Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nuclear Taliban?

What distinguishes Pakistan from Iraq and Afghanistan are its nuclear weapons program (70,000 employees and a well stocked arsenal) and its population. At 170+ M, Pakistan is the sixth most populated country on Earth, and the Taliban have a significant stronghold on its western half, especially to the north, raising concerns about terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons. The red is Taliban controlled, the yellow, Taliban influenced, the tan, contested. The areas controlled by the Pakistan government are green. Before overreacting, the map to the left does not show all of Pakistan, just the northwest portions most subject to Taliban control. I don't watch Fox News, but I heard they ran a story showing this map in a way that left viewers thinking it represented the entire country. Also, know that Pakistan has never been a tightly centralized nation, instead a loosely coupled set of "sub-nations" in the more developed east (Pop - 130 M) and less developed west (Pop - 40 M).

The Taliban controlled regions consist of the NWFP (North West Frontier Province)(20 M) and Waziristan (6 M). Directly from the NWFP Web site: The warlike Pukhtoons, who live in NWFP and the adjoining areas of Afghanistan, making them a race apart, a chosen people, and no one has ever managed to subdue them. The Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, British and Russians have suffered defeat at their hands. The Pukhtoons are divided into numerous sub-tribes and clans, each defending its territory and honor. The Taliban thrive in the NWFP. Waziristan (Federally Administered Tribal Areas - FATA) is the terrorist capital of the world and probably the current home of Osama Bin Laden. It's Jihadi and Kalishkinov culture is a legacy of the region’s intense involvement against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The fiercely independent tribes here make it a perfect place for terrorist training camps and fanatical extremism.

Beneath these lies Balochistan (10 M). Like the Basque straddling the border between France and Spain, the Baloch (mostly Hanafi Sunnies) have their own cultural identity (and desire for autonomy) and straddle Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. The place is teaming with insurgency and violence amidst a population that resents the Pakistani army.

In the east are Punjab (86 M) and Sindh (50 M). Punjab, the most economically developed region, is ethnically and politically aligned with the government. Consisting of Muslim refugees from India, Sindh remains relatively free of Taliban sentiment as well (so far).

(All of Pakistan - Balochistan is 1, and NWFP and Waziristan are 2 and 6. Punjab and Sindh are 3 and 4). In many respects, the country is a bifurcated nation with the fault line easily seen between 1, 2, and 6 in the rogue west and subject to massive insurgency, and the far more populated (and prosperous) 3 and 4 to the east. Geography plays a huge role in this split. The land to the west is brutal, harsh terrain that prohibits population density.

Sheer numbers suggest a Taliban take over of the country is not imminent, and even if it were to topple the government, the Pakistan army would immediately take control as it has in the past. In other words, the Taliban are not going to be controlling Pakistan’s nuclear weapons any time soon. While a danger of Taliban infiltration of the east into trusted government positions exists, I think the inevitable terrorist detonation of a nuclear warhead will result from a greedy soulless executive who figures out a way to secure a device and sell it to the highest bidder. In what would simultaneously make him a fortune and look right about Obama, it’s a perfect pet project for Cheney to pursue while he’s not appearing on talk shows.


Anonymous Pakhtoon(Afghan) said...

A thoughtful and realistic analysis, indeed the whole situation is being over dramatized for political gain from all sides, and in the process the innocent people of the region are caught in the cross fire. Everyone who is familiar with the region and almost all the decision makers know who is who and who is actually calling the shots and what exactly is going on. It is as if these players can't stand people who are truly independent...
This is the destruction of a nation, culture and a way of life.

region 1,2, and 6 were part of Afghanistan till almost mid 20th century, and people of the region till very recent and some still do put Afghan as their nationality and citizen as Pakistan.
People of these region are Afghans, Pakhtoon/Pashtoon/Afghan is the same;i.e. Pakhton = Afghan

Afghans mention in the following sentence is out of context.
"The Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, British and Russians..."

Live and let Live

4/27/2009 1:26 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks for the comment and clarification. I get what you are saying about the sentence from the NWFP Web site.

For length reasons I didn't get into history, but yes, it is most pertinent that 1, 2, and 6 were part of Afghanistan until rather recently.

4/27/2009 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheney would have a day long orgasm if terrorists nuked a US city.

4/27/2009 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

Your post shows more insight than the opinion article in today's New York Times. The recent flurry about Pakistan is due to Hillary Clinton's talking about the Taliban getting nuclear weapons in a speech this weekend.

It sounds like the first comment here comes from someone who knows.

4/27/2009 3:43 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

I can't comment on the content of this post, but the first comment makes me curious, x4mr.

Do you track your traffic? I was wondering if you received more visits from other countries because of this entry.

4/27/2009 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pakistan isn't falling.

4/27/2009 9:35 PM  

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