Sunday, October 13, 2013

Taliban: separate strands

A very good article that gives an independent analysis of the difference between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. It also negates the theory of compromise with the violent entities that can only be successful after a long and expensive fight to degrade their capability before any fruitful negotiations. Capitulation is not an option. Having said that whatever the policy, police has to deal with the fall out and to keep peace, fight the terrorists who wreak havoc in their beats. It is therefore vital that the police leadership understand the contours of political  decisions, enabling them to deal with the law and order situations which will be result of these policies. Reading these articles by experts will help in understanding the challenges that we must face. 
Afazl A Shigri
Taliban: separate strands
Dawn Daily
Jon Boone
FOR those in favour of talking to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), there are few debating points more useful than the fact that the US and its allies support exactly such a strategy in Afghanistan.
But while the argument sounds persuasive, it’s wrong.
Wrong, because the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban may share a name but they are very different beasts. And they have given out very different signals about what they are prepared to concede in any negotiation.
We know this because for the last few years senior representatives of the Afghan Taliban in the Gulf charged by the movement’s political commission to conduct back channel talks have told foreign diplomats some quite surprising things.
Contrary to the bravado of the Taliban’s public propaganda, they say they know that an outright military victory is impossible and compromise essential. We are told they are desperate not to be responsible for triggering a renewed civil war.
For the most part these conversations have been confidential. But in 2012 they outlined their thinking to some academics, including Anatol Lieven and Michael Semple. According to their report, the Taliban officials said the movement has made peace with democracy and is prepared to renounce Al Qaeda and prevent its return to Afghanistan.
The most amazing concession for a movement supposedly waging jihad against foreign occupation is their willingness to accept the long-term presence of US military bases, which they recognise will be necessary to help sustain the Afghan National Army.
Many Pakistanis falsely interpret US enthusiasm for talks as a sign of a desperate search for a face-saving exit from the region.
Actually the US is exploring what looks like the makings of an acceptable deal. If they can pull it off then post-2014 Afghanistan will be a far less difficult and expensive problem to manage.
But if nothing comes of it, Plan B is already being put into effect: a foreign-financed Afghan security force strong enough to hold the Taliban-led insurgencies at bay.
Despite the encouraging words from the Taliban’s interlocutors in the Gulf, the West is not putting all of its chips on a negotiated settlement in the near term.
That’s sensible because this side of 2014 it is going to be very difficult for Taliban pragmatists to persuade fighters on the ground that the time has come to compromise on cherished goals. Unlike their leadership, most foot soldiers are convinced they are on the cusp of victory, largely because they have come to believe the movement’s own propaganda.
All of this starkly contrasts with the situation in Pakistan where PTI chairman Imran Khan has loudly signalled the political class’s desperation by repeatedly saying there is “no other option” except talks. Professing such weakness immediately undermines Pakistan’s negotiating position.
While agreement on a Doha political office came about after years of debate in Kabul and Western capitals, the idea for a TTP office in Pakistan has been described by one senior PTI figure as simply Khan “thinking out loud”.
And is there anyone that can truly speak for the TTP, a group made up of a bewildering multitude of groups? The Afghan Taliban are not completely solid either — they are the leading partners in a coalition which includes the Haqqani Network and Hizb-i-Islami. But it is nothing like the constellation of jihadi groups in Pakistan.
A single man, Mullah Omar, continues to exert strong control over the Afghan movement. The Lieven report argues that his support could be enough to make a deal stick.
There are many other differences. Islamabad’s pleas for talks are met with appalling acts of savagery and no one knows who exactly is responsible. At least the Afghan Taliban officially claim not to target civilians (even though they do).
Unlike the Quetta Shura, there is no indication that the TTP, or any other of the terror grouplets attacking Pakistan, has any serious political thinkers among its ranks who accept the futility of continued fighting.
Kabul and its foreign partners have also been clear and consistent about what is expected of the Taliban if there is to be a deal. In particular, they insist the constitution has to be respected.
By contrast Pakistani leaders have been all over the shop.
The final statement of the all-party conference said nothing of red lines or preconditions. Political leaders only asserted the primacy of the country’s Constitution after a torrent of media criticism triggered by the killing of senior army officers and the bombing of All Saints Church.
Strong narratives matter. In the 1980s Britains security services may have been in secret contact with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), but publicly the prime minister was adamant she would never talk to terrorists.
That the British government did finally open formal talks is another point often made by those in favour of something similar in Pakistan. But the differences between the two conflicts are more striking than the similarities.
Before talks began pragmatists within the IRA had to realise they were in a stalemate and then persuade enough of their comrades that they could never win the armed conflict.
Stalemates, as peace building experts argue, are ripe conditions for negotiations.
It’s a truism that nearly all insurgencies end in talks, including the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, which is regarded as a textbook example of how counterinsurgency should be done. But the timing and conditions have to be right. They can’t be wished into being by desperate politicians.
Most of the time creating the right conditions for talks requires long and expensive military struggles. According to a 2008 study the average length of a successful post-1945 counter-insurgency campaign is 14 years.
There is a flicker of hope that Afghanistan might be approaching the right conditions for a peaceful outcome. But Pakistan is not Afghanistan, and the TTP is not the Afghan Taliban.
The writer is the Guardian’s Pakistan correspondent.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nairobi drama and a lesson

An excellent comparison to deal with courage the groups who kill target the innocent in the name of religion. It rings an alarm bell but we are not Kenya. Our police with the support of the armed forces can deal with this scourge effectively. In just a few days police and rangers have shown in Karachi that it can be done. Only the state has to decide and law enforcement agencies shall deliver. Police officer must read the article to understand the context of the present situation in the country.
 Afzal Shigri
Nairobi drama and a lesson
Dawn Daily 8-9-2013
Muhammad Ali Siddiqi
THE Nairobi drama holds a lesson or two for Pakistan, especially when we see the differences between Al Shabab and the Pakistani Taliban.
The duration of Al Shabab’s control of the Westgate mall and the planning that went into the attack show in unmistakable terms the extent of Al Shabab’s military prowess, the unimpaired existence of its command and control structure and its ability to recruit more people to its cause despite the heavy military reverses of 2011.
A truer grasp of Al Shabab’s military capability and political resilience will be available if we examine it against the far larger assets the Pakistani Taliban have.
Many of the factors which have enabled the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to operate with impunity and treat the armed forces and the state of Pakistan with contempt are missing in the case of Al Shabab. The biggest of these differences lies in the terrain.
The TTP’s headquarters and training centres are in some of the world’s most forbidden mountain ranges. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is about 2,400km long, and a greater portion of it is in varying degrees of their military control, though social and political sway in many areas stems from the fear that has been sown
The Taliban live, nestle, operate, fight and die in this mountainous fastness, where hundreds of thousands of caves, caverns and wadis — on freezing heights in winter — are inaccessible to non-tribesmen and provide an excellent sanctuary to the Taliban and to a variety of other militant groups, drug runners and mercenary criminals.
This large ‘kingdom’ is not economically self-sufficient. But decades of war and war conditions on both sides of the Durand Line have enabled the Taliban to live off ground and smuggle all things necessary for life and war from Afghanistan and mainstream Pakistan.
Saturation bombing of the Taliban-ruled ‘havens’ will merely mean a waste of ammunition, for it would do little to disrupt the Taliban way of life in war and peace.
More important, weapons of all types are no problems for the TTP. They not only get as much as they want from Afghanistan, they have arms-manufacturing factories on their territory.
This uninterrupted and copious supply of arms is one of the TTP’s major assets. If, armed with these assets, the TTP is thinking in terms of taking over the state of Pakistan, one shouldn’t be surprised.
Contrast all this with Al Shabab’s meagre resources, and we will marvel — regrettably of course — at Al Shabab’s ability to make mischief and drive terror into the heart of the capital city of a big neighbouring country.
Unlike the mountains which are the Taliban’s battleground as well as habitat, Somalia is a plain, with some hills in the north, and those are in the area which has seceded. This way, Al Shabab militants lack the kind of secure and naturally fortified safe havens the Pakistani Taliban have.
Similarly, there is no tradition in Somalia of a given community having the kind of small arms-manufacturing industry Pakistani tribesmen have.
A blow to Al Shabab last year was the loss of the southern port of Kismayo. This deprived the organisation of a major source of arms supply by sea, making Al Shabab rely on weapons smuggled, bought or obtained by various means from other militant networks in the sub-Saharan region.
Also, the Pakistani Taliban have never really been beaten or driven out of their power base, except marginally, as in Bajaur and Swat. Al Shabab, on the other hand, lost capital Mogadishu and other major cities in 2011. Beaten though they were, they were not vanquished.
At present, they still have a minimum of 7,000 well-trained and highly motivated fighters. However, a factor in Al Shabab’s favour and which mercifully is lacking in the TTP’s case is their country’s disintegration. The north has seceded, and the central region has been without a central government in the real sense of the term for nearly two decades.
The purpose behind narrating the differences between the two militant groups is to point out the vital role which intelligence can and should play in destroying the international scourge that is terrorism.
If, in the Westgate case, Kenyan intelligence failed, we can understand. After all, Kenya is not a war zone as two-thirds of Pakistan is, and it has not suffered the 50,000 casualties it has been our misfortune to be a mute spectator to.
In our case, intelligence failure is unforgivable — just think of GHQ, Mehran, Bannu. But, then, to serve as a stunning contrast, think also how America took out OBL, Waliur Rehman and many other Taliban warlords.
The question is: if a far weaker Al Shabab can survive and fight back, what chances does Pakistan have of destroying a far stronger Taliban militia — unless Pakistan’s counterterrorism apparatus develops the kind of sophisticated intelligence systems America and many Western nations have.
Note, for instance, the enviable peace in which Britain held last year’s Olympics. Not that there was no terrorist threat — Britain does have native and migrant terrorists waiting in the wings to strike. But superb intelligence, constant surveillance and a security system based on both human intelligence and cyber technology pre-empted all mischief.
The Taliban and ‘secular’ terrorists are everywhere — not just in the mountains. Their tactical advantage, which they exploit criminally, is to use civilians as a shield by living among them. No security force is going to wipe out a village or an urban slum because 10 militants live in a population of 50,000.
For destroying the Taliban enemy, we need less firepower and better intelligence. Next we meet donors, ask them not for money but for primary lessons in intelligence.
Postscript: My apologies for failing to point out one major difference between the two: Al Shabab doesn’t have a charismatic apologist and spokesman the Taliban have in Imran Khan.
The writer is a member of staff.

A Hostage Nation

It is important for the law enforcement officers to understand the multifaceted aspects of the mindset of the militants who are holding the country hostage. In the forefront are the police forces to deal with the outcome of faltering handling of these groups. Police leadership therefore needs to know the developments and be prepared to deal with the ever-changing emerging security issues. This article by a distinguished writer gives an analysis of the situation and highlights the weakness in dealing with the TTP.  Afzal A Shigri
A Hostage Nation
Daily Dawn
Zahid Hussain
ONE wonders how many more deaths and how much more destruction will it take to arouse our national leadership from its slumber. Neither the mutilated bodies of 18 members of a family killed in the recent Peshawar market bombing nor the carnage of Christian worshippers at the All Saints Church has shaken them yet.
More than 200 people were killed in terrorist strikes in one week in Peshawar alone, but no one stirred beyond issuing routine messages of condolence.
Instead, the prime minister appreciated the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan for not claiming responsibility for those attacks and blamed a ‘foreign hand’ for subverting peace talks.
Ironically, days later a spokesman for the TTP justified the church attack saying it was in accordance with the Sharia, and was carried out by one of its subsidiaries. While militants continue with their macabre game of death, a spineless and frightened leadership keeps begging for Taliban mercy.
Such a meek and apologetic response from the prime minister is in marked contrast to the tough resolve shown by leaders of other nations when confronted with terrorist threats.
Take, for example, the comments of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta after the four-day bloody siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi last month.
“These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are,” vowed Mr Kenyatta who himself oversaw the operation against the attackers.
“I promise that we shall have full accountability for the mindless destruction, death, pain, loss and suffering we all have undergone as a national family,” he declared.
Meanwhile, David Cameron, the British prime minister, rushed back home cutting short his official foreign visit because there were several British nationals among the hostages in the Nairobi mall.
But the blood of poor Pakistanis comes cheap. It certainly does not matter to our rulers even when hundreds of Pakistanis are slaughtered. As the death toll of the church attacks was being calculated, Imran Khan went one step further in placating the militants by suggesting that the TTP be allowed to open an office. He ignored the fact that the militant network is outlawed and allowing it to operate openly would legitimise terrorism.
When a bus full of provincial government employees was blown up, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief was calling for taking confidence-building measures to create a “conducive environment” for peace talks with the Taliban. His defence of the TTP has become more vociferous with each bloodbath.
In an article published recently in a national daily, Imran Khan equated the presence of the troops in KP and Fata to military action in former East Pakistan and the TTP to the Viet Cong who fought against the US forces in Vietnam. Such assertions cannot be dismissed as mere naivety; they are a reflection of a twisted mindset.
While our leaders were commending the TTP for distancing itself from the last two major terrorist strikes in Peshawar, the group released a gruesome videotape of the explosion in Dir that killed Maj-Gen Sanaullah Niazi along with two others. It declared the killing of the officers as a great victory in the war against Pakistani forces.
Even that blatant claim by the TTP of the attack on Pakistani forces did not move the federal and KP governments. Nothing can derail peace efforts was the response of the PTI and PML-N leaders.
It has been a month since the all-party conference mandated the federal government to initiate peace negotiations with the Taliban. But there has not been any success yet in getting the militants to the negotiating table. The reason is obvious. The three preconditions set by the TTP — the release of detained militants, withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas and a halt to US drone attacks — are hard to comply with. The prevailing ambivalence has already begun to cost the nation dearly.
It is apparent that the peace talks with the militants are a non- starter. But the government is still stuck to the mantra that talks are the only option. This dithering has already given a new lifeline to the Taliban who were on the retreat from most of the tribal agencies and Malakand, which they once controlled.
The TTP lost many of its senior commanders like Waliur Rehman and the network was fragmented into various factions. But now, the militants have found a new stridency, taking advantage of the weakness of the state. So fearful is the government that it has put on hold the execution of three convicted militants including the mastermind of the 2009 GHQ attack after threats from the Taliban.
Not only has the state failed to protect the lives of its citizens, it has also conceded to the extremist ideology on many policy issues. It is a disturbing reality that radical Islamic elements have as much if not more power over Pakistani society than the state. While the state has failed to develop a national narrative against militancy, an obscurantist ideology holds sway.
With the growing violence against religious minorities, vigilantism seems to have become an acceptable norm. The country has now become hostage to non-state actors forcing their way in through the barrel of the gun.
The authority of the state seems to have all but collapsed. It is not surprising that the courts free more than 90pc of militants allegedly involved in terrorism due to ‘lack of evidence’. It is mainly because the judges and witnesses are threatened and do not want to put their own and their family’s lives at risk when they know the state cannot protect them.
A culture of fear grips the nation as the state has abdicated all responsibility, leaving the people at the mercy of the terrorists. It gives the people little faith when their political leaders surrender to the militant narrative. n
The writer is an author and journalist.
Twitter: @hidhussain