Tags: Analysis: Growing Radical Ties in Pakistani Military

Analysis: Growing Radical Ties in Pakistani Military

Monday, 27 June 2011 09:28 AM EDT

The arrest of a brigadier general for ties to a radical Islamic group renews questions about the Pakistani armed forces loyalty to the government and support of US counter-terrorism operations in the region. The Pakistani military announced last week that it had detained Brigadier General Ali Khan a few days after the US operation against Osama Bin Laden for ties to Hizbul Tehrir (HuT), an Islamic militant group. Khan has spent 25 years in the military and served with UN peacekeepers in Bosnia.

There are other indications of Islamic support in the military. AP and other media sources reported statements by US officials last week that Pakistan again warned militants in its tribal areas of imminent attacks, giving the terror suspects time to flee, after U.S. intelligence shared the locations with the Pakistani government. Pakistani pilots have refused to bomb militant strongholds, and some units choose to surrender to militant groups rather than to fight them. Last month, Pakistani Taliban insurgents stormed the Naval Air Station in Karachi and destroyed two surveillance aircraft supplied by the US. According to CNN and other sources, they acted with inside information on the layout and security of the station.

Pakistani journalist Syed Shahzad was found murdered on 31 May after he investigated military ties to radical Islam. Shahzad had described the attack on the Naval air station as "the violent beginning of an internal ideological struggle between Islamist elements in the Pakistani armed forces and their secular and liberal top brass." He also quoted unnamed sources in the Pakistan military intelligence service, as saying: "It was shown several months ago that the Pakistan navy is vulnerable to Islamists when a marine commando unit official was arrested.....Now, they (Pakistani intelligence) realize how the organization (the Pakistan Navy) is riddled and vulnerable to the influence of militant organizations."


The Pakistani military is well aware of the threat of radical Islamic views as a dividing force that threatens to undercut its effectiveness domestically and regionally and could even threaten the government. Since the 2003 assassination attempts by military members against then-President Musharaf by Islamic supporters, the Army has carefully monitored individuals at-risk for Islamic inroads. Despite that surveillance, however, radical influence appears to be rising, and focus on that issue could now be distracting the leadership from its in-country and regional mission.

Pakistan’s military leadership is investigating whether other high-ranking officers are affiliated with HuT. According to a Foreign Policy analysis, the military is intensifying examination into whether other officers in key positions are tied to radical groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, Lashkar e-Taiba, and Jaish e-Mohammad.

Hizb ut-Tahrir claims to be promote non-violence, but it also advocates the overthrow of the current administration. According to CNN, it is also adept at feeding public frustration and creating opportunity for violent groups. Another part of its mission is to infiltrate the armed forces and prompt a military coup and establish an Islamic regime. After the Abbottabad raid, HuT distributed pamphlets urging soldiers to turn against their commanders.


Fear over inroads by jihadists could lead the military to institute a new purge of Muslim officers. While this would certainly limit Islamic support in the armed forces, it would also hurt military preparedness and could spark increased dissent from the military ranks. Harsh action could prompt an already disaffected military to refuse to carry out any orders, and, in a worst case scenario, bring about the HuT goal of a move against the civilian government. In 1995, authorities disrupted coup planning by officer directed by Islamic militants.

However, failure to take any action would seriously undercut the military, resulting in an expanded militant presence. Over time, this could erode the entire military structure, making members of the armed forces beholden to religious ideals rather than the secular laws of the state.

The rise of militant Islam in the military coincides with increasing anti-Americanism in the forces, according to CNN. Officers believe the US is dictating Pakistani policy and is attempting to take away its nuclear capability. CNN notes a 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks from US Ambassador Anne Patterson noted her strong concern at the levels of anti-Americanism in the next generation of leaders of Pakistan’s military elite.


The bin Laden raid, US requirements for Pakistan to take more action in tribal areas, and the incident involving CIA contractor Raymond Davis have fueled anti-American sentiment in the military. Diminished authority by secular leaders over the forces combined with growing hostility toward Washington seriously undercuts not only US policy against terrorists in Pakistan, but also US goals in Afghanistan. As the US withdraws from that conflict, it will rely on the Pakistani military to continue its goals. A divided, undisciplined and antagonistic force is unlikely to carry out that mission.

[Lisa M. Ruth is a former CIA analyst and officer. She now is managing partner of C2 Research, a boutique research and analysis firm in West Palm Beach, Fla., and is vice president at CTC International Group Inc., a private intelligence firm.]

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Analysis: Growing Radical Ties in Pakistani Military
Monday, 27 June 2011 09:28 AM
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