Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 10, 2009

Can we take advantage of our adversary’s arrogance? It would require containing our own, which is never easy

Filed under: International HLS,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on June 10, 2009


Map of Northwest Pakistan, from the BBC

Seven weeks ago Taliban allies in the Swat valley over-reached.  After accepting a deal with the Pakistani government that consolidated their religious and civil authority, they attempted to extend that authority to a neighboring district.

In early May the newspaper DAWN explained, “the Swat militants apparently shot themselves in the foot by going back on their commitment on the peace deal even after their main demand for the Sharia regulation was met, virtually rejecting Pakistan’s constitution and its superior courts, and continuing barbaric killings and other activities to enforce their own brand of Sharia that only caused revulsion at home and abroad.”

Since then the Pakistani military has largely been successful in reasserting central government authority in a region where the government had long seemed  irrelevant.

On June 1 Taliban allies kidnapped nearly 400 students who were being convoyed to Bannu.  The military responded quickly rescuing most.  But the audacity of the attack shocked Pakistani public opinion.

Monday the Pakistani military rolled into Bannu, a district on the eastern edge of North and South Waziristan. This morning the Pakistani military began anti-Taliban operations. From Bannu the supposed hideouts of Osama bin-Laden and others along the Afpak border are comparatively close-at-hand.  Several reports suggest that is where the fight will go next.  Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal provides a great tactical brief.

Last Friday a suicide bomber killed 35 in a Shiite mosque in Haya Gai in Pakistan’s Dir district.  That afternoon local people retaliated against local Taliban leadership.  According to the BBC, “Officials say they have been joined in their fight by residents from two villages and a town. There are now about 2,000 of them fighting 200 surrounded Taliban militants.”  The Pakistani military is sending support. (More from the New York Times.)

Yesterday a truck bomb decimated the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the principal city of Northwest Pakistan with a population of 3 million. It is too soon to be sure of how this will influence public and official attitudes in Pakistan.  But given recent examples, we might expect further stiffening of the spine.

A stiff spine will not be sufficient.  An overly stiff response might even be counter productive. The challenge is significant.  The battle for Buner continues.  Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, is convulsed in violence of its own. The hundreds-of-thousands of internally displaced will create serious new problems  The economic, social, and political character of Pakistan is innately fractious.

At the end of April, Gen. Petraeus was, we are told,  predicting the Pakistani state could be overthrown in two weeks.  Since then Taliban arrogance has motivated unprecedented political and military action.   Many long-time observers (and here) suggest that what has transpired is a real turning point.

For many years the terrorists have tried — and often succeeded — to tempt us into over-reaction. They have used our own strengths against us. Osama bin-Laden has behaved as a master of Ju-no-kata.  He has tried to coach others in the subtle form of converting us into our own worst enemy.  Not every student was attentive and their master is increasingly isolated.

In recent weeks the al Qaeda-Taliban alliance in Pakistan has overestimated its own strength and stumbled badly. We can hope for more stumbles and help Pakistan finish the job. 

But we might also consider the counsel of Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, “We should remember that our bodies should not be stiff, but free, quick and strong. We should be able to move properly in response to our opponent’s unexpected attacks. We should also not forget to make full use of every opportunity during our practice to improve our wisdom and virtue.”


Pakistan vows to fight Taliban ‘until the end’ (AFP)

Gains in Pakistan Fuel Pentagon Optimism for Pursuing Al-Qaeda (Washington Post)

Army, people united against Taliban: Zardari (Daily Times)

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 11, 2009 @ 7:25 am

Is it Taliban arrogance or just their willingness to probe for soft spots? I think the later. I think they are much more skilled as an opponent than our arrogance will admit! And unfortunately more skilled than much of their opposition!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

June 12, 2009 @ 5:29 am

Certainly there is constant probing. But since mid-April the probing has persisted even when the push-back has been severe.

There is, I suppose, the possibility that the al Qaeda/Taliban network is purposefully creating a crisis of internal displacement. That is the kind of indirect and asymmetric strategy in which they have previously excelled. Or… even if this is not their original intention, it is the kind of emerging opportunity they have been adept at exploiting.

But for the moment I am inclined to perceive we are seeing the sort of self-induced vulnerability that can emerge from a franchised, free-agent-based network when the core attractors of meaning begin to break-down. Restoration of the Caliphate is increasingly and widely seen as a thin (and cracking) veneer for thuggery, gross intolerance, and hate. These aspects of the movement were not nearly as much in the foreground of Pakistani public perception even nine months ago.

But even if this is true, it is premature for us to take comfort. The need/want for public support has often been argued as the principal restraint on the very worst tactical measures that might be undertaken. If the core terrorist leadership begins to see their best bet of immortality as dramatic martyrdom, the potential use of WMD probably increases. A kind of amplified von Brunn impulse.

Comment by christopher tingus

June 13, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

Do not underestimate the Taliban, AQ or any other who challenge our way of Life….We must be proactive!

It is we that must be prepared for any challenge. It is we that need to be vigilant. It is we that must demand transparency. It is we that remind our “entrusted” government officials on both sides of the aisle that we expect that all should adhere to the principle by the people and for the people….The self-interest groups have jeopardized our well being.

While the central bankers may print trillions in “fiat” dollars, we must quickly muster our inherent ambition to stand tall and unify against those that seek our demise.

Also, we are forewarned that inflation is lurking not too far in the distance….a very serious concern as the global populace is further impoverished by the lack of earnest commercial business practice and government after government making every effort to subject the people to burdensome taxation when unemployment soon becomes double digit and food lines grow block by block. We have overcome much and we will be victorious as individuals cherish the hopes and dreams of freedom.

God Bless America!

If it were not for the sacrifice of American blood on the soil of many nations, mankind would have little hope.

There is no doubt that those with self-agenda who would impose themselves and jeopardize the best interests of the majority would rule! It is this evil that must be thwarted by those with strength in conviction and the willingness to rid the world of hatred and the lack of respect for neighbor and family.

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Pingback by The asymmetric threat of wretchedness | Homeland Security Watch

June 25, 2009 @ 6:27 am

[…] our adversaries along the Afpak border.  Since mid-April, there has been a substantive change.  Our adversaries over-reached and they are paying the […]

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