Monday, September 26, 2011

Explaining The Pakistani Terrorist Problem

I've been reading Zahid Hussain's The Scorpion's Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan-And How It Threatens America, and I'll post a review once I finish the book (got several other ones on the docket).

In the meantime, I recently came across two articles that trace why Pakistan has such a huge terrorist problem to begin with.

The American Interest explains how an incompetent, near-feudal civilian government and a powerful military in Pakistan led to the funding of various militant groups that the government can no longer control.
It is truly sobering to realize that even if things go relatively well in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis are certain to have their hands full with their own radical Islamists for years, probably decades, to come. Also sobering is the realization, after years of needless confusion, that radical Islamists in Pakistan are vastly more dangerous for the United States, its allies and the world at large than anyone or anything in Afghanistan.
And Foreign Policy clarifies that despite popular belief, the United States did not cause Pakistan's recent problems with terrorism, because they've existed long before 9/11.
Most pertinent of all, the Pakistani military must abandon the analytical distinction between "good" and "bad" militant groups, as well as abandoning the hope that "good" militant groups can fulfill regional strategic objectives, such as bringing India to the negotiating table on Kashmir or attaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. If nothing else, the last decade should have put paid to that theory of national interest. Notwithstanding the security establishment's desire to play favorites, the array of militant groups in Pakistan have a lot more that unites them than divides them. Indeed, LeJ -- to take one relevant example -- has deep connections with the Pakistani Taliban as well as al-Qaeda, both of whom have used extraordinary levels of violence against Pakistani targets. The idea that the state can take on one set of elements and leave others untouched is, in the medium- and long-term, completely fanciful.
Given the political currents in Pakistan, its hard to imagine these groups losing power any time soon.

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