Pakistan is winning its risky games

February 21, 2010

There are a tonne of theories as to what motivated Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency to suddenly co-operate in handing over an old ally. Were they making sure he did not make a deal behind their back? Were they buying some influence with the Americans? Or was it a stern warning to the Afghan Taliban to stay in line?

by Erik Randolph

There has been plenty of tub-thumping over this week’s capture of Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, but all it really signifies is that Pakistan holds all the cards in the strategic game being played out across central and southern Asia.

President Barack Obama is well-known for his love of poker. It is a comforting image for the rest of the world: the stony-faced thinker, calculating the odds, in the game for the long haul. But when it comes to the bluff, no one can touch Pakistan’s military establishment. Consider the complexity of the game it is playing.

America’s enemies are based in their country, but they can still wring $7.5bn in aid from Washington. Their population hates the idea of colluding with the Americans, but Pakistan quietly allows US drones, platoons of marines and CIA agents to operate in its territory. It fights its own insurgency with some parts of the Pakistani Taliban while doing deals with its affiliates. Known terrorists are free to hold public rallies in broad daylight calling for attacks on India, and yet India still finds itself pressured into holding a new round of peace talks.

While India spends billions of dollars in development aid and construction projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan bides its time and then demands that India pack its bags and head home as the price of its cooperation with the US. And who can blame it? After all the bloodshed Pakistan has suffered in the past nine years, should it really have to stomach its sworn enemy setting up camp on the western flank?

Meanwhile, the west has one priority – getting out of Afghanistan before it drags all their governments into the gutter. In its obsessive focus on every detail of Operation Moshtarak and the Afghan surge, Mullah Baradar’s arrest looks like a big tactical victory. But for Pakistan it will barely muster a footnote in the much broader narrative.

There are a tonne of theories as to what motivated Pakistan’s shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency to suddenly co-operate in handing over an old ally. Were they making sure he did not make a deal behind their back? Were they buying some influence with the Americans? Or was it a stern warning to the Afghan Taliban to stay in line?

In the end, the truth is unimportant. Baradar was dispensable and he was dispensed with. The Pakistani establishment can sell his arrest to the Americans as a sign they are co-operating, sell it to Mullah Omar and Kabul as a reminder of who’s boss, and it can brush the whole thing under the carpet to its own citizens. Is it a change of strategy, or just a bluff? We are unlikely to ever know for sure.

Compare that with the game being played by the Americans. They, too, know that everything comes down to perceptions. That has been the mantra ever since Stan McChrystal took over as US commander in Afghanistan last summer. But look at the task he faces: selling to voters back home that an end is in sight (while President Hamid Karzai says he needs another 10-15 years to finish the job), selling to civilians in the war zone that they can be protected (despite the inevitable civilian casualties), selling to the Taliban that their butts will be kicked (if only we knew where they were).

Is anyone buying? No. It is not the fault of the troops on the ground, who are now thoroughly versed in the intricacies of counter-insurgency. But playing the game of perceptions is difficult in a country shot through with “ethnic paranoia, national self-doubt and conspiracy theories”.

And if you are trying to play a tense game of high-stakes poker, it is probably best if you don’t show everyone your cards before you start. By telling the world that the troops would start shipping out in mid-2011, that is exactly what Obama did.

It is not his fault, of course. He had to offer a sop to the anti-war contingent. Plus, the US has none of the advantages available to the Pakistanis. They have known all the players in this game for decades. They know how they think, what they are planning, who can be trusted and who needs to be kicked off the table.

At the same time, they are also engaged in a game with India, one which is ultimately far more important to them. If you want a clear statement of the futility of America’s current surge in Afghanistan, take this line from a recent editorial: “The war on the western front will not be solved if Pakistan’s army continues to regard India’s army on the eastern front as the major threat.” If that is true, then the west might as well pack up and go home today.

Sure, there are talks planned between India and Pakistan next week. But you would be hard-pressed to find a single person on this side of the world who thinks any progress whatsoever is going to be made. It has been 63 years since they started arguing and fighting over Kashmir, and so far neither side has shown any interest in budging from its original stance.

Whatever glimmers of hope might have existed when the talks were announced earlier this month evaporated when the explosion ripped through the German Bakery in Pune at the weekend. Now all the Indians want to talk about is terrorism, and Pakistan can stick to the line that it does not the support the jihadists in its midst.

There is huge risk in the games Pakistan plays. It has lost of hundreds of lives to its own Taliban insurgency and its intelligence agencies could easily lose control of a jihadist front in Kashmir that has its own agenda and its own momentum. India has the fortitude to withstand only so much, and another series of terrorist strikes like it experienced in 2007 and 2008 may well prove more than it can stand.

While Pakistan remains in some semblance of control, there is hope that some form of compromised stability might be achieved across the region. But if its handle on the situation slips even slightly, the whole pack of cards could very quickly collapse.



  1. InSha Allah,the initiative will remain with Pakistan.

    • This article is a mean attempt to malign Pakistan and a cheap effort to drag Indians into Afghan hell to do dirty job for the western occupation forces. Now that the great game is decisively turning against the occupation forces in Afghanistan, it is almost unlikely that Indians will be willing (or even in a position) to do any better to the west.

      One really wonders why India has spent a billion of dollars in Afghanistan while its own populace is dying of hunger with more than 75% Indians living below the line of poverty. The previous track record of Indian mischief in Afghanistan for last six decades proves that Indian mission in Afghanistan is to surround Pakistan from two sides and harm Pak-Afghan relation. Indians have been using their influence in Afghanistan to instigate and spread terrorism in Pakistan. In the past, they have been fairly successful to create tensions between the two brotherly Muslims countries. Indians are using their current development work in Afghanistan as a cover to train and send terrorists in Pakistan. Why then Pakistan has no right to kick their heads off Afghanistan. Only fools can expect Pakistanis would rather welcome and facilitate the hostile Indian actions in Afghanistan. Indians would get what they really deserve. It is not called bluff. It rather signifies the end of Indian mischief and reduction of a negative factor that has been a source of instability in the region.

      If the west is facing stiff resistance in Afghanistan, it is really their problem. They did not occupy that country at Pakistani invitation and should not really expects Pakistan to do their fight. Big writing is on the wall for the occupiers. What else can they realistically expect after their unabated and brutal use of military power against Afghan people and inflicting vast destruction in that country. They will have to leave Afghanistan rather soon. Afghans know no limit to their zeal for carrying their fight on and would never surrender to the occupation forces regardless if a timeline for exit is announced or not. Pakistanis have to live with Afghanistan for ever. Afghanistan is our brotherly Islamic country. Pakistan needs not bluffing at all. The fact of the matter is that the people of Pakistan are as much against the foreign forces in Afghanistan as the Afghanis.

      It may be advisable to the west to really try to understand Indian game in the region. Hindus are infamous for using self-inflicted terrorism to blackmail the opponents. The Pune blast is more likely the handicraft of extremist Hindu fanatics. After all, the rouge elements in Indian security establishment have been indulging in such terrorist attacks in the past. Putting the blame on Pakistan without any investigations has been the hallmark on Indian blackmail in the past terrorist events too. The western propaganda machinery, in the usual show of their double speak and instigating tensions in the region for west’s own interest, is spreading those fabricated Indian charges on Pakistan without any proof.

      The west, in fact, has always pressed Pakistan when it comes to dealing with Pak-India disputes. On one hand, they unjustifiably and unfairly declared Kashmiri freedom movement as terrorism while encouraging Indians to pursue their recklessly coercing diplomacy against Pakistan. Despite the fact that Indians are in illegal occupation of J&K in clear violation of UN resolutions, the west always offered a pat on Indian shoulders. In contrast, Pakistan always invited their ire and hostile treatment perhaps due to their shared hatred towards the Muslims and Islam. Pakistani government aside, the majority of Pakistanis is determined to rise and kick Indians out of the occupied J&K. During their continued illegal control of J&K, Indians are diverting the natural flow of Pakistani rivers and stealing water in clear violation of international treaty. Pakistanis can not simply allow India to play havoc with our agriculture. The world community better stop its double game and force Indians to take a dip in sanity. We would rather prefer to take out the enemy that would try to suffocate us.

  2. E.R. is firgetting 4 things:

    – The choice of the Pakistani people
    – India’s larger army which has crossed the unternational border many times.
    – Afghanistan soil being used against Pakistan and the TTP, BLA and BRA’s support coming from RAW.
    – Hindu extremists behind many terrorist strike in India and the secind class treatment of Muslim there (Gujarat, Ayodiya, West-Bengal).

    In the end Erik B is a victim of his own pre-
    exiting ideas and his biased appeoach to the article.

    • @shah

  3. I GIVES ME A BOOOST OF CONFIDENCE AND BIT GRIN ON MY FACE WHEN I HEARD OR I READ THE LINE “Pakistan holds all the cards in the strategic game being played out across central and southern Asia. “COPIED FROM ABOVE



  4. “Pakistan holds all the cards in the strategic game being played out across central and southern Asia. “ – it’s a shame you guys still think it’s a game. Terrorism and supporting Taliban is not a game. Looks like you’ve not learned anything from the last 9 years

    • i think i kicked ur butt last time but ur still back for more han? ok then u asked for it.. here we go… ‘game’ alludes to the geo political arena and whats going on in it. Pakistan is of vital importance to not only this region but the world at large. We are in a position where for the first time in ages, thanks to our Army Chief, we are making the world aware of OUR legitimate strategic needs and concerns vis-a-vis India and Afghanistan. The Chief’s speech in Brussels was a master stroke in just that. He made NATO Generals sit up and take notice that they will NEVER succeed in this theatre of war without Pakistan’s help. We morally support moderate elemants of Taliban, the true freedom fighters/mujahideen who are fighting to oust foreign occupation forces on their land. hey Amusing did you know that according to the United Nations charter, the Talibans strugle in Afghanistan is totally legitimate? how many ppl know that? like i said wt the f do u know and then u come here again and again.. i’ll say in punjabi.. pardon me everyone.. lgda enjj ey k tennu marwaanr da boht showk hegga!!!! u d*** get the hell out.

  5. @ Amused bhagora
    go 2 times of india read bogus news there which they publish for money , say ganpati papaaa n then sleeep like a gay !!!

  6. What stops the Americans to position their aircraft careers off the Karachi coast, and bomb Pakistan back to the stone age unless the pakistani army and the ISI acts decisively against the terror groups that the NATO is trying to eliminate ?

    • Damn u r intelligent mate!!!!!
      it says u posted your comment at 6:22am either u ave just woken up or been up all ni8, in any case y dont you post a comment wid a fresh mind next time lol…. oh n reading the article mi8 help too 😉

    • Because US knows that Pakistanis are aware that , US and/or Israel will be doing so at the behest of Bharat(Quran says:ALL KUFFAR ARE ONE AGAINST ISLAM).Result will be Pakistanis will wage a Jihad agaist India and finish it,once for all.

      Which US and Israel wouldn’t want.
      So it is a balance of terror.

    • Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power and thousands of nuclear capable ballistic and cruise missiles which can hit all of US bases around SA and ME and can ensure a complete destruction of the Zionist state.

      Pakistan’s status as a Major-Non-Nato-Ally which is a stategy to keep a vital country close.

      PN with all their fire power which can
      easily sink an aircraft carrier if they
      choses to from their surface and
      underwater capabilities.

      And fourth: they are much smarter then Indians by not to asking such a dumb question before thinking all these things through.

      • @ shah

        true say this is pakistan not sum has been military power like iraq who did fuck all!!! how many lives have americans lost in their bulshit wars a few thousand? if they attack pakistan only one soldier will survive and Taliban will spare him only so he lives to tell the tale.. like the afghans did with the british….. not to mention how badly our army, navy and airforce will rape them… i would be extremely sad for all the lives that wud be lost if such a thing ocurred but my faith in Allah and his messenger SAW makes me hope the americans are that stupid… then we would teach them one hell of a lesson!

  7. Pakistan is about to RISE by the end of 2010!!! ALL HATERS ARE ABOUT TO GO DOWN!


    Welcome to the Khurasan Empire ! ….Where any Muslim or Non-Muslim can live in TRUE peace forever !

    I like it …My decendants have been busy after all 😀 😀 😀

    Get ready for Emperor.Babur II and even Better !

  9. yeah it looks like Mula baradar is arrested to send a signal to afghan taliban and US that without including us you cannot do talks.


    What is needed today specially from every pakistani individual to get united, sincere to his people of pakistan, be honest, be obedient to his dependants and Best of All

    Follow the Allah’s Quran and his Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) Sunnah. Rest leave to Allah, he will bless us everything in life AND WILL blessed our country with prosperity and success Inshallah.

    Take hand to hand of each pakistani and be united against every danger to Islam and Pakistan.

    Allah will Guide us to success Inshallah.

    Rest What about India, America and Israel, Allah is more than sufficient to Deal with these Kafirs.

    We should not be worry about these Devil Worshipper enemies, if we take guidance from Quran and Follow the life of Our Beloved Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H).

    We just have to follow What Quran said and Our Beloved Prophet Mohammad (P.B.U.H) Said that’s it.

    Allah Will see these Devil worshippers Inshallah.

    Allah -0- Akber

  11. btw…… for the bewkoof’s here who thinks pak is holding the cards….


    Thats the REALITY Mia Mushi admitted himself…
    “The US intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, ‘ Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,”’ Musharraf said. “I think it was a very rude remark.”


  12. I dont know why some of my post get online right away while others are ignored by the site!

    Neel: your question on what stops the Americans from bombing Pakistan to the stone age….

    Well what is keeping India from not doing the same?

    Beacuse Pakistan is a nuclear power who can under the right war environment destroy all of India with their nuclear weapons. All the 1000’s of ballistic and cruise missiles are nuclear

    I have a question for you Neel:

    why did India ship off its rented aircraft career down south when the hostility peaked between our nations? Afraid of PN subs maybe?

    • Are you referring top the Indian Navy’s INS Vikrant in 1971.

      It was bought from the Royal Navy,not acquired BTW.

      The Vikrant saw action in 1971 despite having been due for engine/boiler repairs.

      It was deployed in the Bay of Bengal,since the main action was in East Pakistan,NOT West.

      The only submarine that game after it,PNS Ghazi WAS HIRED FROM USA:


      SO TALK about yourself.

      Its another matter that it ended at the bottom of the sea.

      The INS Vikrant and its aircraft made sure that ONLY ONE SHIP of the Pakistan navy in east Pakistan survived,the PNS RAJSHAHI.

      The ENTIRE PAKISTAN NAVY in the East was destroyed.
      It did that by RUNNING AWAY FROM BATTLE!!!!!!

      BTW even without the Vikrant and the loss of INS Khukri,the Indian Navy devastated the Pakistan navy at Karachi.

      Why do you continue to distort history and only cause harm only to yourselves.

  13. Regards the other points about ballistic missiles.

    India need not use any,because the greatest harm to Pakistanis is caused by the Pakistanis themselves!
    Pakistanis are blessed with army leaders and agencies who are very good at tactical short term plans.
    From Ayub,Zia,Pervez to Kiyani.

    And absolutely useless when it comes to actula strategic and long term planning.

    The pakistani’s strategy is based on these assumptions.

    >the west has to support them because:
    >there is no other in the immediate geographical location
    >How can you risk not supporting Pakistan,and allow some crazy Taliban or extremist to take over Pakistan.
    >No one will allow a nuke state like Pakistan to collapse
    >Yes Pak army and ISI can be double dealing,BUT THEY are far better than the others,ie is the corrupt civilian leaders of Pakistan and the extremists.
    >Pakistan is the gateway to Afghanistan .

    AND so Pakistan can play whatever games it pleases.
    BUT WHAT IS Risks is:
    >The others particularly the USA is no fool.
    >the USA ensures it gets back what it invests in Pakistan.
    >A strategy based on instability and geo -politics harms Pakistani economy and society immensely.The results are all there is to see.
    >There are enough anti-taliban/anti-pashtun factions in Afghanistan to make life hell for all.
    AND most important Pakistan simply does not have the resources to actually fund and bankroll its plans in the long run.Unless it gets a USA or China by its side,it cannot move much.

    BOTH these powers have interests FAR beyond Pakistan.

    • The GREATEST enemy of pakistan is its ARMY and ISI who is able to make every paki believe that they will save them from so called ‘Indian Aggression’…

      India was in such a good position in almost all the wars that it could have annihilated and recaptured whole pakistan but India didnt do it.

      But now why should we destroy pak when it is destroying itself.

      Muslims are killing muslims in Pakistan and they say its a country for muslims and officially a Islamic state. 🙂 since 2003 about 30,000 pakis are killed in WOT.

  14. before we fight any war with india we must ensure the destruction of any second strike capability they they think they may have…. then all we need is for them to do what they keep doing and stab us in the back.. in any war we shud focus on kashmir sector…. if we can break through loc and get to srinagar its game over for india… they can have lahore… karachi hell they can even have peshawar we all know they havent got the balls to hold it… also dipllomatically and legally we will be under no obligation to leave kashmir.. as it is not indian territory it is disputed territory, nor will we be under any pressure frm the civillian population… whereas they will eventually tire out and leave lahore etc.we just have to hold a couple of other key areas eg. pindi, islamabad, gwadar/karachi (either), jhelum etc…

  15. But whatever size they are,they are cowards and while fighting with Pakistan,they beg for support from big powers,and they come to their help to prove the Quranic saying:ALL KUFFAR ARE ONE AGAINST ISLAM.

    Remember USSR jamming our radars in 1970.

    So India only boasts because of help from Israel,America,Britain and Russia.Otherwise,they are pigmies.

    And we believe in Allah-o-Akbar.

  16. I bet this topic too is about INDIA…

    Poor obsessed Indian Bastard slumdogs,,, cant leave any chance to script a movie to fulfill their Bollywood fantasies and continue lying to feed their low self esteem! 😛

    Pak is holding all the right cards indeed. TALIBANS WILL RULE AGAIN and your God Fathers are begging to negotiate with them. continue squealing filthy Indian pigs as you can see the knives sharpening!

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