Arriving on the heels of the London School of Economics (LSE) report comes a RAND study aimed at identifying the extent of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations and reasons for their limited success. This latest analysis does not offer anything new to the case argued by Matt Waldman, the author of the LSE report, which stated that the ISI continues to have strong links with the Afghan Taliban and is officially represented in the Quetta Shura. Whatever the reservations about the authenticity of that report, these allegations are not new. They may have served as an eye-opener to naïve counterparts in the west but they are hardly a revelation for Pakistan, where our efforts for ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan and employing jihadist outfits for foreign policy gains have by now compromised our own national security. The RAND report states that apart from posing a threat to Pakistan itself, this courting of insurgents and extremist networks could make possible another attack on US soil.
Outrightly denying such claims may no longer fly as recent reports suggest that Pakistan is trying to act as a mediator between the Haqqani network and the Karzai government for a post-US withdrawal setup in Afghanistan. If the establishment did not continue to have its links with the Afghan Taliban, such speculation about a possible power-sharing setup would not have seen the light of day.
Such reports only serve as reminders that our establishment has not managed a clean break from the Afghan Taliban. This is unwise as recent events have indicated the growing nexus between the TTP, the Punjabi Taliban, splinter factions, the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. The idea of ‘good’ Taliban remains a myth and our establishment would be better served by acknowledging this truth.
The RAND study blames continued ties with militants as the reason that Pakistan’s operations against the militants since 2001 have only been partially successful. Long-term strategies need to include addressing deficiencies in the local police, providing aid to displaced civilians, advancing development and creating sound administrative structures. The study has noted that such measures do not adequately exist.
The RAND study seems somewhat removed from ground realities. The study claims that local support for military action against the militants is low. However, it would have done the authors well to have analysed the public wrath at the terrorists after recent, indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians. The militants are losing sympathy and thus, the study does not correctly represent the psyche of Pakistan’s masses. Where it is right is that the same public eyes the US with suspicion as promises of military and economic aid are still to be realised.
Another rather ignorant assertion is that the US should lessen its reliance on Pakistan, starting with looking for alternative supply routes into Afghanistan, citing Iran as a possible option. Considering the deadlock between Iran and the US, and the fact that the rest of the region is a hotbed of political and social instability, RAND should have thought this through better.
RAND has now, for the first time ever, spelled out that the US ought to extend civil nuclear cooperation to Pakistan only if it sustains sincere, long lasting counterinsurgency efforts. That sounds like blackmail for offering us a facility that India enjoys on a discriminatory basis.
For all its claims and analysis, the solutions offered by RAND are hardly convincing. Besides suspicions of ties between Pakistan and the militants, which can hardly be denied, the study is little more than a half-cooked attempt at introducing revised vigour to this war in the US’s interest alone, a recipe for a bigger disaster tomorrow.