Pakistan’s deal with terrorists is justifiedFebruary 21st, 2009
Yeah, that’s right. In my opinion the Pak army and their Govt may be justified in striking a deal with terrorists. I’m sure you guys are surprised, to say the very least. And that too coming from an Indian? I gotta be crazy to say something like this. But read again, I say that they may be justified in striking a deal. I never said that it is the correct thing to do. Get the difference between these two things? Even if you don’t, just read on. I have some very solid reasons to say all this.
Just have a look at this map. This has been taken from an article published by Longwar Journal on 23 Jan 09. You can check this out here.
Now look carefully. The entire area except for the two small districts shown in green are under Taliban control or influence. And SWAT valley, where the ceasefire has taken place, is one small part of this entire area. Now, just try and measure up the area as against the total area of Pakistan. I would say that the area under the control or influence of Taliban is nothing less than one sixth of entire Pakistan. That’s a hell of a lot considering that the entire area of Pakistan is 803,940 sq Km, which in effect implies that Taliban controls more than 100,000 Sq Km of area. Now why am I highlighting this issue here? What relevance does it have to the ceasefire deal? Well, I’m trying to do this to ascertain the total number of terrorists in the ranks of Taliban. You see, if you know the kind of area these guys control you can get a fair idea about their strength, won’t you say? And this does have a relationship with the ceasefire, believe you me.
Coming back to those 100,000 Sq Kms of area. I agree that quite a lot of that area is mountainous and is uninhabitable but still approx 40% of it is inhabited where more than 10 million people are currently living. Let’s take a guess as to how many persons would be required to control this 50,000 Sq Kms where more than 10 million people are currently living. If you ask me I’d say at least 10,000 and that may well be at a stretch.
I’ve been forced to do guess work on this issue because there is hardly any official data available on this. Here’s what Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CISS) has to say on non availability of data (you can check this report and all about CISS here).
The lack of official Transparency on the Pakistani side of war
“It has been apparent since the rebirth of Taliban activity began in 2003 that Pakistan was a key part of the war, and that it faced critical internal problems in dealing with a growing threat. By late 2005, it was clear that any official reporting that did not address the Pakistani side of the conflict was almost meaningless, and that Pakistan was not only a key sanctuary but the new centre of gravity for Al Qa’ida. US official reporting, however, continues to focus on tactical and aid activity in Afghanistan, and treat Pakistan as if it was a separate case. A Pashtun dominated war is being treated as if the US and NATO/ISAF could win the war in Afghanistan without a Pakistani victory against the same insurgent and terrorist groups in Pakistan.
The end result has been even less transparency in official reporting on Pakistan than is the case in Afghanistan. At least in the case of Afghanistan, there were some maps and charts that showed the patterns of Taliban and other enemy activity issued back in 2005 and 2006, and some UN leaks in 2007. There were some figures on attack patterns, areas of influence or support activity, and some data on levels of violence. There has been no meaningful transparency on the steady growth of Taliban and Al Qa’ida influence in Pakistan. There also has been little meaningful data on Pakistani Army and Frontier Corps activity, and what has been said rarely seems to track with later after action reports.
Pakistan has been treated as an “ally” when the actions of the central government, ISI and other intelligence groups, and some of the Pakistani military have been uncertain to say the least. There have been no pattern data issued on cross border activity and infiltration, or attacks from the Pakistani side of the border. There has been no reporting on the patterns in growing attacks on US and NATO supply routes through Pakistan, or weapons smuggling and transfers.
Aside from the GAO and CRS, there has been no meaningful data on how aid to Pakistan has been spent, whether it has really had any meaningful impact on Pakistani military and security activity, and whether or not it is bringing some degree of security and stability to the critical FATA and Baluchi areas of Pakistan.”
And so I have no option but to do guesswork.
There’s yet another indicator of their strengths. The Taliban Commander in Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud was quoted as saying that “Thousands of our well armed militants are ready to fight alongside the army if any war is imposed on Pakistan”. He was replying to a question on their plan of action if India attacked Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks happened. Check out this report of Deccan Herald of 24 Dec 08 here. What I’m trying to bring out is when Mehsud said thousands, he was not really lying. In my opinion if such a war were to take place, Taliban may well muster anything upto five thousand militants, or may be couple of hundreds more.
Keeping all these things in mind it would be fair to assume that there may be close to ten thousand of these Taliban extremists in the region. And this, in my opinion, is quite conservative. Also, I’d like to point out that this number is only for Pakistan. The number of terrorists operating in Afghanistan are an altogether different ball game. You may be justified in saying that these guys can so very easily cross over from anywhere in the 1610 Km of the border between Pak and Afghanistan. But friends, that’s not the way these guys work. All these guys have specific areas where they operate from. They only cross over from one territory to another if they’re under pressure from security forces from any one side.
Now, let’s take a general estimate of the number of terrorists operating in the Indian side of Kashmir. There are no official data available here as well. But according to a book written by Mr RK Pruthi ‘Global Terrorism in 21 Century’ (check out this book here and this part of the book here) there may be 4000 odd terrorists in Kashmir. Relevant extracts of the book is given below.
“The Army tends to down play the number of terrorists and has put their estimate at 2000 this low estimate on the part of the army is one way of projecting it’s efficiency with regard to curbing infiltration along the border / LOC. The police force on the other hand put the figure at 5000, trying to play up the looseness of security forces in checking infiltration on the border / LOC. Intelligence agencies provide a cautious and conservative figure of 3000 plus or 4000. According to this author’s interactions with several persons, a figure of 4000 could be a conservative estimate.”
Mind you guys, this book was published in 2002 and at that time the Indian Army had more than half a million troops in J&K to fight these terrorists. If anything, the number of militants in the area has reduced by now but there is hardly any reduction of troops deployed there. Even then the Indian security forces are having a harrowing time trying to control the situation there. Mind you friends, there is no area which is under the control of these terrorists and still India has to employ half a million troops to fight just 4000 terrorists. And please don’t take this impression that Indian Army is an ill trained organization which needs so many troops to fight these terrorists. Anyone who has any idea about the Indian troops would vouch for their fitness and efficiency. It’s actually the kind of war which they are fighting which requires so many troops. I’m sure you guys will agree that in guerrilla warfare even a handful of terrorists can keep hundreds of soldiers occupied because it’s so difficult of find them in jungles and mountains.
The next important thing in this whole context is the actual strength of Pak Army. According to US Library of Congress; Central Intelligence Agency the total number of active military personnel in Pak Army is 6,50,000 as on 12 Feb 09. (You can check this report here. You can also check the strength of the Indian Defence Forces here) Out of these 6,50,000 nearly a 250,000 would be required to man the borders with India and that’s the bare minimum. Mind you guys, if India has half a million troops in Kashmir who can be used to launch a war on Pakistan at a very short notice, Pakistan too has to have a credible number of troops deployed on this side to be able to put up a decent fight. They also need to gain time to readjust their deployment from Pak-Afghan border to Eastern borders and this number of troops are the least required for this purpose. Out of the balance only about 100,00 to 150,000 troops would be available to Pakistan to fight these terrorists, at any one point of time. Also, these troops would need to be rotated on a regular basis after every year or so. And that’s the whole point of this analysis. The number of troops fighting these terrorists are just not enough. Pakistan just doesn’t have enough troops to fight these terrorists. 150,000 troops cannot fight ten thousand terrorists. Period.
Coupled with this is very precarious economic situation of Pakistan wherein they’re on the brink of defaulting on their debts. On top of that the Americans have stopped their aid. How the hell does anyone expect Pakistan to fight this war which was not theirs to begin with? It has been forced upon them, first to fight the Russians and now to fight the terrorists who fought the Russians earlier.
People say that this ceasefire agreement will give an opportunity to Taliban to regroup whereas it is the Pak Army actually which needs a break. They’re the ones who are stretched beyond their limits. When Asif Ali Zardari made this statement recently that Taliban is trying to takeover Pakistan he was actually telling the truth.
And the irony of it all is that we keep blaming the Pak Army of not doing enough. In my opinion even if they do as much as they can it will not be enough. It just won’t be. What’s worse is that they can’t even talk about it. They’ll never admit that they’re unable to fight these terrorists. Can you imagine their HIGH AND MIGHTY CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF saying this in public? He’ll be chopped into pieces by the Corps Commanders of Pak army and he knows it.
Yes, there are elements who are sympathetic to these terrorists within the Army and the ISI. But this may well be on account of compulsions, compromise on front to gain on another, ie India. And they would do anything to hurt India even if it means that they have to pay a very heavy price in the long run. Also, it’s a way of keeping India’s security apparatus at work so that they don’t find enough troops to attack Pakistan. I’ve spoken about it many times already. Check out my previous posts below.
Now, a word about Obama’s plan to send 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. In my opinion he’s sent too few troops and that too to the wrong country. Agreed that NATO troops in Afghanistan are stretched but it’s the Pakistan territory which has to be cleared first if this menace has to be eliminated as the roots of this problem are there. I know that sending troops to Pakistan is not the same thing as sending troops to Afghanistan. The people of Pakistan will never accept this. My question is why bother? Aren’t the Americans already launching missiles and drones inside Pak territory? And there are ways of persuading their govt and that’s what should be done. Once they see positive results coming out of this the public opinion will change, for sure. They’ll realize that it’s for their own good.
Not only this the scope and strength of these troops will have to be increased to at least half a million, if not more. I agree that’s a very huge number to ask for but there are no easy options for America. After all, wasn’t it America who created this monster? Also, it’s a very small price to pay if you consider what these terrorists are capable of doing, both in the long as well as short term.
At the risk of being brazen may I also suggest that they should take the Russians and the Chinese on board. It may take a long time convincing then but it’s worth a try. This menace has assumed global proportions and needs to be handled at a global level with participation from every major power. Otherwise, the Taliban may well outlast you because they have the strength and the will to do so, at the moment. Are you listening Mr Barack Obama?
APROPOS 05 MAY 09 The Pakistani govt now says that this deal is off. Understandably, the Americans have exerted adequate pressure on them and have linked the aid to their success against Taliban. Also, they have seen for themselves that Taliban’s influence in Pakistan is increasing by the day which means that their own position is now in danger. Not too forget that their troops have had a long break now and are ready to be used again in the battle against Taliban. The Americans, on their part, have also given an assurance that there will be no misadventure by India to enable the Pak govt to shift troops from the Indian border towardsthis battle zone. All I can say is ALL THE BEST!!!
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