What To Do About Pakistan?

This morning Bill Roggio is reporting that the Pakistani government has moved paramilitary forces, potentially to oppose Taliban forces should they advance on the capital:

Islamabad officials have moved paramilitary forces to block a potential Taliban advance into the nation’s capital as US officials question Pakistan’s ability to stop the creeping insurgency.

Islamabad’s deputy commissioner and its senior police official said they are taking steps to counter the Taliban encroachment from the Northwest Frontier Province, Geo News reported. The Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force under the command of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, have been deployed to the Margala hills on the northern outskirts of Islamabad. The deputy commissioner said the Taliban will not be able to cross through the Margala hills and into Islamabad.

The move to reinforce Islamabad comes just one day after Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, an Islamist political party, said the Taliban are beginning to move into the districts of Haripur and Mansehra. Haripur directly borders Punjab province and Islamabad, and is close to two sensitive nuclear storage facilities.

Bill’s coverage of the situation in Pakistan has been uniformly good so I recommend you take a look at his several recent posts on the subject.

Meanwhile Pakistani venture capitalist and financier Mansoor Ijaz, in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, proposes a “rescue plan” for Pakistan that has the following components:

  • Redefine the Taliban as the foreign fighters, e.g. Tajik, Uzbek, Chechen, Afghans, etc. takfiris, in Pakistan.
  • Convince specific far-left and far-right Pakistani politicians to jointly “declare all-out war on Taliban mercenaries”, presumably appealing to Pakistani nationalism and thereby creating political cover for the government to oppose the Taliban more vigorously.
  • The U. S. would give the Pakistani government substantial military aid to prosecute the campaign.
  • If the Pakistani military were to direct their attentions against Afghanistan or India, the U. S. would withdraw its support.
  • U. S. civil aid would be increased and specifically dedicated to secular schools to oppose the Islamist schools being financed by the Saudis.

He concludes:

This plan, once set, would then be ratified by Pakistan’s National Security Council and Army corps commanders, and implemented.

If no plan is agreed upon, America walks out and previews its contingency plan for securing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons on the front page of The New York Times.

Frankly, I think it’s too late to implement such a plan, I doubt that we have the acumen or leverage to involve ourselves in Pakistani domestic politics in such a manner, I question whether we should involve ourselves in Pakistani domestic politics even if we had the acumen or leverage, and I see little practical way of preventing whatever military aid we convey to the Pakistani military from falling into the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

However, if the Taliban advances on Islamabad it may confront the Obama Administration with a truly serious dilemma: what is the U. S. willing to do to prevent Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of the Pakistani Taliban and their Al Qaeda guests?

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Michael says:

    I still say we should pressure the Indian military to establish contacts with the Taliban, get them on film having a face to face meeting. Then let some obviously Indian supplied light weapons get “found” in a Taliban stash. If there is one thing that can unite Pakistanis, it’s an Indian threat. Even those who would be sympathetic to the Taliban will turn against them if they think they’re advancing India’s ambitions. The only question is if the Taliban would be stupid enough to play along.

  2. Brett says:

    Reading Bill Rogio’s reporting, it’s . . . worse than I thought. I’m not at all convinced by the claims of the Pakistani government that the rangers being placed on the Marbala Hills will stop a Taliban advance to the doorstep of Islamabad, seeing as how other paramilitary groups under Pakistani control just got smacked around by the Taliban.

    Scary, isn’t it? I was more or less certain that the Taliban would be on the doorstep of Islamabad at some point in Obama’s first term (actually taking Islamabad would be another story), but I thought it probably would take the Taliban at least two years, since presumably the Army would actually put up some resistance to Taliban movement into the nuclear weapons-areas.

  3. Brett says:

    On second thought, maybe I’m wrong. It looks like the Taliban are withdrawing from Buner, for now at least. Maybe they over-extended themselves.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    It looks like the Taliban are withdrawing from Buner

    I think you might want to re-interpret that. The reports that I’m hearing suggest that the Taliban from other areas are withdrawing since they’re no longer needed, leaving the the Taliban local to Buner in place and in control.

  5. markm says:

    what is the U. S. willing to do to prevent Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of the Pakistani Taliban and their Al Qaeda guests?


    “When asked last year about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen didn’t hesitate: “I’m very comfortable that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are secure,” he said flatly.”

    So there’s that.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Let’s put the whole quote from the Time article up for context:

    When asked last year about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen didn’t hesitate: “I’m very comfortable that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are secure,” he said flatly. Asked the same question earlier this month, his answer had changed. “I’m reasonably comfortable,” he said, “that the nuclear weapons are secure.”

  7. markm says:

    Missed that little detail. As you were.

  8. Tlaloc says:

    I’m pretty strongly non-interventionist in general. That said, if it looked like the Taliban was going to take Islamabad I’d support a limited duration mission to do the following:

    1) Strike Taliban forces within Pakistan
    2) Prevent Taliban forces from entering Islamabad while we try to thin out their numbers from the air
    3) Take control of, and dismantle the Pakistan nuclear armaments. Pakistan can have a vote in this as soon as they have an actual government that can control their country. Remove all the critical components from Pakistan, basically take their nuclear program back to the planning stage.

    After that we tell India that if they initiate a nuclear attack on Pakistan we will consider that an act of war (to keep some sense of detente in place between India and Pakistan).

    We can’t really keep Pakistan running, what we can do is buy time to make sure Pakistan’s working nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile tech does not fall into Taliban hands.

  9. Brett says:

    I almost wonder if the Pakistani Army is biding their time, thinking that they’ll get some breathing space when (or if) the Taliban turns towards Afghanistan with the goal of reacting to the US military scale-up. Then again, that seems a little too competent and scheming for them; more likely, they just can’t really do anything about them right now short of a massive, heavy-handed attack into the areas in question.