Friday, February 06, 2009

Pakistan: The Logic of State-Supported Terrorism

Were the Mumbai attackers creations of Pakistan's ISI? Over at the Pakistan Defence Forum, "Energon", whose logic appears impeccable to me, had this to say:

The issue is very much about where these attacks are coming from. Kasab may not have official sanction of the nation, but he was recruited, trained and deployed by one of the institutions created by the state's agencies not too long ago, with the primary objective of conducting low intensity/subversive/proxy warfare and terrorism against India. Let's first and foremost be very, very clear on this point. (There are numerous internationally vetted official reports, intelligence briefs, published literature and admissions from Pakistan's own intelligentsia, and insiders about the origins of groups like JeM and LeT)

It would also be prudent to realize that the issue of state sponsorship when it comes to terrorist attacks by organizations like LeT, JeM etc. is an oxymoron. The fundamental reason for the creation of these groups was to absolve the state of blame, censure and retribution when perpetuating war, murder and violence; and their handling by the clandestine agencies was conducted with the primary intent of official deniability. In short, the whole point of having spies control terrorists is to not leave paper trails; but that doesn't change the fact that there are spies, and terrorists, and they share a relationship. Also the blanket of deniability doesn't necessarily cover the serious repercussions when the non existent spies can no longer control the 'non state actors' who carry out gross acts of murder and war that are all too real.

In regards to the Indian government holding Pakistan responsible for terrorism, an issue that has IMO been misconstrued in the press:

At least based on the formal position as voiced by Indian officials that I have been able to see present their case here in the US, I don't think they're saying that the Pakistani government "ordered a hit" on Mumbai; and even if they did there is certainly no evidence of it (albeit the whole point of ordering hits is specifically to not leave palpable evidence). What the Indian government is saying is that the mere existence of these institutions and the scope of their operational abilities after numerous international episodes warranting censure, warnings and subsequent promises from the GoP to crack down upon said groups over the past decade+ clearly indicated one of two things:

1. Pakistan is in fact a categorically ramshackle failed state where the government is incapable of preventing such high profile and massive institutions with global aspirations and vetted regional capabilities from operating freely from its territory. In which case the two subsequent deductions from this assumption would be:

a) the out of control institutions should essentially be considered as parallel governments. Especially considering that institutions like LeT/JuD or whatever they are called this week have shown the ability to outperform governmental agencies in providing certain services; in addition of course to their ability to unilaterally attack another state and hold a city hostage.

b) Pakistan's sovereignty is a joke if these parastatal [S2: working with the government in an unofficial capacity] organizations can wage war upon India at will.

2. The various terrorist organizations aimed at India remain free to operate, improve their capabilities and carry out trans national attacks from Pakistan with at least the tacit approval (which includes intentional ignorance and/or criminal negligence) of the government.

The GoP mobilized various representatives to deny the first category through a paper that was presented to the UN in January indicating that the GoP had just enough coverage in their territory (primarily in the east) to technically stave off the "failed state" label. Although the comprehensive picture was a bit hollow considering the western portion of the state it at least indicated that no India specific organization like the LeT could exist in Pakistan without the GoP having a good idea of their capabilities; and if they so desired could dismantle them, or at least render their ability to attack India inert. It then led to the consensus that the GoP should be held accountable for the organizations that they have spurned and the underhanded support they still provide them. That the connection between client Jihadi groups and the government have been incognito intelligence operatives and retired military officers is a topic that has been heavily discussed in the academic circles and which is also if I'm not mistaken elaborated upon by Ahmad Rashid in his latest book; so this isn't conjecture by any means, and again, to expect paper trails to establish the veracity of this claim in the court of law is oxymoronic.

Lastly, the intel reports suggesting the support that these 10 assailants had was based on much more than their ability to wield Kalashnikov rifles and throw grenades. In fact there is a very detailed analysis (I haven't seen it published as open source so I won't elaborate upon it in detail) as to how and what distinguishes these attackers from your run of the mill gun toting grenade blasting terrorist that are now dime a dozen in Pakistan. Furthermore the complexity and the institutional capabilities required to raise Fidayeen cadres is another thing you're overlooking in your simplistic explanation as to what the Indians found amazing about these particular assailants. What you fail to realize is that although the defensive apparatus of the Indian government itself is pathetic when it comes to protecting themselves from terrorist attacks, there are quite a few well renowned and highly experienced experts on the science of anti terrorism in the Indian academic and governmental structure whose council is sought worldwide. There are at least 4 of them (ok 3 of them, one isn't technically Indian) who are co-authors on the paper in question; so it certainly isn't something officials from the executive branch are pulling out of thin air.

There are however serious and prohibitive international ramifications for countries like the US and the UK to publicly hold the current civilian GoP responsible for the terrorism link who are hence forced to tread carefully, choose their words very wisely and try their best to suppress the recent Afghanistan embassy bombing link (technically a direct act of war) to do everything short of stating the obvious.

Update, 6/7/09: The Taliban will 'never be defeated'
Times story of the Pakistani trained by the U.S. to fight the Soviets, who then trained the Taliban.