Monday, November 3, 2008

CIA Drones: The Game Is Falling Apart

Ever wonder why American drones attacking Pakistan from Afghanistan are operated by CIA and not the U.S. military? Because the game has reached a dead end. CIA assets and agents inside Pakistani territory, like Baitullah Mehsud, have been beaten by the Pakistani military and are on the retreat, begging for a ceasefire. Seeing its assets vanish, CIA is flying drones to eliminate tribal leaders loyal to Pakistan. Our Foreign Office has admitted for the first time that Pak-American ties are at their worst. The U.S. war against Pakistan has already been launched, without declaration.

By ZAID HAMID, Sunday, 2 November 2008.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The CIA has now declared an aggressive but covert war against Pakistan in a desperate attempt to counter success of Pakistan army and Governor NWFP in countering CIA / RAW backed terrorist groups in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

For the first time, there is panic in Langley, CIA headquarters, over the success of Pakistani strategy in tribal areas. This may seem bizarre but this is the reality of the dirty game being played by the American spy agency. The CIA’s game is falling apart in tribal areas and they are getting more and more ruthless and sinister.

Before we get into the details, let us refresh what we wrote last week. It is all building up and now dots can be easily connected.

We had written:

On the western front, U.S. continues to create security issues for Pakistan. The U.S. strategy is strange to say the least if not downright sinister. Within Afghanistan, U.S. is involved in direct talks and dialogue with most hard core Taliban leaders. But in Pakistani tribal areas, where only the local Pakistan Taliban are based, U.S. wants Pakistan army to wage a full fledged war! The fact of the matter is that local Pakistani Taliban like Baitullah Mehsud or his likes are only fighting the State of Pakistan and NOT the Americans inside Afghanistan. In fact, there is clear evidence to suggest that U.S. and India are actually patronizing and protecting these terrorist assets operating against State of Pakistan. Also, these local Taliban or their allies are no threat to U.S. or its allies anywhere in the world. So, why is U.S. so keen to force Pakistan into a bloody war inside its own tribal areas? The reason is obvious – it is another chapter in CIA’s dirty war to create enough anarchy in Pakistan to justify its case against Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

It would be a tight balancing act for the army and ISI. They know the CIA game plan and have already been bitten seriously by their allies in this secret covert war against the State. Army was forced and then duped to fight a war which was not its own.

U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is NOT Pakistan’s war. The war by CIA’s backed militant assets against the State, army and ISI has been forced upon Pakistan due to U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The way to fight this war is NOT just to push it away from within but also to extinguish it from its source – the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It seems that while Pakistan fights local Taliban it will also have to confront U.S. on this fundamental issue.

For the past seven years, it is Pakistan which was taking the losses in the tribal areas while Indians and CIA, based in Afghanistan, created their own assets and ruthless militias to draw in and fight Pakistan into a protracted war within its own borders. While Pakistan took the losses, Indians and CIA were happy at supporting, funding and pushing more and more funds, explosives and equipment to their assets in the tribal areas. It was around 2005 when Pakistanis realized for the first time that it is being double-crossed by its allies in the name of war on terror and shifted gears to identify the “good Taliban” from the “bad Taliban”. It was quickly established that out of hundreds of small and large groups operating in the tribal areas, they can be safely classified into four categories.

1. Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbadin Hekmatyar. These are all Afghans and none of them have ever declared war against Pakistan despite some very harsh treatment meted out to them by Pakistan under Musharraf era.

2. The local “good Taliban” who were Pakistanis and had sympathies with Afghan Taliban but were not against the State of Pakistan and never wanted to fight the Pakistan army or the State. Peace deals were signed with Nek Muhemmed in south Waziristan, Mullah Nazir in south Waziristan and Haji Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan. CIA immediately eliminated Nek Muhammed to be replaced with one of their own assets Baitullah Mehsud!! That was the time when the CIA game was really exposed to ISI and Pakistani security establishment.

3. The “Bad Taliban”, CIA and RAW assets who were only fighting the State of Pakistan and not the U.S. inside Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Fadlullah and Lal Masjid brigade fell in this category. U.S. has never attacked Baitullah Mehsud even once and is protecting him with all its resources despite repeated requests by Pakistan to take out the most wanted terrorist.

4. Fourth category of militants were local brigands, gangsters, criminals and highway men who were exploiting the local environment and made their own gangs in the name of Taliban but were neither fighting the Americans nor wished to face Pakistan army. They just harassed local population and fought sectarian wars within. Mangal Bagh near Peshawar is one such case to be noted. It was this Mangal Bagh who was presented by our media as someone about to capture Peshawar. Which is funny and naïve.

In the last one year or so, Pakistan has signed multiple peace deals with “Good Taliban”, isolated the bad guys and finally has struck the “Bad Taliban” very hard. This has brought the entire axis of CIA-backed militants under severe pressure from two sides. Loyalist tribes and militants are now also attacking and isolating anti-Pakistan militants and for the first time, the TTP, the so-called ‘Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’, the terrorist setup run by Baitullah Mehsud, is taking most severe beating. Baitullah’s own brother has been killed and their allies in Khar are considering surrender. Local tribes are now up in arms against them and the tide is finally turning in Pakistan’s favor.


I had always subscribed to the good Taliban/Bad Taliban theory, but had disagreed with Zaid Hamid's categorization regarding Baitullah Mehsud as one of the bad Taliban. My reasoning was that Baitullah Mehsud was a direct successor of Nek Muhammad and later Abdullah Mehsud, both of whom were only fighting Nato in Afghanistan and not the Pakistani state (Peace Deals), and were assassinated by US inside Pakistan territory using drones. Why would the followers of his predecessors join him and accept Baitullah as their leader if he was any different?

However, several questions have arisen since then. As Zaid Hamid states, Baitullah Mehsud is indeed fighting the Pakistani state currently rather than in Afghanistan. His strongholds in Souh Waziristan have never been attacked by US drones, but rather his rival Mullah Nazir's are regularly attacked in North Waziristan who is fighting Nato and not the Pakistani state. The most recent attack on him was jut two days ago in which he is reported severely wounded. Conversely, Mullah Nazir is an ally of Pakistan Army, and no operations are carried out against him but against Baitullah Mehsud's positions around FATA.

It certainly appears Nato/CIA's foes within Taliban are friends of Pakistan. Nato/CIA are killing our Taliban friends with drones, and we're fighting their Taliban friends through military operations.

The theory of CIA running drone operations instead of Centcom makes sense too. It wasn't too long ago that the Head of Centcom visited Pakistan and pledged no further incursions into Pakistan territory (after the household massacre by US special forces in Angoor Adda - also Mullah Nazir territory), and there was a drone attack the very next day killing dozens in the same territory.

The theory of involvement of RAW and Mossad though doesn't make sense. RAW is not known to have the capacity to undertake operations of this magnitude in Pakistan - just a few Kashmir Singh style bombings, while Israel was being befriended by Musharraf who was on the verge of accepting Israel at one point. Israel would have no incentive in upsetting the applecart with such games in Pakistan's Tribal Areas. Their main concern is Iran, not Pakistan which is no threat to it.

As far as India is concerned, it's foreign policy is a scavenger policy i.e. they expect their neo-con and zionist friends to beat up Pakistan, and scavenge upon what remains. Only CIA has something to gain from destabilizing Pakistan i.e. to denuclearize and undermine its army.

Therefore, I regard this part of Zaid Hamid's analysis as exaggeration, and a progression of his thesis re Hindu Zionism and Jew Zionism.


Zeemax said...

Brig Simon and Pavocavlry are particularly invited to comment.

Anonymous said...

it certainly does seem that NATO and Pakistan disagree on the issue of Mullah Nazir. An interesting article!

islamabadobserver said...

Zahid Hamid is the last person i would agree with, although his analysis in this article is correct to certain extent but as always he has to give it 'tadka' of Zionism. Otherwise his project 'Khilafat' might not work.

1. Pro Pakistan tribal chiefs were eliminated long time back when CIA got permission from Musharraff to operate in Tribal areas.

2. The theory of 'good' and 'bad' talibans is a reality. Although Baitullah Mehsud came from Guantanamo bay and started recruiting fighters, neither ISI nor CIA acted against him these rimes, his arms, communications and funds are driven from Kabul, both CIA and RAW are supporting him.

3. As far the theory of 'falling apart is concerned', I wont agree with it, Pakistan Army has damaged CIA backed Taliban to certain extent and bought most of the tribes. But seeing it as a success is incorrect.

4. Looking at the history of Tribal belt, we can see that they have always sold their loyalities and can sell any thing for money. Dangerous thing is that Pakistan has to depend on war-lords who can sell their loyalities.

5. The myth that Tribal people are brave or something like exceptional fighters is also incorrect as, they have an advantage of 'battle ground' but we can see that since British rule, a single 'political agent' is enough to control the entire herd of tribal chiefs with very little funds. So today they are selling themselves to Pakistan Army and tomorrow they can go in to hands of someone else.

6. Unless Pakistani forces have complete control over area and not dependent on war lords, it can hardly said to be an achievement. Furthermore, CIA plan is exectly the same: 'to push the entire region in to hands of war lords' and accept a 'controlled war-lordism' as per statement of US general.

7. Indian always had reservations over Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. Her foreign policy was to a certain extent hijacked when USA lift sanctions after nuclear tests. Indians are dreaming of having influence over Afghan region for strategic purposes and actively involved in backing 'Baitullah'.

8. CIA is also playing double game with India, the recent statement by Indians to deploy 150,000 troops in Afghanistan reflects that CIA wants to drag India in to Afghanistan. Taliban as yet have not attacked India but once Indian troops started operating, it will become a battle ground which will destablise entire region.....why? Every economist suggests that next area of growth and investment is going to be Asia.

8. Israel has no interest in the game so far as doing so would mean helping Iran indirectly which also wish to have some influence in Afgahanistan and said to be involved in the game to certain extent.

Botomline is that entire CIA plan for Afghanistan, FATA and Baluchistan is to put the region under warlords who sell their loyalties to highest bidder and a weak puppet government in Kabul, which can help USA to secure energy route, curtail China, have control over Pakistani nukes and at the same time push entire region in to instability which will ultimately damage Chinese interests.

Majumdar said...

Zee sahib,

I will leave some comments (for whatever they are worth) tomorrow. A great write-up though.

Just one small word for now. Basically, India's interests are in keeping the status quo in the sub-continent. India will certainly like to see Pak denuclearised and "managed" but not destablised.


Zeemax said...


I agree India's interests are in keeping Pakistan's territorial status-quo intact, but it is also in India's interests to remove all irritants in becoming a regional hegemonic power. If Pakistan was to be denuclearized and its army undermined by CIA, India would have a lot to gain.

Awaiting your comments. In the meantime, what do you think about Observer's comment at No. 8 re deployment of 150,000 Indian troops in Afghanistan?


Majumdar said...

Zee sahib,

India's interests to remove all irritants in becoming a regional hegemonic power.

Well, to tell you the truth "Indian hegemony" won't amount to much apart from the fact that Pakistan will have to suffer some loss of face. Paks are ghairatmand folks so they will be upset, but in practical terms it wont amount to much. India has enuff troubles of its own to be doing much damage to its neighbours. If at all anything this will just cool down temperatures, increase regional trade and maybe even result in some sort of "azaadi" to Kashmir in maybe another 3-4 years time.

If Pakistan was to be denuclearized and its army undermined

India will welcome denuclearisation but will probably not like to see the Pak army undermined. In a way Pak Army does act as a buffer against the mayhem in A'stan.

deployment of 150,000 Indian troops in Afghanistan

No, I dont think that is going to happen. Indians have bad memories of what happened in Jaffna in 1987. If they dont intervene in SL, much less in A'stan.

Besides, dont forget, the Hindoo is basically a coward.

The other point I was hoping to make but cant seem to convince you is that there is no such thing as a good Taliban. Religious militancy will get Pakistan nowhere, at least not the Pakistan that Jinnah sahib had dreamt of. And as history is proof, any state which has given up monopoly of violence has eventually paid a heavy price for it. Whatever (dubious) benefits that supporting Talib types (which wud include their Indian counterparts like Bajrang Dal as well) has, will more than offset by the costs.