The Futile Pursuit Of Al Qaeda Leadership

By D. Asghar

9 years and the speculations are still ripe about the whereabouts of OBL and his aides. The recent statement of the unnamed “NATO Official” puts his presence in the area between Afghan and Pakistani border, close to Kurram Valley. As if this was a big surprise?

Of course any body with a pea of a brain can decipher that a man supposedly suffering from “kidney ailment” cannot possibly hide in the “caves.” The denial by the Pakistani government was rather swift as usual and the Interior Minister, Mr. Malik categorically put the burden on the NATO Officials to provide credible evidence. Now Mr. Malik may be an Interior Minister, but not a wise one though. In the past as well, we have seen the usual denials on other allegations as the first reaction and when proof was provided, we have seen the spin immediately emanating from the spokes holes. Secondly, to exactly pin point where certain people may be present is a reference, which is subject to change at any given moment.

There is a large number of Muslims and especially Pakistanis who believe that Mr. OBL is the proverbial Messiah, the great Mujahid who has given the Allied forces run for their money. The sign of unmatched courage, resilience and valor. Then there is the usual “conspiracy theorists” who think that OBL and his associates are all CIA operatives and working on behalf of CIA and the GWOT is all an act. They make their passionate case of how the Americans and OBL and his Mujahids were all in cahoots, when the Soviets were the common enemies.

To all the those who some how put their emotions on high pedestal and make quite illogical arguments, I always provide a simple logic to clarify. The American Policy is based on its self interest and subject to change, based on the circumstances. Simply speaking, a domestic pet is harmless and very useful when it protects you and your house, but the moment it starts to attack you or your loved ones, all bets are off the table. You will make every effort to put that pet to sleep. Hence the change of heart of US towards its former allies, subsequent to 09/11 is logical and understandable.

Even in Pakistan, things on the political scene change according to circumstances. We all remember the East Pakistanis as our brothers and when the same brothers were killing us or vice versa, we no longer had the same affiliation and affection for them. Without going into the details of this dark chapter of our history, my point is that we cannot solely blame the Americans for doing an overnight U turn without a valid reason.

There is no denying that US Policy of leaving Afghanistan high and dry at the retreat of Soviets was short sighted and wrong. The world saw its repercussions and the ill conceived wars of Bush Administration brought more havoc rather than minimizing it. The world we live in today is quite different from what it was a decade ago.

The common belief that such high value targets such as OBL and his deputies cannot just hide without proper protection by intelligence agencies on both sides of the Af Pak border, holds a lot of weight. The troublesome or perplexing part of this whole episode is that, 9 years and no trace, is this an abject failure of the intelligence community? Or is there a valid shadow of doubt looming over some elements who may be shielding these leaders.

On the other hand, the brutes and barbarians in the Pakistani backyard are glorifying these leaders and unleashing countless attacks on common Pakistani folks. All this to demonstrate their displeasure of the American presence in the region. People who buy into all of this are strongly cautioned that even if the Americans were to pack their bags from the region, this murder and mayhem will not see any respite.

Although unlikely, but even if the high value targets are caught or killed by the Allied forces, this genie will not go back into the bottle, so to speak. The only way out of the mess, is to create, cultivate and nurture a culture that derides and condemns the violence to its fullest extent. Simply speaking, if a product has no potential buyers, it is destined to fail and will be off the market rather quickly.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Futile Pursuit Of Al Qaeda Leadership

  1. Feroz Khan

    @ D. Asghar

    It is not a question of self-interest, which is fueling this war. This war, and the hunt for its leadership, is more than a simple rationale of interest and it goes into areas of nation-building, social engineering, the issues of asysmeterical warrfare against traditional warfare and the gullibility of politicans to fight a war without an aim or a purpose let alone understand its implications.

    It is the failure of the imagination to realize that the demarcations between comparative domestic policy issues and international relations conflict theory, based on the ideals of realism of the Westphalian states, is blurring into a clash of asysmetrical warfare and the present armies; their force structures, their combat doctrines and their war philosophies, is ill matched to the needs of the hour.

    This is not a war between states and traditional armies, but a war of ideas without clearly established front lines or a well defined purpose. We are living in age, when the very nature of war is changing, but the practioners of war have not realized this change. Every military academy in the world teaches its students how to fight the last war lost and it never teaches them how to fight future wars.

    The military mind, conditioned to the doctrine of elan, like a newly converted zealot, believes in the triumph of the “final push” and use of “overwhelming fire power” as the solution to all military problems. This present war, popularly tagged as the “war on terror” by the popular media or simply known as “the long war” in Pentagon, is a political war and like all wars fought since the days when armies of ancient Mesopotamia marched out of their mud walled citadels, it will end in a political settlement.

    Chasing the phantoms of the enemy leadership is a justification to explain the nature, the duration and the costs of this war, both in human and financal resources, when reasons for its conduct are becoming more and more opaque.

    This war is being fought on the frontiers of a world in transition from the idea of states as the ultimate wielders of political sovereign power to the role of the non-state actor as the new political fulcrum of the articulation of political power in a sovereign state. There is a need to see past the popular nomenclature of this war in order to understand it.

    The reality of this war, which has escaped the awareness of most and still needs to be accepted, is that we are living in a world; within international relations theory, where the importance of the nation state has declined in terms of a realist theory and given the asysmetrical nature of this war, modern armies geared to fight in a traditional sense, are proving themselves as useless creatures of a past, without any future utility.

    In order to fight such a war, as practiced by non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda and OBL, it has to be fought asysmeterically. Therein, lies the rub. The conventions of international relations and diplomacy, still hold the state as the primary actor in the international affairs and it still hold the notions of state sovereignity as inviolate.

    The reality of the battle field is that the non-state actors have whittled this idea into an abstraction and since they belong to no particular state, but use the territory of a particular state to wage their war aims, the military response has to be asysmeterical.

    The reflections of this realism is witnessed in the increased use of drone technology and drone attacks within Pakistan by the United States. The role of the non-state actors has ruined the idea of nation state as discrete identities and unless, the international diplomacy and its canons change to reflect this emerging reality, we will continue to see a conduct of war marred by contradictions and conflicting viewpoints.

    Pakistan is correct, when considering the notions of a Westphalian state model based on the idea of national sovereignity, when it protests drone attacks on its soil. However, so is the United States. United States, still barred by the old Westphalian state model, cannot attack Pakistan, and invade it, but it can exploit the grey areas between that exist between the old world diplomacy and the new realities of international relations and as long as the international law is silent on the issue of state rights versus military requirements to fight asysmetrical warfare, the drone attacks will continue and Pakistan will continue to protest and each side will ignore the other.

    Like Marius standing on the barricades, in the Les Miserables and watching the dawn of a new day break, we are living in a world that is changing and the events, which surround us are the heralds of our new world.🙂

    The “who”, “how”, “where”, “what”, and “when” is all a screen to hide the “why”.

    ciao

  2. D. Asghar

    @ Feroz Bhai, thank you so much for your contribution as usual. It is always a pleasure to read your take on my scribbles. BTW, I traded e mails with a very senior columnist of the largest English Daily of Pakistan and he shared the same belief that OBL and his aides are all symbolic in nature. Whether they are alive or dead, is no longer an issue. The conflict is no longer about the individuals. This is truly a war of ideas, no wonder why after all the exhaustive efforts it seems like we are running around in circles. This is the reason why my last paragraph eludes to what is needed, in order to, if not eradicate but at least minimize its disastrous jolt. It will of course require time, energy, perseverance and immense resolve.

  3. “This is truly a war of ideas, no wonder why after all the exhaustive efforts it seems like we are running around in circles.”

    Actually it is not just a “war of Ideas” between Liberals and Extremists – a “no contest” in my opinion. Liberals cant do much actually .

    As Arundhati Roy says its also a war between Al-Qaeda and Al-Fayda…….”Fayda” means “profit”!

    We need to REJECT both for true human liberation!

    An example of how Al-Fayda encouraging Al-Qaeda then fighting it:

    Johann Hari writes:

    “”Chomsky points out that an analysis of official data for the government-supported RAND corporation found that the invasion of Iraq caused a “seven-fold increase in jihadism.” If you really hate jihadism, you have to figure out what reduces it, rather than engage in bluster.””

  4. D. Asghar

    My apologies for the typo in the first sentence, it should be read as:

    9 years and the speculations are still “rife” about the whereabouts of OBL and his aides.

    The darn spell checker called it ripe as opposed to “rife.” Of course I will blame it on the poor spell checker of my BlackBerry Curve as usual.🙂

  5. Parvez

    Asghar,
    You are correct in asserting that the Westphalian model of states is dead and also the associated individual rights allowed by such states. The replacement model of globalization is not clear about local governance. It has made tax collection very difficult. So public services of law enforcement, delivery of justice, and utilities are hardly even at bare minimum.
    This is applicable to all states and you see budget deficits everywhere. This situation would destroy liberal democratic model in near future.

  6. D. Asghar

    @Pundit Bhai, I am a strong believer of “Non Violence.” Call me whatever, but I believe social and societal changes stem from overhaul of the minds. The mind needs to see hope. In our cases (Sub Continent to be more specific), people see a lot of glaring disparity between the rich and poor and rights and responsibilities . This is what I consider the major propellers for the violence. Now the people who want to exploit these shortcomings tend to use religious shields as at least in case of general Muslim population, religion and its “hyper sensitivity” blinds us from rational thinking. In another scribble of mine, I had pointed out that the strategy used by TTP’s and their likes is brilliant. It is sort of captivating the “hooked audience.”

    Parvez Bhai, The comment that you are referring to, should be attributed to a major luminary of PTH, Feroz Bhai. I agree with him and value his take on my scribbles a lot.

  7. Taha Rizvi

    “Forgiving the Terrorists or not, is God’s prerogative
    but to fix their appointment with God is our responsibility “- Pak army

  8. D. Asghar

    @ Taha Bhai, could not agree more with you on your statement. I think Ameer Kayani the Grand Marshall should be e mailed so he can post it on the wall. He must have the Corps Commanders and other Khakhis write this at least 100 times and then chant it aloud so it gells forever.🙂

  9. What is equally ironic and alarming about the pursuit of OBL is that after the Bush regime demonized him, he became a great symbol for jihadis of resistance against the Satanic corruption of the West .

    Given his kidney problems, he may
    very well have passed to his ancestors, but one of the primary priciples of OBL’s managers and strategic planners is to target weak states which can then be exploited and taken over – or at least used as a base for further regional agitation, e.g., in Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, and Aden.

    Whether Pakistan is such a state depends not so much on the diabolic intrigues of either America or Al Qaeda as it does upon the rate of meltdown of the civil authorities and the institutions of the Judiciary, Civil Service, Education, Police, the Executive offices and the Military, besieged as they are by a tradition of pervasive corruption and general sifarish..

    So far, only the military are showing anything above a C- rating in resisting meltdown. The economy and inflation rate is a good measure of
    how much time you may have left to take some corrective steps before it is decidedly too late.

    I would give the same advice to America, my own home country. There again, it may just be too late,
    given the extent of corruption in congress, profiteering in the banking and financial sector,
    and the decline of any kind of civility in the
    political arena.

    In England where I have lived for some years, we may just have a chance for any kind of a meaningful democracy to survive. By consulting
    your TVs you can see what is happening in France, Greece, etc. Overblown bureaucracies, overpaid
    bankers and financiers, pensions which cannot
    be guaranteed any longer ( New York and Californiaas well). It is not just Pakistan’s problem, is it.