October 12, 2005

The South Asian Earthquake and US Foreign Aid

I already noted this over at Liberals Against Terrorism, but it's something that I want to expand on now as far as the need for the US to send as much aid as possible to Pakistan right now.

As noted by the Counter-Terrorism Blog, a lot of the Pakistani jihadi groups, many of which are members of bin Laden's terrorist coalition, got hit hard in this quake. The Jamaat ud-Dawaa (JuD), which is the legal name under which the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operates in Pakistan, appears to have been hit exceedingly hard and lost most of its assets in and around the epicenter of the quake. According to Indian Army General JJ Singh and al-Sharq al-Awsat, the LeT and its allies all suffered heavy casualties, effectively neutralizing most of the terrorist training camps in Azad Kashmir and parts of the Northwest Frontier Province that had long been considered unreachable by US and Indian intelligence agencies.

This loss, however, is only going to be a temporary one, at least on the part of the LeT and I suspect several of the other Pakistani terrorist groups as well. The LeT, however, is the one I'm most worried about because it's now the de facto trainer for al-Qaeda operatives, including likely several of the 7/7 London bombers. Moreover, they also act as a secret police for al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. When al-Qaeda operations chief Abu Zubaydah was captured, he was staying at an LeT safehouse.

Like many other terrorist groups, the LeT maintains a social services wing inside of Pakistan that I described in the following manner in the threat dossier on the group that I wrote up on the group for the Manhattan Institute:

... It would seem not altogether inaccurate to compare the role played by MDI [Markaz ud-Dawa wal Irshad, a Wahhabi organization founded in 1987 by Zafar Iqbal and bin Laden's mentor Abdullah Azzam] within the LET as being not altogether dissimilar to that assumed by the political and social services branches of Hezbollah. Both organizations maintain elaborate political and social services infrastructures designed to provide both extremist ideological direction and social welfare services in environments of poor or non-existent government control in order to build up and maintain popular support.

The influence of MDI in framing Pakistani perceptions of the LET cannot be ruled out. According to a recent article in Jang concerning the MDIís Taiba hospital in Azad Kashmir, ďAccording to official sources of the Markaz, around 9,000 outdoor patients visit this hospital every month to get free of cost or very inexpensive medical support. In spite of being a charity, it is considered to be the best private hospital in Azad Kashmir Ö The doctors are not supposed to offer treatment just for bodily ills; they also offer dawat to all their patients. They ask their Muslim patients to become better Muslims and non-Muslim patients to convert to Islam.Ē As long as the MDI is able to provide medical support at this scale within the context of Pakistanís vapid health care infrastructure, support for the organization should not be expected to ebb in the near future.

While the earthquake may well have hit the group hard, it has more than sufficient resources and financial network to recoup these losses and solicit the necessary cash from its external support network, which is far larger and more successful than any of the other Pakistani jihadi groups because the LeT and its parent organizations are Wahabbi rather than Deobandi in outlook and hence are better able to solicit donations from the Gulf states.

As I noted in the same threat dossier cited above:

Through the framework of the MDI, the LET is able maintain ties to a vast array of Islamist NGOs, political parties, and guerrilla groups spanning from Western Europe to the Philippines, enabling it to draw on a wide variety of Pan-Islamist support prior to September 11, 2001. In addition, the LETís ties to the Indian mafia don Dawood Ibrahim combined with its Salafist rather than Deobandi orientation have given the group the necessary contacts to establish itself in the Middle East as well as to recruit growing numbers of Indian Muslims into its ranks.

The establishment of the LETís Gulf network appears to date back to the late 1990s, when LET activists began distributing copies of the groupís journal Majallah al-Dawa among Indian Muslim expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE. These efforts appear to have been stepped up considerably following the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat that radicalized many Indian Muslims living abroad.

... In contrast to other terrorist groups, the LET relies primarily on legitimate donations funnelled through MDI in order to finance its jihad. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed routinely travels to major Pakistani cities, exhorting huge crowds to join or contribute to the jihad and it is believed that tens of thousands in US dollars are raised for the group in this fashion. While Saeed rails against India and the United States, JUD activists armed with clubs hold up banners calling for contributions to jihad and set up collection boxes to support the jihad in Kashmir or the families of dead LET fighters. While the Pakistani government claims that these contributions are for legitimate social welfare purposes, it is generally accepted that a majority of the money raised is used to support the LETís militant activities. It is also believed that a number of wealthy Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen help to finance the groupís activities through donations separate to those raised during the groupís fundraising rallies.

Outside of Pakistan, the LET receives money from the Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom and other Western countries. The group is also believed to receive considerable support from an intricate network of wealthy Gulf donors and Islamist NGOs, very possibly the same ďGolden ChainĒ network that is believed to support Al Qaeda. If the LET does not rely on the Golden Chain to finance its activities, it almost certainly relies on a similarly-modeled financial network.

So basically I think that the LeT has more than the financial endurance necessary to weather whatever hard assets they lost during the storm and provide support and relief services to God knows how many Pakistanis lost their home during this latest event. That is going to take some time for them to mobilize, however, which is one of the reasons why I'm more than confident that the US can beat them off at the pass on this one if we act quickly and decisively. This also fits into Dr. Gunaratna's recommendation of creating a parallel NGO and aid network in Muslim countries to serve as a challenge to Wahhabi charities like the LeT's parent MDI organization.

There are also broader issues of national interest here that need to be taken into consideration here. Riding on the wave of popular anti-Americanism that swept across much of the Muslim world during the run-up and aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq, the LeT claims that it recruited as many as 3,350 new members from January to June 2003. Even if these totals are inflated (and it certainly wouldn't be the first time), I think it's entirely fair to say that allowing several thousand people to become dependent on LeT social services for the immediate future does not serve US national interest. Moreover, Pakistanis assisted by the US will in all probability be far more likely to assist us at tracking down al-Qaeda and their allies.

Finally, if the heavy casualties suffered by the LeT and other Pakistani jihadi groups live up to hype, this would be an exceedingly good time for the US to press Pakistan on the dual issues of a permanent settlement over Kashmir or at least dissuading them from allowing the wounded groups to rebuild their destroying training infrastructure.

Posted by at October 12, 2005 03:09 AM | TrackBack (4)

Your article is thoughtful. I do worry, however, that another impact of the earthquake will be to degrade Pakistan's ability to fight these groups who tend to be much less dependent on infrastructure. Also, there tends to be a an unsurge in religious radicalism following natural disasters.

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2005 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your article is thoughtful. I do worry, however, that another impact of the earthquake will be to degrade Pakistan's ability to fight these groups who tend to be much less dependent on infrastructure. Also, there tends to be a an unsurge in religious radicalism following natural disasters.

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2005 06:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AMericans affiliated with NGOs involved with humanitarian causes and disaster relief have a difficult enough task without being burdened by suspicions that their operations are merely a front for US foreign policy goals.

There is something extremely distateful (and typical) for right-wingers to be attempting to exploit a massive human tragedy like this earthquake to implement their own agendas. Instead of focussing on the best way to assuage the suffering of the Pakistani and Kashmiri people, Darling focuses on the potential to shape and exploit that relief effort in a manner reflecting his lack of human compassion.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 12, 2005 12:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Edited for historical value

"Instead of focussing on the best way to assuage the suffering of the European people, George Marshall focuses on the potential to shape and exploit that relief effort in a manner reflecting his lack of human compassion."

Posted by: liberalhawk at October 12, 2005 02:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Um... Paul, whilst it might be distateful to you, (and to me truth be told)... It didn't stop the Islamic militants proclaiming Katrina was visited on the homosexual city of New Orleans...

The better way to look at this is to accept that while we might be exploiting the situation, such a course of action would have the dual impact of very myuhc providing aid to those who need it, and having the added benefit of helping to improve America's image. At the end of the day creating more islamic militants to wage a terorist war benefits no one apart from the leadership of the islamic extremists who happily send young men off to die for their cause whilst they sit back and watch the carnage. From a humanitarian aspect that is equally as bad if not worse than positively exploiting the situation.

The unfortunate reality of the islamic Militant situation is that things are too far gone to undone. I truly wish it were not but the damage is done, and pretending we can step back from the edge of this particular precipice is not possible. I think that we should at the same time be asking some very hard questions of the political leaders of the past 2-3 generations who have gotten us in this mess in the first place - of which GWB is but the latest in a long line, and as people demand a hell of a lot more accountability in future...

Whilst its vitally important to understand what drives it (and in which you play a useful role in highlighting, as well as asking some of the questions I refer to above), wishing cannot undo the past. Moving forward means using opportunities such as this to create a platform from which the West can fairly and without prejudice engage with moderate Islam, so that it can be unravelled from its extremist cousin, and which create an opportunity for a better relationship between Islam and the West, in which no more Muslim or Western Son's and Daughters need to have their lives extinguished in pursuit of some twisted utopian vision.

The Muslim perspective is vital, but not the degree where we fail to see the long term threat that Islamic militancy poses. Simply withdrawing entirely from the Muslim world isn't an option. Firstly, Oil is too critical to the entire global economy to allow this - and everyone - not just the US would be badly affected if the Global economy collapsed - it would make the great depression seem like a bad day at the office. Secondly, a pan-islamic caliph from Africa to SE Asia is not a desireable outcome.

For starters that would mean a geographic seperation for religious reasons of this region from the rest of the world, and secondly theocracies are not compatible with broad notions of Human Rights including the right of religious freedom. I for one could not see there ever being the possibility if such a caliph existed there would be no way any form of religious worship other than a strict intepretation of Islam would be allowed, and I strong suspect there would be a great deal of internal conflict in such a caliph between the differing sects of Islam - all of which would be bad from a Humanitarian perspective.

I see this need to preserve human rights for all peoples in the region as justification itself to prevent Al Qaeda from meeting that goal, let alone capturing and incarcerating those responsible for terrorist atrocities against innocent civilians. There is no argument that supports attacking tourists and other innocent civilians. They are neither oppressors not mechanism of control. They are simply people. Lets not lose sight of that in the long run. The die is cast and whilst I have no faith in current Western Political Leadership to improve things, let alone stop making them worse as the Bush Amdinistration has done so successfully, the reality, I believe is that die was cast a long time ago, and while we need to stop rolling snake eyes all the time, we can't pick up our chips and go home either...

Posted by: Aran Brown at October 13, 2005 05:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, I agree with most everything you said --- but its really secondary to my point.

Giving aid to people for humanitarian reasons reaps its own rewards in terms of positive image creation, and this is true in the Muslim world (where our efforts in tsunami relief have had a positive impact on the perception of Muslims in Indonesia) just like everywhere else.

But for this positive image making to work, "humanitarian aid" has to be seen as driven by "humanitarian" impulses, and not provided because it will result in benefits for ourselves.

The neo-con impulse displayed by Darling to immediately exploit the deaths of 40,000 plus Pakistani and Kashmiri human beings to advance their political agenda is not only disgusting, given the demonstrated disregard for the suffering of the victims, its likely to have a negative effect on perceptions of the USA.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 13, 2005 02:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Edited for historical value....

liberalhawk, when you can come up with appropriate historical analogies, do so. But trying to compare the rebuilding of Europe with disaster relief efforts in Pakistan/Kashmir demonstrates little more than your ideologically-enforced tunnel vision.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at October 13, 2005 02:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You just have to love the way Luka and Aran accuse anyone who disagree's with their "Bush is to blame for everything!" worldview of having IDEOLOGICAL TUNNEL VISION


I mean really - are you guys actually do dense as to not understand that YOU BOTH are the very example of ideological tunnel vision

BTW Aran - I did actually agree with a lot of what you posted above - except of course the usual "we have done everything wrong in dealing with this ( correctly idendified ) danger"

Oh but if you were around 60 years ago one can be sure you would be called for Eisenhowers scalp ( what - no DD tanks made it ashore on Omaha beach? ) and Trumans resignation ( seen the casualty figures for Iwo lately - 7,000 US DEAD for a useless hunk of rock! )

Never mind the beating you would have given Roosevelt ( what the fuck are we doing invading North Africa - it was Japan that attacked us! )

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at October 14, 2005 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Erm Pogue... As you well know we canot draw analogies between WWII which was fought between nations and terrorism which is fought between a nation or group of nations and organisations which are not aligned with any particular national cuase - but an ideological one. If you've ever read Sun Tzu's the art of war one of the basic assertions here are know your enemy, which is exactly the stance I'm taking here. I also quite clearly identify why an Islamic caliph that AQ and others seek is an anathema to me. So quite how that equates to the notion I'd have been critical of the US actions in WWII eludes me - and most other People I'd suggest to.

And as for having done everything wrong - I didn't quite say that - but if we had done things right would we be in this situation?? I fail to see how being critical of the way the Bush Administrations handling of the WOT and Iraq equates to sympathising with Terrorists. I seek to understand what drives them and based on that understanding figure out a way to combat the menace.

The Bush Administration quite clearly fails in this effort, and the invasion of Iraq clearly shows this, as it was obvious to all but a blind man that the Iraq invasion was based on the flimsiest of pretexts associating Hussein with AQ Terrorism. I suported Afghanistan and would have supported Iraq with UN approval (Saddam was after all a piece of Sh*t). But failure to work within this constraint and failure to undersand the Islamic mindset, has only inflamed the situation vis a vis Islamic extremists. If they had instead focused on cleaning up Afghaistan properly and continued to apply appropriate diplomaic pressure until the rest of the world could have been convinced the Iraq was a genuine threat then things would be better than they are now. In my opinion.

Still that said I can't see anywhere where I've ever written any thing that could be construed as supporting terrorism. Additionally Luka and I have quite differing viewpoints on different subjects, I agree with im on something and not on others. I'm certainly not a member of the Anti BushMcChimpyHalliburton Cabal, as you suppose. I don't buy into the conspiracy theories, but do think they've been largely incompetent and negligent in prosecuting the WOT. But that's not the same has hating them for the sake of it. And if they do things right (like Afghanistan) then I also happy to acknowlsdge that. So um... perhaps you could help me understand where my supposed Ideological tunnel vision comes from?? I've stated I supported Afghanistan and the WOT, but not Iraq. How does that equate to tunnel vision??

Posted by: Aran Brown at October 17, 2005 10:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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