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Pakistan Could Collapse Within Six Months: US Expert


Pakistan could collapse within six months: US expert | Times of India

Pakistan could collapse within six months in the face of the snowballing insurgency, a top expert on guerrilla warfare has said.

The dire prediction was made by David Kilcullen, a former adviser to top US military commander General David Petraeus.

David Kilcullen is the best known practitioner of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and had advised Gen Petraeus on the counter-insurgency programme in Iraq. Few experts understand the nature of the insurgency in Af-Pak as well and he is now advising Petraeus in Afghanistan.

Petraeus also echoed the same thought when he told a Congressional testimony last week that the insurgency could "take down" Pakistan, which is home to nuclear weapons and al-Qaida.

Kilcullen's comments come as Pakistan witnesses an unprecedented upswing in terror strikes and now some analysts in Pakistan and Washington are putting forward apocalyptic timetables for the country.

"We are running out of time to help Pakistan change its present course toward increasing economic and political instability, and even ultimate failure," said a recent report by a task force of the Atlantic Council that was led by former senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The report, released in February, gave the Pakistani government 6 to 12 months before things went from bad to dangerous.

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, as Pakistanis still consider India enemy number one.

Officially, Islamabad 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 Pakistan 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, the newspaper added.

Some, including 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 Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Richard 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 $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 $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 Another section is not happy but not vocal. About 1 to 2% would say this policy of America should continue."

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