Monday, April 6, 2009

Pakistan could collapse within six months: US expert

6 Apr 2009
NEW YORK : Pakistan could collapse within six months in the face of snowballing insurgency, according to a top expert on guerrilla warfare.
Such dire prediction was given by David Kilcullen, a former adviser to top US military commander General David H. Petraeus.
Petraeus also echoed the same thought when he told a Congressional testimony last week that insurgency was one which could "take down" Pakistan, which is home to nuclear arms and al-Qaida.
Kilcullen's comments come as Pakistan is witnessing an unprecedented upswing in terrorists strikes and now some analysts in Pakistan and Washington are putting forward apocalyptic timetables for the country.
In an analysis piece, the New York Times cast doubts about the success of President Barack Obama's strategy offering Pakistan a partnership to defeat insurgency, but the Pakistanis still consider India enemy number one.
Officially, Pakistan's government welcomed Obama's strategy, with its hefty infusions of American money, hailing it as a "positive change", the paper said.
But as the Obama administration tries to bring Pakistanis to its side, large parts of the public, political class and the military have brushed off the plan, rebuffing the idea that the threat from al-Qaida and the Taliban, which Washington calls a common enemy, is so urgent, it added.
Some, including the Pak army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and President Asif Ali Zardari may be coming around but for the military, at least, India remains priority No. 1, as it has for the 61 years of Pakistan's existence, the paper said.
How to shift that focus in time for Pakistan to defeat a fast-expanding Islamic insurgency that threatens to devour the country is the challenge facing Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Richard C Holbrooke, the special envoy to the region, as they arrive in Pakistan for talks later this week, the Times emphasised.
Strengthening Pakistan's weak civilian institutions, updating political parties rooted in feudal loyalties and recasting a military "fixated on yesterday's enemy", and stuck in the traditions of conventional warfare, are generational challenges, the paper said, warning that Pakistan may not have the luxury of the long term to meet them.
Even before the insurgency has been fully engaged, however, many Pakistanis have concluded that reaching an accommodation with the militants is preferable to fighting them. Some, including mid-ranking soldiers, choose to see the militants not as the enemy, but as fellow Muslims who are deserving of greater sympathy than are the American aims, the paper added.
It is problematic whether the backing of Zardari, and the Obama administration's promise of USD 1.5 billion in aid for each of the next five years, can change the mood in the country, former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, who visited Washington last fall to meet some of the people who are now officials in the new administration, was quoted as saying.
Fighting the insurgency is commonly seen in Pakistan as an American cause, not a Pakistani one, he said.
There are questions, too, of whether the Obama's offer of nearly USD 3 billion in counterinsurgency aid can quickly convert the Pakistani military from a force trained to fight India on the plains of Punjab into an outfit that can conquer the mountains of the tribal areas, where the militants operate, the Times said.
"After such a long time of being with the Americans, the country has been through such stress and strain and nothing good has come of it," Sherpao told the paper. "A cross-section of people is dead set against the Americans. Another section is not happy but not vocal. About 1 to 2 per cent would say this policy of America should continue."
The distrust, the Times points out, has been heightened by charges from American officials, including General Petraeus and Holbrooke, that Pakistan's spy agency ISI is still supporting the Islamic militants who pour over the border to fight American troops in Afghanistan.

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