Pakistan’s Threat Perception, Drone Strikes, And LOC Attacks

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Context

Without a doubt, Pakistan is entering a precariously delicate stage. On the surface, relations with India and US have stabilized, and Afghan reconciliation is making progress. However, hidden from public and media attention, a dangerous phase may have already commenced.

Two key simultaneous developments have come to light in this regard. One of them is the change in Pakistan’s threat perception: away from external and towards internal threats. The second one being the escalating US drone strikes against those militants Pakistan defines as good Taliban, resulting in the elimination of Mullah Nazir recently.

This leads to two emerging scenarios with both carrying dangerous implications.

Analysis

Firstly, in view of the smoothening Afghan reconciliation, Pakistan may have changed its position on the good Taliban. The reasoning being, some of these factions may become a liability in the future. Secondly, irrespective of the Pakistan’s stance on this matter, US has now decided to go after both the good and bad Taliban that attack coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan.

If the former is true, then Pakistan can expect reprisals from different brands of extremists that are loosely affiliated. The Jan 8th attack on the Indian side of the disputed LOC could be to circumvent and distract attention away from FATA. The anomaly being, it was India that first carried out the strike on January 6th against a Pakistani post. Nonetheless, this prospect poses a bad omen for election-related activities in Pakistan.

In the lateral scenario, the present tension between Pakistan and India fit the construct as well. However, Afghan reconciliation process will be impacted more in this case.

Next few days and weeks will be crucial to see which way the pendulum swings. In PoliTact’s previous projection, we had estimated that events support the argument that US and Pakistan are colluding on a new approach.

Consider this, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had claimed in November 2012 that the military and intelligence ties between US and Pakistan were now fully restored. These were severely damaged in 2011 in the aftermath of the Raymond Davis incident, Operation Geronimo, and Salala tragedy.

PoliTact further believes this restoration was based on certain conditions and red lines that US and Pakistan agreed on. From the Pakistan side, this may have involved agreeing to conduct joint operations. While on the US part, it may have meant more say for Pakistan in conducting the drone strikes.

When it comes to good and bad Taliban, Pakistan has already shown its acquiescence towards a terrorist label for the Haqqani network and thus to pressure them towards negotiations. This change is what created space for Pakistan to get involved in the Afghan reconciliation. US may have also offered capability assistance to Pakistan to go after the bad Taliban, the TTP affiliated groups.

This security cooperation from Pakistan resulted in the American decision to pay $688 million from the Coalition Support Fund.