Saturday, December 05, 2009

Strategic Communication in Pakistan

It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. is losing the battle strategic communication in Pakistan. U.S. drone attacks are widely condemned and continue to cause anti-U.S. resentment in Pakistan although many recent studies show that they have been effective. In fact, locals that live where the attacks actually occur are far less resentful. Something even more serious is the fact that many Pakistanis think that the recent spate of terrorist attacks is the work of an outside enemy as opposed to the Taliban.

Last month, Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, posted an audio message claiming that the recent bombings should be blamed on Blackwater (Xe). He stated that violent extremists were not responsible for the bombings which killed innocent civilians because the mujahedeen only target the army and security forces and not innocents. This message has seemed to catch on as a recent BBC report interviewed Pakistanis and found that many of them blame India or Blackwater, and not the Taliban, for the recent series of attacks.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban know that strategic communication is critical to their success. Without widespread resistance to their presence in Pakistan, they will be able to maintain their presence there relatively simply. However, if the majority of the people strongly opposed the Taliban presence and saw them as a major threat then they would likely be pressed harder by the ISI and Pakistani Army. Al Qaeda may be realizing that Islamists lost popular support in Algeria, Egypt, and Iraq due to excessive civilian casualties and they may be distancing themselves from the attacks in Pakistan in order to continue to operate there. Obviously the extremists in the region are not a monolithic group. Some of them may be implementing this strategy and some may want to claim responsibility for attacks. Whatever the case, all of the different groups are using strategic communication in a battle with the U.S.

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