General Musharraf, Taliban and the Strategic Depth Doctrine

General Musharraf and Taliban

After President Asif Ali Zardari said on CBS News that “Pakistani forces are fighting the Taliban for the survival of Pakistan”, General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf kind of “gilded the lily” by stating in Islamabad that “support for the Taliban and Al Qaeda is increasing in Pakistan”. President Zardari conceded that the Taliban were “present on huge amounts of land” in Pakistan because of the past “policy of denial”. As a result, he said, “Our forces weren’t increased. We have weaknesses and they are taking advantage of those weaknesses”.

It is easy to say that the support for the Taliban has increased in Pakistan and presume that people will not connect it with the policies followed by Mr Musharraf when he was the sole operator of Pakistan’s military strategy. The Taliban are difficult to fight today because of the strategic choices made by him after 9/11. Far from preparing the Pakistan army to face up to the possible new challenges arising from the volte face performed by him in the doctrine of “strategic depth”, he allowed the Taliban to roam free in the Tribal Areas and establish outreach in the rest of the country through their madrassa networks. Most writers on the conflict in Afghanistan have come to the conclusion that he allowed “deniable” sanctuaries inside Pakistan after 2001 and then let the jihadis — originally meant for Kashmir — join up with the affiliates of Al Qaeda.

Support to the Taliban increased only after they were able to establish their power in parts of Pakistan then still being ruled by General Musharraf. After the warlords had made their appearance in Waziristan, he was unable to cope with them. In fact it was on his watch that a large number of military personnel were taken prisoner by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. It is only after the new chief of the army staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Kayani adopted a new strategy after taking over from General Musharraf that the people stopped despairing about ever facing up to the challenge of terrorism. (Daily Times)