Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Missing Link

Picture if you will a perfect world – for Islamic militants if you will – where you can attack nasty and “Godless” westerners at will… where they even come for the killing… and you can withdraw to a fellow (and relatively safe) Muslim nation, Pakistan, where you can attack them too, but they literally do very little about it. Add a dose of cash flow. Not only do you get untold hundreds of millions from guilt-ridden Saudis who richness and excess seem to fly in the face of their Spartan and fundamentalist Sunni Wahabi roots, but now you get to “tax” that 50% of Afghanistan that you actually control.

Afghans aren’t exactly pleased with the corrupt Karzai government, and the Taliban are in the best shape they have been since the U.S. ousted them after 9/11. Meanwhile, the West appears to be sinking into an economic morass of its own making. Wow, these are great days to be a Taliban leader!

But the Islamic world is hardly a solid and unified force. Back to history. Shiites (a large minority in Pakistani, but generally, they represent only 15% of the Islamic world) are Muslims who believe that the Qur’an is a mystical book that only the holiest of clerics can interpret for the masses (Iran’s Ayatollah for example); Sunnis (85% of the Muslim world) believe in the literal interpretation of the Qur’an (the more fundament, the more literal) with each Muslim required to read that holy book himself (yeah, I said him).

Taliban are extreme Sunnis, tied into the fundamentalist Wahabi view of the world (effectively: non-Sunnis are not really people), and have supported Al Qaeda since the get-go – the 9/11 bombers all trained in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Generally, Sunnis and Shiites hate each other, although Iran (Shiite) has recently gone out if its way to finance Sunni extremists in the hopes of expanding its regional power.

Back to the Pakistan/Afghanistan region. So we’re busy stacking up the military in Afghanistan, firing very unpopular (and often indiscriminate as to collateral civilian casualties) missiles launched from drones into the neighboring Pakistani Tribal Districts to take out fleeing Taliban/Al Qaeda troops. While Pakistan has paid lip service as our “allies” in the region, the truth is that the local Pakistani masses hate us, hate our drones, think that helping the West is anti-Islamic and hardly in their best interest, and until very recently, and that the Taliban be dealt with as fellow Muslims. No… India, to most Pakistanis, India (primarily a nation of practicing Hindus with a vastly smaller Muslim minority) is their evil empire, holding that primarily Muslim Indian state of Kashmir against the wishes of the local Muslim residents (in the eyes of Muslim Pakistan). Hate India. Hate the West.

Well, Pakistan has nukes… lots of them (estimated 60-70 warheads) and the missiles to deliver them. Their infamous “father of the Islamic bomb,” Dr. A.Q. Khan – who provided both North Korea and Iran with plans as to how to build true nuclear weapons capabilities – has long dreamed of building an Islamic nuclear arsenal to level the playing field with the bullies in the West. And to balance India’s nuclear capabilities. Khan, once placed under a token “house arrest,” is free again.

Our greatest fear? That these nukes wind up in the hands for Muslim fundamentalists bent on destroying Israel and bringing the West, particularly the U.S., to their knees in a fiery set of clandestine nuclear weapons, planted to maximize casualties, placed throughout the Western world. For many militants, not based in any particular country, they laugh at the thought that the West may not have any nation to retaliate against (but if the Taliban win….)… and for others, the thought of dying in a retaliation will instantly carry them to heaven as martyrs. You see, under traditional Muslim beliefs, good folks who die will have to wait until judgment day (an eternity away) to enter heaven; only those who die as martyrs get a direct and instantaneous admission to paradise (with or without the requisite 72 virgins).

Well, dem Taliban are feeling their oats these days. Sporadic attacks (places like Dir and Swat) against the Pakistani establishment, the willingness to live in the Tribal Districts where Pakistani forces have long since given up attempting to govern… well… not enough. It appears as if the Taliban want it all now. The October 15th New York Times: “A wave of attacks against top security installations over the last several days demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups once nurtured by the government are tightening an alliance aimed at bringing down the Pakistani state, government officials and analysts said.”

Al Qaeda and the Taliban have increased the links between them, mounting joint assaults on numerous Pakistani police and military installations with horrific and mounting casualties. The Times: “But the style of the attacks also revealed the closer ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and what are known as jihadi groups, which operate out of southern Punjab, the country’s largest province, analysts said. The cooperation has made the militant threat to Pakistan more potent and insidious than ever, they said.

“The government has tolerated the Punjabi groups, including Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for years, and many Pakistanis consider them allies in just causes, including fighting India, the United States and Shiite Muslims. But they have become entwined with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and have increasingly turned on the state.” Oooops.

We’re still shoveling money at Pakistan to help our cause. On October 15th, “President Obama signed a civilian aid package for Pakistan of $7.5 billion over five years. The package has prompted friction over conditions for the aid — like greater civilian oversight of the military and demands that Pakistan drop support for militant groups — which army officers and politicians considered infringements on Pakistan’s sovereignty.” The Times. Yet, they really need the money. But don’t mistake Pakistan’s counter-attacks against these militant forces as a new era of Pakistani popular support for the U.S. positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. They still think that they can “work it out” with their Muslim brethren, even if they are wrong.

I’m Peter Dekom, and I thought you might like to know.

No comments: