The Recent Articles from TNI

The National Interest remains of my favorite international affairs magazines. Although there are several authors that I do not like or necessarily agree with, the majority of the content is usually one of high quality and diverse views.

However, the magazine has started a recent series of articles that could be simplified to “top 5 (insert topic here) in history/the world” or “top 5 weapons that (Insert country here) possesses that (insert country here) should fear.” Although writing some of the articles every once in a while can be interesting, the recent surge of these articles have created some articles that do not meet the usual quality at TNI.
Take for example one of the recent additions to the slew of articles is “The 5 Deadliest Terrorist Groups on the Planet“. As the author, Daneil DePetris, notes at the very beginning that although you are more likely to be killed by other things (like lightning) instead of terrorism, the issue remains important. The terrorist groups chosen are the five deadliest terrorism groups operating today. Except, the author never specifies his methodology in creating the list. How is deadliest defined? Is it the amount of casualties the organization has inflicted? The capabilities of the organization? Also how is terrorism defined? Although the majority of the groups listed would fit the standard definition of terrorism (i.e. a non-state actor that spreads terror (like attacking civilians) in order to achieve a political, ideological, and or religious goal). Yet, he decides to label Iran’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist group. Yes the organization does aid groups that are considered terrorist organizations. But it is actually part of the Iranian government, not a non-state actor. Although one can argue that the actions by governments constitute terrorism, the author does not take the time to define it.

So the inclusion of the Iranian revolutionary guards is questionable. What about the other organizations listed?

While ISIS is a no brainer, the other groups are very contestable. Yes Boko Haram remains a dangerous organization, Al Shabaab is also a serious threat, one that is arguably as dangerous (if not more so) than Boko Haram. The same goes for the Haqqani Network. Lashkar e Taiba has been able to conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, has been found in Iraq, as well as maintaining a network throughout most of South Asia. The fact that Kata’ib Hezbollah is on the list while the original Hezbollah is not is a complete joke. Hezbollah is the most powerful force in Lebanon, is the only Arab fighting force to obtain a victory over Israel (the 2006 war), is gaining additional fighting experience in Syria, and has conducted attacks worldwide. Hezbollah has long been considered on of the most effective terrorist organizations in the world. The fact that Kata’ib Hezbollah is on the list and Hezbollah isn’t is completely ridiculous.

I still enjoy reading TNI, but this recent slew of articles making these silly lists is just becoming a little bit too much.


The Haqqani Network and the Pakistani Offensive



According to Michael Kugelman at The Diplomat, the Pakistani military has given journalists some indications that it will go after the infamous Haqqani network. Yet Kugelman and Bill Roggio remain skeptical of the willingness of the Pakistani military in going after the Haqqani network. Indeed, if the Pakistani military decided to take action against their proxy, that would signal a major shift in the country’s security strategy towards Afghanistan, if not the region as a whole. If this is true, this would be a significant step to achieving regional stability. However, I happen to agree with Kugelman and Roggio that military action that would significantly affect the capabilities of the group is unlikely to be undertaken by the Pak military. Both authors give their reasons of why they remain skeptical of this new announcement (I will also list some of the reasons why I agree with them).

First, it is noteworthy to look at a similar time when the Pakistani government was forced to crackdown on its proxies. Shortly after the 9/11 and Indian parliament attacks, foreign governments put a great deal of pressure on having the Pakistani government (under Musharraf) to rein in the militants aligned with the military. While Musharraf did go after some of the militants, it was done very selectively. In what is best described as the good jihadi/bad jihadi policy, Musharraf tried to protect groups that he felt could still be utilized against India while cracking down on groups that refused to follow orders. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was the perfect example of this. Despite the fact that the group had participated in the parliament attacks, had aided Al Qaeda, and remained a dangerous and formidable terrorist organization, the group was given warning ahead of time to move their assets and change their name. So while it appeared that the Pakistani government was cracking down on multiple organizations, many of these groups were given a heads up about the crackdown, giving them time to transfer their assets to avoid a loss of capability. (On this case, see Stephen Tankel’s: Storming the World Stage (also one of the best books on LeT there is)).

Similarly, there have been complaints from US officials that the Haqqani Network had already been tipped off by the Pak military before the operation had began, similar to the case above. Roggio even noted in his article of the presence of a good Taliban/bad Taliban issue as even some of the military spokesmen tried to avoid saying that they were attacking like the Haqqani network.

The Haqqani Network today remains one of the best power projection tools that the Pakistani government has in Afghanistan today. Indeed, the group has never overtly attacked the state or has it ever attempted to turn on the state. While the Pak government statements of an inclusive military offensive against all organizations in North Waziristan might have been an attempt to quell Afghani perceptions of a selective crackdown, as well as evidence that the Haqqani Network has been helping both the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban, at the moment the pros outweigh the cons. Indeed, the Haqqani Network garnered a reputation as one of the most dangerous and sophisticated insurgent group operating in Afghanistan today. With the incoming U.S. withdrawal (something that has been making all countries in the region nervous), it would be wise and sensible for the Pakistani government to maintain a link to all their assets that could help them navigate the mess that might arise in the post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Lastly, the Pakistani state is currently under attack from many formerly aligned militant organizations as well as the Pakistani Taliban, creating a formidable and difficult domestic security situation that the country has to deal with. By going after the Haqqani Network, the Pak government will just have created yet another enemy that it will have to deal with in the short term. In that context, the refusal of the Pakistani military not to attack the Haqqani network in the short term future remains a rational decision, all contributing to the fact that any offensive in North Waziristan is unlikely to drastically affect the Haqqani Network.