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Reeling in the proxy rebels?

Posted by on March 4th, 2010

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By Dave Anderson:

I'm coming late to this party, but I want to highlight a couple of things.

First, from Yorkshire Ranter from last week:

Well, this is unusual; Londonstani confirms that the Pakistanis just arrested 50% of the Taliban high command, in so far as such a thing matters. Not only that, they're willing to extradite one of them to Afghanistan. First of all, Pakistan and Afghanistan even talking is rare. Secondly, extradite? What is this, Germany? Don't they know they're meant to administer a medically unnecessary enema and ship the guy to the Kerguelens or somewhere where they can lock him in a dungeon for the next ten years…

Next Laura Rosen from about two weeks ago notes that Iran captured the head of Jundallah:

Iran says its security forces have captured the leader of the Baluch Sunni ethnic minority group Jundullah, which Iran has claimed is being supported by the U.S. and other western security services to destabilize the country, the Los Angeles Times reports:

Iran's security forces said they captured the head of an ethnic militant group they have fought for years Tuesday morning and claimed he was at an American base in Afghanistan a day before he was caught….

Via PBS Frontline's Tehran Bureau, the Iran-based "Iranian Diplomacy" research center reports that Rigi was arrested with the help of the Pakistani intelligence agency and possibly even the United States. The motive for the alleged foreign help not immediately clear to the analyst.

Jundallah has long been rumored to be a neo-con favored proxy for the United States. Ken Anderson noted that instability in Balochistan blocked several natural gas export routes that would lie outside of the US geo-political orbit in 2008, and Jundallah had claimed responsibility for several fairly effective terrorist bombings against Iranian security forces in Southeastern Iran. 

This is odd at first glance if the Jundallah leader was at a US compound and then was burned in either an Iranian-Pakistani cooperative arrangement or a menage a trois of nation-state interests coinciding.  The simplest explanation is the Iranian allegation is either out-right not true but intended for domestic consumption or it is technically, sort-of kind-of true but is still intended for domestic consumption.  A more complex explanation is the Obama Administration's policy of engagement with Iran means the value of Jundallah has gone down dramatically in the US's eyes, and the cost of burning a no-longer useful proxy is low if the outcome is a regional dentente. 

The Yorkshire Ranter has a few more interesting points about the seeming crack-down on troublesome insurgent groups in South Asia:

It certainly looks like some kind of sudden outbreak of regional cooperation, in a sort of tacit agreement to jointly attack each others' rebels. Someone smarter than me would probably point out that this is natural – it's the difference between being a state and not being a state….

The first talks between India and Pakistan at foreign minister level for a while. It seems to have gone reasonably well; in the light of the Kayani doctrine speech, in which the General said that Pakistan would be satisfied if Afghanistan wasn't explicitly aligned with India, as opposed to being run by the Taliban as satraps for Pakistan, you might wonder if there's a bigger deal afoot.

If India agrees not to claim a sphere of influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan might be willing to lock up the Quetta shura as a sign of good faith, and then…perhaps they might get a payoff in concessions on Kashmir, and/or trade with India and with the wider world. How that interlocks with the Iranians is not quite clear, but it would fit with the Pakistanis getting sufficient assurances from the other regional powers for them to crank down the degree to which their various half-rebels, half-proxies cause trouble.

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