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The Great Pashtun Hope

24/06/2009

A week ago Zainuddin Mehsud was going to bring peace to the land. If you define peace as defeating Baitullah Mehsud so that everyone could focus on fighting the infidels in Afghanistan. He was, in other words, a good jihadi in the eyes of the Pakistani government, which (perhaps not surprisingly) distinguishes between people who want to fight inside the country and those preferring to do their killing next door. It seems that Pakistan still believes that it’s better to send a proxy to do the Army’s job.

Protecting that proxy… well, that’s a different story. One common refrain in some of the MSM coverage yesterday is summed up here:

The killing called into question the government’s strategy of exploiting tribal fissures in order to defeat Mr. Mehsud and was apparently intended to serve as a reminder that there were serious consequences for crossing him, analysts said.
‘It tells people, if you side with the government, this is what will happen to you,’ said Talat Masood, a retired general and a military analyst. ‘It says the government can’t give you protection, but the other side can.’

Do people in the FATA really need a reminder?  I mean, isn’t it pretty clear that the neither the Pakistani Army nor the Police have your back?  Joshua Foust made this point yesterday about as well as it could be made.

To me, there are two larger issues here than the fact that you can’t rely on the Pakistani state for protection.

First, I’m bothered by this belief that there is some non-state actor our there that is going to do the state’s job for it. I’m not suggesting that Pakistan should not seek to build and exploit local alliances, though this is probably going to make that even more difficult for them to do. But I am suggesting that the belief that proxies can do this job for them is misguided… and what helped get us here in the first place.

Second, having Zainuddin on side was all well and good in terms of dealing with Baitullah and the TTP. I understand the concept of triage and prioritization in these situations. My concern is that I’m not convinced there was a plan for what comes next. Or for that matter, even an intention for there to be a sustained campaign post-Baitullah.

Color me cynical, but this whole episode smacked of short-term tactical objectives with no plan for long-term, sustained and strategic follow-through.