Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Al-Qaeda in Pakistan

My colleague Alexis Debat has just given a fascinating presentation on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

In contrast to the opinions advanced by Marc Sageman and others, who argue that Al-Qaeda since 9/11 has been effectively disrupted as an organization and now exists largely as a label and ideological cover for a variety of disparate groups, Debat says that in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda is operating as a coherent organization, drawing on deep roots in Pakistani civil society to function. Yes, it has had to re-organize since 9/11, but it is still functioning, and that many of the terror plots in the West ultimately trace back to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda relies on protection and sanctuary from powerful clerics in the tribal areas; it helps that leaders like Al-Zawahiri have married into local tribes and so are considered "family" not foreingers. Al-Qaeda continues to get its muscle from various sectarian and Kashmiri organizations; he noted the existence of a large database of all those who have been trained by Al-Qaeda since the late 1980s which gives the opportunity to identify cadres and operatives. Al-Qaeda gets logistical assistance from a variety of sources--from political parties and retired intelligence officers to the Karachi underworld. The organization also continues to rely on a tight network of courier cells to deliver messages--often audio tapes--from figures like Bin Laden and Zawahiri.

Because Al-Qaeda is so entrenched, Debat concluded, the United States has no choice but to work with a Pakistani government--it cannot hope to invade and occupy key areas of Pakistan itself. At the same time, however, Washington cannot ask Pakistan to undertake the massive effort and dislocation that uprooting or at least containing Al-Qaeda would take without much more substantial support for Pakistan.

When the meeting report is ready I'll provide a link.

US cannot rely soley on the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan.

To counter the threat of Al-Qaeda, US has to cultivate a coalition of the willing consisting of the states in the area.

GCC states are, by the way, useless as helpers.
Can we cut a deal with Pakistan or no?

We did with Saudi Arabia in the past for controlling extremists; it worked until the extremists got a taste of victory and decided they could take us on.

What would be Pakistan's demands, and is the price worth it?
Pakistan's price is for the US to sell India down the river. Short-term it might seem the easy way to go, but long-term US interests are aligned with a strong India.
Absolutely spot-on post, Nick.

The situation in Pakistan is the kind that will look okay for a while, until we get a kick in the teeth.

We need more than the government's cooperation. They've done all they can do. Time for us to take the heat and get in there.
Pakistan is the real hot potato. Musharaff is banking on giving al-Qaeda some breathing room in exchange for his personal safety (they have come to close to killing him in the recent past). I wonder what exactly would happen if the current goverment falls.

How safe are the nuclear facilities in Pakistan?

Would the U.S. go to war to disarm an extremist Islamic nation armed with nuclear weapons?

How would India, China, and Russia react to a sudden change of goverment or a collapse of the existing goverment and the anarchy that would surely follow? Especially in light of the convuluted relations between the four countries, just follow the MiG sales. China sells F-7Gs/Mig-21s to Pak, Russia sells Sukhois to India, while China also buys its Sukhois from Russia and tries to develop its own fighter program with a mix of Russian and western technology, some of which has to come from Pakistan (they have F-16s).

And why is it that the media talks about a doomsday showdown with Iran, when the real disaster is two countries over?
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