On “do more” – by Omar Ali

I had a facebook exchange after the news. A senior journalist in Pakistan had complained that we are suffering in the war on terror and the US is asking us to “do more” without realizing how hard things are. This is a common complaint in Pakistan. I am copying my reply here since I think it is relevant:

According to your timeline (if i read it correctly), the US and other powers got a military dictator to raise these maniacs, then things sort of coasted along happily for 12 years, then the US came and said we want them dead now and the current Pakistani govt is trying its best to kill them and its unfair of the US to ask us to “do more”? Is that a correct reading of your line of thought? If so, I think it misses some points.

First of all, the jihadi project was also OUR project from the very beginning. America wanted Russia humbled in Afghanistan. WE wanted that humbling to be done by Islamist jihadis under our control. Second, after the CIA finished its dirty business in Afghanistan and left, WE multiplied the jihadi infrastructure by 10. We redirected it to Kashmir and spread it throughout Pakistan. It is disingenuous to think that was also America’s fault (though they did ignore it because they may have thought it improves their leverage over India). Then, after 9-11, WE (meaning our security services) protected good jihadis and failed to go after the indoctrination or finance pipelines because :we” wanted the infrastructure kept alive for future use against India.

The current government may be “doing more”, but how will “doing less” help in any such plan? And if the army is now on board with stopping this menace (and I think it may be that their leaders indeed are on board by now, thought the rank and file is being fed a diet of anti-Indian and anti-Israeli propaganda to justify this action) then why are army-sponsored PR operators and ex-generals and admirals still writing op-eds as if the jihadis are our heros and America is the enemy? How does that help what you say is now “our” war on terror? I suspect “we” are paying a price because some of “we” are still determined to protect these people. America may be gone from the region in a few years and the jihadi project may have to be restarted. That hedging of bets is contributing to keeping it alive…

Of course, even if the rickety state apparatus does determine to go all out against the jihadis, the process will neither be pretty nor quick. There is no simple way to put the genie back into the bottle. The half million who are already trained (Arif Jamal’s figure in Shadow Wars) will have to be dealt with. Luckily, some have already moved on to other occupations and others have become simple criminals, busy with kidnapping and armed robbery. The more committed ones will have to be disarmed and jailed or killed. But in order to do that the state will have to shut down their financing, crack down on their above-ground supporters and win the battle of ideas in the mind of the public. None of that can succeed if the state’s own paid propagandists are busy spreading confusion and propaganda that undermines the psy-ops effort. It will also not succeed if the army is simultaneously trying to protect assets it hopes to use against India (because the good jihadis also help out the bad jihadis). it will also not succeed if Saudi and Gulf financing is not being intercepted. In short, It will not stop unless the India-centric, zero-sum national security mindset is changed because that mindset leads to these people and their mentors being protected. Some people do think that the primary reason this effort is not being conducted effectively is not because of any real or imagined Indian threat but because the existence of this insurgency is in fact our ticket to more aid and assistance. I personally think this is too conspiracy-minded, but who knows.



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  1. Laila Ebadi