Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pakistan, NOIA, and a rebel data centre

This NYT story is an example, I think, of the way one's mental models control one's perception. The report deals with a proposed U.S. policy of providing the Frontier Corps, the paramilitary police of the North-West Frontier Province, with aid directly rather than via the Pakistani military. This is one thing. It is not an obviously stupid policy, nor is it unproblematic; but this isn't the point.

I come away from the article unsure whether the constant references to "tribes" and activities in Iraq mean that the writer is analogising the Corps to the tribal militias the US Army has been recruiting in Iraq, or whether there is a further policy of recruiting such forces in Pakistan. If the first, it's a silly analogy - the Frontier Corps is a part of the Pakistani federal government, not a group of ex-insurgents in a tactical alliance with an occupying army. And he's clearly bought into the superduper surge narrative. If the second, it's extremely worrying.

Trying to create local countergangs in Pakistan would have a serious downside; what or who would they be fighting for? Better be clear it's Pakistan, and a version of it that is tolerable both to the wider world and (more importantly) to the majority of Pakistanis outside the NWFP. And who can say, at the moment, what Pakistan is? At least the Corps will fight for whoever runs the Pakistani government, but who knows what US-empowered ex-Taliban (the closest analogy to the various ex-insurgent groups in Iraq) would do with their new weapons?

Similarly, the tactical peace with the NOIA (New-Old Iraqi Army) has been one way to reduce violence in Iraq, at the price of creating new forces that don't answer to the Iraqi government or for that matter anyone else. And the NOIA are precisely who these "Concerned Citizens" are; all accounts of 'em seem to mention the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigade, always my favourite NOIA outfit. My own analysis, by the way, is that having stepped their operational tempo right up in the spring in response to the abandonment of the Baker-Hamilton commission's proposals (which they were probably consulted on via Tariq al-Hashemi), they've now made an operational choice to crank it down and cooperate in order to buy US concessions - specifically acceptance of their control on the ground and arms, in return for dead Saudi jihadis.

(Anyone else notice that the insurgency has better data management than HMRC? Five terabytes - or should that be TERRORBYTES? - of detailed records on all their foreign recruits. That must surely be a unit error, but 0.5GB would still be plenty. However, it does look like their encryption wasn't strong enough - but then nothing ever is if the enemy has physical access and infinite leisure.)

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