Role Of Pakistan Against Terrorism Essays
Pakistan's role in the War on Terror is a widely discussed topic among policy-makers of various countries, political analysts and international delegates around the world. Pakistan has simultaneously received allegations of harbouring and aiding terrorists and commendation for its anti-terror efforts.
At least 60,000 people have been killed in Pakistan due to terror attacks since the beginning of the war on terror, while the economic losses have been measured at $120 billion. Since 2001, the country has also hosted millions of Afghan refugees who fled the war in Afghanistan.
The Saudi born Zayn al-Abidn Muhammed Hasayn Abu Zubaydah, was arrested by Pakistani officials during a series of joint U.S. and Pakistan raids during the week of 23 March 2002. During the raid, the suspect was shot three times while trying to escape capture by military personnel. Zubaydah is said to be a high-ranking al-Qaeda official with the title of operations chief and in charge of running al-Qaeda training camps.
Later that year on 11 September 2002, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan after a three-hour gunfight with police forces. Bin al-Shibh is known to have shared a room with Mohamed Atta in Hamburg, Germany and to be a financial backer of al-Qaeda operations.
It is said bin al-Shibh was supposed to be another hijacker, however the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rejected his visa application three times, leaving him to the role of financier. The trail of money transferred by bin al-Shibh from Germany to the United States links both Mohammad Atta and Zacarias Moussaoui.
On 1 March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested during CIA-led raids on the suburb of Rawalpindi, nine miles outside of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Mohammed at the time of his capture was the third highest-ranking official in al-Qaeda and had been directly in charge of the planning for the 11 September attacks.
Mohammed having escaped capture the week before during a previous raid, the Pakistani government was able to use information gathered from other suspects captured to locate and detain him. Mohammed was indicted in 1996 by the United States government for links to the Oplan Bojinka, a plot to bomb a series of U.S. civilian airliners.
Other events Mohammed has been linked to include: ordering the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the USS Cole bombing, Richard Reid's attempt to blow up a civilian airliner with a shoe bomb, and the terrorist attack at the El Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has described himself as the head of the al-Qaeda military committee.
Amidst all this, in 2006, Pakistan was accused by NATO commanding officers of aiding and abetting the Taliban in Afghanistan; but NATO later admitted that there was no known evidence against the ISI or Pakistani government of sponsoring terrorism.
The Afghan government also accuses the ISI of providing help to militants including protection to the recently killed Mullah Dadullah, Taliban's senior military commander, a charge denied by the Pakistani government. India, meanwhile continues to accuse Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence of planning several terrorist attacks in Kashmir and elsewhere in the Indian republic, including the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings, which Pakistan alleges is due to "homegrown" insurgencies. Many other countries like Afghanistan and the UK have also accused Pakistan of State-sponsored terrorism and financing terrorism.
The upswing in American military activity in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan corresponded with a great increase in American military aid to the Pakistan government. In the three years before the attacks of 11 September, Pakistan received approximately $9 million in American military aid.
In the three years after, the number increased to $4.2 billion, making it the country with the maximum funding post 9/11. Such a huge inflow of funds has raised concerns that these funds were given without any accountability, as the end uses not being documented, and that large portions were used to suppress civilians' human rights and to purchase weapons to contain domestic problems like the Balochistan unrest.
The Guardian reported that in 2016, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India referred to Pakistan as the “mothership of terrorism”, as part of a reprised campaign to increase international pressure on Pakistan for allegedly harboring and supporting militant groups.
In August 2017, The Guardian reported that as part of a new US strategy in Afghanistan by the Trump administration, more pressure was to be put on Pakistan over alleged support for insurgent groups, with PresidentTrump saying in a televised statement that “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” The new strategy was supported by Afghan government officials, a spokesman for the Afghan president said that “this is the first time the US government is coming with a very clear-cut message to Pakistan to either stop what you’re doing or face the negative consequences.” Pakistani security officials rejected the statements, stating, "They are shifting blame to Pakistan" and "Pakistan itself is the victim of terrorism. We are fighting militants and have conducted many ground and aerial operations and destroyed their sanctuaries. We want to eradicate them physically and ideologically.". As part of a regional approach, Trump said he would encourage India to play more of a role (whom are already providing economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan), former officials and analysts have pointed out that the fear of a greater Indian presence in Afghanistan was the justification used by Pakistan’s military and intelligence leaders to maintain backing for Afghan militants, as a buffer against Indian influence.
Main articles: Waziristan War and Islamic Emirate of Waziristan
With the logistics and air support of the United States, the Pakistani Army captured or killed numerous al-Qaeda operatives such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Training ground for European militants
In 2009, a politically instable Pakistan emerged as a new global hub for anti-West militancy, but, because of the constant threat of US attacks, recruits were reportedly more likely to spend their time under instruction and in training than carrying out assertive action. In his report on the matter, focusing on an alarming influx of European extremists, Reuters security correspondent William Maclean wrote,
Long a favored destination of British militants of Pakistani descent, Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas are now attracting Arabs and Europeans of Arab ancestry who three years ago would probably have gone to Iraq to fight U.S. forces.
With the Iraq war apparently winding down, security sources say, the lure for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.
One consequence: Western armies in Afghanistan increasingly face the possibility of having to fight their own compatriots.
He added that the matter was likely to surface in a meeting on 6 May between United States President Barack Obama, Pakistani PresidentAsif Ali Zardari and Afghan PresidentHamid Karzai, the first-mentioned looking to bring an end to the employment of Pakistan's tribal zones as a launching pad for al Qaeda activity around the world.
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- ^Maclean 2009. Dennis Blair, US national intelligence director, declared in February that the main threat posed by Europe-based extremists was members of al Qaeda and its affiliates who "returned from training in Pakistan to conduct attacks in the West", a prominent concern since mid-2006. Official Western estimates put at several hundred the number of non-Afghan militants receiving training in tribal areas. Little was known about the details of the training and whether or not numbers had increased or held steady in recent months. Many assumed, though, that increased activity in Pakistan was in large part a result of American success in Iraq (Maclean 2009).
- ^Maclean 2009.
During the separate visits of Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and its chief of army staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, to Washington in recent months, observers dismissed the prospect of meaningful changes in the country’s security policies or in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. On the surface they may not be wrong, but in seeking major breakthroughs or transformations, incremental yet consequential choices are often overlooked.
The recent revelations that the San Bernardino shooters had extremistties to Pakistan might appear to confirm the narrative that Pakistan is consumed by a downward spiral of extremist violence. But over the past year, it has quietly made some important, costly, and under-appreciated strides in its counter-militancy efforts. Individually, none are groundbreaking, but together they point in a more promising direction for Pakistani society, regional stability, and the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Military targeting in tribal regions
First, the Pakistani army has pursued more comprehensive military operations in tribal areas than initially expected. Although it has not directly targeted the Haqqani Network as the United States hoped, Pakistan has actively targeted a wide array of militant groups, not just the Pakistani Taliban (TTP).
Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the leader of the TTP and a longtime government tactical ally based in North Waziristan, may have only been displaced to Afghanistan during the early phases of the military’s operation, but the Pakistani army has made his life difficult. It reportedly targeted him, sidelined him operationally from his organization, and then eliminated some of his remaining commanders in airstrikes last fall. Once a potential prospect for reconciliation, Khan “Sajna” Syed, a former leader of the TTP in South Waziristan, was targeted by an army intent on accepting only unconditional surrenders. Sajna was consequently killed in a U.S. drone strike in late November. The state has also cracked down on potential TTP splinter groups like Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Shehryar Mehsud group, both of which have recently carried out attacks against a provincial government official and a Christian church.
Quietly expanded target sets may have resulted from lessons learned, deliberate strategy, mission creep, or failed efforts to flip breakaway factions. But the result is that Pakistan is more directly targeting the Taliban.
Kinetic operations against former assets
Second, Pakistani security forces have expanded their counter-militancy operations, not only against assets once under state purview that have now turned rogue, but also against a wider range of sectarian militant groups. Pakistan adopted a strategy of leadership targeting, or “decapitation,” against the once formidable Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a sectarian militant group with strong links to the Sunni extremist political group, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Over the past year, LeJ leadership — once described as “untouchable” and “invincible” — has been systematically wiped out in a series of extrajudicial killings, possibly because it was drifting toward the Islamic State.
In February, the death of Usman Saifullah Kurd — the mastermind behind attacks on hundreds of Hazaras and Shiites over the past decade — “[broke] the back” of LeJ in Balochistan. Several months later, a major police raid killed its leader, Malik Ishaq, his two sons, and 11 other militants. Other LeJ militants were captured during targeted raids based on specific intelligence in October. And a third leader, Haroon Bhatti, was arrested in late October and then killed in a staged encounter with Lahore police (effectively an extrajudicial killing) two weeks ago. As a retributive response to Ishaq’s killing, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada, a retired army colonel, was assassinated in a suicide bombing along with 16 others. Despite this, the state proved willing to stomach the consequences of the fight and showed that it is willing to take on powerful and influential groups — like LeJ — once afforded de facto protection by the Pakistani government.
A substantialamount of recent research suggests that leadership targeting can be effective and can yield security improvements under certain conditions. Security officials anticipate substantial fragmentation of the targeted group “after elimination of first, second, third and fourth line leadership.” This decapitation campaign already seems to be correlating with a significant drop in sectarian violence. Since 2012, annual sectarian incidents and casualties are down by about 50 percent or more nationwide and by approximately 75 percent in Balochistan, where LeJ’s violence has wreaked considerable havoc.
The counter-sectarian campaign could expand beyond LeJ. The Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) estimates that the state has conducted 20 major search operations that have netted nearly 100 key leaders from the militant-linked Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Chipping away at sectarian groups is important, because they feed other militant organizations like al Qaeda, TTP, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Denial of social space
Third, Islamabad has augmented the military’s kinetic actions by denying extremist and militant groups the social space they have utilized and operated in for decades. It has begun to seriously enforce regulations on hatespeech, on the misuse of mosqueloudspeakers or amplifiers to prevent public incitement, and on weapons sales. Tempering sectarian mobilization with these tools was not new, but its enforcement is.
Even independent assessments identify progress, albeit slow, on the government’s National Action Plan, which was formulated in January to crack down on terrorism. Thousands of incendiary clerics have been arrested for preaching sectarian hatred and distributing banned literature; some have even been successfullyprosecuted. Shops have been closed and materials confiscated for hate speech inciting violence. The glorification of terrorism has been banned. This may be producing a deterrent effect. Some observers point out that Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat has not been able to hold a conference in an urban area for the past eight months.
Religious seminaries, their curriculum, and ties to foreign organizations and funders are increasingly scrutinized. Dozens of unregistered or suspect seminaries have been raided or forced to close. Meetings of civilian, military, and madrassa educational board leaders also offer a path for structural reform. The Federal Investigation Agency has exposed millions of dollars in domestic financing of terrorism, interdicted some foreign financing, and enlisted help from international partners to choke the flow of funds to extremist organizations. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the conviction of Mumtaz Qadri for the January assassination of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer sent an important signal and affirmed the right to criticize misuses of the blasphemy law (though not the law itself).
Finally, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority prohibited media coverage of banned organizations, specifically LeT and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though there appears to be confusion and bureaucratic infighting over this judgment. Even critics of government shortcomings acknowledge “the space for pro-extremist mindset has gradually shrunk.”
Hard foreign-policy choices
Finally, Pakistan has also assumed tough foreign-policy stances that support its internal security national agenda. In April, the government made a decision to avoid getting roped into the conflict in Yemen. Such involvement in an almost explicitly sectarian conflict would have triggered internal divisions with Pakistan’s large Shiite population and exacerbated its sectarian problem.
The decision was challenging for Pakistan to make. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states openly pressured the Sharif government to intervene — a difficult request to fend off, given their historical financial support of Pakistan through oil discounts, soft loans (like a recent one worth $1.5 billion), and remittances from migrant laborers. One United Arab Emirates minister warned that Pakistan would pay a “heavy price” for this choice.
Pakistan’s military proved critical in the decision to stay out of Yemen, despite intenselobbying by religious parties like Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Part of Pakistan’s refusal may have been that Riyadh reportedly requested deployments of only Sunni soldiers from a military that is estimated to be up to 30 percent Shiite. More assertive Pakistani leaders have begun to both privately and openlycriticizeSaudi, Iranian, and UAE funding of religious seminaries and sectarian groups.
Shortcomings and the future
Pakistan’s decision to tackle militant and extremist organizations once considered too valuable or too dangerous is encouraging, but those expecting the resolve against former assets like LeJ to snowball into actions against groups like the Haqqani Network and LeT should not hold their breath. State counter-militancy efforts are still constrained by fears of loss of control, violent retribution since LeT’s military strength is orders of magnitude greater than LeJ’s, potential electoral costs in the PML-N’s electoral heartland in central Punjab, and loss of these groups’ utility in achieving foreign-policy objectives in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Even if Pakistan narrowly focuses on its sectarian militant problem, it has a long way to go. Worrisome patterns of extremism remain part of the national fabric, most recently evinced by reports that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terrorist massacre, may have had links to radical groups in Pakistan. Sectarian mob violence continues, the Islamic State is feared to be makinginroads, and many of the thousands of unregistered madrassas retain nontransparent financing, regressive curricula, and continue to function as terrorist recruitment centers. Additionally, the limits of the state’s capabilities — or willpower — may be exposed in an emerging showdown at Islamabad’s Lal Masjid. Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi — a known security threat who retains links to the Taliban and expresses support for the Islamic State — resumed delivering Friday sermons, and appears poised to resurrect a movement for sharia law.
The feeders for many militant organizations are sectarian groups posing as legitimate political parties, and they cannot be wiped out kinetically. This challenge will require counter-narratives, counter-radicalization, and a range of social, political, and economic reforms. As noted analyst Huma Yusuf argues, “Pakistan’s war against violent extremism will not be won in the battlefields, but in classrooms, madressahs, mosques, the offices of bureaucrats, and at police stations.”
Photo credit: FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
Dr. Sameer Lalwani is Deputy Director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center.
Tags: Pakistan, South Asia, South Asia Channel
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