Daily Archives: 12 October 2005

Rashid on the Pakistani Military vs. Mother Nature

In today’s Daily Telegraph, Ahmed Rashid questions how well Pakistan’s military rulers will survive the latest huge natural disaster to hit the region.

The last time the Pakistan army rode to the rescue of its citizens after a massive natural disaster, the result was a civil war and the loss of half the country.

That was in 1970, when half a million people in what was then East Pakistan drowned as a result of typhoons and floods, and the delay of the army in launching a relief effort led to enormous public anger and the eventual creation of Bangladesh….

So far the army has been woefully slow in reacting to the disaster. Its much vaunted Crisis Management Cell – set up after 9/11, run by army officers and modelled on America’s National Security Council – has itself been an abysmal disaster. Management on the ground has been superficial at best. Stories abound, such as the one about a 72-man team of Spanish rescuers and their sniffer dogs being kept waiting for 48 hours at Islamabad airport before someone told them where to go. But as the army operation kicks in, bolstered by foreign aid, money and helicopters, public anger will recede.

One may well ask why the seventh largest army in the world is holding its hand out for helicopters and tents when America has supplied dozens of helicopters since 9/11 and the country is one of the largest tent manufacturers in the world.

The army itself holds thousands of tents in stock, along with tens of thousands of tins of foodstuffs and blankets – which do not seem to have been released. Perhaps this is because the army continues to fight an insurgency in Balochistan and al-Qa’eda remnants in Waziristan along the border with Afghanistan. These operations are on-going even as the army runs the relief effort.

It has not gone unnoticed among Western intelligence agencies that the epicentre of the quake is also the epicentre of the camps run by Pakistani extremist groups affiliated to al-Qa’eda, where hundreds of Kashmiri militants and Afghans are being trained.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pointed the area out to visiting Western leaders on a map as being the centre of Taliban resurgence. The Kashmiris trained in this area still cross the Line of Control to ambush Indian patrols. The army, wishing to continue to exert pressure on India and Afghanistan, has turned a blind eye to these activities. While the army is likely to be wary of allowing Western aid agencies running pell-mell all over Azad Kashmir, it will now be impossible to keep these camps hidden and to continue training.

One positive result of the earthquake may be greater international and Pakistani civilian pressure to close these camps, thereby speeding up the peace process with India.

via RealClearPolitics

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Kaplan on the Modern Military vs. Mother Nature

In today’s New York Times, Robert D. Kaplan develops a point he made after last year’s Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

With the global population now at six billion, humans are living in urban concentrations in an unprecedented number of seismically, climatically and environmentally fragile areas. The earthquake-stricken region of Pakistan saw a doubling of its population in recent decades, certainly a factor in the death toll of more than 20,000. The tsunami in Asia last December showed the risks to the rapidly growing cities along the Indian Ocean. China’s booming population occupies flood zones. Closer to home, cities like Memphis and St. Louis lie along the New Madrid fault line, responsible for a major earthquake nearly 200 years ago when those cities barely existed; and the hurricane zone along the southern Atlantic Coast and earthquake-prone areas of California continue to be developed. More human beings are going to be killed or made homeless by Mother Nature than ever in history.

When such disasters occur, security systems break down and lawlessness erupts. The first effect of the earthquake in the Pakistani town of Muzaffarabad was widespread looting – just as in New Orleans. Relief aid is undermined unless those who would help the victims can monopolize the use of force. That requires troops.

But even using our troops in our own country is controversial: the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 strictly limits the use of troops inside the United States. The Gulf Coast devastation has helped remind us that this law was enacted in a rural America at a time when natural disasters took a relatively small human toll, and such calamities were viewed more fatalistically.

In a nation and a world where mass media and the Internet spread the word of disaster so effectively, impassioned calls to do something can quickly erode constitutional concerns, political differences and worries over sovereignty. Just as Pakistan has now agreed to accept aid from its rival India, Iran accepted help from the United States Air Force after the earthquake in Bam in 2003. The very people who typically denounce the American military will surely be complaining about its absence should our troops not show up after a major natural calamity.

Indeed, because of our military’s ability to move quickly into new territory and establish security perimeters, it is emerging as the world’s most effective emergency relief organization. There is a saying among soldiers: amateurs discuss strategy, while professionals discuss logistics. And if disaster assistance is about anything, it’s about logistics – moving people, water, food, medical supplies and heavy equipment to save lives and communities. We also have our National Guard, which is made up primarily of men in their 30’s (many of whom are police officers and firefighters in civilian life) trained to deal effectively with the crowds of rowdy young men that tend to impede relief work.

via RealClearPolitics

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The Seduction of Mullah Omar

The Taliban had a lot to offer Pakistan. They could provide strong Pashtun allies in Afghanistan, something Pakistan desperately needed because its only other significant Pashtun ally was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the mujahedeen prime minister who hadn’t yet set foot in Kabul, choosing to stay outside the city and pound it with rockets in an attempt to dislodge his rival and the current defense minister, Ahmed Shah Masood….

The Taliban could also provide training and inspiration for the jihadis that Pakistan was using with such ferocity in Indian-ruled Kashmir, a small former princedom that both India and Pakistan claimed as their own….

It wasn’t difficult to co-opt the Taliban. Pakistan insinuated its control slowly and insidiously. It used Pakistani mullahs like those attending the meeting in Kandahar to mold and manipulate Mullah Omar. Additionally, the ISI recruited Afghans trained at Pakistani madrassas to infiltrate Mullah Omar’s inner circle. One of Pakistan’s handpicked men was Tayyab Aga, barely thirty-five years old and a perfect English speaker. He would eventually become Mullah Omar’s spokesman, rarely leaving his side. He won Mullah Omar’s confidence through sheer persistence.

Every day, he and his friends would sit outside Mullah Omar’s office in Kandahar and send in messages, pleading to see the one-eyed leader. Mullah Omar didn’t always answer their messages. Sometimes they waited weeks before being called in to see him. But they were patient men.

Each time, they would fill his head with flattery, praising him for his commitment to Islam, to the purity of the Sharia law that he had imposed. The seduction went on for months.

A measure of their progress was that eventually some of the founding members of the Taliban, men like [intelligence chief Mullah Mohammad] Khaksar, had trouble seeing Omar. Khaksar said: “It changed slowly. I used to walk into his office unannounced, drink tea and talk. But then it changed. I couldn’t easily see him. He was always too busy and when we did get in they were always there, these mullahs from Pakistan or these new Afghan mullahs talking nonsense.”

The real triumph for Pakistan and for its Afghan surrogates came in the first months of 1996 on the day that Mullah Omar removed the Cloak of Islam’s Prophet from its sacred resting place, unseen since 1935, and in front of more than 1,500 mullahs who had traveled to Kandahar, declared himself Amir-ul Momineen, or King of the Faithful.

This act of hubris turned even the Muslim countries against the Taliban, reducing their circle of international friends and making them more dependent on Pakistan. It also inspired the Islamic zealots, those jihadis Pakistan had been nurturing so carefully.

SOURCE: I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, by Kathy Gannon (PublicAffairs, 2005), pp. 41-42

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