most anti-American country in the world, along with [understandably] Serbia.

With little in the way of constraints and with a populace which hates us, the ability to influence Pakistan if we were to leave Afghanistan in the manner suggested is marginal in the best of cases. Even if it was their desire to truly forge a relationship based on common values with the United States, Pakistan's leaders are bound in what they can do by a largely illiterate populace that is not disposed to ever hook up with Uncle Sam.

Finally on the viability of a true Pakistani/American alliance, to posit as does Mr. Friedman that, "Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India," means we actually must believe that India poses a threat to Pakistan, again a fact nowhere in evidence, even if the Pak leadership finds that invoking such a bogeyman is often good domestic realpolitik. In all actuality a visible tilt towards India by this administration [something we have long counseled] would serve to motivate the Pakistanis far more than relying upon the threat of halting foreign aid. Playing Friedman's suggested strategy here also would serve to dismiss the very real threat posed by Pakistani state terrorism - guided every step of the way by the ISI - directed against India, which is simply unacceptable and another sign that a real coming to terms is probably elusive.

The idea that the U.S. needs Pakistan "to contain India" is both preposterous and dangerous.

Other aspects of the Stratfor analysis are also troubling.

Mr. Friedman states, "There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks - have not been and are not evolving into attacks - that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people..."

We believe that this statement is fundamentally in error.

The first point in addressing this is realizing that these attacks are genuine acts of war - certainly an existential threat as far as intent is concerned - and that even if we do not consider it to be so, the enemy is in a declared state of war against us and has been since the 1990s.

The second consideration is that Islamic terrorism is only the tip of the spear. While it has not been able to destabilize America - yet - that is certainly our opponents goal and to simply dismiss such a possibility as not being credible doesn't take into account the effect which a biological attack - the introduction of smallpox for example - would undoubtedly have. In order to quantify the magnitude of a worst case scenario Islamist attack one need look no further than the scenario presented by the government study, post 9/11, called Dark Winter which predicts 1 million deaths and 3,000,000 additional casualties within 90 days of the discovery of a very limited number of initial cases of smallpox. [source DHS document,]

This would be an event sufficient to largely destabilized the nation.

[Note: though not "destabilizing," the estimated direct monetary loss attributable to the 9/11 attacks is in the range of $2 trillion, a not inconsiderable amount - source, - and this doesn't include all of the governmental and private spending deemed appropriate in the wake of September 11, including the creating of DHS, the reorganization of U.S. intelligence and the like]

What is of most importance is the ideology behind the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the rest of the coterie of violent revolutionary Islamist war making apparatus, which is Islamism - political Islam - that seeks ultimately to remake the world in an image thought pleasing to Allah, under a global theocracy headed by a Caliph.

The violent jihad then is really inseparable from non-violent Islamism, the stealth jihad which is every day waged against the West in a subversive manner, taking advantage of the rights inherent in liberal democratic forms of governance.

Both of these aspects of Islamism work in common purpose, with identical goals. Though employing different tactics, they are nonetheless complementary and synergistic. Perhaps more importantly, a victory by either the violent jihadists or by those waging war surreptitiously employing legal Islamism is a victory for all, the means are of little concern as long as the end is attained.

Preventing Afghanistan from once again become a staging area for the spreading of Islamism is really the only acceptable endgame in that country. To the extent that we have not yet been able to attain that, and may never be able to fully guarantee such an outcome - barring a continued U.S. presence in the country - does not give us adequate reason to abandon 9 years of incredible pain and thousands of casualties simply to phony up an excuse to exit the field of battle, tail between our legs, under guise of a solution which has no possibility of securing our goals.

Rather than offering a hint towards a successful Afghan strategy, unfortunately Mr. Friedman's manner of pursuing "a withdrawal that is not a defeat" - by relying on Pakistan is unlikely in the extreme to succeed. Are we to trust a successful Afghan outcome to a nation which still honors - declaring him a national hero - the exploits of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan who - with state acquiescence at best - spread nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran?

Instead it's much more likely that following this guidance will secure only an ignominious defeat that would function as an albatross around its neck forever, a black eye signifying American lack of purpose and an unwillingness to do whatever is necessary to preserve this culture.

2010 LLC., William Mayer. All rights reserved.

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