COTERMOLA analysis: Counter Terrorism Strategies and Plans of Pakistan

Posted by & filed under counterterrorism.

by Mircea OPRIS

“The Most Dangerous Nation In the World Isn’t Iraq. It’s Pakistan” stroke Newsweek magazine on its front cover headline, on October 29, 2007. Somewhere between prophecy and long-term analysis, this statement first reached the public in 2001, after the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks on American ground. An it proved to be correct a decade later.

It took 10 years to prove the world that Pakistan was hiding the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. The debate is acid and strong whether this is true or not and many allegations and scenarios are on the information market today. Fact is that the capturing of bin Laden in Abbotabad, next to the Pakistan Army’s Kakul military academy. A hard hit for the Pakistani state, from government to military and intelligence services. A new question whether Pakistan is playing a double game with the Western powers on one side and with the Islamist terrorists on the other.

Pakistan became the centre of attention for public, OSINT and intelligence communities around the world. “The question of Islamabad’s trustworthiness in the fight against terror takes centre stage…US – Pakistan relations in recent years have been founded  on a kind of bargain – an unstated and unstable bargain…The US administration would turn a partially blind eye to the shelter given by Pakistan to the Afghan Taliban leadership; in return, Pakistan would genuinely cooperate against international terrorist plots…”[1]

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is seen as the main body in fighting terrorism both domestic and international. With an unclear and duplicitous activity, ISI has a strong resonance in the intelligence community. But the main role in fighting terrorism in Pakistan’s model belong to the military, an approach criticised very often by international experts and foreign partner governments. As for the effective in-the-field fight with and against terrorists on both Afghan- Pakistan and Indian – Pakistan borders, is the police that carries most of the tasks. If the backstage maneuvers that compromised Pakistan’s fight against terrorism are mostly attributed to factions of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Army and the police forces paid a painful tribute on the front against terror. Pakistani officials “point out that the sincerity and toughness of the state’s antiterror fight is shown in the fact that more than 3,800 soldiers and policemen – including more than 80 intelligence officers – have died battling militants since 2001”.[2] Police forces are the most exposed to the attacks. The lack of training and experience in countering terrorist actions is only replaced by the personal will and motivation on policemen. In heavy fights, were the army is there, the attacking Pakistani combat teams were often forced to employ even heavier weapons than might have been originally intended, including mortars, antitank recoilless rifles and guided missiles, field artillery, helicopter- and aircraft- fired cannon and unguided rockets, and occasionally even general purpose bombs delivered by tactical aircraft.

But the police force by itself can hardly take control over the situation, from bombing to small scale attacks. “Naseem Hayat fights a war he knows police shouldn’t be asked to fight. With just a handful of officers, the 48-year-old police subinspector spends his days and nights opening car trunks, never knowing whether the next vehicle that pulls up is the one primed to explode… Underpaid, poorly trained and ill-equipped, Pakistan’s police ranks nevertheless have become crucial fighters in the war to rid the country of Taliban militants. As the army drives Taliban fighters from their strongholds in the Swat Valley and surrounding regions, the militants have shifted their attention to Pakistan’s cities, where civilian law enforcement must shoulder the burden for fighting terrorism. “The police in this situation are not trained, equipped or geared to fight insurgency,” said Malik Naveed Khan, inspector general of the North-West Frontier Province police and the conflict zone’s top cop. “It’s a very serious war. You’re fighting the shadows of an invisible army.”… Experts say militants have stepped up attacks on police because they find them far easier targets than the military, which has relied on helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy artillery to push the Taliban out of Swat”. [3]

Pakistan established a clear counter terrorism strategy with the assistance of the United States, in a partnership set up after the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on American soil. The main difficulties come from the fundamentalist political parties and their social bases, from the social and religious background of a mixed, tribal society.

“On June 24, 2003, at a Camp David meeting with his Pakistani guest, President George W. Bush declared that key al- Qaeda terrorists had been successfully neutralized thanks “to the effective border security measures and law enforcement cooperation throughout [Pakistan], and … to the leadership of President Pervez Musharraf.” Although Osama bin Laden was still at large, Bush nevertheless concluded that “the people reporting to him, the chief operators [of al- Qaeda], … people like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, are no longer a threat to the United States or [to] Pakistan, for that matter.” Barely four years later, the Bush administration has been compelled to revise the president’s earlier, more optimistic, assessment. Faced with a dramatic resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and a steady reconstitution of the al- Qaeda network in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan…” [4]

Both Pakistan’s military and police forces received training, know-how and logistical support from the US. This assistance was meant to have troubled Pakistan as an ally in the fight against Talibans and other potential terrorist cells that found shelter, support and safe heaven in remote and rural areas, mostly from population in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). “That the rejuvenation of al- Qaeda and the Taliban is due in large part to their ability to secure a sanctuary in Pakistan has incensed many Americans across the political spectrum. Because Washington has provided Islamabad with almost $10 billion in overt security and economic assistance since 2002 and continues to compensate the Pakistani military for its counterterrorism efforts with roughly $1 billion in annual reimbursements, many U.S. leaders are beginning to wonder whether Pakistan is in fact doing its part in the war on terror. The U.S. Congress, signaling its disenchantment with Islamabad’s counterterrorism effectiveness (and with Musharraf’s recent backsliding on democracy), has sought to condition U.S. aid to Pakistan and has withheld some military assistance funding in an effort to prod more aggressive Pakistani military operations against al- Qaeda and the Taliban.”[5]

In the last years, a growing dissatisfaction in the United States about Pakistani performance in counter – terrorism operations occurred . The blame was put on the assumption of Islamabad’s untruthfulness. Many US politicians considered that Musharraf’s regime, despite being well compensated was willfully neglecting its commitment to root out al- Qaeda and Talibans operating from its territory for a combination of strategic and ideological reasons. “The reality, however, is more complex. Although Pakistani performance in the war on terror has undoubtedly fallen short of what is expected in the United States, Islamabad’s inability to defeat the terrorist groups operating from its soil is rooted in many factors going beyond its admittedly serious motivational deficiencies in regard to combating terrorism.”[6]

The U.S. action of the “global war on terror” compelled General Musharraf to take the difficult decision to join the U.S.-led coalition. This inevitably required Musharraf to confront the sources of terrorism that had developed internally in Pakistan, most of which ironically resulted from his own army’s previous decisions to nurture radical Islamist organizations because of their utility to Islamabad’s military campaigns in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Four different terrorist groupings were implicated in this regard. The first were the domestic sectarian groups like the Sunni Sipah- e- Sahaba and its offshoot the Lashkar- e- Jhangvi and the Shia Tehrik- e- Jafria Pakistan and its offshoot the Sipah- e- Muhammad, which were engaged in violent bouts of bloodletting within the country. Although many of these groups had enjoyed the support of the Pakistani government, the military, and the intelligence services previously, their unexpected growth in power over time had become not only an embarrassment to their sponsors but also a serious challenge to domestic order.

In this regard, Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy has to face inherent contradictions, caught between an inclination to fight militant forces and yet having to partner with some to strengthen its future bargaining position. “The policy flows out of Pakistan’s multiple strategic requirements: its need to remain engaged with the United States, to save itself from the Taliban attacking the Pakistani state, and to fight India’s growing presence in Afghanistan. Caught between these three issues, Islamabad’s counterterrorism policy and objectives continue to lack clarity. At best, the policy illustrates the tension between Islamabad’s need to protect itself against an internal enemy and its sensitivity toward the external threat from India.” [7]

The Afghan Taliban are supported by groups hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas, particularly North and South Waziristan, with the threat of militancy having seeped well into Pakistan’s provinces of Punjab, Sindh, and Baluchistan.

Militant forces have combined their strength to attack the Pakistani state and its citizens, resulting in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians and security forces personnel since 2003. The militants, especially the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), have not desisted from attacking the Pakistani army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi and installations of the military’s primary intelligence organization, the Directorate for Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI). Some TTP groups have links with al Qaeda.

The main problem Pakistan faces in terms of fighting terrorists is that the threats are a misture of internal and external forces from neighbouring Afghanistan. Mainly based on the armed forces actions, Pakistan’s approach has severe flows. Lack of coordination and mistrust between the army and the secret services led to ambiguous situations, all combined with political fights and pressure. “Both the United States and Pakistan appear to lack clarity about how to define the threat they are facing and what are attainable objectives. Although the prospective date of U.S. withdrawal has caused its fair share of controversy, Islamabad’s counterterrorism policy suffers from its own set of problems, beginning with overemphasizing the military approach. On a superficial level, the main issue with Islamabad’s approach to fighting terrorism is that it is almost completely ontrolled by the armed forces. The army has a four-tiered approach: clear, hold, develop, and disintegrate[1]an approach used by the army in its operations in Swat in 2007 and in South Waziristan in October 2009. The army, however, is unwilling to extend that operation into North Waziristan, which has become a bone of contention with the United States. According to Rawalpindi, the military would like to adopt a careful and layered approach to counterterrorism, by which it means it will check and destroy unfriendly forces before attending to other groups. The military is not inclined to cater to U.S. concerns about Taliban groups in North Waziristan, who have formal and informal agreements with the Pakistani army not to attack the state if the army does not attack them. Islamabad does not want to start a battle on all fronts and is willing to talk to militant forces that do not attack Pakistan. Pakistan has its definition of good and bad Taliban, as do all the other stakeholders in the conflict, including the United States.” [8]

The May 1/2, 2011 mission of killing the world’s most wanted terrorist brings into attention Pakistan’s counter terrorism strategy, before and after the killing of Osama bin Laden. In a Top 10 Intelligence Agencies Of World, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the main intelligence agency is considered a very efficient one. ISI was established in 1948 for safeguarding Pakistan’s interest, monitoring opposition politician and sustaining military rule in Pakistan. ISI is considered by many, one of the very well organized intelligence agency in world. Apart from its outstanding structure it is controversial too and once it was termed as state within a state due to its cross-purpose policies. According to national website , ISI is “one of the best and very well organized intelligence agency in the world” and it is to be observed it even has  a presence on nowadays most popular social network, Facebook. Besides this strange public face, ISI’s structure is not a clear one, even for experts and countries that cooperate with Pakistan in this field.

“ISI’s headquarters are located in Islamabad and currently the head of the ISI is called the Director General who has to be a serving Lieutenant General in the Pakistan Army. Under the Director General, three Deputy Director Generals report directly to him and are in charge in three separate fields of the ISI which are Internal wing – dealing with counter-intelligence and political issues inside Pakistan, External wing – handling external issues, and Analysis and Foreign Relations wing. The general staff of the ISI mainly come from paramilitary forces and some specialized units from the Pakistan Army such as the some chosen people from special services group(SSG) .[citation needed] According to some experts the ISI is the largest intelligence agency in the world in terms of number of staff. While the total number has never been made public, experts estimate about 10,000 officers and staff members, which does not include informants and assets.”[9]

The same open and not always reliable source, states ISI has nine departments:    Joint Intelligence X, coordinates all the other departments in the ISI (Intelligence and information gathered from the other departments are sent to JIX which prepares and processes the information and from which prepares reports which are presented); Joint Intelligence Bureau, responsible for gathering political intelligence (It has three subsections, one devoted entirely to operations against India); Joint Counterintelligence Bureau, responsible for surveillance of Pakistani diplomats abroad, along with intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, China, Afghanistan and the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union;     Joint Intelligence North, exclusively responsible for the Jammu and Kashmir region; Joint Intelligence Miscellaneous, responsible for espionage, including offensive intelligence operations, in other countries; Joint Signal Intelligence Bureau, operates intelligence collections along the India-Pakistan border; Joint Intelligence Technical and also two separate explosives and a chemical warfare sections.

The agency has four major functions. It collects information and extracts intelligence from information, mainly critical to Pakistan’s strategic interests. Both overt and covert means are adopted. A second task is classification of intelligence. Data is sifted through, classified as appropriate, and filed with the assistance of the computer network in ISI’s headquarters in Islamabad. A third function is called “aggressive intelligence” – the primary mission of ISI includes aggressive intelligence which comprises espionage, psychological warfare, subversion, sabotage. The last one is counterintelligence, as ISI has a dedicated section which spies against enemy’s intelligence collection.

“The most problematic elements within the Pakistani state, however, are probably the ISID officers in the field who were tasked with managing the liaison relationship with the Taliban over the years. Some simply feel loyalty to their old clients. Others are content to exploit their leadership’s own ambivalence about the Taliban. And some others are prepared to disregard leadership directives that enjoin interdicting the Taliban for either nationalist, ideological, or personal reasons— if they believe they can get away with it. Whatever the cause, the field operatives of the ISID are widely perceived in Afghanistan and in the United States as being less than fully committed to targeting the Taliban leadership in the manner required for the success of counterterrorism operations in the FATA and beyond. At first sight, this is indeed a curious phenomenon because nothing in the organizational structure of the ISID suggests that it is either an autonomous or a rogue entity. The reportedly 10,000-strong ISID is staffed primarily by Pakistani military officers who are assigned to the service on deputation for a fixed period of time, and its leadership reports to the chief of army staff. The pay, promotions, and operations of the directorate are also regulated by military rules and procedures, and by all accounts the Pakistan Army is a professional and bureaucratically efficient organization.” [10]

In the same time, the Pakistani Army has to play a multi-tasking role that eventually exceeds its capabilities. “The Pakistani military is making an effort to clear Swat and South Waziristan of militants and establish control with the intent of denying them to the Taliban. The clear and hold operation is also meant to facilitate the state’s integrating these areas into Pakistan, as they historically have not been part of the state’s legal and political systems. This process needs to be carefully staggered and gradual for two reasons. First, initiating operations on different fronts at the same time could prove dangerous and strain the military’s capabilities. It makes sense to adopt a policy that could be described as ‘‘divide and subdue.’’ But expanding operations to North Waziristan has become even more difficult…” [11]

The intensifying talibanization in the sensitive areas of the North West Frontier Province has had diverse effects, including increased tensions with and between the traditional tribes resulting in both growing intertribal conflicts as well as bolder attacks on the Pakistan Army and paramilitary units in the region. In one dramatic encounter, more than three hundred Frontier Corps infantry men were taken hostage by local militants in August 2007 in South Waziristan.

Taliban cells responded with bloody attacks immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden. They also claim responsibility for the attacks and do not miss the chance to make it public that the Pakistani Army fails in protecting its own nation. “A double Taliban suicide attack that killed 66 paramilitary police recruits represented the deadliest terrorist strike in Pakistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden. It sent a strong signal that militants mean to fight on and to try to avenge the al-Qaida leader. Friday’s attack came as both the Pakistani and Afghan wings of the Taliban have been carrying out attacks to prove they remain a potent force and bolster their profiles in case peace talks prevail in Afghanistan… In claiming responsibility for Friday’s attack in northwest Pakistan, which also wounded about 120 people, the Taliban said it was avenging the May 2 death of bin Laden. It cited anger at Pakistan’s military for failing to stop the unilateral U.S. raid on bin Laden’s hideaway. “The Pakistani army has failed to protect its land,” Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told The Associated Press in a phone call.” [12]

The fact that bin Laden was found in Pakistan brought a new wave of mistrust and international political pressure on the country’s government, and on army, police and ISI, as well. Pakistan must redesign its role as a regional actor in counter terrorism but also, very important, to solve its internal issues and vulnerabilities of its system. The very secret nature of the US Navy SEALs operation shows, once again, that the US and its allies do not rely on the Pakistani intelligence nor its armed forces. While ISI declared itself “embarrassed” by the operation, the Islamabad authorities promise to refine the counter terrorism strategies. “Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the ISI, has said it is embarrassed by its failures on al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. An ISI official told the BBC the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was killed by US forces on Sunday had been raided several years ago. But the compound “was not on our radar” since then, the official said. The government of Pakistan has categorically denied any knowledge of the raid before it took place… White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said there had been concern Pakistani forces would deploy to counter the US Navy Seal team conducting the raid but it had avoided any confrontation. The ISI official said: “We were totally caught by surprise. They were in and out before we could react.” [13]

In the same time, the Pakistani authorities react to the US special operation of killing bin Laden, as a violation of its territory and airspace. Under the pressure of opposition parties and FATA and Taliban threats of new attacks, the Pakistani government steps on a thin line between some control and total chaos in the country. “Speaking in Parliament, the Pakistani Prime Minister hailed bin Laden’s demise as “justice done” but fiercely defended Pakistan’s army and its premier intelligence agency, the ISI, and warned Washington against any further such raids. Gilani derided any suggestions that Pakistan is not fully committed to fighting extremism – a fight that has cost the nation 30,000 civilians and 5,000 security personnel – and put the blame for the bin Laden debacle outside his country. “Pakistan alone cannot be held to account for [the] flawed policies and blunders of others,” he said in one of many thinly veiled anti-U.S. jibes that peppered the speech. “Pakistan is not the birthplace of al-Qaeda. We did not invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan or even to Afghanistan,” he added…The Prime Minister conceded that bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad had exposed an “intelligence failure.” But, he insisted, that failure “is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world.” He claimed that it was the ISI that had furnished crucial intelligence that ultimately led the U.S. to bin Laden and that it had been the ISI that seized 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. “Indeed, the ISI is a national asset,” Gilani said, “and has the full support of the government. We are proud of its considerable achievements in the antiterror campaign.” [14]

The delicate position of the Pakistani authorities may affect not only the international relations but may well disrupt the fragile cooperation in fighting terrorism established between Pakistan and the US and its allies. “Pakistan’s parliament condemned on Saturday the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, warning Pakistan might cut supply lines to U.S. forces in Afghanistan if there were further military incursions. According to one legislator, Pakistan’s intelligence chief told a closed session of MPs he was ready to resign over the bin Laden affair, which has embarrassed the country and led to accusations Pakistani security agents knew where the al Qaeda chief was hiding. There has been criticism of the government and military, partly because bin Laden had apparently remained undetected in Pakistan for years, but also because of the failure to detect or stop the U.S. operation to get him. “Parliament … condemned the unilateral action in Abbottabad which constitutes a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” it said in a resolution issued after security chiefs briefed legislators… Pakistan officially objects to the drone attacks, but U.S. officials have long said they are carried out under an agreement between the countries. The legislators said U.S. “unilateral actions” such as the Abbottabad raid and drone strikes were unacceptable, and the government should consider cutting vital U.S. lines of supply for its forces in Afghanistan unless they stopped.” [15]


The U.S. unilateral operation to track and kill Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan has raised several questions about the sustainability of the U.S.- Pakistan partnership in the fight against global terrorism. After years of denying bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and complaining that Pakistan was unfairly labelled the “epicentre of terrorism,” Pakistani military officials must now accept the reality that the world’s most wanted terrorist was found in their own country. Without a change in perspective from Pakistan’s security establishment on these crucial issues, the relationship would seem to be poised for failure. Simply maintaining the status quo is no longer feasible.

“The large-scale program of U.S. aid to Pakistan represents a major source of leverage for the U.S. The U.S. has provided $20 billion in assistance to Pakistan since 2002, two-thirds of which has been military aid in the form of equipment transfers and cash reimbursements for Pakistani military operations against insurgents along the Afghanistan border. U.S. lawmakers are currently reviewing whether this aid should be suspended, reduced, or cut off altogether in light of suspicions that Pakistani officials may have played a role in protecting bin Laden… American security assistance to Pakistan is legally tied to its counterterrorism efforts. In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certified to Congress under the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 that Pakistan was, among other things, making progress in “preventing al-Qaeda…from operating in” its territory… The U.S. must avoid abrupt action like stopping all aid, which would come at a steep price to U.S. interests in the region. Pakistan could react by cutting off NATO supply lines that run through Pakistan to coalition troops in Afghanistan. It could also expel U.S. intelligence officials from the country, thus denying the U.S. access to valuable information that helps the CIA track terrorists. The U.S. also has a broader interest in maintaining steady relations with Pakistan and encouraging stability in the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million that sits at the crossroads of the Middle East and South and Central Asia. If the U.S. were to cut aid to Pakistan and prevail on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to do the same, the Pakistani economy would teeter on the brink of collapse. The chance of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into terrorist hands, while currently remote, would increase in the context of a deteriorating political and economic situation.” [16]

Beside the political and strategic constraints, Pakistan’s counter terrorism strategy also suffers because of technological, logistical and human intelligence wrong management.

The limitations of Pakistani technical intelligence capabilities in the context of counter – terrorism operations also do not help solving the complex issues of the country. “Pakistan has an impressive array of national intelligence collection capabilities. These systems, which are focused primarily on gathering signals and communications intelligence (SIGINT and COMINT), are largely under ISID control although the actual intercept operations are conducted by inter- services signals units that employ technical personnel drawn from the army’s Corps of Signals, the air force, and the navy. For the most part, however, strategic SIGINT and COMINT collection in Pakistan— the intercept, analysis, and dissemination of electronic signatures and communications waveforms— is disproportionately oriented toward targeting India. Islamabad’s most sophisticated assets, accordingly, focus on the detection, direction finding, surveillance, and intercept of the high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), ultra high frequency (UHF), and satellite bandwidths used by Indian diplomatic and military communications. These resources, together with the tactical SIGINT and COMINT systems possessed at the corps level in the Pakistan Army, make Islamabad certainly capable of monitoring the communication devices used by the Taliban and al- Qaeda, because these in fact most likely resemble those supplied by the ISID to various Kashmiri terrorist groups and recovered over the years by the Indian military.” [17]

Pakistani surveillance systems may continue to be ineffective in the counterterrorism mission for many reasons. If Taliban and al- Qaeda operatives use low- power devices sporadically for tactical communications, the short range and random nature of these transmissions may defeat even a technically competent operator if no surveillance devices are in proximity to the threat. “Further, sophisticated technologies such as frequency hopping, portable encrypted, or digital burst radios, many of which are available commercially, can be used to elude even skilled surveillance especially if the monitoring systems are not available or are not dedicated full- time to the mission. The increased use of the Internet by Taliban and al- Qaeda operatives, including their growing use of encryption software, makes it hard for the ISI to monitor such communications systematically because, in the absence of prior cueing, high- speed computation married to sophisticated search algorithms would be required if the relatively large volume of Internet traffic, even within an otherwise relatively low tele- density state like Pakistan, is to be successfully monitored. It is simply not clear whether Pakistan possesses such capabilities.” [18]

Pakistan’s failure to target the Taliban and especially its leadership since 2001 has, therefore, had several deleterious consequences. To begin with, it has resulted in the creation of a safe haven for various terrorist elements in the FATA, whence the Taliban war against the Karzai regime can be prosecuted and the al- Qaeda leadership protected and regenerated as it plans more catastrophic attacks on the West and on the United States in particular. It has also permitted the Taliban to nurture their indigenous bases of support within southern and Eastern Afghanistan itself, whence they can slowly evolve into a tumorous state within a state. Further, it has bred a cancerous nest of violent extremism inside Pakistan resulting in the rise of new Islamist militant groups, sometimes labeled the Pakistani Taliban, that are either sympathetic to or affiliated with al- Qaeda and committed to waging a holy war against the Pakistani government, the liberal elements in Pakistani politics, as well as other foreign adversaries such as India, Israel, and the United States. The invigoration of these indigenous radical outfits has in the process produced a new generation of foot soldiers available to different extremist entities throughout the country and strengthened the social bases of support for the otherwise marginal Islamist parties in Pakistani politics. These cells became more active as a result of Osama bin Laden’s death.[19]

“Finally, it has added to the already long and intractable list of problems confronting Pakistan as it struggles to transform itself into a moderate and successful Muslim state: in particular, it has condemned the Pakistani leadership, including acknowledged moderate leaders like Musharraf, to prosecute  antiterrorism operations under highly disadvantageous conditions and in an area that by history and tradition has long been lawless, has been bereft of any concentrated state penetration, and that had no regular military presence worth the name until recently, yet is dominated by those very groups that have strong ethnic and increasingly ideological ties to the same terrorist elements sought by the Pakistani state. If the foregoing discussion amplifies how Pakistan’s counterterrorism performance has been structurally compromised by motivational and institutional problems, this is by no means the whole story. An equally important source of inadequacy has been the operational complexity of the counterterrorism operations themselves and Pakistan’s myriad weaknesses in coping with these challenges.”

The death of Osama bin Laden may have disoriented al-Qaeda and deprived Islamic extremists of their most visible leader. But just as a simple measure, Pakistan needs external help in order to define its national and international counter terrorist strategy. In such a complex environment, it may seem to be “mission impossible”. In his testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Stephen Tankel explains how the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)—while unlikely to replace al-Qaeda at the forefront of global jihad even with bin Laden’s death—has the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland and the allied countries in the war against terrorism. Pakistan may play a key role in countering future actions in the Global Salafi Jihadist terrorist actions.

The US made three major policy recommendations. “Deliver a clear message to Pakistan: The United States should continue to signal to Pakistan the severe repercussions that would result if LeT or elements within it were involved in an attack against American interests at home or abroad. Improve intelligence sharing: The United States should push Pakistan to provide intelligence regarding LeT’s international networks and begin taking steps to dismantle LeT’s training apparatus in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Push for a program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate militants: The United States should partner with a third country, possibly Saudi Arabia, to spur Pakistan’s launch of a formal program to reintegrate LeT fighters back into society. Such a program could then be used to deactivate militants from LeT as well as other extremist organizations within Pakistan.” [20]

In the same time, many experts believe that domestic unrest in Pakistan is not comfortable enough for affiliated terrorist cells to hide in the country anymore. This way, the situation in Pakistan needs a quick solution. Meanwhile, Pakistani living abroad become subject for counter terrorism strategies of various countries were they represent significant ethnical minorities. “With a wary eye on Britain’s large Pakistani minority, Prime Minister David Cameron said that Pakistani had serious questions to answer about the bin Laden case.However, he also emphasized the inescapable need for continued cooperation with Pakistan.” [21]

With Pakistani communities in Western and Eastern Europe and North America, there is a high risk that some may be recruited as part of the new Global Salafi Jihad. Various conditions have facilitated Europe’s rise as a “hub” of global jihad, especially the presence of a nucleus of foreign Islamist activists. Inhibiting potential terrorists, especially children and young people from joining such groups must be a concern in Europe and US as well as in Pakistan. “But what kind of interventions can help counter such powerful attitudes that are being shaped so early in life? Combating such deeply ingrained attitudes will be difficult. Yet failing that, there will be a growing stream of terrorists to replace those killed or arrested. Particularly problematic is schooling. The virulent anti-West brand of Islam being taught  in the radical madrassas of Pakistan is a case in point.” [22]


[1] Newsweek (2011), A Faltering Bargain with Pakistan by Anatol Lieven, Newsweek magazine of May 16, 2011, p. 46 – 47

[2] Newsweek (2011), A Faltering Bargain with Pakistan by Anatol Lieven, Newsweek magazine of May 16, 2011, p. 46 – 47

[3] Los Angeles Times (2009), Pakistan police are on the front line against terrorism, LA Times website,,0,6366274.htmlstory , accessed May 12th , 2011

[4] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p.1

[5] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p.1

[6] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p.1

[7] Siddiqa, Ayesha (2011), Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies,

Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Washington Quarterly, p.149 – 162

[8] Siddiqa, Ayesha (2011), Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies,

Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Washington Quarterly, p.149 – 162

[9] Wikipedia (2011), Inter-Services Intelligence, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia website, ,accessed May 13th 2011

[10] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p. 18

[11] Siddiqa, Ayesha (2011), Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies,

Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Washington Quarterly, p.149 – 162

[12] Associated Press (2011), Taliban show resolve to fight on after bin Laden, Associated Press websites, , accessed May 13th, 2011

[13] BBC News (2011) ‟ Bin Laden: Pakistan intelligence agency admits failures “ ,BBC Website,, accessed  May 9th  2011

[14] TIME via Yahoo News (2011), “Pakistan’s Government Defiant in Face of bin Laden Criticism, Yahoo News website, , accessed May 11th, 2011

[15] Reuters (2011), “Pakistan’s parliament warns U.S. over bin Laden raid”, Reuters website,, accessed May 14th, 2011

[16] Reuters (2011), Expert Zone, “After bin Laden: Bringing change to Pakistan’s counterterrorism policies”, Reuters website, , accessed May 14th, 2011

[17] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p. 25

[18] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p. 25

[19] Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, p. 26

[20] Tankel, Stephen (2011), “LeT Unlikely to Take al-Qaeda’s Place”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace publications, CEIP website, , accessed May 13th 2011

[21] Newsweek (2011), A Faltering Bargain with Pakistan by Anatol Lieven, Newsweek magazine of May 16, 2011, p. 46 – 47

[22] Post, Jerrold M. (2007), The Mind of the Terrorist, Palgrave Macmillan; p. 247




Associated Press (2011), Taliban show resolve to fight on after bin Laden, Associated Press websites,


BBC News (2011) ‟ Bin Laden: Pakistan intelligence agency admits failures “ ,BBC Website,

Los Angeles Times (2009), Pakistan police are on the front line against terrorism, LA Times website,,0,6366274.htmlstory

Newsweek (2011), A Faltering Bargain with Pakistan by Anatol Lieven, Newsweek magazine of May 16, 2011

Post, Jerrold M. (2007), The Mind of the Terrorist, Palgrave Macmillan

Reuters (2011), “Pakistan’s parliament warns U.S. over bin Laden raid”, Reuters website,

Reuters (2011), Expert Zone, “After bin Laden: Bringing change to Pakistan’s counterterrorism policies”, Reuters website,

Siddiqa, Ayesha (2011), Pakistan’s Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Washington Quarterly, p.149 – 162

Tankel, Stephen (2011), “LeT Unlikely to Take al-Qaeda’s Place”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace publications

Tellis, Ashley J (2008), Pakistan and the War on Terror, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

TIME via Yahoo News (2011), “Pakistan’s Government Defiant in Face of bin Laden Criticism, Yahoo News website,

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About the author:

Mircea Opris, former investigative journalist, is a counterterrorism analyst for COTERMOLA GRYPHON Think Tank ( and founder of the Eastern European Counterterrorism Initiative   and of the Counterterrorism and Counter Intelligence Romania group.

Mircea Opris is a graduate of the The Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at Saint Andrews University, UK and Permanent Fellow of the World Press Institute at Macalester College, MN, USA. As a counterterrorism analyst, he is founder of the Romanian-based COTERMOLA GRYPHON Think Tank, dealing with counterterrorism, money laundering and organized crime monitoring. Mircea Opris is also founder of the Eastern European Counterterrorism Initiative, an international network of professionals in the field of counterterrorism, focused on Eastern Europe, the Balkans and North Africa. He is member of The International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (













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