For Trump, Destroying Pakistani Terror Networks Should Be Priority
State-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan will test Donald Trump’s mettle in the days to come, writes Rajinder Kumar
Pakistan would pose the biggest security and foreign policy challenge for the Trump administration. The Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies consider terrorist groups as their strategic assets at par with nuclear weapons capable ballistic missiles. Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen, and Sunni sectarian groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahiba and Ahle Sunnat-wal-Jammat are the creations of ISI (intelligence wing of Pakistan).
Most of the leaders of Islamist jihadist groups around the world are the alumni of the seminaries in Pakistan and the veterans of the Afghan war which was the joint enterprise of CIA and ISI. Pakistan is the fountainhead of international Islamic terrorism. ISI, since the Afghan war, has been using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, not only against India and Afghanistan but the world at large which also includes the USA.
Pakistan’s Ties With Terrorist Groups
It has extorted billions of dollars from the USA on the pretext of cooperating in countering terrorism. The Kerry-Lugar package is a fine example of Pakistani establishment’s extortionist and ungrateful approach. India had irrefutable reports as to how the ISI had launched a propaganda campaign saying that $4.5 billion grant by the US under this package was aimed at controlling Pakistan’s sovereignty, and US personnel became special targets of Pakistan’s agencies.
The world, including the US, would never be fully secure without cleansing the Pakistani state of its institutional ties with each and every terrorist group. My information indicated that Osama Bin Laden was living under the protection of ISI before being taken out by the US.
Dr Ayaman Zawahiri, the current chief of Al-Qaeda, is hiding somewhere in Pakistan, surely under the watch of Pakistanis, if not under their protection. The Haqqanis and other members of the Quetta Shura of Taliban (a militant organisation comprising leaders of Afghan Taliban) including Hibatullah Akhundzada, the chief of Taliban, are all operating from Pakistan, under the patronage of ISI and targeting the Americans in Afghanistan.
The standard explanation by Pakistan is that they are no longer in the country and are definitely not under its control. At the same time, Pakistan would also claim that they do maintain contact with and have limited capabilities to influence them as a bait for international community to utilise Pakistan’s services.
Targeting India with State-Sponsored Terror Groups
Pakistan has a substantial arsenal of nuclear warheads – including tactical nuclear weapons – ostensibly to deter Indian aggression. Pakistan has successfully created a misconception in the world that the Indian sub-continent happens to be the world’s most volatile nuclear flashpoint due to its territorial dispute over Kashmir with India.
They try to hoodwink the world that the entire international boundary between the two countries, including the Line of Control in the alleged disputed province of Kashmir, was demarcated and authenticated by their army chiefs, and both the parties had agreed to not change the same by use of force.
Pakistan uses state-sponsored terrorist groups to target India and then threatens the world that if India retaliates against these groups located in Pakistan, it would use nuclear weapons. I am very certain that Pakistan would never be able to use them against India, but given the radicalisation of the Pakistan Army, someday some rogue elements are most likely to get hold of the nuclear weapons and use the same against the ‘enemies’ of the ummah which according to Salafist Islamists is mainly the US and its allies.
Dismantling Terror Network
The only way to neutralise this threat is to force the Pakistani army and the ISI to not only completely sever their relations with these groups but also completely dismantle them. Some factions of the terrorist groups operating in lawless tribal areas of Pakistan have already declared their allegiance to the ISIS. After suffering setbacks in Iraq and Syria, it is most likely that Daesh would shift its base to tribal areas of Pakistan from where it could easily launch terror strikes anywhere in the world.
Afghanistan is another challenge for the US as the Taliban supported by ISI are gaining more and more territories. The leadership of Taliban is based in safe sanctuaries provided by Pakistan. Complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan without annihilating Taliban’s leadership would be like a defeat for the entire world community and would amount to surrendering to jihadists. Afghanistan would again become a nerve centre of international Islamic terrorism.
The defeat of Taliban is not possible without the cooperation of Pakistan, which can’t be achieved by incentives, but by clear and visible pressure. It is noteworthy that already some factions of Taliban have shifted their allegiance to ISIS, which after eviction from Iraq and Syria would find it very easy to shift base to the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan and carry out their campaign of international terrorism against the non-Islamic countries.
Turkey on the Path to Radicalisation
Turkey’s role in promoting the ISIS and its terrorist activities is most visible from its connivance in thousands of Muslim youths from the US and Europe crossing to Iraq and Syria to join the ISIS. President Erdogan’s role in facilitation and sustenance of ISIS has been extremely dubious.
ISIS’ creation was a joint project of the Saudis, Bahrain and Turkey to achieve multiple objectives of establishing Sunni regimes in Syria and Iraq and suppress the Kurds who were fighting for independence from Turkey.
In a predominantly Muslim Turkey, people followed a very moderate and flexible version of Islam as most of them belong to hanifi Sunni school which generally disapproves of the Salafist discourse. Belonging to AKP, Erdogan has been responsible in steering Turkey towards conservatism and Islamic radicalism, negating a carefully crafted secular state, totally sanitised from the Islamist influence by Kemal Ataturk Pasha.
Russia has accused Erdogan of allowing the Turkish territory for smuggling of crude oil extracted from wells in Syria and Iraq and his family was one of the beneficiaries. RT ‘propaganda’ TV of Russia, displayed images of hundreds of trucks crossing over to Turkey from ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq. The ISIS was earning hundreds of millions of dollars from this smuggling for use in international terror activities.
One must admit that the fight against ISIS started in right earnest only after Russia’s air raids on ISIS locations and trucks smuggling crude, destroying its main source of funding. For the total annihilation of ISIS, it must be ensured that Turkey stops all its activities in Iraq and Syria and reduces aggression against the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
( The writer is a former Special Director, Intelligence Bureau. This article is the second part of a three-part series. You can read the first part here. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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