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The silo effect

FOLLOW the trail of crumbs. There are always crumbs. And sometimes they lead somewhere. The boys want to go after the bad guys. Whack them. Pulverise them. Put the fear of God and the boys into them for generations to come. Etc, etc. Let`s go, Greens, let`s go. And, suddenly, lemming-like, everyone is falling into line.

The talks` talk has scattered. Everyone wants to talk war and formations and brigades and operations and intelligence.

But hang on, where is all of this pressure coming from? The boys, of course. Everyone knows that.

Whacked in Mirali, they hit back. Whacked in Bannu, they hit back. Suddenly, the boys are straining at the leash. They want to finish this. The TTP.

The boys want to do what the boys were raised to do. Be the saviour, defend the country, save the day.

New chief, new resolve, clarity like never before. It`s an irresistible storyline, so why question it? Who cares about motives and intentions, as long as the job gets done, right? Not quite. Because much depends on how the job is defined. And, surprise, surprise, no one really wants to talk about what the job is, exactly.

So let`s follow the trail of crumbs. Crumb one. Fazlullah is a bad guy. Worse yet, he`s fallen into the wrong company next door, where terrible things against Pakistan are plotted. Somehow, he finagled his way into the TTP hot seat.

He`s an irreconcilable.

Crumb two. What`s changed? We`ve been doing this for years. They even had a name for it: the prioritisation approach. You whack us, we`ll whack you; you play nice, we`ll look the other way. Also known as good Taliban/bad Taliban. Now repackaged as miscreants and reconcilables.

Crumb three. We know where to find them if we want to find them. And, after years of doing the irregular war thing, we`re still a bit messy at it, but kinda OK too.

Crumb four. There aren`t a whole lot of them. The TTP and sundry other bits and bobs the state might have to fight.

A couple of thousand to several thousand to a couple of tens of thousands, at most. Nothing fundamentally unmanageable even if you accept there`ll be less frontal and more guerrilla/insurgent/ruddy-little-mongrel type of fighting.

Crumb five. Swat is the end state. There is no exit strategy and the best-case scenario ends with a permanent military presence. Good idea/bad idea, who knows. We`ll find out eventually.

Crumb six. Afghanistan. Fill in the blanks.

Those are the crumbs. Add a few, subtract a couple it doesn`t really matter. Because there`s enough in there for both storylines.Story A: army has realised militancy is bad and, at long last, wants to end the domestic security threat.

Story B: army is in a belligerent mood because it isbeing attacked and the public mood is souring, but assets are assets and tamping down the domestic threat now does equal chucking out the Taliban baby with the dirty Pakistani water.

The problem is the boys and their silos.

Three silosmatter:Pakistan,Afghanistan,Kashmir/India.

Maybe two in the present instance: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sitting atop the silos are the two decision-makers: the chief and the DGL They can choose which silo to listen to or which combination of silos to listen to or in which sequence the silos should have their say.

But, and this is the crucial bit, the chief and the DGI are always in charge of which silo is heard in public.

Right now, we`re hearing the Pakistan silo. That`s the group of boys tasked with tracking the internal security threat.

The Pakistan silo knows everything about the domestic threat about the groups, about the flux, about the morphing and chopping and changing, about the aims and ideology and the reconcilability or not.

And the Pakistan silo is clear: get them now or they`ll take you down. Because they are immersed in the threat, studying it, tracking it, mapping it, the Pakistan silo can connect the dots easily enough. And the dots read: do it soon or this won`t end well, for anyone.

So that`s what we`re hearing in public through the usual proxies.

The boys want to go after the bad guys. Whack them.

Pulverise them. Put the fear of God and the boys into them for generations to come. Etc, etc.

Let`s go, Greens, let`s go.

And, suddenly, lemming-like, everyone is falling into line.

Everyone, that is, who believes what they hear and forgets the other silo: Afghanistan.

Over in the Afghanistan silo, it`s a different kind of urgency. It`s 2014. The next phase is in motion and interests have to be protected.

Necessarily, the following rules apply: it`s a zero-sum game others win, Pakistan loses; the interests, and so time horizon, are longish five, 10, 15 years; and unrest inside Pakistan is linked to the international struggle for supremacy in Afghanistan.

Here`s where things break down: the Afghanistan silo sees the internal security threat as subordinate to the greater, regional threat to Pakistan. Simply, the threat at home is always more manageable than the threat that looms on our borders.

And to forget that the Afghanistan silo inside the army is co-equal to the Pakistan silo is to forget everything that makes the boys boys.

Right now, the Pakistan silo has cranked up its megaphone and been given the go-ahead to shout itself hoarse.

But beware the silent types they do their best work in the shadows and without much fuss. Beware the Afghanistan silo. • The writer is a member of staff cyril.a@gmail.com Twitter: @cyalm

Cyril Almeida, "The silo effect," Dawn. 2014-01-26.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Military operations , Security threats , Security policy , Violence , Taliban , Militancy , Fazlullah , Swat , Afghanistan , Kashmir , TTP , DGI , DGL