Next: Drone Strikes on Pakistan’s ISI?
Published on: September 23, 2011
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  • FranzJoseph

    Professor Mead,
    An excellent post! However, I fear that you have too much faith in the grand strategy planning of Admiral Mullen and the general National Security community. Using Occom’s Razor (surely not the type of methodology you encourage your fine students at Bard to use) I think Adm. Mullen and his staff were simply too frustrated to let ISI get away with another attack and simply wanted to make public, again, that we know that ISI is up to.

    Unfortunately, President Obama has backed U.S. policy into an unnecessary corner; we can not respond to the inevitable Pakistani brinksmanship you describe because it would be political suicide (though NOT tactical suicide) to slow the draw down of U.S. troops. Much like the Iraqis are currently realizing, the security vaccum in both countries will be vast once our brave men and women are drawn down below a certain threshold (probably starting at 15,000 in Afghanistan).

    I’m worried about any of your scenarios coming to fruition but the Pakistani government is most likely to play their advantage and wait for the U.S. to blink. Rather than do something rash, like an unequivocal demand that the U.S. abandon a drone post, the ISI will probably just make it harder for informants to go to CIA handlers and give information on the Haqaanis.

    Finally, I’m not sure that i buy the “crown jewel” argument about Kashmir. Its surely effective PR for Islamabad, but had Kashmir fallen on the Western side of the border after the war, I don’t believe any Pakistani government would have developed the Kashmiri people or land better than the development of residents in Karachi.

    P.S. How has there not been an long essay about this week’s U.N. meeting?! Don’t get too comfy in the faculty lounge leather 😉

  • Ace

    enjoyed your piece. Just one note – India (until recently, though I don’t know if this still holds true) actually contains MORE muslims than Pakistan (or in any case, ~150-200M muslims live in India); the idea that Muslims and Hindus can’t live together is patently absurd.

  • JRR

    Instead of invading a country that posed no threat, US should have invaded Pakistan, which was the epicenter of global terrorism. This may very well have to happen, given Pakistan’s hard core commitment to terrorist groups it considers “strategic assets.”

  • Kolya

    I think we need to call Pakistans bluff at some point or at least be prepared to do so. Otherwise other third world basket cases will stick their rings in the bulls nose.

  • Ken Marks

    I think this is a tremedous analysis. Question: if Amereica were to decide to go in and clean up Waziristan, what would the likely effects be?

  • Peter

    Ask yourself, “WWAJD”

    WWAJD = What Would Andy Jackson Do”

  • Glen

    Fantastic and dead-on accurate analysis.

    However, as someone who also has a substantial amount of on-the-ground experience in India and Pakistan, I strongly suspect that the Obama Administration believes (wishes? hopes? deludes itself into believing?) that your “Group One” could be strong enough to prevail.

  • Paul

    An alternate course would be to withdraw from Afghanistan, where we will achieve nothing further which is simultaneously of lasting value and commensurate with the expense required. This being done, we would need nothing from Pakistan that we do not need from other incapable, failing, and essentially hostile states, such as Yemen and Somalia. And we might threaten Pakistan by saying that, in the event that they judge it advisable to host groups preparing attacks on our soil within their country, we would then feel compelled to request that our good ally India host forces capable of reconnaissance and strike operations against those groups. This would also be a bad situation, but the threat of it would certainly make the Pakistani state more circumspect.

  • rbarry

    Given Obama’s haste to depart Afghanistan I doubt we are on the cusp of new adventures against a nuclear power. I think Mullens response is our response to the Embassy attack.
    My own preferences are leveling ISIHQ as the last US troops depart Afghanistan.

  • mds

    what’s particularly fascinating/eye-opening about this analysis is that it doesn’t even point out the obvious: bin laden was found living quite comfortably there

  • Leonard

    Don’t forget that with President Obama everything is personal. His overriding motivation for any action is how it impacts him. And as we’ve seen in the campaign and since, Pakistan is the one Islamic country he has consistently been aggressive against. It seems to go back to his Occidental College days when he lived with a wealthy Pakistani student and he visited the country. I’d pity Pakistan, but if the President’s grudge leads to the destruction of this enemy of the US, then we will all be better off.

  • Nirmal

    For anyone who understands South Asia and the Islamic culture and mind – like people who grew up in and lived among cultures of that region – can see the outcome of all these “strategies” as easily as writing on the wall. The outline of the future will look like this: Pakistan will become more and more Islamist. It will remain an implacable foe of India to the bitter end. America will become Pakistan’s arch enemy rivaling India. Pakistan will dump America for China. China will use Pakistan to its hilt against India and the US in its grand strategies. The only sensible strategy for the US (and India) here is to take the initiative and force things to a head on its own terms. This would be openly instituting a policy of containment of the China-Pakistan axis in Pak-Af by an US-India alliance. Overextension of American power – by the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and the economic crisis – is what is holding the American leadership from taking the initiative it needs to take. In hindsight, the people who said (for the wrong reasons) that the US was fighting the” wrong” war in Iraq were right. The “right” war should be against the Islamist-Pakistan-China axis.

  • Yahzooman

    All the niceties of diplomacy won’t be worth a pitcher of warm spit in 2013.

    Isn’t that about the time when Afghanistan blows up into civil war or various regional tribal wars?

    President Perry will have a few interesting decisions to make.

  • Walter Sobchak

    1. We must get out of Afghanistan. Our presence there are hostages to our enemies in Pakistan.

    2. Forget Predators, after we pull out of Afghanistan it is time for B52s. We should destroy the Pakistani Military establishments physical infrastructure.

    3. Forget the Middle East. It is on the other side of the world. We need to refocus our foreign policy on Central America and the Pacific Rim. Persian Gulf oil may be cheap to lift, but that is not a region to be in that hellhole or have to truck with its Medieval Tyrants.

    4. Drill Here, Drill Now, Drill Everywhere.

    5. But, Israel is our friend and is important to us. We should build an anti-missile airbase in the Negev with a couple of brigades of Marines just to remind Egypt and Arabia to be good. Otherwise out of the Middle East, there is no upside.

    6. Pakistan will be India’s problem. We should support them in their efforts very strongly. We should also include India in our efforts to balance China.

  • Punditarian

    Wasn’t the Taliban government the creature of the ISI from the beginning? Weren’t thousands of ISI agents evacuated from encircled Kunduz — with US approval?

  • Russ

    That’s Haqqani all over again, and he’s not our guy — never has been to the best of my knowledge.

    I agree with Nirmal — the strategic logic is clear, and frankly, why not let Pakistan be China’s headache for a while? Wanting Pakistan on your side is sort of like wanting to be in a military alliance with AustroHungary (sajnalom mondani, de kepzeldel).

  • Douglas

    One footnote about the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Muslims do make up a large majority of the population, but they live in a tiny geographical area, the Vale of Kashmir – basically, Srinegar and the valley in which it lies. The rest of the state is comprised of the ancient kingdoms of Ladahk and Zanskar, which are Tibetan Buddhist culturally (although Ladakhi is the native language, not Tibetan). The Buddhists may only be 3% of the population of Kashmir but they occupy by far the biggest geographical area and they absolutely do not want to be part of Pakistan – they vastly prefer Indian rule. (Note that another part of ancient Ladakh is on the Chinese side of the border).

  • beagleboy

    I believe Admiral Mullen’s public statement is a result of a conclusion that the ISI will not back down. It is intended to lay the moral groudwork for attacks by predator and special forces on our known enemies in the ISI.

  • JM

    The “temporizers” and “bluffers” in the Pakistan security establishment are mistaken. It is only a matter of time before the Pakistani provocations, and access to alternative supply routes, prods the Americans into retaliatory actions. Naturally such a clash would be quite debilitating to Pakistani interests.

    But those who think that America is Pakistan’s enemy are even more profoundly mistaken. America has serious and legitimate interests in combating terrorist groups, and America pursues these interests aggressively in South Asia and elsewhere. Pakistan and the U.S. have many disagreements, but this is quite a far cry from being “enemies”. In 2011, true enemies of the United States are relatively rare; perhaps only North Korea qualifies. The ISI shouldn’t be so keen to have Pakistan join that short list.

  • abrar

    A very well analysed article although the attempt to focus on punjabis as the most nationalistic group is over emphasised.Other ethnic groups may have some grievences,like any minority has in most countries,they are large anough and involved enough in pakistan’s main stream political and military and economic fields and decision making to be as if not more patriotic in certain aspects.
    Pakistanis will unite as they feel they have been bullied in the last 10 years despite over 30,000 civilian cauaalites due to the turmoil and affects of the afghanistan war.

    The civilian goverment imposed on Pakistan was to make them more compliant to dictates on certain issues from outside powers that were detrimental to pakistans security due to the weak ness of its goverment leaders (with vested interestst abroad including huge investments).
    The country does not feel connected to its inept and corrupt governance.

    Opening a new front against pakistan will destabilise the whole region and send the world economy spiralling into another tail spin with a vital region at the edge of the persian/arabian gulf up in flames.

    Withdrawl of foreign forces is the solution and and the proiblem not regional countries.They should be considered as part of the solution.

  • Paul

    I agree with Abrar that opposition to their images of the West and India is that which most effectively unites Pakistanis, and that the country’s ethnic strife should not be laid solely on the Punjabis’ doorstep.

    I am curious as to which sort of government the nations of Pakistan are (a) likely to construct and (b) likely to view simultaneously as legitimate.

    I agree that America should withdraw from Afghanistan, for the reason that I give in my first comment, above.

    That said, while “opening a new front” against Pakistan — whether this is taken to mean continuing the current policy, possibly from another base, intensifying it, or moving to outright invasion and occupation — would certainly “destabilize the region,” Pakistan and Afghanistan are quite unstable already, and increasingly so.

    As for the world economy, Pakistan is nearly completely irrelevant. Like most of sub-Saharan Africa, its people could vanish tomorrow and cause only the merest ripple, in terms of the global market. It is important to America only in the sense that it has recently served as a sanctuary for people who have managed to harm us in some way, and that it might do so again in the future.

    If America makes the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, and Pakistan manages to prevent the use of its territory as such a sanctuary, then its fate is of only emotional consequence to us. In the long term, such a fate would entail bloody collapse into many warring states and petty chiefdoms, or subsidized existence as a Chinese client and pawn against India. Absent a war against the foreign, Islam does not suffice to hold the nations together.

  • andy fr dc

    The always readable WRM misses one critical element, the weakness of our enemy, Pakistan.
    Pakistan is a bankrupt hellhole with ZERO friends and a disintegrating society.
    If the Paks close the Karachi MSR, why not close the port of Karachi by blockade? ? How long could Pak society survive a partial blockage and a denial of access to foreign travel for the elites.
    The proper way to defeat Pakistan is Jujitsu. Use the Pak weakness against them. Allow the reality of Pak weakness to force Pakistan to change it’s ways.

  • Riki Tiki Tavi

    The cancer eating away at Pakistan is the idea upon which it was founded, the “two-nation theory” (TNT). Imagine people of Mexican descent in the US declaring themselves to be a separate nation from Anglos. What will follow? Territorial disputes (California?), and implacable hostility between Anglos and Mexicans. This is what happened in South Asia. Pakistan trots out a long list of grievances against India, and now also against the US, but will never admit that the “first cause” of hostility between Pakistan and India is TNT. To do so is tantamount to admitting that Pakistan was never necessary. India does not seek the destruction of Pakistan, but it does seek the destruction of TNT, as it must. The US did not rest until communist ideology was defeated since this ideology was at such complete odds with America’s political beliefs.

    One of the first rules in strategy is to unite your friends and divide your enemies. Why does Pakistan do the opposite? Not only have Hindus been declared as the enemy, but also Christians, Jews, even Shia? Pakistan’s national psyche is sick, and will not be easily healed. The sickness comes from an imagined historical narrative where the Muslim is seen as either the equal of, or superior to, the Hindu. The fact of the matter is that Muslim dominance, when attempted, was always pushed back by South Asia’s Hindus. It is no surprise that the dominant form of Islam in South Asia was of the Sufi kind. This is because other forms of Islam are simply incompatible with Hinduism’s pantheistic DNA, and fundamentalist (non-Sufi) strains of Islam have always been contested in India. Pakistan’s increasing turn toward Wahhabi Islam in fact makes the TNT problem even worse. Perhaps this was inevitable. Sufism was a key bridge between Muslims and Hindus. To make a phony ideology like TNT come true, cultural bridges must of course be broken, hence the repeated attacks on Sufi shrines within Pakistan. If ever there was a golden age of Islam in South Asia, it was when Muslims learned to coexist with Hindus, when Islam did not have the status of a state religion (as under the Mughal emperor, Akbar, who Pakistanis detest)–in other words, the opposite of TNT. But the imagined historical narrative lives on with high intensity especially in Pakistan, to a lesser degree in Bangladesh, which perhaps explains Pakistani irrationality, namely, self-delusion, strategic myopia, and willingness to engage in brinkmanship. A Pakistan in the grip of TNT wants desperately to be India’s equal, or kill and die trying (

    The sickness in the Pakistani soul is not unlike the sickness displayed by the Nazi German soul? In both instances, an army ran a country. And fed their citizens a steady gruel of self-righteous victimhood. Germany was an industrial power, however, in ways that Pakistan is not. Tremendous pressure can be brought on Pakistan in any number of ways if the US, Europe, Russia, Israel, and India synchronize their policies. But, it’ll be a costly and time consuming endeavor, so it’s understandable that no one wants to bell this cat. Appeasement is easier. For now.

  • joe

    The easiest way to coerce Pakistani elites is to threaten a cancellation of all student visas, a travel embargo and cancel all temporary residency visas. Enjoy some awful jumped-up English Polytechnic where the locals will no doubt welcome y’all with open arms.

  • Mr Mullen.s statement is based on the report the same CIA that reported that Saddam had
    weapons of mass distruction and kept on
    persisting the concedeaccuracy of its claim till US attacked Iraq . Later CIA , pentagon and white house had to concede But that was too late because we the US citizen had to
    spend at least 10 trillion dollars for
    footing the bill of CUA’s efficient report .

    I am 79 and have seen partition. India was partitioned by obduracy of Hindu Congress
    from which Mr Jinnah was ousted by Gandhi .
    Gandhi had 3 votes while Jinnah had i vote.
    There would have been no partition had
    Hindu led Congess wanted to keep Inia inited.

    Pakistan is a proven loyal ally of USA .
    India has very recently made a treaty with Russia for increasing tourism betweeen the
    two countries . India can never be so whole
    hearted all of USA. I wish that we do not
    hurt our relations with Pakistan. As for
    India’s prgress , suffice is to say that
    one third of world’s population living under
    pverty is housed by India. Eighty percent
    population of india is living below $ 2/- per
    day . India has fought many war with Pakistan
    but it has never been able to defeat Pakistan.Pakistanis are tough and can live in
    difficult conditions too. So my humble
    suggestion is to find out peaceful means to
    resolve the issue.


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