Thursday, March 19, 2009


I have been closely following recent events in Pakistan, and I am officially concerned that the inmates are within striking distance of taking over the asylum. My “spider sense” first started to tingle on our allegiance with Pakistan a few years ago when I watched President Mushareff appear on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to pump his new book In The Line of Fire. Why he chose a comedy show to explain himself does not make any sense to me, but he carefully clarified his position after 9/11 as one where he could not openly declare war on the Pashtun/Taliban, but he could not avoid helping the Americans. When he said that he was forced to enter an alliance with America because of the “you’re either with us or against us” motto of the Bush Administration, I recalled the quote by Napoleon Bonaparte that “it is better to have a known enemy than a forced ally”

In the past year, Mushareff was forced out of power by political pressure and it looked as though former President Benazir Bhutto was destined to replace him, until she was assassinated. Elections were held shortly thereafter, and her impotent widow was elected President of Pakistan. The journey since that election has been a downward spiral of appeasement that would have embarrassed Neville Chamberlain. He has consistently made concessions to the Islamists and has actually lost sovereign territory within Pakistan. A further escalation of terrorist acts against India has complicated matters, as Pakistani paranoia has led to a mobilization of military forces to the border with India away from the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani military is one of the best trained and effective on the planet; however their current objective is not doing anything to help the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

As Canadian forces are actively fighting for victory in Afghanistan, I have been analyzing what is required to achieve success. The bulk of the Afghan insurgency is not in coordinated military action, but rather destructive destabilization tactics like road side bombs and isolated terrorist attacks. The main area of concern is within Pakistan itself, and the power that the pro-Taliban Islamists are acquiring in the territory surrounding the Pakistani capitol of Islamabad. If the Pakistan army is unable or unwilling to knock out Taliban/Al Qaeda command and control within their sovereign territory, it then falls on NATO to accomplish that objective. The possibility that Islamists could ascend to political power in Pakistan and gain control of their military and nuclear arsenal is extremely alarming.

Part of the unwillingness of Mushareff to engage in open warfare in the North was because not all of them are foreign fighters. Many of them are Pakistani militants sympathetic to the Pashtun/Taliban fight in Afghanistan. It is the same element that helped defeat the Soviets 20 years ago, a large group of people who are among the friends and relatives of members of the Pakistani military. It is like if Quebec were conducting terrorist attacks in Maine, there would be conflicted feelings in the Canadian Armed Forces on the degree of force that we should employ when quelling the violence of our brethren. The question of the day is at what point does it become acceptable for NATO to invade Pakistan? Not to topple the government and occupy the country per say, but to defeat our enemies along the border in Pakistani sovereign territory? I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question, much less see those circumstances unfold and force us into action.

I don’t even know what to call the people we are fighting. Al Qaeda has evolved to the point where small militia and rebel groups around the world have entered into a soft alliance with Bin Laden’s “movement” and run operations that senior leadership likely has no command or control over. Their common purpose is the overthrow of existing regional power structures which are currently being held together by Western capitalism. I shudder to call them rebels or revolutionaries, and instead have grown fond of “insurgents”. Many Pakistani people are actively aiding that insurgency in Afghanistan, and until Al Qaeda/Taliban are soundly defeated, I strongly believe that it is folly to withdraw.

I have been busy studying the underlying theories of guerrilla warfare, where the most influential tacticians in the modern age were Lawrence of Arabia and Chairman Mao. As Martin Van Creveld wrote;

“Drawing on his own experiences as leader of China’s civil war, Mao, followed by his Vietnamese student Giap, believed that the first phase of guerrilla warfare ought to consist of isolated hit and run attacks against enemy forces, with the aim of weakening and demoralizing them. The second phase would witness the consolidation of guerrilla power in some remote, outlying and difficult area to access; from there they would continue their work of propaganda, harassment, and sabotage. Once the enemy had been sufficiently weakened and started to retreat, the guerrillas, embarking on the third phase of the campaign, would resort to open warfare. The real trick was to select carefully the moment for this phase to begin.”

We are at a point in history where you can believe one of two possible modus operandi for Bin Laden. 1) He wants to be King of Saudi Arabia, or 2) He is actually working on behalf of the Saudi government to destabilize the Middle East and drive up oil prices. I will acknowledge that the latter is as likely as the former, but I do not believe that George Bush was in on it, despite what many popular conspiracy theorists in the United States might argue. Whatever the motive, it is clear that Osama’s objective was to draw the United States military into Afghanistan and bleed them to death like the Soviets. There Bin Laden had an existing infrastructure of caves, tunnels, and bunkers scattered throughout a remote mountain range that is extremely difficult to access. By comparison, Iraq is easily accessible by tanks and heavy machinery, and is predominantly flat desert with nowhere to hide but the cities.

During the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, there was a substantial migration of young men from throughout the Middle East, who wanted to enlist to fight the Holy war against the evil invaders. That is a big reason why the Mujahedeen were able to sustain their resistance for that many years despite being largely outmatched and sustaining heavy losses. Afghanistan is a far more challenging battleground for a conventional army, and I am sure it is the preferred theatre for Jihadists to fight their Holy War. The glitch being that the international community overwhelmingly approved of NATO military action in Afghanistan, which the Soviets did not have.

When the United States invaded Iraq “illegally” it took the focus of world attention off of Afghanistan and shifted it to Babylon. As a result, the “bad guys” then shifted many of their own resources to engage the American military in Iraq, which became the new preferred destination for so-called “weekend Jihadists” from around the Middle East. The problem for the bad guys is that it is remarkably more difficult to engage the American military in Iraq than it is in Afghanistan. Whenever they engage the Yankees in direct battle, they incur heavy losses. Therefore their objective is to blend in to the civilian population and plant bombs all over the place, targeting civilians and Americans alike. This is where they differ the most strategically from Mao, who believed in winning the popular support of the people, not terrorizing them. Now the people in Iraq have turned on the Jihadists, and most young men are joining the new Iraqi army, which is now able to conduct independent military operations. I just have absolutely no idea if the Iraqi government and military can hold it together when the United States leaves. Is it unreasonable to assume that Muqtata Al Sadr is going to attempt to overthrow the government at first opportunity despite only garnering 3% of the popular vote in the recent election?

Back in Afghanistan, the insurgents have begun to gather in larger numbers and more frequently engage NATO troops in combat. This suggests that either they are recruiting larger numbers, or for whatever the circumstances they are now emboldened and taking the offensive. I can only speculate that perhaps more insurgents are taking the long march from Iraq, across Iran, to Afghanistan. A march I assume that many young Arab combatants will be making upon American withdrawal from Iraq. You can bet Iran will facilitate this migration, if not build them a highway.

It is clear that the United States is not going to be able to pacify Baghdad indefinitely, and I don’t even know if they need to. I’m just wondering if there is a way to draw the insurgents out of the cities to be engaged in open combat out in the desert. Perhaps a Feigned Withdrawal? If they were to “fake” a hasty retreat from Iraq, where they bait the enemy with glaring weaknesses in their defenses, assuming insurgents would pursue when America withdraws; could that work? They might just let them leave, then march over to continue their fight in Afghanistan. And somebody over there is definitely trying to pick a fight with India. Whether we take the initiative and march boots into Pakistan or wait for India to ask us to is a question worth asking.

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war"

-Albert Einstein

1 comment:

  1. Why did Mushareff choose a comedy show? Because Jon Stewart is a leftist assclown.