Foreign Policy Blogs

Pakistan Military's Gambit with the U.S and its Enemies

It’s hard to push off the already emergent, now growing belief that the Pakistani military, and indeed the Pakistani government, is not making strong enough moves against  the insurgent groups.  The recent news that Ilyas Kashmiri, a top terrorist aligned with al Qaeda who  trained as a Pakistani special forces officer, does not diminish the belief that the Pakistani military is truly fighting a battle that is perhaps ill-trained or maybe ill-equipped to win.

Given the recent underwhelming performance of the military in its recent fights with insurgents, and the drumming it has received in the media for what many have observed to be incompetent strategic maneuvering, the news about Kashmiris death is still a relief of sorts: it allows the U.S-Pakistani alliance to move beyond the current stall-out since a May 2nd operation in Pakistani soil took out Osama bin Laden.  Nevertheless, the news of Kashmiri’s death highlights the fact that the Pakistani military seems unable or unwilling to move against insurgents on their own terms without American military support, insurgents who though trained by the Pakistani military are now squarely set against the government in Islamabad.

Now, Ilyas Kashmiri was wanted by both the Pakistani and the American governments; he was an easy sell as a target on which both governments could work together.  A former Pakistani Army trainer who worked with the Afghan mujahideen, Ilyas later served as a leader in Harkatul-Jihad-e-Islami and conducted operations in Kashmir. He later turned against Islamabad when then dictator General Pervez Musharraf banned his outfit.  In his stead, David Coleman Headley lead prosecution witness in the United States in a case that seems to revolve around Pakistani complicity in acts of international terrorism, charged that Kashmiri wanted to take revenge against the United States for drone attacks in Pakistan by targeting Lockheed Martin’s engineering sites.  The easy sell has now borne fruit; in the past few days American media have reported that Kashmiri is in fact dead and that the tip that lead to him came from Pakistani intelligence channels.

Yet the Pakistani military has taken every opportunity available to spurn its U.S backers.  It has, perhaps rightly, rejected any further intervention into its sovereignty, a move that has partly led to a massive volley of U.S. diplomacy directed at Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the home base of the Pakistani military.

Indeed, since the May 2nd maneuver led by U.S. Navy Seals in Abottabad, Pakistan’s apparent closer ties to China has created another avenue wherein U.S-Pak relations have soured.  Given this off-outting move some within the political leadership in Washington D.C. have argued that since bin Laden’s death al Qaeda has been weakened and therefore the U.S might consider drawing down out of the region more rapidly than has been initially projected.  What’s more Pakistan’s moves toward China has created the impression amongst some that were the U.S forced to maintain military ties in Afghanistan, India might better serve as a conduit to supply the remaining troops. Pakistan, in this scenario, might no longer be needed. Let Islamabad take care of its own in-bred insurgency, goes the claim.

This would be a wrong-headed move.  Though U.S interests may not be easily met by the political and military leadership in Pakistan, moving away from Pakistan will certainly diminish whatever goodwill Pakistanis have toward American interests and policy in the region.  U.S. interests will be struck as if by the plague. Certainly public opinion might swing incontrovertibly toward any institution or group that argues for an anti-American view-these groups might number in the hundreds and certainly they would all project a view that the government in Islamabad is a puppet institution, answerable to its American pay lords.

What may be a new development is that the military might soon get tagged with just that charge.  If so, the Pakistani military had best work with U.S counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency outfits to take down whatever groups and individuals it can that might soon threaten the twin bases of power in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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