James Forsyth James Forsyth

Pakistan, the sum of all fears

My old friend Carlos Lozada has an interesting interview with David Kilcullen, one of the men behind the successful shift in counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. His remarks about Pakistan rather concentrate the mind:

“Pakistan is 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the U.S. Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn’t control. The Pakistani military and police and intelligence service don’t follow the civilian government; they are essentially a rogue state within a state. We’re now reaching the point where within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state, also because of the global financial crisis, which just exacerbates all these problems. . . . The collapse of Pakistan, al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons, an extremist takeover — that would dwarf everything we’ve seen in the war on terror today.”

If Pakistan does fail, then we will face a nightmare situation. Worryingly, no one seems to have any real idea of what can be done to bolster the Pakistani state.

The rest of the interview is well worth reading. His comments on why turning elements of the Taliban will be far more difficult than it was with members of the insurgency in Iraq are particularly worth paying attention to.

PS Kilcullen’s reminiscences about the politics of the surge reminds one how much we owe those few politicians who were prepared to stand and argue for it: 

“Our biggest problem during the surge was a hostile American Congress. They could have killed the thing. There was really nobody except [Senators] McCain and Lieberman arguing for a continued commitment. So I don’t fault President Bush for pushing General Petraeus forward. I think what he was trying to do was to find a figure with sufficient credibility to restore hope within Congress and to gain a measure of support for the effort from the U.S.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in