“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eight years after fleeing Tora Bora, the Taliban-al‑Qaeda network threatens all of Pakistan

Not too horrible to contemplate, just horrible enough to finish the job. Our less enlightened fathers and grandfathers understood how to take care of business.

At the time the US had trapped the Taliban-al‑Qaeda network at Tora Bora, the Bush Administartion and the Pentagon lost their nerve to do what had to be done to destroy the enemy that brought 911 to American streets, American airspace, the American military headquarters, the US Capitol and the US financial nerve system.

Instead of using the might of US military power, the Bush Administration enexplicably lost its nerve and allowed the the snake to escape into Waziristan.

The Pentagon went into all possible girations to develop non-nuclear block busting bombs that in the end were ineffective to do the job. American forces in sufficient numbers were not committed to trapping AQ and the Taliban. Tactical nuclear weapons, designed, developed and paid for were left on the shelf because of__________________ (fill in the blank).

Now we shall see the outcome of the folly of losing one's nerve when challenged in a fight to the death.


The battle for 'terror central' in Pakistan

As Pakistan pours troops and armour into the al-Qaeda safe haven of South Waziristan, Dean Nelson assesses the timing and significance of the onslaught, and asks whether it could spark a national conflagration.

By Dean Nelson Telegraph
Published: 7:02AM BST 19 Oct 2009

Pity poor Pakistan. As I write, 30,000 of its troops are advancing ever further into one of its fiercely independent tribal areas to kill thousands of their own countrymen many of them don't want to fight, in a war they cannot win.
But their preferences or prospects no longer matter: the Taliban and their allies in the al-Qaeda and Kashmiri jihadist groups throughout the country have taken the war to them. A battle is being waged over the future of Pakistan in which the government and army's only hope is to take the fight into the heart of "Terror Central" – the remote South Waziristan tribal agency which has served as al-Qaeda's safest haven since its leadership was driven out of Afghanistan in 2001.

Although Pakistan's military chiefs have been talking about an "imminent" assault since last June, all the evidence has pointed to deep reluctance to launch a massive ground offensive they believe will provoke an overwhelming backlash with suicide bombings and fidayeen commando attacks throughout the country.

It was the Taliban's new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who finally forced a decision upon the army when his militants launched a daring commando raid into the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi. Just 10 fidayeen gunmen shot their way into the GHQ, seized 42 hostages, and killed 14 soldiers and civilians in a 22-hour siege.
It was the centrepiece of a 12-day rampage in which Hakimullah demonstrated he could reach into the heart of Pakistan's military establishment and kill at will. More than 160 people died in the attacks, which targeted elite police commando training colleges in Lahore and a police intelligence HQ in Peshawar.

The real humiliation for the army is that most of these raids were shown, shot by shot, on live television news channels. Hakimullah's challenge could not have been more forceful or more public. His question: who calls the shots in Pakistan?

The answer has traditionally been a no-brainer – the army, with occasional incursions by elected governments. But Hakimullah's onslaught questioned the military's invincibility, and its chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, could not let that challenge pass.

The wonder for many is that it has taken the army so long. Almost eight years have passed since
al-Qaeda's leadership fled the American bombardment of their caves at Tora Bora, over the border in Afghanistan, and took refuge in the Taliban's South Waziristan safe haven.

Since then, Arab fighters and commanders from Libya and Egypt, thousands of militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Chechens, Kashmiris and Punjabis have flocked to the "emirate", as it's known, to train as suicide bombers, wage jihad against British and American troops in Afghanistan or plot international terror attacks. Gordon Brown has said that 75 per cent of all terrorist plots against Britain originate in Pakistan, and most intelligence agencies believe the heart of al-Qaeda's terrorist infrastructure is in South Waziristan.

To put it bluntly, part of Pakistan has been Islamised as a result of American action. And now it is Pakistan that has to deal with the consequences, fighting battles in the way America wants against some of its own people.

Pakistan's reluctance to attack the Taliban in its heartland has, until now, been based on a fear of a backlash in its biggest city, Karachi, where several million ethnic Pashtuns from its tribal areas live, and important strategic considerations: Pakistan raised the Taliban to bring order and an end to civil war between mujahideen factions in Afghanistan. Its political leaders were nurtured by Benazir Bhutto's interior minister, General Naseerullah Babar, and many of its commanders were trained by Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency

After the American-led offensive in Afghanistan that ousted Mullah Omar's Taliban regime in 2001, several key Taliban figures were protected by the Pakistan army, which still regards them as "strategic assets". Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, are among them. They continue to organise attacks on Nato forces from Waziristan, unmolested or challenged by the Pakistan army.

The Pakistan military believes the Americans and the British will withdraw from Afghanistan – and when they do they will need old Taliban friends such as Haqqani once again to minimise the influence of its Indian enemy in its Afghan back yard. It is for this reason too that Islamabad has turned a blind eye to the presence of Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura, the ruling council that co-ordinates the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan from a hideout close to the Balochistan state capital.

These leaders are what the Pakistan military have in mind when they talk of "good" and "bad" Taliban – those who pose a threat to Pakistan and those who do not. Those who pose a mortal threat to British and American troops over the border can still be "good Taliban" in Pakistan.

It is the rise of the "very bad Taliban", such as Hakimullah Mehsud's pro-al-Qaeda Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – which threatens both Pakistan and Nato forces in Afghanistan – that has brought the largest deployment of Pakistani troops to the tribal areas since the British Indian Army arrived in the Thirties to crush the Faqir of Ipi's jihad against the Raj.

The current Taliban jihadis use the same attacks and pose the same dangers – ambushing convoys by overpowering hilltop pickets as they withdraw – with one significant difference.

While the Faqir wanted an end to unjust British rule and autonomy for Waziristan, he could not export his jihad beyond Waziristan's arid mountain landscape. When Hakimullah's 10 commandos stormed the Pakistan army HQ on October 10, five of them were "Punjabi Taliban" – members of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, one of a number of militant, army-trained lashkars originally formed to fight Indian rule in Kashmir but now part of the bad Taliban-al‑Qaeda network.

The group's spokesman, Azam Tariq, said their attack was just the start and would be repeated in Singh and Balochistan provinces.

Just before the Taliban offensive, their new commander, Hakimullah Mehsud, gave an interview at a secret location in Waziristan where he was "determined to take severe revenge for Baitullah Mehsud's killing and the continued drone strikes... both America and Pakistan will have to face the consequences. We have respect for al-Qaeda and the jihadist organisations – we are with them."

Baitullah Mehsud, his predecessor, who was killed by an American Predator drone attack in South Waziristan in August, had fought Pakistan's army to an effective surrender in 2006 when the government was forced to sign a "peace deal" that undermined pro-government tribal areas and pulled the rug from under the feet of local army and Frontier Constabulary officers who suddenly realised they were on their own.

A series of such "peace deals" were signed under former military ruler General Musharraf, who argued that Pakistan had lost hundreds of troops in Waziristan, but that these agreements could be a model for ending the broader conflict.

According to American officials, what actually happened is that al-Qaeda used the "peace" as a breathing space in which to rebuild its global terror infrastructure and replenish its coffers. Under one deal, $500,000 was paid to the Taliban, which was in turn given to al-Qaeda as a loan repayment.

From 2006 until 2008, much of Waziristan was effectively ceded to the Taliban as a territory beyond the Pakistan government's writ. American officials, including then vice-president Dick Cheney, were so incensed that they visited General Musharraf to show him evidence of how al-Qaeda was rebuilding its terror HQ under the protection of his "peace deals".

The American response was to increase its Predator drone attacks on "high-value" Taliban and
al-Qaeda targets. But although they killed a number of militant commanders, they undermined the Pakistan government even further among its tribesmen close to the border: either it had collaborated or it was too weak to resist the breach of its sovereignty.

The problem for Pakistan is that until now it has not been able to enforce its writ or defend its sovereignty in Waziristan, which has become an "ungoverned space" of the sort that the new post-9/11 world can no longer abide.

Pity poor Pakistan, because the space it gave the Taliban in Waziristan allowed them to train new groups in their own image from all over the country.

Today, there are little bits of Waziristan throughout Pakistan's major towns and cities, and the army's belated ground offensive will light the touchpaper for a national explosion.


  1. These Persian eyes remind me of a phrase from our great poet Robert Frost, eyes meeting eyes, if you remember that poem.

  2. From the article I'd say it is not thee Taliban-al-Qaeda network that threatens Pakistan but the Pakistani military itself, to include the ISI.

    In fact the depth of their denial is seen in this line of the story
    ... to put it bluntly, part of Pakistan has been Islamised as a result of American action. ...

    Obviously the writer was influence b his Pakistani sources.
    Afpakistan was Islamified from the first day of Pakistan's existence, it's capital "Islamabad"

    As wiki says:
    ...officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,

    This is not the US's doing.

  3. Another example of the Brits leaving death, destruction and chaos in their wake.

    Their policy of dividing the locals against themselves, worked on the sub-Continent, all to well.