About The Author
Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. She has Expertise in US Policy towards Afghanistan, Terrorism, Indo-US relations, Indo-Afghan Relations.
Dr. Shanthie is also an visiting Fulbright Scholar at South Asia Studies, The Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC (2005-2006). Her Research experience includes Research Associate at Database & Documentation Centre of the Institute for Conflict Management, Guwahati, Assam (2004-05); and Editorial Assistant at the United Service Institution of India, New Delhi, 2001. She has also Participated in International Exchange Programmes like Indo-Canada Youth Exchange Programme (1994-95), and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies Summer Workshop on "Defence Technology and Co-operative Security in South Asia" at Lahore, Pakistan, (February-March 2005). Dr. Shanthie has visited and conducted field studies in the United States, Canada, Pakistan Afghanistan and India’s North East.
Dr. Shanthie has also represented Karnataka & Goa Directorate as the Senior Wing Best Cadet at the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Republic Day Camp (RDC) and the Prime Minister?s Rally, New Delhi from 05 -29 January 1994 and was adjudged the Third Best Cadet (Bronze Medallist) at All India Best Cadet Competition, RDC, 1994, New Delhi. Seventh position in the B.A. Examinations, 1995, School of Social Work, Roshini Nilaya Mangalore University.
After pumping in more than $ 10 billion since 2001, the US has offered another $ 750 million to Pakistan to persuade it to cooperate in the war on terror.
On July 18, 2007, militants set off a roadside bomb as a military convoy passed by, killing 17 Pakistani troops in what appears to be an ongoing battle between the Pakistani Army and the militants around North Waziristan’s main town Miramshah, the most probable location of the Al Qaeda leadership.
Three days earlier, the Taliban in North Waziristan had reportedly abandoned a contentious peace deal, the Miramshah Agreement (MA), that had precluded the Pakistani military from carrying out operations in the restive region for the last 10 months. Peace through the MA, which attempted to buy support of the tribal chiefs and thereby limit the activities of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, however, was at best, tenuous.
The spillover effect of Pakistan’s flirtation with Islam is evident in mainstream cities. Islamabad was the scene of bloody denouement during the protracted eight-day siege of the Lal Masjid last week. Despite Pakistan’ hugely proclaimed role in its support to the US-led global war on terrorism, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) projects that Al Qaeda has regrouped and thrived. Its ability to stage another major attack against the US homeland is construed a serious threat.
Al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas is considered among "key elements" in the regeneration of its "homeland attack ability". Its network in Pakistan is facilitating the outfit’s senior leadership to coordinate with "operational lieutenants" and to train militants for operations in Europe and America.
Military strikes on Al Qaeda hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have not yielded desired results. The peculiarity of the region and gross misunderstanding of the local cultural specifics prevents the US from devising effective counter-terrorism response seems to be lacking. In the post- Operation Enduring Freedom period, this extremely backward, underdeveloped and lawless region served as a sanctuary and an operational base for the fleeing Taliban and Al Qaeda. They dug in to carry out cross-border activities and also to send recruits to other parts of the world.
On the other hand, Pakistan’s strategic reversal in Afghanistan notwithstanding, the presence of these groups presence ensured huge financial and military windfalls for the Musharraf regime. Since 2001, the US has provided around $ 10 billion in military and civilian funding. The Bush Administration intends to offer another $ 785 million to the 2008 budget.
The ‘ungoverned spaces’ like FATA have become ‘breeding grounds’ of militants, radical Islamist groups, narcotic traffickers, organised criminal elements and others. They have emerged as a major component of the ‘arc of regional conflict formation’ encompassing areas from Chechnya to Kashmir.
FATA, running north to south, forms a 1,200-km wedge between Afghanistan and the NWFP, is home to 3.2 million people, predominantly a huge array of Pushtun tribes. No amount of aid could make these fiercely independent people give up the Taliban and Al Qaeda fugitives who have found refuge there.
The Bush Administration, in the face of increasing criticism on its failure to decimate the Taliban and Al Qaeda, has evolved a new counter-terrorism strategy to win the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign by flushing in $750 million of developmental aid over the next five years to FATA. The grand plan, designed as ‘a measure of Washington’s recognition of support for Pakistan’s president, General Musharraf counter terrorism cooperation’, include health and education services, water and sanitation facilities and agricultural development. It aims at integrating FATA into the mainstream and augmenting basic human services with a view to erode the support base for the Al-Qaeda. Identifying increasing support for radical Islam and with underdevelopment and pumping in money without a clear understanding of the local dynamics of the region is surely counterproductive to any American counter-terrorism strategy in the region.
The problem of oversight and distribution of aid in a region plagued by violence, lawlessness and insecurity would only help strengthen the hands of the corrupt local political agents and tribal chiefs who are supporting the very groups the American policy-makers seek to eliminate. Alternatively, if aid were to be distributed through alternate delivery mechanisms through Pakistani firms, consulting organisations and NGOs, it would hardly contribute to the process of institution or state building in the area without which any counter-terrorism strategy cannot work.
The enormous aid that has flowed to Pakistan’s military regime to recruit its cooperation for counter-terrorism has done met with little success till date. Likewise, the huge developmental aid to Pakistan’s tribal areas runs the danger in emboldening the very forces that the US intends to decimate. Without any clear-sighted counter-terrorism strategy, the global superpower and its trusted ally seem to be floundering.
Author: Dr. Shanthie Mariet DSouza- New Delhi