Monday, June 21

RAND paper: Washington, grow up and admit Pakistani regime won't stop supporting terrorist groups (UPDATED)

UPDATE June 22, 7:30 AM EDT
It turned out the RAND paper was stuck in the carrot-and-stick groove. Disappointing, although it's still worth reading.
Meanwhile, countless anti-government riots are breaking out everywhere in Pakistan ....

Last weekend it was Matt Waldman's paper for the Crisis States Research Center at the London School of Economics which concluded that Pakistan's ISI supported Taliban terrorist organizations as a matter of official policy. Now comes a paper from the RAND think tank that harps on the same theme but broadens it to include the entire Pakistani government. According to an AP report filed by Anne Gearan around midnight EDT:
WASHINGTON — Pakistan hasn't quit its habit of courting insurgents, and extremist networks with current or former ties to the government pose a significant risk to the United States and Pakistan's elected government itself, a new study concludes.

A rising number of terrorist plots in the United States with roots in Pakistan stems in part from an unsuccessful strategy by the U.S.-backed government in Pakistan to blunt the influence of militant groups in the country, the report by the RAND Corp. said.

The report, to be issued Monday, says the May 1 failed car bombing in New York's Times Square is an example of how militant groups, some with shadowy government backing, can increasingly export terrorism far beyond the country's borders.

The United States isn't getting its money's worth for all the billions in aid pledged to the strategically located, nuclear-armed nation, the report concludes. The U.S. should withhold some aid until Pakistan makes "discernible progress," authors Seth Jones of RAND and C. Christine Fair of Georgetown University wrote.
Matt Waldman had somehow arrived at the idea that 'solving' Kashmir would make a tiger change its stripes. From the rest of the AP report it seems the RAND recommendations are more in line with the ones I made in January, which amount to carefully disengaging from Pakistan as much as possible.

The Pakistanis really don't like being treated like donkeys, so the civilian government and military have not responded well to Washington's carrot-and-stick approach. And I suspect President Asif Ali Zardari's view of President Obama is, 'If you're so smart why aren't you rich?'

Zardari is worth $1.8 billion; he's the second richest Pakistani, and that figure is just what he's declared, not what his fortune is actually worth. Now one may argue and many have that no small part of his wealth comes from corrupt deals but in that part of the world how one got the money is nowhere near as important as having it. I think that attitude explains at least in part why whatever Obama and his envoys tell Zardari goes in one ear and out the other.

As to the tactic of putting more pressure on Pakistan's military, which controls the ISI, that strikes me as naive. From a 2008 report titled, Pakistan Tries To Clean Up ISI Image By Shutting Down Political Wing
In his latest book, "Descent Into Chaos," [Ahmed] Rashid argues that the ISI has set up a series of private organizations in order to put more distance into the relationship between its military leadership and extremist fighters. He says the private organizations are staffed by retired ISI officers and funded through the budget of Pakistan's Frontier Corps.
So that's what tough love gets you in Pakistan: more Three Card Monte.

I think the same observation applies to the effort by Washington to refurbish Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau, which has a domestic focus in the manner of Britain's MI5. Writing in April for Rediff, Indian intelligence analyst B. Raman reported:
The US has also been encouraging the demilitarisation of the IB and the process of the restoration of civilian preeminence in the internal intelligence and security setup of Pakistan. It has increased the allocation of funds for the IB and has been helping it in other ways too for making it once again a professional intelligence organisation run by civilians as it used to be before 1971. The US sees in the strengthening of the IB one way of reducing the negative role of the ISI in Pakistan.[...]
There is some urgency, unrelated to the NATO campaign in Afghanistan, for the ISAF and Washington in particular to straighten out their thinking on Pakistan. Of course it would be the leftists at Canada's Global Research who came up with news about Pakistan that's has been kept out of the American press. The country is beginning to resemble China in that countless anti-government riots are breaking out everywhere:
(July 19) “The military is the muscle that protects the ruling elite from the wrath of the people,” says Pakistani political analyst Dr. Mubashir Hassan. “Right now, people are out on the street; blocking roads, attacking railway stations, etc. If you read the papers, it seems as though a general uprising has started all over Pakistan.”

Dr. Hassan says that sporadic outbursts of anger in Pakistan won’t coalesce into a people’s revolution anytime soon. The demonstrators are too disorganized. But, the sheer volume of daily protests shows that many sectors of Pakistani society have pressing needs and priorities that do not include enlistment as foot soldiers in a proxy force for the United States’ War on Terror.

Dr. Hassan, a co-founder of the People’s Party of Pakistan, is a respected scholar and statesman. Last year, when we met with him, he had just returned from a visit, in the U.S., with Professors Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, his contemporaries in seeking to build just and fair social structures. Last month, in Lahore, he spoke with us about U.S. interference in the region and changing dynamics in Pakistan.

A snapshot of unrest in Pakistan offers a framework for outsiders to understand why it is unfair to insist that Pakistan “do more” to fulfill the United States’ vision for fighting extremism. It may also suggest why strong anti-American sentiments prevail, in Pakistan, among the peasantry, the middle class, religious and secular groups, and the highly educated and privileged classes.

Throughout the past several months, demonstrators burned tires nearly every day in the streets of Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore and other population centers as they voiced their opposition to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and it’s insistence on the implementation of a Value Added Tax (VAT) along with a proposed 11.3 billion dollar bailout package.

In a special meeting convened by the Farmers Association of Pakistan, (FAP), participants said that the VAT would “totally kill the farmers and cause irreparable damage to the agriculture sector by making inputs more expensive. This would, in turn, increase the prices of agriculture produce, adding to the miseries of both the farmer and consumer, who are already facing extreme economic depression.”

Ashraf Javed, writing for [Pakistan's] The Nation, reported that economic experts estimated that the IMF and the Pakistani government’s original plan for the VAT would increase the prices of over 122 major categories of items, including food, by at least 15 percent.

These proposed policies led to protests by the All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries, the Pakistan Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami, textile workers, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, and even spawned a nationwide mobile phone boycott.

Because of the immense pressure put on the government to reject the VAT, Pakistan decided to postpone implementation of the tax from July to October. The government, under the leadership of the People’s Party of Pakistan, has also come up with plans to incorporate many of the IMF’s demands for the VAT into the General Sales Tax (GST), which already sits at about 16 percent.

In response, the IMF has threatened to freeze future disbursements coming to Pakistan if the VAT is not implemented by July 1st along with a “power tariff,” or 6 percent increase in electricity rates.

As the IMF and World Bank are insisting on a 6 percent hike in electricity rates, there has been nationwide upheaval over increased “load shedding,” the term for scheduled power outages in Pakistan, which sometimes last for 10-12 hours per day. Protests against the power cuts, often quite militant, have consistently erupted in major cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Demonstrators in other provinces and cities including Hyderabad, Multan, Quetta, Bahawalnagar, Sukkur, Badin, Mirpur Khas, Larkana, Thatta and Ghotki, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Kurk, Swat and Muzaffarabad have also registered their outrage.

Textile mills, manufacturers, the agricultural sector and traders are among the hardest hit by load shedding which limits the hours of operation, disrupting production and interfering with worker schedules. Protesters have created roadblocks, burned tires, gone on strike and organized massive sit-ins.

In Punjab, Pakistan’s most densely populated province, the Tenants Association of Punjab, (AMP), demands “Ownership or Death.” Involving 1 million landless tenants, based in villages stretching over 15 districts, AMP is one of Pakistan’s largest political movements. For ten years, the AMP has struggled to secure ownership rights for poor families that have tilled their land for over four generations. [...]
If the IMF carries through with its threat, you could see another 'Burma' because in Karachi, the country's largest city, the poor already have their backs to the wall. Because of the 'water mafia,' they're forced to pay exorbitant amounts for water. From Alex Rodriguez's heartbreaking report for the Los Angeles Times titled, Karachi 'water mafia' leaves Pakistanis parched and broke:
Corrupt politicians allow businessmen to siphon off as much as 41% of the city's water supply and turn around and sell it at exorbitant rates to residents, generating an estimated $43 million a year. [Pundita note: for context, $1 = about 85 Pakistani rupees]

(KARACHI) Name a cash cow in this sprawling city of ragged slums and glass-walled office buildings and it's almost certain there's an organized crime syndicate behind it. The illegal operations, routinely referred to as mafias, are everywhere. There's a land mafia that commandeers prime real estate, a sugar mafia that conspires to control sugar prices, and even a railway mafia that forges train tickets and pilfers locomotive parts.

For those on the city's bottom rung, however, the underworld entity they revile the most is the water tanker mafia, a network of trucking firms that teams up with corrupt bureaucrats to turn water into liquid gold worth tens of millions of dollars each year.

The water tanker mafia's prey can be found in slums like Karachi's Gulshan-Sikanderabad neighborhood, where every morning people buy water from the tankers, lug the plastic jugs back to their homes on wooden carts, then come back three or four more times in the afternoon and evening to buy more.

A family that makes $100 a month can spend as much as a quarter of that on water, which, elsewhere in Pakistan, costs pennies and flows out of household taps.

Water scarcity isn't the cause. Karachi has a steady water supply, and it has the network of pipes to pump ample water into every neighborhood, rich and poor.

But Karachi is also a city of opportunists forever on the prowl for under-the-table wealth. As municipal officials look the other way, businessmen illegally tap water mains, and use the makeshift hydrants to supply fleets of tankers that then sell water to businesses, factories and neighborhoods at inflated prices. As many as 272 million gallons a day are siphoned off by the trucks.[...]
Unlike the way Burmese see their military, the vast majority (around 86 percent) of Pakistanis greatly admire their military. But if the military has to quell riots by millions of desperate people, the respect would vanish very quickly.

The Burma protests were touched off because Burma's junta, following IMF orders, jacked up the price of fuel more than 100 percent; like falling dominoes that skyrocketed the cost of food and transportation. People were starving and they couldn't afford the increased fares for buses, etc. to get to work The street protests that followed ended in a military crackdown that set off a bloodbath.

However, the junta did not depend on Western largesse for support so they could afford to shrug off world opinion. That wouldn't be the case for Pakistan's military, which could find itself in a vise.

The authors of the Global Research report (Josh Brollier and Kathy Kelly) observed:
With 60 million people living in poverty and many more living just above the poverty line, the people of Pakistan have priorities that do not include acting as a proxy to fight U.S. wars against purported terrorists.

For many people, including those like Muhammad Akbar, a desperate rickshaw driver who committed suicide on Wednesday due to prolonged financial hardships, these priorities may be simply to put food on the table and to provide for their families. [...] People in the United States wishing to show solidarity with Pakistanis struggling to make ends meet should try to dialogue with Pakistani-led grassroots movements.[...]
The United States government has been doing just the opposite: funneling aid to government administrations in Pakistan that are corrupt when they're not being wasteful. The U.S. did it again this weekend:
ISLAMABAD, Jun 19 (Associated Press Pakistan)

United States on Saturday announced to increase humanitarian assistance for affected areas in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA). Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan pledged an additional $11.1 million in humanitarian assistance for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

According to US embassy, out of the total pledge, $4 million will be directed through the World Health Organization for provision of life-saving health services [...]
The United States has contributed $173.9 million in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan in 2010.
And yet the more aid Washington gives to Pakistan, the more U.S. intentions are met with suspicion and hatred. It's gotten to the point where Pakistanis are blaming everything wrong in their country on the USA. That's a tinder-box situation, which could explode this summer under severe economic pressures.

Meanwhile, the United States has a war to fight. The RAND paper is arriving on the heels of five pieces of bad news from last week:

1. June 15
Militant Group Expands Attacks in Afghanistan

By Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — A Pakistani-based militant group identified with attacks on Indian targets has expanded its operations in Afghanistan, inflicting casualties on Afghans and Indians alike, setting up training camps, and adding new volatility to relations between India and Pakistan.

The group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, is believed to have planned or executed three major attacks against Indian government employees and private workers in Afghanistan in recent months, according to Afghan and international intelligence officers and diplomats here. It continues to track Indian development workers and others for possible attack, they said.

Lashkar was behind the synchronized attacks on several civilian targets in Mumbai, India, in 2008, in which at least 163 people were killed. Its inroads in Afghanistan provide a fresh indication of its growing ambitions to confront India even beyond the disputed territory of Kashmir, for which Pakistan’s military and intelligence services created the group as a proxy force decades ago.

Officially, Pakistan says it no longer supports or finances the group. But Lashkar’s expanded activities in Afghanistan, particularly against Indian targets, prompt suspicions that it has become one of Pakistan’s proxies to counteract India’s influence in the country.

They provide yet another indicator of the extent to which Pakistani militants are working to shape the outcome of the Afghan war as the July 2011 deadline approaches to begin withdrawing American troops.
2. June 16
Pakistan funds Lashkar-e-Taiba in Punjab

By Bill Roggio, Long War Journal

Here is an excellent reason why upping Pakistan's aid from about $500 million a year to $1.5 billion a year was and still is a terrible idea. Last year, the provincial government of Punjab handed over $951,000 to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the thinly veiled front group for Hafiz Saeed's Lashkar-e-Taiba. This is the same group that launched the Mumbai assault in November 2008 and has participated in numerous raids against US forces in eastern Afghanistan. [...]
Note the financial backing for the LeT front organization is not coming from the ISI.

3. June 16
U.S. showed Pakistan evidence on militant faction

(Reuters) - The United States has presented evidence to Pakistan about the growing threat and reach of a militant faction which Washington suspects has ties to Pakistani intelligence, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

In the presentations, U.S. military leaders provided Pakistan's army chief with information detailing the role of the Haqqani network in a string of increasingly brazen bombings, including one last month targeting the main NATO air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Washington has long pressed Islamabad to crack down on the Haqqanis in the North Waziristan tribal zone bordering Afghanistan, who are closely aligned with the Taliban, but U.S. officials acknowledge it is a hard sell because of resistance within Pakistani intelligence.

General David Petraeus, who oversees the Afghan war as head of U.S. Central Command, told a congressional hearing the Haqqanis had "transnational" ambitions, suggesting they could try to strike beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Washington has issued similar warnings about the growing reach of the Pakistani Taliban, which investigators blame for a botched May 1 car bomb in New York's Time Square.

There are strategic reasons for Pakistan's hesitancy to attack the Haqqanis, a faction which some in Islamabad see as a strategic asset that will give them influence in any eventual settlement to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
4. News that the Pakistani-American Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was paid $12,000 by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) to carry out the plot. India's Hindustan Times noted archly:
It is worth mentioning here that the US officials and analysts had initially brushed off the TTP's claim of a connection to the May 1 botched terror attempt, as it did not consider it a 'trans-national group', however, the growing evidence showcased the lengthening reach of Pakistan-based militants.
5. In public, at least, General David Petraeus hedged about the findings of the LSE paper. June 20, Sify:
[...] Speaking during a congressional hearing earlier this week, General David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commander overseeing America's war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, said he doesn't approve the conclusion of the LSE's report "in all respects".

"Well, first of all, I don't want to imply that I would accept the London School of Economics study or the individual who wrote that for them, his conclusions in all respects," General Petraeus said.

The LSE's report had claimed that supporting the Afghan Taliban was the "official policy" of the ISI.

Although General Petraeus acknowledged that "some of those ties continue in various forms", he said that such links were useful too.

"Some of them, by the way, gathering intelligence ... you have to have contact with bad guys to get intelligence on bad guys. And so it's very important, I think, again, to try to have this kind of nuance feel for what is really going on," The Dawn quoted General Petraeus, as saying.

"I do believe that the Pakistanis - the people, the leaders, the clerics, and the military - all recognise that you cannot allow poisonous snakes to have a nest in your backyard. Even if the tacit agreement is that they're going to bite the neighbour's kids instead of yours, eventually they turn around and bite you and your kids," he added.

According to the LSE's report, which is said to be based on interviews with nine Afghan Taliban commanders, the ISI is providing funds, training and sanctuary to the Taliban on a scale much larger than previously thought. [...]

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