Will Pakistan Collapse?

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Recently, the United States government stated it was withholding $800 million of a $ 4 billion package to Pakistan.  In response, Pakistani government officials hinted that Pak military units may be removed from western Pakistani regions, citing the cost of keeping troops in those areas without the money that the US threatens to hold back. 

The diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and the United States has all but collapsed; the two countries’ military forces, however, are still cooperating and coordinating operations along the Af/Pak border, though even in that, hostilities have arisen.  Pakistani troops have fired on US helicopters and US helicopters have fired on Pak troops said to be helping insurgents cross the border, and US troops die from mortar and rocket fire emitted from areas just inside Pakistan.

CIA contractor Raymond Davis’ detention by the Pakistani government severely eroded what little trust remained between the US and Pakistan, and after weeks of intense interrogation by Pak intelligence, it seemed the Pak government didn’t like the answers it was getting.  The Pakistanis demanded that the US cease all covert activities inside Pakistan; the US balked. 

Then, the stake through the vampire’s heart: Bin Laden is found camping safely inside a Pak military garrison city, running al-Qaeda while watching a television with a coat hanger for an antennae. 

The question now, is, will Pakistan fall to the rabid assaults of Islamic terrorists it berthed and bred? 

The answer is not found by looking at the situation purely from a military, logistics, or correlation of forces standpoint.  Pakistan’s military is strong enough to hold off insurgents attempting to seize control of Islamabad.  That is, if we are to believe that the military is not already in the clutches of insurgent elements. 

The Pak military and notorious intelligence service, the ISI, are sometimes called states within a state.  They seem to act with complete autonomy and without regard to civilian masters in Islamabad.  Such is the inheritance of the Pak mindset where the country has vacillated between military and civilian control for decades.  Despite the problems the country faced when run by the generals, it did even worse under civilian leadership.  And so the military still holds a significant amount of prestige and power. 

Woven into the ISI and Pakmil quilt, are Islamic extremists.  These extremists use Islamic zeal and jihad in order to fortify its position against arch enemy, India.  The extremists have created proxy armies consisting of radical Islamic militants in order to maintain strategic depth in Afghanistan and to wage a punitive terror war in the Kashmir region on the Indian border.  However, the dog got off the leash.  In classic Asian style, Pakistan has tried to play both ends, or at least appear to do so.  But Islamic radicals are notoriously bad at compromise.  Viewing the civilian government in Islamabad as a US puppet, terrorists began waging war against these “heretics and traitors”.  Some of the insurgent groups, such as Tehriki-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), even attacked an ISI headquarters building. 

So the question that must be answered, is how many Islamic radicals exist within the ISI and the Pak military’s general staff.  To what extent do these radicals have access to the deepest secrets of the Pak military, such as the location and activation codes of Pakistan’s 150 some odd nuclear warheads?  

The real danger to Pakistan and indeed the world, is not from Pakistan’s Islamic militants per se, but from a potential military coup in which the extremists inside the military attempt to gain control, possibly recruiting hoards of Islamic guerrillas for its fight. 

 There is also an outside chance that a small group of extremists within Pakmil provides a singular nuclear weapon to a radical group, which then explodes the weapon in India or in a Western nation.  There is only a small chance of this happening as only a truly suicidal group would consider such a thing.  While suicide is certainly not out of the minds of jihadists, it tends to be used by individuals, particularly uneducated young men with no stake in a future.  It is a strategic and operational weapon employed by al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network and TTP, but the ideological leadership within these organizations never themselves employ it.  The use of a singular nuclear weapon would almost certainly guarantee a massive response–possibly nuclear– by the victim nation.  The terrorists’ government handlers are likely loath to risk their own nuclear immolation.

The most likely scenario involves what can be termed a “Lamprey Insurgency”.  That is, a state becomes the puppet of a terrorist organization.  In this case the insurgency’s goal is not to become the government; that involves far too much responsibility and accountability and also makes the organization an easier target for attack by Western militaries.  Instead, the terrorist organizations maintain a certain level of control of the government through threats of assassination and other terrorist actions.  The government attempts to maintain peace by passing and enforcing laws that reinforce  terrorist world views ie sharia.  The host government may also provide funding, training and military equipment to the Lamprey Insurgency.  This is notably different from organizations such as Hezbollah because the Lamprey Insurgency essentially holds the host government hostage, whereas proxy terror organizations like Hezbollah are fully, though surreptitiously, under the full control of state governments. 

In actuality the Lamprey Insurgency possibility has already taken place in Pakistan.  But there are still conflicting interests between the extremists and the moderate civilian politicians.  The insurgents want to expel the Infidel from Afghanistan  whereas the Pakistani civilian government finds that the war eases tensions in the country.   The trucking industry constitutes a huge portion of a struggling Pakistani economy.  Eighty percent of all nonlethal US supplies moves through Pakistan via the Pakistan trucking industry.  The US government also buys some items produced in Pakistan for use on its Forward Operating Bases.  Some of this  equipment is sold at massively inflated prices, such as $200,000 golf carts used by troops to move around large US bases.  Additionally, the Pakistani government is able to export underemployed, violent extremists into a warzone, minimizing the chaos such men can create within Pakistan.

Perhaps the greatest threat arising from Pakistan is its enmity with India.  Some say that Pakistan is obsessed with India. The  two countries have fought four wars since 1947 and continu a quasi war, so it’s quite understandable that Pakistanis hate Indians and vice versa.  At some point India will find it necessary to maintain its legitimacy as a state by retaliating for the terror attacks in Kashmir, and another large military confrontation between the two countries may ensue.   Considering the level of hatred and the Islamic extremist factor, a nuclear war between the two countries is not out of the question. 

One factor that is rarely spoken of is Pakistan’s Asian culture.  Instinctively, people think of Pakistan and Afghanistan as Middle Eastern countries, but they are Asian and carry with them the propensity for war by deception.  Sun Tzu did not form their cultures but was formed of them.  The acme of Sun Tzu’s warfare may have been winning without fighting, but this does not mean winning without killing.  Terrorism works and it always will. 

And so it is unlikely that Pakistan will collapse in a classic sense.  But the possibility of a coup by extremist factions within the military is quite high.  Coups are a national past time in Pakistan.  Pakistan is likely to remain the heart of international terrorism for decades to come because its nuclear arsenal prohibits Western nations from taking decisive action.

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