Will the Pak army fight Taliban?

No, says the New York Times. The Pak army is more interested in preserving its own institutional interests rather than playing the game for the United States in the region.

After glowing initial reviews by the Americans, General Kayani has appeared less interested in how to deal with the Taliban than with the sagging morale of his undertrained, underequipped troops.

“In my view they won’t do aggressive counterinsurgency because they can’t,” said Christine Fair, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, of the Pakistani Army.

In the post-Musharraf era, she said, the army wants to concentrate on rehabilitating its morale and reputation, which were sullied by Mr. Musharraf’s unpopular political decisions. “This means they are less likely to cooperate, not more,” she added. “Right now, they care about what’s in their own institution’s interests.”

That does not include getting their noses bloodied in a fight with the Taliban. But more important, perhaps, over the longer term, the Taliban remain an important tool for Pakistan to influence events over the border if the Americans leave Afghanistan, as they did after the departure of the Soviets, she said.

That should firmly shut many commentators [Daniel Larison Gen. Barry McCaffrey (retd.), Nirav Patel etc.] up in the US who have been harping on addressing the Pakistani concerns over India while US seeks Pakistan’s military support in the region.

There have been suggestions by the French military (even before they lost 10 soldiers in an ambush in Afghanistan) that the West cannot sustain Hamid Karzai for long and an agreement will have to be reached with certain moderate sections of the Taliban. That course of action would be playing into Pakistani hands and fulfilling the Pakistani game plan of having their cake and eating it too — Keep the US involved in Afghanistan for continued financial aid, while securing strategic depth against India through a favourable dispensation in Kabul, that will allow Pakistan to again raise the militancy levels in Kashmir.

The US intelligentsia needs to recognise that there is a distinct alignment between the Indian and US interests in Afghanistan. The Pakistani interests, in fact, run counter to the US aims and policies in the region. So, which country should the new US administration be really courting – India or Pakistan? Moreover, should India still continue to dither from military deployment in Afghanistan, while having nearly 9000 soldiers deployed under the UN flag in Congo, Sudan and Lebanon?

It boils down to two related policy decisions: the US should not pander to the Pakistani army; and the Indian government should seriously consider military deployment in Afghanistan.

However, going by the discourses at various thinktanks in the US, The Acorn put it rather well the other day- God save the US from its pundits.

Related postAfghanistan: Read on

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16 Responses to Will the Pak army fight Taliban?

  1. Veeru August 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    So, which country should the new US administration be really courting – India or Pakistan?

    Let’s face it, US being a superpower needs to poke its long nose everywhere, including Indian Subcontinent. Should India roll out the red carpet for US, particularly with bitter memories of ‘The English East India Co?’ Once bitten, twice shy! This reminds me of Myanmar’s reluctance in accepting US aid during Nargis cyclone.

    Moreover, should India still continue to dither from military deployment in Afghanistan,…

    Does India have the political will, economic means and more importantly the military might to do so? Even the erstwhile USSR in the past and US/ EU in the present have no great claim to fame in the region.

  2. Pragmatic August 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm #

    @Veeru:

    There is a growing call among the US intellectuals that Pakistan is unable to help the US because of Indian influence in the region. So, India should be reigned in by the US and everything will be hunky dory from Pakistan’s side. The “war on terror” would be virtually won. I am contesting that premise.

    Does India have the political will, economic means and more importantly the military might to do so?

    Political will — No. But how many thought the same about the US Nuclear deal or ceasefire with Pakistan? Stranger things have happened in Indian politics.

    Economic means — Yes, and count on the liberal Western packages as well.

    Military Might — You are a better judge, but then the services are fooling the nation if they can’t go and win a war in Afghanistan.

    One last point, the fear of failure should not keep us out of this. Should it?

  3. k_ram August 25, 2008 at 9:14 pm #

    The Afghan-Pakistan imbroglio has many strands woven into it.

    If we start counting the strands (for academic interest) they would sound like these; presence of Al Qaeda elements, Taliban, remnants of the old Afghan militia (Hekmatyar variety), drug lords, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Pathans (divided by the Durand Line) and of course the Northern Alliance etc etc. So much for Afghanistan.

    With Al Qaeda and Taliban (the Pak variety) remaining common factors, a recalcitrant ISI, a demoralised Pak Army, warring tribes in FATA, increasing obscurantism in Pak society, shia-sunni clashes and many such destabilising factors complement the issue in Pakistan.

    Pacification of Afghanistan is tied to pacification of Iraq, neutralising Al Qaeda, taking aboard Iran (after all India does need a route into Afghanistan, if Pak does not cooperate then Iran is the only choice) and most important of all – get China and Russia on the same side. India has very high stakes in Afghanistan but there is little India can do at present in terms of showing off military strength. Adding the India factor can make things worse for the ISAF as we know that USA, Israel and India are the first three so called enemies of Islam as per Al Qaeda and Taliban.

    Even before considering a military engagement in Afghanistan, we need to strive for a broad political consensus within India. Nuclear deal did not need one, but then, body bags are not a consequence of nuclear deals but an absolute cert from Afghanistan. Can we rely upon the fundamentalist variety of muslim or hindu hues to keep quiet and not polarise the nation, once the body count starts telling?

    Floating a trial balloon discussing military engagement in Afghanistan will at least seed the idea for discussion. As things stand today, Indian involvement in Afghanistan may be desirable but not feasible.

  4. I Lodhi August 25, 2008 at 9:55 pm #

    @K_ram

    Dont bother about the body bag count. NOBODY, except the armymen and their families would be bothered and effected.
    The politicians would just be bothered about the ”Sensitivities of the Minority community”
    The Intellectuals would be bothered about some ”bullshit” BUT NEVER ABOUT THE BODYBAGS / BODY COUNT.
    The ”Bureaucrats” would be bothered about their cut on the purchase of more ”BODYBAGs” and hence would be HAPPY.
    The ”BRASS” would be happy to oblige the political bosses and get their PVSMs AND AVSMs.
    ONLY the Colonels and below (going to Afghanistan) and their families would be bothered about the bodybags. THANKS TO ”NO CONSCRIPTION”

  5. Veeru August 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    @ Pragmatic/ k_ram

    I tend to agree with k_ram, “ As things stand today, Indian involvement in Afghanistan may be desirable but not feasible.

    Our top most priority should be to emerge as an economically super powerful nation by 2020..at least in Asia, i.e. overtaking China. Ultimately it is money that builds muscles in the present millenium.

    It will not be diplomatically correct to rely on the ‘liberal western package’….It is not only ‘Mush’ who can divert aid for personal use. Indian politicians are capable of putting Mush to shame. Secondly, aid also puts pressure on the spinal cord….beggars are never choosers!

    As far as military might is concerned, can we match ours with that of erstwhile USSR or present US/ EU?

    Fear of failure is one thing……being worldly wise is another. After all ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson does not hold logic in today’s world.

    NB: – Now you are graduating into a defence analyst. keep it up! :)

  6. Pragmatic August 25, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    @k_ram/ Veeru:

    “As things stand today, Indian involvement in Afghanistan may be desirable but not feasible.”

    The challenge is to convert the desirable into the feasible. Here is my 10-point thesis as to why India should go into Afghanistan militarily.

    1. US is in Afghanistan for a long haul. Unlike Iraq, it is about US national security and pride. And, remember that it is a NATO mission, and mandated by the UN (even if the UN mandate isn’t worth the paper it is typed on).

    2. It helps India vis-a-vis Pakistan, in outmanoeuvring ISI and other rogue elements at their own game.

    3. It increases India’s bargaining power with the US and other western powers. Maybe, this is the way for a G-8 and UNSC permanent seat, among other things. Even favourable WTO deals, if we play it smartly.

    4. It is a huge lift for India in Kashmir. Imagine the impact on insurgency there once we are tackling their fountain head. Rather than fight the enemy in our area, we are fighting them in their area. Like the US, which has never fought a real war on its won soils in last 200 years. I actually look at it in terms of shifting the place of battle against jehadis/ taliban/ islamic fundamentalists/ al qaeda/ terrorists from Kashmir to Afghanistan.

    5. It puts China (and even Russia) in a quandary and establishes India as a significant player in that geopolitical space. It also helps as India still has a working relationship with Iran and Iran is Afghanistan’s neighbour.

    6. It will not be a repeat of IPKF as India has battled similar insurgency in Kashmir for over a decade now. That experience will help.

    7. The US army COS contends that they need 10,000 troops there. These troops for Afghan deployment can come from the UN missions and by relocating some RR battalions there.

    8. Most importantly, the consequences of a Taliban resurgence and US failure or withdrawal from Afghanistan will be terrible for India to bear. It is as much our war, if we frame the terms of references correctly. Else, Jaipur blasts, Delhi diwali blasts, Mumbai train blasts should not matter at all. This would be a real strong statement for a counter-terrorism policy.

    9. For sovereign command and control, have an independent sector and do not operate directly under the US forces. It is a matter of negotiating it smartly.

    10. Politically, the commies will oppose it. They can’t do better and they won’t matter after a few months. The BJP will be in real quandary and will tie it up in knots like on the nuclear deal, if it doesn’t support this one. With enough “adverse” publicity on the nuclear deal, the Congress should have no problems taking it a bit further. The Indian media will lap it up and love it till the bodybags start coming home. The Indian military will resist it tooth and nail on two counts — no easy money of UN missions and prospect of a real fight in Afghanistan. The establishment will have to ride roughshod over them.

    The objections will come from the SP, Congress and other ‘secular’ parties who will deplore the war against Islam. Others will say it is bad because it’ll ‘fan the flames of jihad’ among Indian Muslims. I think this will be the biggest hurdle.

    Second, will be the “expert objections” of the armed forces. If Army HQ says no, I don’t think there’s any politician with the balls to override them. Not unless you have a government with a majority like Rajiv Gandhi had in 1984. The Indian army, as an institution, not very happy taking on any foreign fighters in the valley. We have created a myth around them that has become like the one Rommel had in West Africa over the allies. That is one point and although the tactics are similar, the terrorists are far more robust, better organised and aggressive in Afghanistan. Officially, the army should be able to fight them and there are no excuses for repeat of an IPKF fiasco. It will either make us or break Indian army as an army.

    Another point. We will need the IAF to play an important role there and can we have one of our naval carriers stationed there somewhere in the Persian Gulf or Arabian Sea. How’s that for a dream?

    So I know that it is a hard, lonely argument to make. Btw, Nitin Pai and Harsh Pant have made similar arguments. Even Ajai Shukla made the case in 2003 although he doesn’t agree with sending troops now. He contends that Afghanistan is about to implode and the western nations will run away from there soon.

    The quasi-official mouthpiece of the Indian army, CLAWS has also asked for a Brigade level deployment in Afghanistan.

  7. Pure Spam August 26, 2008 at 12:05 pm #

    @Pragmatic

    Are you IGNORANT or Plain Stupid.
    Convoluted logic.
    Are you ready to serve in this expeditionary force?
    OR may be you could send many of your relatives.
    How about sending your children?

    !Oh! The Crassness of an armchair intellectual.
    Isnt fighting, by the security forces, for the Motherland, ‘Good Enough’ for S***heads like you.

    You are so confused and overwhelmed by your ‘Hatred’ for the Indian Army that you are fantasising. I almost thought you wanted to ‘Station’ an Aircraft Carrier in one of the Afghan rivers or a pond there.

    MEthinks you are not only IGNORANT but also MAHA STUPID.

  8. kkmlhotra August 26, 2008 at 7:46 pm #

    @if the Americans leave Afghanistan, as they did after the departure of the Soviets, she said.
    Fools rush in where angels are finding excuses to rush out.why not wait& watch angels may venture further into Pakistan or will they be too scared of Chinese reaction. The make or break test exercise may be too prematured for us.aswe r far from a stage of undertaking internatinal adventures & denude our Northern Borders

  9. k_ram August 26, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    @Pure Spam

    Neville Chamberlain and his cabinet slept through the rise of Hitler only to see the loss of millions of lives incurred to stop him later. Similarly, we are seeing the toxic rise of terrorism today which is already costing us too high a price.

    For the sake of argument, let us say there was a sincere effort to prevent World War II. All that was needed was to negotiate with Hitler and concede to his reasonable(?) demands. What could have been those demands? Would he have been satisfied if they had been met?

    Extend the analogy today. Let us assume for the sake of speculation that an effort is being made to negotiate with Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Baitullah Masud etc. What can be their demands? Would the world community be able to meet those demands so that the scourge of terrorism is wiped off? Can there be a guarantee to this effect by the interlocutors? What reasoning can be done with a creed that does not give a damn towards mass production of suicide bombers? Does not bother about collateral damage? We can co exist with differing faiths but we are now not facing conflict of faiths but conflict of dogmas. As per the perception of these madmen the solution is annihilation of all non-believers and that includes even other sects among Muslims too.

    It needs to be understood that human civilisation is standing at a critical cross road. Our response (as a global community) to the menace of terrorism is going to define the lives of our children. There cannot be a negotiating position today; if we still negotiate, there will be an unbearable price to pay in future. The battle against terrorism has to be fought together and to the end. Whatever may be the loss of human life today will seem inconsequential if we compare it with what is likely in the coming years. For the sake of the future of mankind as we see it today, this is a war that cannot be lost; because, we may not survive to fight another day

    The war against terrorism has to be fought in many fronts including physical combat. These fronts and the efforts will be complementary and not supplementary. If we need to take up arms, so be it. If we have to suffer casualties, so be it. Can it be guaranteed in anyway that if we do not take the scourge of terrorism head on today, there will be a way in which it can be contained tomorrow?

    What we need to do in our country is to initiate a discussion on terrorism. There is no percentage in ducking the issue. We have to take the entire country together and that includes our brother muslims too. The discussion will generate heat, will bring out extreme opinions but will atleast put the issue at the centre stage. How about the Prime Minister addressing the nation in all frankness? That could have been done after all those bomb blasts but it is still not too late. Till now, the issue of terrorism has been a topic of discussion in a rarified atmosphere. We need to take all Indians into confidence. Substantial inputs available with our intelligence agencies can be shared to the extent possible with everyone. If it takes time, so be it; but let us carry the nation or atleast a major chunk of it together. Though there are shades of grey in classifying terror groups, we need to have zero tolerance of terror so that we can eliminate (at best) or contain it (at worst). To do that we have to address Afghanistan and Pakistan. By we I mean the global community and we Indians are also part of it.

  10. menon August 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    Will a guy fight his mother-in-law????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  11. PS August 27, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    @menon
    “mother-in -law”
    Thanks. As neatly and accurately stated as the peccavi gent.

  12. menon August 27, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    @ PS

    ‘SELF-CONFESSED’ peccavi gent

  13. PS August 30, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    @pragmatic

    “These troops for Afghan deployment can come from the UN missions and by”

    “I actually look at it in terms of shifting the place of battle against jehadis/ taliban/ islamic fundamentalists/ al qaeda/ terrorists from Kashmir to Afghanistan. ”

    “The quasi-official mouthpiece of the Indian army, CLAWS has also asked for a Brigade level deployment in Afghanistan.”

    1. Relocate if requirements of C. fodder parties minimal as in previous WWI works like Passchendale (2 dead soldiers per inch gained) or Kargil.

    2. Link tells all of the support routinely available elsewhere.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/2609487/Fighting-the-Taliban-What-its-really-like.html

  14. PS September 1, 2008 at 5:58 am #

    Even if the guy is a goofy dresser, he has some facts:

    http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&file_name=joginder%2Fjoginder149%2Etxt&writer=joginder

  15. SIDDHARTH September 1, 2008 at 10:46 pm #

    we should be in afghanistan the pakistanis will never learn and they will fund terrorism till kashmir is theirs .. we have no option but to compress pakistan on both fronts by deploying troops in afghanistan we can not only get favourable influence in kabul but also create an uneasy pakistan that will perhaps get more busier in reducing indian influence in kabul and perhaps concentrate less on bulding terrorism in kashmir ,,,,,,finally i have a question are the russians involved in iraq or afghanistan

  16. ?????? ???? November 28, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    thank you

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