Today in CO-IN

Today marks the beginning of an irregular feature called Today in CO-IN. Each feature we'll examine an event or trend in the Mideast and how Counter-Insurgency theory can help us understand what's going on, and what happens next.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Al Qaeda trying open a new front?

An Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan denies involvement in the killing of Benazir Bhutto, but, they (or -Qeada affiliated groups)clearly are involved in the wave of violence following her death. With Today's latest bombing in Lahore, and similar attacks recently what could Al Qaeda be trying to achieve?

Let's start by taking a look at the environments in which terrorists thrive. In any insurgency (I'm not mincing words here: any insurgency is by nature a terrorist operation) legitimacy is the goal. The organization (in our case Al Qeada or an affiliated group) must be seen by the populace as having a claim to the throne, as it were. Often this is simply by appearing to the populace as being simply "less bad" than the government. Often this done by providing social services, jobs, and perceived security. In contrast to Iraq before very recently, and Afghanistan, this does not seem to be the modus operandi in Pakistan. This could suggest separate leadership from that of Al Qaeda forces in neighboring Afghanistan. At any rate, what does seem to be happening is the simple pointing out of inadequacies of the central government. Such inadequacies might range from failure to provide security, to corruption and involvement or complicity in Bhutto's assassination, whether real or perceived.

However, any Al Qaeda in Pakistan must walk a very fine line in achieving their goal of destabilization. Already there is increasing pressure for Coalition forces in Afghanistan to be at least allowed into Wazirastan, which due to the porous border and lack of central government presence, functions as haven for both taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The other major problem for destabilizing factions is the fact that inescapable fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power, and the West cannot allow such a country to fall to internal or external, but stateless forces. The US, certainly, and likely Britain would be forced to intervene directly. So, what do these facts of life mean for any anti-government forces in Pakistan? Their goal will be to slowly increase attacks, while pointing to complicity in the death of Bhutto on the government's part. More importantly, they must keep this of out of the public eye outside of Pakistan as much as possible, by avoiding high body count bombings, attacks on prominant targets, or directly targeting security forces or the central government itself.

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