Pakistan Security Brief
Members of ruling coalition quit government, spur crisis negotiations among political parties; insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan coordinating increasingly closely; U.S. increasingly focusing on protecting Afghan population centers instead of watching border.
Pakistan’s ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), entered crisis negotiations with allied political parties on Wednesday after two cabinet ministers from the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, which is part of the ruling coalition, quit their cabinet posts. The MQM has not yet chosen to follow the path of another party, the JUI-F, which recently quit the ruling coalition to join the opposition. If the MQM does make the decision to quit the ruling coalition, the PPP will lose the parliamentary majority needed to continue its three-year rule. A parliamentary crisis would distract Pakistani lawmakers from dealing with ongoing economic and security crises. The Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the main opposition party in Pakistan, stands to gain the most if the government crumbles and there are fears in Washington that the PML-N, a religiously conservative party, would be less willing to cooperate with the U.S. in opposing the Taliban.
A new report by the New York Times claims that rival militant groups, on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, have been cooperating and coordinating their activities increasingly closely, in order to “regain the initiative after months of withering attacks from American and allied forces.” According to the report, “insurgent factions now are setting aside their historic rivalries to behave like “a syndicate,” joining forces in ways not seen before.” In Afghanistan, U.S. forces are witnessing increased cooperation between the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hizb-e-Islam Gulbuddin, whereas in Pakistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are working more closely together than ever before. According to one U.S. officer, describing an emerging view among Pakistani officials, “trying to parse [the militant groups], as if they have firewalls in between them, is really kind of silly. They cooperate with each other. They franchise work with each other.”
A senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan has said that U.S. forces are focusing their attention on securing important Afghan population centers, as securing the Afghan-Pakistan border with the intent of completely ending cross-border infiltration by militants would “take an inordinate amount of resources.” Army Col. Viet Luong said “It's naive to say that we can stop . . . forces coming through the border."
Taliban militants attacked two NATO supply trucks on Wednesday morning in northwest Pakistan. One driver was killed and two other people were injured when militants ambushed the trucks from hilltop positions near Landi Kotal in Khyber agency. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack as of yet.
Seven militants were killed in Kurram on Wednesday when their positions were attacked by Pakistani military forces. Several more were injured and two insurgency hideouts were destroyed in attacks by Pakistan Army helicopter gunships.
“Pakistan political turmoil may hurt US interests,” Dawn News, December 29, 2010. Available at http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/29/pakistan-political-turmoil-may-hurt-us-interests.html