Small Wars Journal

The Growth of Islamism in the Pakistan Army

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 3:30am

Islamization of the Pakistan Army is of significant concern to the National Security of the United States.  Success in the United States’ campaign against global terrorism rests in large part with the fate of Pakistan.  Many actors are at work within its borders to turn that nation and its army decisively against the United States and its interests in the region.  Understanding these forces will allow American decision and policy makers to identify risks to the status quo and help mitigate threatening outcomes of Pakistan’s internal struggles.  This essay first defines the history of those risks and the significance behind them.

Islamization of the Pakistan Army has been occurring in some form since its birth in 1947.  The nation was founded on the unity of a common religion.  This religious identity was ingrained in the Army as a way of distinguishing itself from its Hindu counterpart.  Officials accomplished this in superficial ways initially.[1]

In its early years, the Pakistan Army was very proud of its ability separate religion from the conduct of its internal business.  Initially, the Pakistan Army’s actions were characteristic of a capable conventional military force, focused on preservation of the nation.  The promotion of officers was based solely on their leadership ability and understanding of the art of war.

Military organization and structure was left unaffected through the first 30 years of its existence, despite the Army’s reliance on Islamists and Militant Islam to affect both foreign and domestic issues. Since then the institution has gone through change, at times significant change, which began to alter the way the Army operated.  More important, this change has affected the mindset of the officers and soldiers of the organization.

Shortly following the creation of the state, the Pakistan Army realized that they were the disadvantaged force when engaging in direct conventional conflict with the massive Indian Army.[2]  Starting with the First Indo-Pakistan War in 1947, the Pakistan Army used Militant Islamists as a weapon against the Indian military.  The Army used Islamist rhetoric to mobilize Pashtun tribesmen from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and urged clerics to issue fatwas ordering their clans into Kashmir.[3]  This was the beginning of the perpetual patron-client relationship between the Pakistan Army and Militant Islamists. 

The Army, much through its own devices, was the only stable and reliable official body within Pakistan.  This sense of acting as the nation’s saving grace conditioned the officer corps to preserve that status.  General Ayub Khan, the first native Army Chief of Staff and eventual military head of state after a coup in 1958, used Islamic rhetoric freely.  He used it to undermine the two prominent parties in East and West Pakistan, the Awani League and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), who he saw as a threat to the domestic authority of the Army.[4]  During The Second Indo-Pakistan War in 1965, the military used Islam-charged language to solidify the nation behind the liberation effort of Kashmir.[5]

General Yahya Khan, Ayub Khan’s successor, maintained the policy of using Islam as a means to affect internal issues in favor of consolidating national power under the Army.  Aside from continuing secretly to support Islamist movements against the populist parties, Gen. Yahya Khan unleashed Deobandi mujahedeen against his own citizens in East Pakistan.[6]  He and his generals cited the conflict as a jihad against liberal forces whose aim it was to divide the country.  The result of Pakistan’s slaughter of its own people was Indian interference on behalf of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh.[7]

As seen by the example of these two generals, Islamic discourse was used to maintain power and more important, as an attempt to maintain the integrity of the nation.  One of the Army’s brigadier generals had noted that the Army’s leading officers often sounded like ‘high priests rather than soldiers’ as they urged their men and society to strive for the ‘security, solidarity, integrity of the country and its ideology’.[8]  The constant bombardment of this monologue slowly started to seep into the soldiers and society’s psyche.  This coupled with the sense of desperation that followed the unproductive 1965 war and the loss of East Pakistan in 1971, caused the Army and mainstream politicians to focus on Islam as the way to solve the nation’s problems.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the PPP led the nation as it moved to discover its new identity after the East-West split.  He coined the term ‘Islamic Socialism’, and used Islamic principles to confront the challenges of his time.[9]  Bhutto tried to align the nation closer to its contemporaries in the Middle East, inviting clerics to visit Pakistan and hosting the Organization of Islamic Conference in 1974.[10]  His ultimate appeasement of the Islamist bodies in Pakistan was the enactment of a constitutional amendment declaring the moderate Ahmadi faith of the Qadiani people as non-Muslim.[11]  Despite his attempts to assuage conservative forces pitted against him, Bhutto fell by the same means as the first president of Pakistan, at the hands of his generals.

The Army seized power once again on the premise that it is best suited to lead the nation.  Bhutto’s Army Chief of Staff, General Zia-ul Haq, led a military coup against his president after inciting Islamist parties to undermine Bhutto’s popularity.[12]  Seizing power, he set out upon his plan to establish a true Islamic system of government.[13]  Like senior Army officers before him, Zia used Islam to affect issues outside the military.  However, he also implemented fundamental changes in the Army by introducing Islam into several aspects of the way it operated.  This was the first time that Islam had official capacity in the military. 

General Zia’s first move as the army chief was to change Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s original Army motto from ‘Unity, Faith, and Discipline’ to ‘Faith, Piety, and Jihad for the sake of Allah’.[14]  This move along with the declaration that he, the top Army official and leader of the nation, was a ‘soldier of Islam’, established the mindset that the Army was to embody.[15]  It was a further step in the changing of the mentality of soldiers in the military.

Zia introduced two functional changes in the Army that had a profound impact.  He incorporated religious evaluation into the performance reports of officers at every level.[16]  Zia also opened the doors of the military academies and training centers to Deobandi proselytizing groups.[17]  These actions allowed the introduction of radically conservative ideology into the Army’s culture and provided a method upon how to evaluate the acceptance and practice of these ideals.

In addition to the changes affecting the atmosphere in the military, soldiers were recruited from a society that was simultaneously being impregnated with Deobandi madrassas that sprung up on virtually every street corner.[18]  Widespread Islamist sentiment was being fueled by the Afghan-Soviet war.  American and Saudi funding coupled with homegrown support for the mujahedeen seated Islamic ideals further into the minds of Pakistanis, citizens, and soldiers alike.

Following Zia-ul Haq’s death after his 11 years of rule was a period of chaos.  The effects of the toxic combination of weapons, narcotics, and poor economic state drew the Islamists and their advocacy for Sharia Law into favor with the public.  The Army chose to deal with the abundance of jihadis by projecting these entities outward to stabilize war-torn Afghanistan and destabilize Indian Kashmir.[19]  The common Pakistani and soldier saw these fighters and their ideology as protector of the state, and more important, of Islam.[20]

General Musharraf’s coup in the autumn of 1999 was in response to the decade of chaos and prevented a vote that would have implemented Sharia Law into Pakistani society.  The coup also put a temporary hold on the Islamization of Pakistan and its Army.  He championed the phrase ‘enlightened moderation’ and began several reforms to roll back the effects of the previous 20 years.  Musharraf’s government outlawed several militant groups, began a madrassa registry, and purposed reformed curriculum for Islamic education.[21]  These measures initially had effect, but the government failed to see much of it through.  The NATO invasion of Afghanistan and Musharraf’s support for the United States’ war against the Taliban caused an ever-widening schism between the government, the Pakistani people, and the Army.  Finally, Musharraf’s government became so unpopular that he was forced to step down in 2007.[22]  Where the nation ended up was far from where its founding father had intended.

Over the 65-year history of the nation, the vision that Muhammad Ali Jinnah had for the nation of Indian Muslims has evaporated.  He advocated for a tolerant democracy that promoted diversity and debate in its society.  Events that followed partition slowly smothered the chances of Jinnah’s vision surviving.  The nation has existed in a constant state of crisis since birth. Those outside a narrowing view of Islam have been marginalized, and in some cases targeted.  Mistrust is pervasive in society,[23] and growing conservatism is subduing the mainstream.[24]  The Army is not immune to these events.

Modern recruiting strategy has exposed the Army to these woes of society.  The Pakistan military has been purposefully recruiting from a more diverse group over the past 10 years.  In 2001, a 10-year targeted recruitment policy was put into place that sought to bring the demographics of the officer corps into line with that of society.[25]  This effort, coupled with an already existing affirmative action program on admittance to the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, is exposing the Army to a much broader range of society coming from areas outside the Punjab province.[26]  This is another avenue that welcomes further introduction of Militant Islamist Ideology into the Army.

Of much greater consequence the Army is being asked to attack its own citizens.  The tribesmen they are currently at war with inside the FATA are the same heroes that they supported throughout their history.[27] South Asian Muslims regarded these fighters as defenders of Islam and the independence movement long before partition.[28]  Many members of the military see this fratricide as appeasement of the American paymasters.  Senior Army leaders always have mustered popular support for the Militant Islamists too.  Pakistani society is unable to switch its perspective of these age-old champions of the Muslim nation.[29]  General officers even have been caught actively promoting Militant Islamist Ideology within their organizations.[30]  If it reaches that high, it cannot be unheard of in the mid- and lower ranks.

American drone and Special Operations incursions into Pakistan have pushed the needle further away from moderation and affinity toward the West too.  These actions, though fruitful when assessed at the tactical level, have further provoked Islamists to speak out against the United States and Pakistan Army operations perceived to be in support of American interests.[31]  Even moderate Pakistanis are outraged by the violation of Pakistani sovereignty.[32]  This common sentiment leads to empowerment of the Islamist platform and message.

Several facets of United States National Security are placed at risk by these factors and trends.  Of paramount concern is the loss of dialogue with the Pakistan Army.  Military relations always have been the consistent line of communication between the United States and Pakistan.  Both nations have understood that each benefits from the relationship.  However, as Islamist sentiment permeates through the ranks, and as the Army realizes they can get what they need out of their relationship with the Chinese, the door into affecting one of the most volatile regions in the world will close for the United States.  This loss of communication will equate to loss of situational awareness regarding the following concerns, which have dramatic second and third order effects.

The largest risk to United States National Security, and global security, is over the disposition of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  Islamization of the organization from the top down obviously would be a colossal challenge, and likely create a conundrum similar to the United States and Iran with Pakistan’s added reputation of nuclear weapons technology proliferation.  This aside, the more likely and dynamic problem would be if a group of mid-level officers conspired to release or sell warheads to militant groups.  The international community has criticized the Army for low standards of protecting their facilities.[33]  A more organized and deliberate action resembling the attacks on airbases in Karachi and Kamra, which were suspected to have had insider help, could lead to the compromise of nuclear weapons or material.[34]

Relating to the previous concern is the increased likelihood of another conflict with India.  An Islamized Pakistan Army would lose any inhibition from engaging in asymmetric warfare with its neighbor.  A drawn out conflict employing terror tactics like the attacks in Mumbai, or attacks on the governing body, similar to those against the parliament, is a war that Pakistan could win against India.  This would have destabilizing effects on the most populous region in the world.

An Islamized Pakistan Army would likely undo 13 years of American efforts in Afghanistan as well.  Islamabad already has its suspicions about the Karzai government and its intentions.  The Pakistan Army, and more particularly the ministry for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has supported militant groups working against ISAF throughout the entire conflict.[35]  It is a possibility already that the Army will again support a Taliban takeover of Kabul, this time to remove a perceived US puppet government.  More Islamic sentiment in the Army would make this more likely to occur.

Finally one of the most likely turn of events is that once NATO leaves the area, Afghanistan and Pakistan will again become places that jihadis can freely roam.  Pakistan has already been labeled as the world’s global breeding ground for jihad.[36]  This reputation was earned over the past decade with the advent of 9/11 and the Global War on Terror.  However, the ground work for this had been laid over the past three decades. 

The CIA, ISI, and the Pakistan Army worked to establish the Afghan support structure in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPP - formerly known as the North West Frontier Province).  This structure consisted of weapons distribution, medical support, integration of Afghans refugees in the local community, and the spread of poppy farming like wildfire to raise even more funding.[37]  The most potent and lasting form of assistance given was the mass establishment of madrassas whose sole purpose was to raise local support for the war and fighters to enlist for the mujahedeen.[38]

This structure still exists in mass throughout the KPP.  It existed happily throughout the ‘90s, festering into a global jihad effort that would achieve notoriety in the 2000s.[39]  Despite Musharraf’s efforts to eliminate it, his actions and the NATO war in Afghanistan have caused the sentiment to spread like pandemic influenza.[40]  Under the umbrella of an Islamized Army controlling the nation, Militant Islamists will thrive and spread, again achieving the capability to steal the spotlight on the grand stage.

The continued Islamization of the Pakistan Army has many potential outcomes that would impact the National Security Interests of the United States negatively.  There is a strong history of it proceeding over the past six decades.  It has roots that reach as far back as the movement for independence from the Great Britain and partition from India.  As the time moves closer to American withdrawal of military forces in Afghanistan, the United States must continue to maintain a watchful eye in Pakistan.  Understanding developments within the nation will enable American policy to mitigate the impact on US-Pakistan relations.  Ultimately, if relations deteriorate quickly, the United States must be able to prepare for the fallout.  Comprehending the risks is half of readiness.

[1] Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Sword, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, xxx.

[2] Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Sword, (New York: Oxford University Press), 2008, 20.

[3] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 116.

[4] Hassan Abbas, Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism, (New Delhi: Pentagon Press), 2005, 53.

[5] Ibid, 116.

[6] Tariq Ali, The Duel:Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, (New York: Scribner), 2008, 81.

[7] Federal Research Division, Pakistan: A Country Study, (Washington DC: Library of Congress), 1995, 57-8.

[8] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 118.

[9] Yasmeen Niaz Mohiuddin, Pakistan: A Global Studies Handbook, (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO), 2007, 175.

[10] Ayesha Jalal, "The Past as Present" In Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, ed. Maleeha Lodhi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 14.

[11] Rafi Raza, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan 1967-1977, (Karachi: Oxford University Press), 1997, 185.

[12] R.G. Sawhney, Zia's Pakistan. (New Delhi: ABC Publishing House), 1985, 6.

[13] Federal Research Division, Pakistan: A Country Study, (Washington DC: Library of Congress), 1995, 65.

[14] Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, (New York: Oxford University Press), 2008, 384.

[15] Farhan Hanif Siddiqi, The Politics of Pakistan: The Baloch, Sindi and Mohajir Ethnic Movements, (London: Routledge), 2012, 35.

[16] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 121.

[17] Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 385.

[18] Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 48.

[19] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 123-4.

[20] Ibid, 128.

[21] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 125.

[22] Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords, (New York: Oxford University Press), 2008, 561.

[23] Amaud de Borchgrave, "Paranoidistan" The Washington Times, February 2, 2010.

[24] Ayesha Jalal, "The Past as Present" In Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, ed. Maleeha Lodhi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 9.

[25] Christine Fair and Shuja Nawaz, "The Changing Pakistan Army Officer Corps," The Journal of Strategic Studies 34.1, (2011): 79.

[26] Christine Fair and Shuja Nawaz, "The Changing Pakistan Army Officer Corps," The Journal of Strategic Studies 34.1, (2011): 63.

[27] Ibid, 65.

[28] Sana Haroon, Frontier of Faith, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2007, 165, 175.

[29] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 128.

[30] Sheree Sardar, "Pakistan military court jails officers for extremist ties," Reuters Africa, August 3, 2012.

[31] Ayesha Jalal, "The Past as Present" In Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, ed. Maleeha Lodhi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 9.

[32] Business Monitor International, Security Overview - Pakistan - Q3 2012, Foreign Security Assessment, (London: BMI Ltd.), 2012.

[33] Business Monitor International, Armed Forces Overview - Pakistan - Q3 2012, Foreign Military Assessment, (London: BMI Ltd.), 2012.

[34] Fareed Khan, "Pakistani Military Quashes Taliban Attack on Karachi Naval Base," The Washington Post, May 23, 2011.

[35] Robert Burns, "Mullen: Pakistan, Corruption Mar Afghan Gains," The Navy Times, September 22, 2011.

[36] Salim Mansur, "Pakistan a Breeding Ground for Islamism," Toronto Sun, May 8, 2010.

[37] Sana Haroon, Frontier of Faith, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2007, 201-3.

[38] Ayesha Jalal, "The Past as Present" In Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, ed. Maleeha Lodhi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 15.

[39] Sana Haroon, Frontier of Faith, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2007, 208-13.

[40] Ziad Haider, "Ideologically Adrift" In Pakistan: Beyond the 'Crisis State', by Maleeha Lohdi, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2011, 126-7.


About the Author(s)

MSG Jason Roach is a senior intelligence sergeant in the United States Army and currently pursuing his Masters in Strategic Intelligence through the National Intelligence University in Washington D.C. He has served in an intelligence management capacity for tactical, strategic, and special operations units while forward deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.  MSG Roach wishes to thank CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN for encouraging him in the publication of this work. The views expressed in the paper are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government



Thu, 02/14/2013 - 10:44pm

In reply to by RantCorp


That was a very well stated and interesting comment.

I have a question. Given what you say, wouldn't it be logical for the Pak Army to patch things up with India rather than pursue the provocative course they seem to steer? That would allow them to devote full attention to the west and perhaps give them ultimately more influence, via India, over Afghanistan. What they are doing vis a vis India doesn't seem logical.

Also, there have been several articles in SWJ in the past that have described what is almost a Punjabi empire. What do you think of that and can the Punjabis hold on to it?


Thu, 02/14/2013 - 5:09pm

I believe one of our biggest problems is we are failing to recognize the primary driver of the conflict in the Af/Pak border region and the inevitable consequence of this failure is that much of our effort will turn to dust in a depressingly short time.

The Pak Armed Forces and the US Armed Forces have one important difference when it comes to strategy. The principal driver of the Pak military’s strategy is politics whereas the US military has a myriad of cultural, technological, economic, gender, minority and political drivers that wax and wane thru US military policy. Some folks believe the Pak military is driven in some significant way by religious conviction but IMO this is a serious misconception. Needless to say many personnel in the Pak military are indeed deeply religious but then so are many in the armed forces of the US, Israel, Iran, Italy, India, Indonesia etc. In more than 30 years as a trainer throughout the Asia Pacific region I have yet to see any meaningful sign that religion plays any part in the incidence and character of how they prepare or execute warfare and war. It is prominent in many other aspects of national policy but not military policy.

Certainly, elements of culture (i.e. religion, commerce, geography, resources, tradition etc) give the execution of warfare and war a variable character but the enduring nature of their military policy is driven by politics. Folks are more than happy to acknowledge the NVA efforts were driven by political strategy but seem to fail to recognize that,for the Pakistan Army, strategy is political policy carried out by war and warfare.

The division of the sub-continent and Afghanistan - the Durand Line (1893) and the Ind/Pak international border and the Line of Control (1948) by the British Raj were political acts carried out by the British Indian Army.Since 1948 these boundaries have been maintained by the Indian and Pakistani armies as political lines in the sand not as delineations drawn to accommodate some religious, economic, geographical or tribal characteristic or grievance.

To state the obvious, the antagonism between India and Pakistan is political. When you cross the Indo-Pak frontier nothing changes. Sure there are suddenly lots of temples but there are lots of mosques as well. The people are the same, the country-side is the same, the humor is the same, the food is the same, the same architecture, the same entrepreneurial spirit, habits of minds etc. – only the politics is different. However on the Pak western border the culture, the people and the geographical terrain could not be more different to the Punjab.

Many folks suggest that Pak support for military conflict in Af is a Pak quest for strategic depth to enable the Pak Army to better absorb a nuclear war with India. IMO this is seriously misguided. If politics is about relative power then it is unavoidable that in a war with India the Pak Army leadership understands they will be forced to execute a fighting withdrawal. But how is any army meant to withdraw from a nuclear war? Where would a Pak army withdraw/fall back to? They would have to retreat hundreds of kms into hostile Shite Iran as retreating thru the bottlenecks of the Hindu Kush and its foothills would invite further nuclear carnage. Furthermore much of any retreat would be thru a radioactive homeland. The rear areas would be the first to suffer nuclear strikes as Operational planners would attempt to spare the spearhead of their respective armies nuclear blast and fallout.

A surprise per-empt nuclear strike on India would likely kill millions of Indians but India with 7 times the population spread over 5 times the geographical area would absorb a per-empt nuclear strike and counter with an overwhelming nuclear attack of unimaginable fury. All of the Pakistani landmass would suffer nuclear blast at worst and dangerous levels of radioactive fallout at best. This is a strategy which dictates political extinction and as such any suggestion that this is what steers the Pak Army’s political war fighting policy is nonsense. Essentially what the ‘ strategic depth’ argument suggests is that the Pak Army’s leadership has a war fighting strategy that calls for the destruction of their country.

IMO if you are looking reasons why the Pakistan Army supports the Taliban and you are casting your gaze towards India, you are looking in the wrong direction and you are ignoring their ancient enemy. The political reason why the Pak Army is determined to prevent political stability taking root in Afghanistan in general, and the Af/Pak border region in particular, is the existential threat to their country posed by the currently contained Pashtoon and Balochi secessionist movement. The sympathizers and agitators of this political movement straddle the Af/Pak border. A war of independence by the Pathans and/or the Balochi’s would rip Pakistan apart to the extent that the country would cease to exist.

Supposedly liberal minded westerners find the denial of minority claims for independence as backward or even abhorrent. This sentiment strikes the average Pakistani as the height of hypocrisy. To somewhat unfairly use the US as an example ( there are numerous other guilty countries both Western and Eastern) the Pakistan Army consider demands for Pathan/Balochi independence as no different to Mexico reclaiming Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona etc. annexed by the US in the 1840s. Similarly, full Independence for all Native American territory with their own Sioux, Apache, Cheyenne etc. security forces. Moreover a secession by the CSA from the Union and half the current US military to go with it. You or I may find this a political absurdity but if you do not think a large number of well grounded, astutely intelligent, well trained Pakistan Army General Staff don’t believe these secessionist demands are as equally unacceptable as the Pathan and Balochi demands then you are dangerously distracted.

Any form of argument that chooses to ignore this political conviction strikes the Pak Army leadership as an argument promoting an existential threat to their country. They have lost 30,000 men maintaining their current political strategy and the constant attention decrying the West’s 2000 dead and the $ 300 billion spent will only convince them how ignorant and blinkered our strategic thinking is. Even if the West’s losses amounted to ten times the current numbers; in their minds-eye these losses and their own pale into insignificance as to what their country has to lose.

Over the last 6000 years the native inhabitants of the Punjab have come to recognize that all invasions which threaten their existence approach from the west. The Pathans and Balochi are descendants of these invaders. This has established a mind-set in the Punjabi that has a profound grip on how they view the world’s attitude to their very existence – something much more fundamental than the lesser concerns relating to religion, governance, ethics, economy etc. Subsequently, the constant admonishment handed out by westerners lecturing them on the importance of these lesser societal concerns is often viewed as a mockery of their sense of nationhood.

So what?

The logical argument would be if that is how they want to act then we should leave them to it. If the Pak Army is so sure of its political strategy why should the West waste more blood and treasure?

Unfortunately for them and for us the approach that has safeguarded the region for the last 6000 years no longer works. A combination of nuclear weapons, heroin and Arabic political dissent has rendered the past strategy securing the gateway to the sub-continent obsolete – and the Pak Army know it.

Like a biblical plague the heroin trade is hollowing out the very body of the populace of the region. The heroin industry in the Af/Pak region is controlled by the Cosa Nostra and a recent report identifying the drug industry as the biggest business in Italy one can imagine the drug trades hold on the much poorer Af/Pak economies. The Punjabi bulwark which has for so long kept relative peace in the sub-continent is rapidly weakening from within.

The recent creation of an ISAF trained and equipped army on the other side of the unsecured border adds 100,000 potential separatist revolutionaries to the apocalyptic brew of heroin, nuclear IEDs and Wahhabi fanatics.

If Pakistan implodes there is the real possibility of the whole world laying witness to Punjabi, Pathan and Balochi members of the Pak Army warring amongst themselves. The nightmare scenario of mutinying troops seizing nuclear weapons is a very distinct possibility – IMO a far more dangerous event than the Cuban Missile Crisis which is considered the high point of nuclear danger during the Cold War. The scenario of triumphant Balochi & Pathan mutineers rushing their looted nuclear booty back to their tribal homelands hotly pursued by hordes of Wahhabi and MB terrorists brandishing hundreds of millions of petro-dollars is realistic. This is not some Cold War doomsday scenario – this could actually start happening today and we have absolutely no way of controlling it.

So what?

In the absence of an ironclad guarantee that the Durand Line is secure all the West’s sabre-rattling, COIN, nation building, network centric, governance in a box, RMA mickey-mouse bullshit is seen by the Pak Army as a deliberate attempt to pour petrol on the fires of Pathan and Balochi secessionism and they will see us all in hell before they let that happen.

Growing Mushrooms,



Fri, 02/01/2013 - 3:47pm

In reply to by nrogeiro


Ah yes, the poor Pak Army/ISI argument. Look at all the sacrifices they've made allowing others to occasionally get at the monster they created, support and protect. They are so plucky when that monster chews off one of their fingers and looks to be fixin' to move up the arm. That argument really does work very well inside the beltway.

Afghanistan is seen by the Pak Army/ISI strategists as a security belt, giving them strategic depth or whatever. Those guys are cunning when dealing with DC superzips but that doesn't make them smart. What are they going to fall back on, the busy tank factories of Kabul? Are they going to avail themselves of those fierce Afhan fighting men so eager to put themselves under Punjabi authority to rebuild a defeated army? Nope.


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 3:19pm

In reply to by carl

See it from another perspective: with all its immense defaults, perils, traps and fragility (that no one should underestimate), Pak was the west's frontline against the Soviet empire in Afghanistan, and as Turkey fails to be recognized for the effort and sacrifice it put in that war.

Then it had to maintain some semblance of control over a deserted - by everyone - Afghanistan, by supporting Talib groups and all that. Afghanistan is seen by Pak strategists as a security belt.

Then it allowed for the territory to be used by US and other western air, naval, land, marine and special forces, in fighting AQ and associates.

It also allowed UAV/UCAV attacks (300+ only during the first Obama mandate) over FATA space.

It allowed a huge security, defense and intelligence network from US and other Western nations (and friendly Arab states, from Qatar and the UAE to Saudi Arabia) to operate inside Pakistan, almost with no hindrance (although also for most of the time no support).

It conducted its own extensive operations against AQ and allies, some causing uge forms of retribution

Again, this doesn't invalidate the need to constantly require from Pakistan to be honest, forceful, open and cooperative or proactive in eradicating all AQ, neo-AQ, post-AQ and allies. And to sanction it wherever/whenever it is found in fault.

Final motto: "don't be blind, nor too kind".

See you one of these lives



Fri, 02/01/2013 - 2:47pm

In reply to by nrogeiro


IMO-SAMS Grad and AvaWarrior stated that they are members of the Pak Army. They can't very well sing anything other than the tune played by the organization that pays them.

I do have only open media facts. You suggest you have more than that. You are fortunate then. But even with only open media facts, it is obvious that the Pak Army/ISI throws us a bone once in a while, especially when thing get hot. How many times has the AQ number 3 guy got killed and then Mr. Bin Laden finally outlived his usefulness and things would have got very hot if they hadn't allowed us to get him. Throwing the lap dogs in DC something to issue press releases about is part of the game the Pak Army/ISI is running. They do it very well.

It is wise not to provoke the god of "It can't get any worse" by saying that so I won't. But Pakistan is pretty much terror central now. And that too is part of the game the General Sahibs run. "Without that extra few billion we may not be able to hold the line against those wahabi killers so how...(ring ring ring)...Wait a second sir. (Hello...Abu I told you never to call me here.) As I was saying sir, we really need those few extra billion."


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 2:09pm

In reply to by carl

OK, if you think it is a question of (my) words,let's not proceed.
Maybe you have only the open media facts, and only selectively. But even at that level we could make here a list of AQ top guys nailed by close cooperation between US intelligence and Pak security, starting with KSM.
If the "strategy" you suggested (and now abandoned wisely), declaring Pak as the enemy, would triumph, the country would really become the hub for all enemies of the US, and more.
As for pressure - if it is intelligent and justified - I am all for it.
And I don't have the faintest idea who is GRAD or the others. I depart from the assumption that each person here thinks for his or hers own head. Maybe you depart from another supposition.




Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:00pm

In reply to by nrogeiro

N. Rogerio:

None of the things I proposed were intended to amount to a formal declaration of war. They are intended to put hard pressure on the Pak Army/ISI and to remove us from the loony position of supplying an enemy force with the means to kill us.

None of the things I proposed are being done. Your suggestion that things are happening behind the scenes that you know about but can't share isn't a weak argument. It is no argument. Same goes for "without getting into much delicate intel" when speaking of Mumbai.

You believe the Pak Army/ISI is what it professes to be despite the evidence. I believe the Pak Army/ISI is what it is because of the evidence. If you buy what they say instead of judging them by what they do, there will be no convincing you. You, the esteemed Grad and the mighty Warrior will respond to whatever evidence is presented with simple denials, forcefully repeated. That's fine, believe what you want. But don't ask me not to call an enemy an enemy when he stands there telling me he is my friend while the blood of fellow Americans drips from his hands.


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 11:13am

In reply to by carl


Frankly, none of the measures you propose ammount to executing a formal declaration of war. Many of the things suggested actually are being done, without the need here to share sensitive information.

On the Mumbai thing: also without getting into much delicate intel, many things were done afterwards by ISI and mainly internal security, but that was after the fact and some was of course too late, as the culprits C3I cells had enough time to disappear in the nature (although not completely, but I don't know how much you are privy with events, and don't want to bother others with details).

Again: let's not take thre tree for the forest, so to speak. There are many incidents of infiltration of ISI, home forces, police, some military units. There are many dismantled essays of more infiltration. There are militants continuing to build their cells, even inside...their (prison) cells, and using phones provided by guards. There is corruption. And the Talibans - Afghan, FATA-based, Pakistani-based. And LeJ, LeT and the others (a myriad of everchanging acronyms), and their "civil society" agents and front organizations. There are the several AQ entities. There is the Haqqani network. There are the terrorist special force units being sent to scout for weak points in bases, naval and air stations. There are the "Arab cells" (to simplify) made of people who abused Islamabad generous refugee policy over the years. There is a certain phobia and obsession - in security circles - about foreign plots, be it Indian or Iranian, but we know that even paranoids have enemies.
There is all this, plus many misled policies and initiatives from several ISI structures, where manipulators become manipulated.
But the core of Pakistan armed forces remain professional, disciplined, patriotic, superb in performance and interested in good relations with the West and the US. They know who the real enemy is. They believe they cannot win all the wars at the same time. They believe in different methods and timing.
The US decision makers should spend more time sitting with these people and try to bring actions to more coordinated levels, dispell rumors and conspiracies, show differences and act. But not at all leave Pakistan alone, or demonize all the establishment there (which you do, for example, singling Gen, Kayani, who i don't think is to blame for a much larger picture).
Anyway, that is only my opinion, after several decades following and watching the tree...and the forest.


N. Rogeiro


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 9:59am

In reply to by nrogeiro

N. Rogerio:

Too late for that. The Pak Army/ISI has already determined the US is their enemy and have been acting in practical, bloody handed ways upon that determination for years. They have not declared the US the enemy though, after all that is an intrinsic part of gaming the superzip elites in DC, who seem to believe if the devil doesn't admit to being the devil, well then he ain't the devil.

My plan? I am glad you asked that. First thing, have Kayani sahib come over to the US embassy and inform him that if the support for Taliban & Co doesn't stop within 7 days and number of things are going to happen. If he doesn't care to show up, send the no. 2 guy at the embassy over to GHQ and give Kayani the message.

Then when the 7 days are up start with an announcement that a number of things have come to our attention that indicate the Pak Army/ISI is actively supporting Taliban & Co. and release a few com intercepts. Then start tightening the screws with things like stop supplying spare parts for equipment, forbid technical support for systems they have, pull out the drones and the drone operators based in Pakistan, publicly identify who and how in the Pak Army/ISI is in contact with Taliban & Co where when and how, publish their financial particulars then go after their bank accounts, publish the finances of senior generals and where they are keeping their money and all sorts of other things. The number of things we could do is almost endless.

But the most important thing is to announce also that we are shutting down the Karachi supply line until they decide to play ball. Then do it. I think that will work. I think the senior generals are primarily interested in themselves and when penury and grounded F-16s stare them in the face they will come around. But even if they don't we are still better off because we will have severely reduced the resources available to the enemy.

You are missing the sun in the sky if you think the ISI dismantled the people who directed the murders in Mumbai. It was the ISI that did the murders in Mumbai. They aren't going to change unless seriously pressured as outlined above.

You are right that the Pak Army/ISI should be encouraged to do the right thing and not supported when it does the wrong thing. See above.

Seeing complexity where there is none is tail chasing. In order to get anything done you have to see who your enemy is. Our enemy is the Pak Army/ISI. We will get nowhere until we recognize that and stop pretending an enemy is a friend.

I hold little hops that any of the above will happen though. The Pak Army/ISI has played the game to well. The prime directive in Washington is the right people will not be embarrassed, the country and dead Americans be damned. Those right people have been played by the Pak Army/ISI for too many years and in too many ways for them to ever do anything serious about stopping those guys. If they did, they would have to admit they've been had and that wouldn't do. No, no. That wouldn't do.


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 5:30am

Fortunately state and society in Pakistan are not letting their Carl-counterparts guide their foreign policy, and declare the US as an enemy.
Seriously Carl, and with no disrespect (for I very well understand the reasons for your frustration) what would be your precise battle plan, and diplomatic approach, after you declare Pak as your official and formal enemy?
This is one point. Another one is that Pak should treat more forceful proven links of terror, like the ones uncovered in Mumbai. There is sufficient evidence to understand what happened. I know that ISI and other organs arrested and dismantled part of the operation, after the fact, but much more has to be done, unless we want for things like the Marriott Hotel attack to repeat itself.
For Pakistan is one the main victims of homemade - and imported - terrorism in the Indian subcontinent.
It should be helped, supported and guided - if it asks. It should be encouraged in right and measured anti- and counter- terrorism policies.
It should not be supported when it neglects its responsabilities, or when it ignores well founded and properly transmitted warnings.
But again - recognizing complexity is crucial. Let's not oversimplify and in particular let's not create new ghosts and false enemies.
There are already too many - way too many - real ones.

N. Rogeiro


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 1:05am

In reply to by AvaWarrior


This is great, two officers of the enemy army to spar with.

To the contrary sir, if the Pak Army/ISI wants to pursue policies that it believes promotes its interests, even at the expense of its country; go for it General Sahibs, go for it. What I object to is that when the Pak Army/ISI transforms itself into the enemy of the United States through those actions, our genii inside the beltway don't see it and act accordingly. It bugs me that our elites just can't see that perfidy defines the Pak Army/ISI's dealings with the US.


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:42am

Carl, like some others, seems to suffer from a blinding level of certitude about Pakistan's role in the region and the "threat" that we in Pakistan Army seem to have become....
This friend finds it hard to understand how and why some nations dare do things that protect, preserve and promote their own national interest.........
This state of mind is a logical, though tragic, consequence of a misguided, religion-based narrative peddled for decades now......Let's hope we all become men enough to talk (and if needed, fight) without using the worn-out crutches of 1096 (AD) themes.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 8:44pm

In reply to by G Martin

G Martin:

I disagree. They intentionally kill us for years, they are the enemy. Simple enough. The complexity comes when you don't see that and try to treat the enemy as a friend. It is hard to square a circle.

Your points 1 and 2 are measures of nothing but US gov stupidity. Point 3 isn't such a stupid thing to do at all. We get to know something about enemy leaders through close observation and get an opportunity to do some agent recruiting. Whether or not those Pak Army officers view themselves as our enemy is neither here nor there. The Pak Army/ISI does the part. If our officers who interact with them don't view them as officers in an enemy army, then they are as dopey as our gov. That of course doesn't preclude our people from being models of graciousness and courtesy.

As far as point 4 goes, the Pak Army/ISI is pretty much unique in killing our people in Afghanistan for more than a decade. So given that-no it isn't more complex than x, Pak Army/ISI, is our enemy; and country y in the area who hasn't been killing us for years, isn't our enemy.

I don't know if simple logic got us into trouble in the first place. I do know that refusing to see a simple fact is keeping us in trouble.

G Martin

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 4:33pm

In reply to by carl

Well, that's putting it a little too simple in my opinion. #1- the US government disagrees with that officially. #2- we have entities working with the Pakistani Army now. #3- We educate Pakistani Army officers here in the U.S. and THEY don't see themselves as our enemy nor do most of our officers who interact with those Pakistani officers view them as the enemy. #4- the reality of that region is much more complex than "x is our enemy" and "y is our friend". If we want to talk in that manner, then not only could you make the argument that everyone in that region is our enemy, but most countries- if not all- could also say the same of us.

I think that simple logic got us in trouble in the first place. No-one that I met over in that region sees the world so black and white- and this "you are either with us or against us" mentality has hurt us in my opinion more than helped. Just my .02...


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 4:03pm

In reply to by carl

Striking Bin Laden in a bold and successful operation, without declaring war on the Pakistani/ISI armies, and avoiding Pakistan to do the same, is the kind of complex answer to a complex situation I was referring to.
But mind my words: each provocation or act of war should be answered in kind, or better yet pre-empted, not minimized or forgotten.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 3:41pm

In reply to by nrogeiro

N. Rogerio:

The fundamental problem when dealing with Pakistan is the Pak Army/ISI. There is no other institution of import in the country. And the US's problem when dealing with the Pak Army/ISI is that we don't recognize it for what it actually is, the enemy. Any talk about how we can do this or that, or where training money should go or how we must carefully consider nuances is for naught if we don't see them for what they are. When it comes to Afghanistan, the Pak Army/ISI is the enemy. Once we recognize that and actually act upon it, we can make some progress. Barring that we are just marks.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 3:10pm

Well put by Vitesse and Puissance: quick and powerful arguments indeed. My contacts with Pakistanis from all sides of the security, political and defense establishments also strike me as evidence that the country is much more complex than what is described in this article. And after all "Islamist" General Zia served well US geopolitical and strategic interests, no?
Pakistan lives in a very difficult situation, politically speaking, and the military walk over a very tight and tiny rope.
A less complex and less professional state would have already collapsed - like Persia and its "Immortal" Special Forces, that crumbled with the Shah like a castle of cards - in particular seeing he internal and external pressures it is submitted to.
The text also doesn't explain sufficiently the role of the antagonism with nuclear armed India, relating to internal "radicalization".
On the other hand, many lines in Roach's argument are true and worrisome: armed fanatics are threatening the fragile flower that we call Pakistan. Which shows the need for the West to continue to engage the majority of good elements there, instead of throwing them into a sort of limbo.
Need for care, sophistication, Spear of Neptune and drones, whenever justified? Of course.
Need for continued and better training of Pakistan SOF's, nuclear security corps, political and defense officials in FATAland? No doubt.
But also a big need to avoid putting all "Islamists" in the same bag, ignoring, for example, the anti-AQ pulsion of many Teobandis,or refusing to apply a more fine analysis to diiferent political groups, parties, lobbies, parmilitary entities, etc.
A couple of German diplomats - Madalena and Matthias Fischer - authored a book about these delicate balances, recollecting and musing over the time they served in Islamabad, during and after 9/11. It is called Pakistan Under Siege (Vanguard 2004). I had the privilege of writing the preface, where I tried to instill the same idea I am trying to express: Pakistan is no easy matter.


N. Rogeiro
Lisbon, Portugal

Vitesse et Puissance

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 2:04pm

My own impressions of the Pakistani army are largely the fruit of having had them as students at the Armor School. By and large, they were technical and tactically competent, and many of them were fluent in English. Definitely a cut above the Arab officers, even from moderate and relatively modernized countries like Jordan and Egypt. They did not wear their religion on their sleeves. They did not summarily flaunt our professional and ethical standards. You could tell that they served in a professional fighting force, one that is worthy of respect. In one case, I queried a Pakistani officer who stood out in one respect - he had a full grown beard. When I questioned him on it, he mumbled something to the effect that this was a relection of a deeper faith that he had discovered. We were all much less atuned to the problem of religious extremism back then (this was in the mid-80s), and I thought little of it.

My belief is that in a "serious case", the Pakistani army would be a formidable foe indeed, and stands as evidentiary proof that those who claim that there will never be a conventional (or worse, a high intensity) conflict again are completely and totally wrong. It should also remind us of the need to plan for the worst scenario, not those scenarios that fit our world view, or offer comfort to a guilty conscience. Pakistan, like many nations around the world, abounds in contradictions. While Pakistan itself should be most concerned with how those contradictions are resolved, it is not their problem alone.

Vitesse et Puissance

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 2:05pm

My own impressions of the Pakistani army are largely the fruit of having had them as students at the Armor School. By and large, they were technical and tactically competent, and many of them were fluent in English. Definitely a cut above the Arab officers, even from moderate and relatively modernized countries like Jordan and Egypt. They did not wear their religion on their sleeves. They did not summarily flaunt our professional and ethical standards. You could tell that they served in a professional fighting force, one that is worthy of respect. In one case, I queried a Pakistani officer who stood out in one respect - he had a full grown beard. When I questioned him on it, he mumbled something to the effect that this was a relection of a deeper faith that he had discovered. We were all much less atuned to the problem of religious extremism back then (this was in the mid-80s), and I thought little of it.

My belief is that in a "serious case", the Pakistani army would be a formidable foe indeed, and stands as evidentiary proof that those who claim that there will never be a conventional (or worse, a high intensity) conflict again are completely and totally wrong. It should also remind us of the need to plan for the worst scenario, not those scenarios that fit our world view, or offer comfort to a guilty conscience. Pakistan, like many nations around the world, abounds in contradictions. While Pakistan itself should be most concerned with how those contradictions are resolved, it is not their problem alone.

G Martin

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 4:20pm

In reply to by IMO-SAMS Grad

Would really enjoy some counters to the points raised in this article. Regardless of its accuracy- the reality is:

1- the theme is largely very difficult to counter in the U.S. population writ large
2- as others have noted- the issues along the border and with Pakistani support to some groups (while, in my mind, for very legit reasons), beget very emotional responses (probably on both sides, but definitely here)- and, again, for very understandable reasons...
3- the specter of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists weighs heavily on the Western mind
4- for some reasons unbeknownst to me and other reasons that, while frustrating and sad, are to some extent understandable- the U.S.'s capability to affect and understand the "Great Game" is not as great as it should be (understatement of the century?)
5- the lack of understanding of what is going on in the "Muslim" world right now (and before) a la the "Arab Spring" and the- at least seeming- growth in "radicalism" from the Western point of view. So, for instance, why did things seem relatively fine in the 60s and now ... not so much? (or, is that- like other things, a misrepresenation of the "reality"?)


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 1:10pm

In reply to by IMO-SAMS Grad


You're right. I don't know what to do. So I do blame, our inside the beltway elites. They continually believe whatever the Pak Army/ISI tell them regardless of the evidence to the contrary. I try to think beyond that but I can't.

I always thought I was mature, old anyway. But sometimes I do get frustrated and let fly. Americans dead at the hands of the Pak Army/ISI does that to me.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 12:50pm

In reply to by carl

That's really mature. I don't blame you, it's the narrative that has been fed. Please think beyond "If you don't know what to do, do what you know.....blame".


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 12:26pm

In reply to by IMO-SAMS Grad


You guys have been lying to us, taking our money and using it to kill us for over 10 years now. The Pak Army/ISI have been doing a very good job of that, and if that is the objective of the organization, you should be proud to be a member. You guys have been doing a bang up job of grifting us. Good for you. But don't ask us not to see the sun in the sky anymore, international courtesy doesn't go that far.

Your country is a wreck and getting worse. Your Army, being the most cohesive and powerful organization in it bears a large part of the responsibility for that. A big part of the Pak Army/ISI grand strategy is to continually provoke what will soon be the most populous nation on earth with an economy far bigger than yours. As part of that grand strategy you have created a jihadist monster that is growing and you can't well control anymore. The policies of your army may very well lead to the ruination of your country. Nice going. You are proud to be a member of your army, and that is a fine thing. You are almost certainly a good soldier and that is how good soldiers feel. But the Pak Army/ISI should hang its head in shame for the harm it is doing to Pakistan and the Pakistanis. As long as the Pak Army/ISI continues on its present course the only faith I have is that more Pakistanis will needlessly suffer and die.


Thu, 01/31/2013 - 10:32am

Apart from many voids that I sense in this article, first and foremost the word "Islamism" stands out as huge disappointment to me. By reading such ridiculous concocted terms I feel that Al Qaeda/terrorists have succeeded in alienating the west from the muslim world. Really!!!! "Islamism". Fundamentalist and Jihadist is still understandable but this is stretching a bit too far. Moreover, being a proud soldier of Pak Army, I can claim with a great degree of definitiveness that if there is one organization in Pakistan that is far from being extremist it is our armed forces. Cherry picking incidents and taking things out of context can be misleading. Where it is the right of everyone to express their opinion, certain degree of factual and unbiased intellectualism is also essential. Having said that I still have a very high opinion of US Armed Forces breadth of outlook and intellect. Being a graduate of CGSC and SAMS (US Army Courses taught at Fort Leavenworth) I am also cognizant of the fact that the opinion of the author does not reflect the majority's viewpoint. Rest assured such articles as well as Fox News depiction of Pakistan and Pak Army is quite far from the truth. There is turmoil and certain amount of instability right now.. no kidding, but Nations go through strange and challenging periods. Have faith in us to come out from this dark period.


Wed, 01/30/2013 - 1:09pm

In reply to by AvaWarrior

Omar! Where are you? We need you.


Anybody who would say "alledgedly" when speaking of Pak Army/ISI support for the Afghan Taliban & Co. won't be swayed by the likes of me.


Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:26pm

Off the mark, in more than one ways. Based on so many half-explained hypotheses and misguided assumptions. Here are a few examples:
1. The author chose not to explain why Gen Zia "needed" to promote a pan-Islamic narrative? Surely not because the nation of Pakistan was dying to see that happen. Such narrative was instead desperately needed by the entire "free world" in its epic "jihad" against the Communist International. Remember a President, not the "Islamizing" Zia, calling the unruly guests from Afghanistan's mountains the "moral equivalents" of a great nation's founding fathers?
2. Our learned MSG has also not explained how the so called "modern recruiting strategy has exposed the Army to these woes of society"? And what kind of woes? The said society elected just four repeated four religious party members to its national legislative assembly in the last elections, i.e. 2008. Also, how broadening the base of recruitment to include all provinces of the country leads to the so-called Islamization of this institution?
3. It has not been explained as to why the "Islamized" Pakistan Army allegedly supports the "Islamic" Taliban in Afghanistan but fights, rather stubbornly, another version of "equally Islamic" Taliban east of the Durand Line? Also, why don't the fanatics of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan consider this Army sufficiently "Islamic"?
4. Pakistan Army has a proud tradition of promotions based on pure professional merit. By restricting himself to only a few, half-baked sources of information, our MSG has done no credit to his analysis.
One can go on.....but the point has been made.
Nations, Pakistan included, make strategic choices. National institutions, including the militaries, play their part in pursuit of those choices. When many nations jostle for strategic space within one arena, divergences in perceived interests are bound to happen. That may lead to misunderstandings and disagreements with undesirable consequences. Dragging religion and god into games men play may lead to, and it already has led us to, tragic consequences.
It's about time we look for less volatile, more sober themes to explain our divergences in perceptions and policies.


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 12:01am

In reply to by Vitesse et Puissance

Vitesse et Puissance:

Absolutely. The problem is that from what I've read, the Pak Army/ISI won't accept the reality of their situation. They are trying to acquire 'strategic depth' by installing a compliant regime in Afghanistan. And the problem with that is no matter how compliant the Afghan regime, there is still nothing to fall back on. They would fall back on a landlocked country that is one of the poorest on earth. That is only slightly better than considering the ocean as giving them 'strategic depth.'

The Pak Army/ISI when viewed as a bureaucracy has one hell of a problem. Given Pakistan's overall position, the only sensible thing to do is seek fully normalized, peaceful relations with India. But if the Pak Army/ISI allowed that to happen, there would be no need for a great huge Pak Army/ISI with all its attendant power and privilege.

Vitesse et Puissance

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 2:11pm

In reply to by carl

From a strategic depth point of view, Pakistan's situation is a nightmare. They don't have any strategic depth. One reason to be genuinely concerned about the possible use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. Ironically, though, Pakistan has "just enough" strategic depth to make any preemptive operation a very risky proposition indeed. This fact alone places the civilian population at serious risk, since the incentives towards escalation are very real, and very deadly.


Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:59pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.:

We're too stupid to turn anybody since we believe in carrots, carrots and more carrots. Shoot, we've been giving those guys billions for years to buy bullets to kill us with.

The feudal elites and the Pak Army/ISI don't respond much to the population or its needs. If they cared about the population polio wouldn't be endemic. Geesh what a country.

Most of those influential figures of which you speak have been co-opted by the Pak Army/ISI. They mostly do what they're told, or else. For example, check out the fate of Shaleem Shahzad. This isn't a country where the people with the money and the guns, the feudal elites and the Pak Army/ISI, worry much about opinion polls. They worry about things like 'strategic depth' and act upon those worries. Not too smart they aren't though. They have created a jihadist monster that they can't control and that may ultimately consume them.

Bill C.

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:41pm

In reply to by carl


Thus, from your perspective above, if we were able to "turn" the feudal elites and the Pak Army/ISI (via simple convincing and/or carrots and sticks), then the population would be ready, willing and able to make this transition and/or would, otherwise, not stand in our way?

What about the clergy, the intellectually elite and other highly respected figures? Would we need to -- and would we be able to -- "turn" them as well?


Wed, 01/30/2013 - 12:01pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.:

The tone of your comment suggests the majority of the Pakistanis have a say in what is happening, that their views matter. From what I've read over the years, that isn't the case. What matters are the views of the feudal elites and the Pak Army/ISI, everybody else be...well they don't count.

Bill C.

Wed, 01/30/2013 - 11:56am

From the author's first paragraph above:

"Many actors are at work within its (Pakistan's) borders to turn the nation and its army decisively against the United States and its (the United States') interests in the region." (Items in parenthesis are mine.)

Two questions:

a. Why might actors -- both within and, indeed, outside of Pakistan's borders -- wish to turn the nation of Pakistan and its army decisively against the United States and its interests in the region?

b. Might this be because the interests of the United States -- and the interests of Pakistan and of many states and societies within this region -- are not the same and may even be diametrically opposed?

The United States, for example, believing that, to secure its interests, it must transform outlying states and societies more along modern western lines.

Pakistan, and other states and societies within this region, for their part, believing that their interests lie in -- and are best served by -- (1) resisting such transformational efforts and, instead, (2) organizing, ordering, orienting and configuring their nations more along the lines of their own heritage, tradition and culture.

(Herein, I am not suggesting that there are not factions in Pakistan and other states and societies in this region who see their interests in the same light that we do; just that these factions may not represent the view of the majority of these populations.)

Thus, the present dangerous situation in Pakistan and the region to be best viewed through the lens of:

a. The perception (and indeed the reality) of United States goals and efforts to transform the states and societies of these regions more along modern western political, economic and social lines and

b. The efforts of many in Pakistan -- and these regions -- to resist such an unwanted transformation?

The tone of this article is a bit odd to me. It seems to say we should be wary of things that may happen without recognizing that they have already happened. This sentence "An Islamized Pakistan Army would likely undo 13 years of American efforts in Afghanistan as well." typifies that. The Pak Army/ISI has been working like a beaver for years to frustrate us, and physically kill our guys, in Afghanistan. What the article warns might happen has been happening for a long time.

Also the article states "A drawn out conflict employing terror tactics like the attacks in Mumbai, or attacks on the governing body, similar to those against the parliament, is a war that Pakistan could win against India." I am more than skeptical of that assertion. If there is another Mumbai I suspect the Indians, to quote Gen. Buck Turgidson, "are going to go absolutely ape!"


Wed, 01/30/2013 - 10:37am

An interesting, if gloomy SWJ article on a subject that has had Small Wars Council members debate for years (on several threads), with some linked documents by Hamid Hussain read thousands of times.

It ends with 'As the time moves closer to American withdrawal of military forces in Afghanistan, the United States must continue to maintain a watchful eye in Pakistan. Understanding developments within the nation will enable American policy to mitigate the impact on US-Pakistan relations. Ultimately, if relations deteriorate quickly, the United States must be able to prepare for the fallout. Comprehending the risks is half of readiness'.

Welcome to 'The Great Game'. The USA and a few others have watched Pakistan closely since 9/11, it is a moot point whether understanding has followed given the stance taken by the Pakistani military (including ISI) on supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Simply put there has been a lack of realism over what to expect from all of Pakistan's institutions in countering the Taliban and extremism within Pakistan.

It is a painful truth, in my opinion, that the real strategic interest of the USA and allies is NOT Afghanistan, but Pakistan. That may explain the near constant flow of US civil and military aid (in the US$ billions), a bizarre policy that enables the Pakistani support given to the Taliban.

As Hassan Abbas remarked awhile ago, before the bloodshed within Pakistan in recent months: 'Pakistan has proven it is a country that cannot protect its own citizens'.

I am no apologist for the Pakistani military, but the author appears not to have included the deaths of Pakistani civilians and in the context of the article those who serve the nation. By March 2010 seventy ISI officers had died in attacks; then seven times the losses of the CIA (Khost makes it slightly different). In one attack in April 2009, on a mosque just outside Rawalpindi cantonment, the dead included: a Major General, a Brigadier, two Lt.Colonels, a retired Major, three soldiers and eleven sons of army officers. In other attacks two Brigadiers and a Lt. General have been killed.

It is hard, even using the most warped glasses, to ignore the impact within the Pakistani military of such attacks, let alone the far greater losses along The Durand Line (which I cannot readily recall). The militants, who are all Jihadists, are killing them. Though SWC members will draw attention to how these attacks are described as US-inspired and what to outsiders do seem warped explanations.

Little reported in Pakistan, let alone noted outside, have been the series of murders, often with beheading, of numbers of para-military forces along The Durand Line (I rely on the UK-based blogsite: ).

How these units, part of the Frontier Corps, maintain cohesion, recruitment and their willingness to combat militants is a moot point.

I was surprised that the article makes no mention of events in the Swat Valley in 2009 IIRC. Here a local agreement with militants was reached, without any popular consent and the militants "made hay" and threatened to extend their brutal rule further. The Pakistani Army swung into action, with a "heavy hand" conventional response.

At the time some Western military observers remarked the Pakistani Army did not understand COIN, although it had been waging for many years a harsh COIN campaign in Baluchistan. It was with some amusement I found one Pakistani officer was reading books on how the British Empire had conducted operations along The Durand Line and in NWFP.

Way before Western renewed attention to Pakistan one should recall how the USA, China, Saudi Arabia and others assisted opposition to the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. A French friend who served at the time remarked it was the Islamists within the army (by implication ISI) who the only officers who were really committed to the cause, some being killed in Afghanistan.

Finally it appears the author has not used some of the resources on Small Wars Council. His bibliography misses the standard, if dated work on the Pakistani Army by Stephen Cohen; the various comments by Bruce Reidel and a quarter of its citations come from one book.