Rather than focus on what I think is this election-year useless distration about the did he/didn’t Clinton versus Al-Qaeda (non)debate, I saw this which to me actually speaks to what is happening, what are frightening possibilities—not blame, which vis a vis al-Qaeda both Clinton and Bush deserve plenty.
This from Global Guerillas on new events–not well reported to my knowledge, surprise–concerning Pakistan.
First the backdrop:
1. Autonomy to rebels. After the loss of a reported 3,000 troops, Pakistan has ceded the tribal areas of Waziristan (population: 800,000) to pro-Taliban local rule. Weapons will be returned, outposts will be abandoned, and compensation will be paid.
2. Safe haven for the Taliban. Pakistan has cut a ceasefire with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Pakistani troops will no longer hunt down the Taliban (and likely al Qaeda) in Pakistan. This ceasefire also prevents US/NATO troops from crossing the border to pursue Taliban forces.
3. Exporting guerrillas to gain good-will. 2,500 Taliban and al Qaeda militants have been released from Pakistani jails (under the stipulation that they will leave Pakistan).
In other words, al-Qaeda (original al-Qaeda) now has another Taliban-like Afghanistan. Doesn’t mean they will have their base camps reconstituted tomorrow, but they now have the most important thing they need—a tribal area, not easily accessed, that is free from NATO/American interference, even aerial bombing it seems.
Pakistan needs/wants a Taliban-like or the Taliban itself government re-installed in Afghanistan. Pakistan being one of only 3 countries to diplomatically recognize the Taliban–another being the Saudis.
In this scenario though, unlike the Soviet experience, Musharraf may become the target of this AQ virus. In the Soviet guerilla campaign, the Pakistani security services had strong control /influence over the Afghan Mujihadeen. Not so this time around. There have been multiple–and nearly successful–attempts on Musharraf’s life in the last couple of years. Robb suggests a move towards more systems disruption/networking attacks to bring him down than a direct frontal assault on Musharraf himself.
This is a frigthening scenario given how much of our security the US/West has farmed out to Musharraf. Pakistan recall being a nuclear power.
But even if Pakistan’s government is not in danger–and I’m not sure how far I would push this line of thought–the point of which there is no real debate is that Waziristan is now al-Qaeda’s base. And that the NATO-effort in Afghanistan is failing and may collapse within a year. Plus the strategies of open-source 4GW warfare outlined by John Robb certainly could do massive damage within Pakistan.
Fortunately bin Laden is still left with a desire for big scale attacks and personal involvement at too many levels. This gives the West some chances (the British airlines plot foiled for example).
But our military has been seriously wounded by the Iraqi effort, Afghanistan can’t hold on as it is for much longer, and our homeland security is an aboslute disaster [failure to both Democrats and Republicans]. If the methods of open-source systems disruptions were brought to the US, our narcissism and emotionally reactive political environment would cause millions if not billions of dollars in loss–as we saw with the bottled water nonsense–and who knows what else would fall out politically.
Our best hope in all of this, is that by and large North American Muslims (US and Canadian) have not adopted the ideology of al-Qaeda. As Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism, points out, the main motivator of suicide terrorism is occupation not fundamentalism per se. bin Laden’s criticisms of the US have always been of a foreign policy nature—not our social-ethical constructs. He thinks we are all damned anyway, he could care less; he just doesn’t want our infidel selves messing around in his backyard.
North American Muslims are by and large integrated in our society. They are not occupied. In Western Europe, they are in a sense an occupied/marginalized sub-system within the larger society.
It is foreign occupation that drives suicide terrorism more than anything. The reason jihadis in Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia seek to overthrow their governments is that they view them as foreign entities–and in the language of Islamic neo-fundamentalism as jahiliya (pagan infidels)–the one supporting the other.
Seen in this light, the perogative is to start splintering such groups into those that can be co-opted and those that can not. Not to unite them under abstract slogans of “Islamic fascism.”