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Old 11-04-2009   #1
omarali50
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Default Londonstani reports collection

Moderator adds: This thread was called 'Londonistani reports from Pakistan' as he has now moved back to London, via Syria, it has been renamed and some recent posts on another thread have been copied to here. Jon Custis and I like his writing style. I think his views are important on the non-lethal aspects of 'small wars', so he has his own thread, which is rather unusual. (ends).


Londonstani is a correspondent for the CNAS blog "abu muqawwama" and has been sending in some great reports from Pakistan>
His latest is at:


http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawam....html#comments

My comment on it was: Great Job!
I would only add one more thing: Your psychoanalysis of the "common man's" confusions may be correct, but dont underestimate the layer of confusion ADDED ON by army psyops to whatever was inevitable and expected in ANY human society.

The army has been running the country in one form or the other since 1953, they have a lot of leverage in the media (much of it unrecognizable to the casual observer). They have a particular interest in trying to project foreigners/Indians/CIA/Jews as the cause of all our troubles. And that interest may not even be primarily ideological (meaning it may not be because the army is all jihadi). Some of the motivation may be more pragmatic: The army high command may be willing to change course on the jihadi issue and even kill its own creations but they are NOT willing to sit back and let bloody civilians run the country as they see fit. If they accept responsibility for this mess it wont take long for ordinary people to realize that the "corrupt civilians" have done much less damage to the country than the super-efficient smartly dressed military patriots, which means the bloody civilians may be giving orders to generals one day.....
I know this sounds too conspiratorial (maybe it is, maybe some bloody civilians have been blaming the army so long, they cannot think any other way), but I suspect that the high command is pretty shrewd when it comes to their interests in the power game. Bottom line: if the army wanted, it could actually demonize these talibans and terrorists much more. The problem is, they want them demonized, but not to the point where people start asking questions about "strategic depth"....Of course, they may actually believe their own propaganda. Its very easy to believe what is in the interest of your pocketbook..

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Old 03-19-2010   #2
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Default Updated report from on the ground

Abu M's correspondent 'Londonistani' has revealed himself now; link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...erant-peaceful

and has written a short commentary 'In search of the real Pakistan', sub-titled
With extremism on the rise, it is more important than ever to support the tolerant, peaceful elements of Pakistani society and link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...erant-peaceful
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Old 03-25-2010   #3
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Nice job by Londonstani. I happened to see this today and had just written some email comments on an op-ed by Dr. Manzur Ejaz (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default...4-3-2010_pg3_3), they are sort of relevant here, so I am posting...I look forward to your comments.

I agree with Dr. sahib and I think that Pakistan's army also knows much of this. Where they may still be mistaken (and we dont know because they continue to avoid transparency like the plague; another sign that their modernism is not as modern as they themselves believe) is in thinking that they can control their old proxies. I think (and this is a bit of a convoluted argument, so please bear with me):

1. The army is a more modern institution than others in Pakistan, but not as modern as they themselves imagine. They will have a hard time controlling both their old proxies and the new forces unleashed by ongoing development in Pakistan.

2. Their fatal flaw is institutional and it is aggravated by negative selection at an individual level. Institutionally, their interests are not always the same as the interests of the majority of the Pakistani people. Their own short term economic interest is in making money as a "rent an army" operation. THEY like to imagine that they are more like the PLA in China, a vast economic enterprise engaged in "nation building", closely intertwined with the ruling elite, historically respected by the people as a revolutionary army. The last two obviously dont apply to the Pak army (but not surprisingly, they dont seem to notice), but even their multiple economic holdings are not close to being the PLA of Pakistan. Most of their economic holdings are economically unsound and are actually subsidized by taxpayers or by foreign aid ("rent an army" operations). This pushes their policy making in a "rent an army" direction even when they imagine otherwise.

3. The individual negative selection is less important but not without consequence. I invite you to take a close look at any group photo of senior army officers of today. Better yet, meet them in their clubs and golf courses. I rest my case.

4. The army seems to believe that they are "winning"¯ in Afghanistan. If this is victory, then one shudders to think what defeat would look like. The narrative on the internet is that America is pulling out and Pak army are the gatekeepers and they will make the Americans pay throught their nose and bloody indians will get a black eye and whatnot. I think the only part of this theory that is correct is that America may pay them for the next 2-3 years. If India is foolish enough to get into a proxy war with them in Afghanistan, then India will bleed too, but if sardarji is smart enough to keep his head and work at a lower key, then Pakistan will end up with a marginally friendly regime in Afghanistan and a continuing civil war at home as well as in Afghanistan, with attendant costs for Pakistan.

5. Indian hawks (who are at least as dumb as Pakistani ones) will whine and cry about strategic setbacks and whatnot, but if they dont get into a shooting war with Pakistan, they will become a mid-level power in a few years and the hawks will make better money too, so the bitterness will be less painful with time....the old 19th century paradigm of "strategic interests" will be quietly buried somewhere in kalapaani.

6. I don't know what Kiyani sahib is thinking (he certainly seems smarter than his buffoonish predecessor) but the army fans on the internet seem to have convinced themselves that Pakistan has successfully moved from nineties style salafist jihadism to a more india-centric, modern Pakistani nationalism (Zaid Hamid lite) that is compatible with American aid, yet fully energised against any attempt to reverse military domination of Pakistani policy. I guess when they meet their friends it looks like EVERYONE in Pakistan is with them on this ridiculous journey. But it looks to me like this new concoction has no future at all. Nineties jihadism was wedded to salafist Islam, which is a real ideology, a religious movement with a 1400 year old history. This mashup of 8th grade islamiyat, pakistan studies and conspiracy theories is the emptiest of empty shells. There is no there there...Army fans will be repeatedly disappointed by the Pakistani "public", who will vote in "looters", indulge in "indiscipline", get distracted by "provincialism", produce far too many criminals and will generally behave much like any overpopulated third world country in transition, instead of holding fast to "Unity. Faith, Discipline and the rule of the blessed army".....
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Old 07-25-2010   #4
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Default Engaging Pakistan's moderate majority

A thoughtful comment article, which could fit a number of threads. Hat tip to Abu M and the comment is on Afpak Channel:http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts...erate_majority

His penultimate paragraph:
Quote:
For decades internal and external actors have been exploiting religious fervor in Pakistan for political gain. That feeling has morphed, evolved, and developed a life of its own. The future of Pakistan will be decided by the outlook adopted by its people. And as of yet, that outlook is still being formed. Right now, despite the best efforts of extremists, the majority of Pakistanis see the core principles of their faith revolving around peaceful coexistence, social justice and community service. If the public sees Barelvis and Deobandi leaders marching their communities to war, the groups will threaten their own legitimacy. On the other hand, if extremists succeed in redefining what is considered "Islamic" and convincing ordinary Pakistanis that differing views of religion are worth fighting and killing over, the consequences will be devastating for Pakistan, and disastrous for the world.
He adds this on what the West can do:
Quote:
A few months ago, I read Hilary Synnott's International Institute for Strategic Studies report Transforming Pakistan. I thought at the time that Sir Hilary's suggestion that the international community basically take it on itself to transform Pakistan was unrealistic and an even bigger disaster waiting to happen. However, I'm beginning to think that a major game change is needed and the only question remains who the real domestic partners should be. The best option, and the most willing potential allies, are the general public. The question is how to approach them and how to tool the options avaiable to the international community so that they actually work effectively.
The above comment comes from the article and there is a poor discussion on:http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawam...-pakistan.html
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Old 07-27-2010   #5
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londonstani says:
Quote:
but politics makes democratically elected leaders unwilling to upset influential groups. After the bombings, a Deobandi gathering that included a former leading member of the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi issued a statement threatening to make the provincial Punjab government pay in the polls if it acted against their interests.
Iftikhar Hussain a provincial minister and an outspoken critic of the taliban had to pay with his son's life plus eight others at the funeral. I guess this is another reason why the leaders dont want to upset the militants.
if they can make the leaders pay in the polls and kill thier families...makes me wonder who is really in control there?
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archiv...r_kills_36.php

hopefully londonstani's article will help develop the will to reach out to the general public there. the million dollar question is 'how to approach'. that should be a thread of its own!
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Old 07-27-2010   #6
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Default Engaging Pakistan

First of all, I cant believe that the last 9 years have failed to come up with an o-plan for how to engage the Pakistani populace. At this point, I fear it may be too late, since the oppos have 8 years in advance prep of hearts and minds. A couple of ideas, though:
* Use the film and media industrial might of the west. Finance bollywood style romances where the brave lad (who is a member of the frontier corps)has to rescue the beautiful girl from the bad mujahedin, aided by the good mujahedin of course, while being opposed by the bad army people and being helped by the good army people.
* Use the soft power of computation and get a freaking low budget high-yield education program going. At the moment, the madrassas are the sole alternative to education for lots and lots of folks, give em an alternative.
* Engage the muslim part of the coalition of the willing. It may be too late now for Afghan, but where o where is the western financed muslim peace corps? WHy havent we focused much more on five-10 years plans to build sustainable infrastructures (that includes human resources)? To me, that is the great mindboggling question of the 2001-2005 period when Afghanistan was relatively quiet, why wasnt there an equal amount of effort put into educating midlevel buerocracy as there was into building security forces?
* Reexamine the concepts of aid. Currently way way way to much is redirected back into western contractors pockets. Microfinance, Unix computers, easy irrigation, these are things that are needed on base level. Thats how you build trust.

But I fear its too late.
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Old 07-27-2010   #7
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I think you are focusing on the details, but you have to get the big picture before you can do the details. Pakistan's army (and its really the army that still runs policy in this arena) has certain notions about its own strategic needs. These notions are first and foremost India-centric. Once you accept certain "strategic concepts" that are regularly taught in military academies, then this obsession even makes some kind of sense. But in another country one might have had think tanks and civilian politicians with other priorities and greater vision watching over the generals. That adult oversight is lacking in Pakistan. Instead, the generals live in a world where they are the only people who really know the score on strategy and "national interest" and everyone else is a fool or a tool. Left to their own devices, they will ALWAYS look for ways to carry on their zero-sum game with India. For whatever reasons (incompetence? oversmart theorizing? Stockholm syndrome? short-sighted self interest? corruption?) the US lets this stupid game continue and tries its carrots and sticks around it. That is not going to work. Plain speaking would probably work better, but I guess the US establishment has its own habits of thought and plain speaking to third world countries is not one of them....not even when they actually dont need "unobtainium" from under the gooks' sacred tree.....
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Old 02-11-2012   #8
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Default Update

Londonstani now has his own blog, which explains his mission as:
Quote:
As Londonstani comes from a media and foreign affairs background, this blog tends to lean towards getting things done by trying to understand people and speaking to them. (As opposed to shooting them, which is expensive - and not very nice.)
Link:http://www.londonstani.com/
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Old 03-09-2013   #9
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Default Pakistan and the Narratives of Extremism

A short eleven page USIP paper on strategic communications by Amil Khan, aka 'Londonistani', which examines the messaging used by extremists and their opponents:http://www.usip.org/publications/pak...ives-extremism

From the summary:
Quote:
extremist strategic communications efforts build on Pakistan’s existing narratives to portray events related to Pakistan as proof that there is an ongoing war against Islam....Unlike extremist communications efforts, strategic communications efforts to counter extremism in Pakistan typically do not deploy messages built on Pakistan’s narratives.
Ouch. Now for the future:
Quote:
Any strategy toward counterextremism communications in Pakistan should draw on Pakistan’s existing narratives and its sense of itself. Indeed, these narratives provide significant opportunities for counterextremists to attack the vision and worldview of groups like al- Qaeda. Strategic communications efforts against extremism need to move away from crafting the “right” message from the practitioners’ point of view and move toward focusing on emotionally engaging the audience.
The author's bio:
Quote:
Amil Khan is a director of Breakthrough Communications Ltd. Before working in strategic communications, he was a foreign correspondent for Reuters and later worked for the BBC. He speaks fluent Arabic and Urdu and has lived and worked in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. From 2009 to 2012, Khan was based in Pakistan consulting on strategic communication projects for nongovernmental organizations, governments, and private organizations.
Link to Londonistani thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8870
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Old 03-09-2013   #10
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The weak strategic narrative is a feature, not a bug.
Paknationalists do not wish to give up Paknationalism. That nationalism becomes more dangerous if it succeeds. As long as that is not (quietly, even surreptitiously) given up, the rest is details. ...
http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksd...omar-ali-.html
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Old 07-08-2014   #11
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Default Londonstani reports from Pakistan..

Londonistani is back, now commenting on the Middle East; analysing al-Baghdadi's "I'm the Caliph" speech at Friday prayers in Mosul:http://www.londonstani.com/blog/2014...the-narratives

Quote:
As opposed to Osama's empty threats and Zawahiri's tirades, Baghdadi casts Muslims as not a downtrodden people but a nation - represented by his caliphate - who are ready to extract their revenge. Unlike his AQ predecessors, he isn't looking for unrealistic concessions from Western powers but demands allegiance and assistance from Muslims across the world - his new constituency.

But it's about more than just messaging. ISIS has learnt how to synchronise its communications, military and political efforts for best effect. It makes sense that the group would use Sunni frustration in Iraq to cobble together an alliance to take territory. But to hold its gains, it seems to need to move quickly from a shaky coalition based on Sunni grievance to something bigger. The announcement of the Caliphate and the bold speech are part of that.
He concludes:
Quote:
Like AQ, ISIS's weak spots are its inflexibility, extreme sectarianism and propensity for bloodshed. And like AQ, it gains support when it can claim to be acting to "save" its core Sunni community. As many commentators have said, in real terms the announcement of Baghdadi's caliphate may mean little, but the Jihadi movement has turned a significant corner and what remains to be seen is what he can use it to do next.
Sharp-eyed observers noticed he was wearing an expensive Rolex watch on his wrist.

Londonistani had had a break from blogging, he has been working to support the media work of the Syrian opposition. His old thread on Pakistan is here:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8870

There is a short commentary on:http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world...to_pledge.html
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Old 07-09-2014   #12
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Quote:
Londonistani had had a break from blogging, he has been working to support the media work of the Syrian opposition. His old thread on Pakistan is here:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8870
Good heads-up on Amil Khan's return David. I like that guy's style of writing.
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Old 07-09-2014   #13
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Jon,

We are friends, much to the surprise of some of his friends and are due to meet next week I shall pass on your compliment.
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Old 07-25-2014   #14
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Default Public opinion can no longer be ignored

A reflective look at Syria and the wider region, one that is optimistic - not for today, but for the future:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amil-k...b_5617178.html

The challenge for our Western governments (mainly I shoudl add as SWC has members beyond the West) is:
Quote:
For Western policy makers, getting ahead of the curve requires accepting the new reality and working with it to bring about stability and security built on rights and justice instead of repression.
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Old 07-26-2014   #15
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His latest short column:
Quote:
I want to talk about but the use of information and communications in war. There has been something different about the coverage of Israel's latest offensive against Gaza. Israel is usually understood to be a master at controlling the narrative. But, something has changed.
Link:http://www.londonstani.com/blog/2014...dy-israel-2014
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Old 09-01-2014   #16
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Default Jihadi Rap so powerful there is little to counteract it

A snappy title for his latest thoughts: 'Al Qaeda’s New Front: Jihadi Rap The suspected killer of James Foley represents a new, dangerous merger of gangsta hip-hop and Islamism'.


Within is this passage:
Quote:
It is clear to me that one of the main reasons that al Qaeda’s ideology is so powerful is that there is little else to counteract it. The majority of the Syrian opposition, activists and sympathisers as well as fighters, are still moderates seeking a state that respects the rule of law, protects the rights of its people and does not differentiate on the basis of ethnicity or beliefs. But these principles have not yet been developed into an ideology that can inspire, motivate and mobilise.
Link:http://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...l#.VARK1qORcdV
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Old 09-01-2014   #17
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Quote:
It is clear to me that one of the main reasons that al Qaeda’s ideology is so powerful is that there is little else to counteract it. The majority of the Syrian opposition, activists and sympathisers as well as fighters, are still moderates seeking a state that respects the rule of law, protects the rights of its people and does not differentiate on the basis of ethnicity or beliefs. But these principles have not yet been developed into an ideology that can inspire, motivate and mobilise
.

I am highly suspect of statements like this. How could the author possibly know this? Sharia is rule of law, but it doesn't provide equal treatment under the law to non-believers. If moderates are the majority in the opposition where are their successes? Where are their voices (predominately it appears those voices are Western editors who desire to see the moderates as the majority thus reflecting the old truth that perception is reality, but reality to them may not be reality on the ground)? There are tens of narratives out there seeking to be dominate the debate in describing the resistance in Syria, and facts seem to have little to do with it.

As to the author's point about the moderate principles not be developed into an ideology that can inspire, motivate, and mobilize they can turn to the great American propagandists during the American Revolution for inspiration, but even then at least half of the population remained loyal to the England. That isn't a popular narrative in the U.S., so it is seldom heard, but then again narratives don't have to reflect the truth, they only have to reflect the world the way we desire to see it.
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Old 09-01-2014   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
.

I am highly suspect of statements like this. How could the author possibly know this? Sharia is rule of law, but it doesn't provide equal treatment under the law to non-believers. If moderates are the majority in the opposition where are their successes? Where are their voices (predominately it appears those voices are Western editors who desire to see the moderates as the majority thus reflecting the old truth that perception is reality, but reality to them may not be reality on the ground)? There are tens of narratives out there seeking to be dominate the debate in describing the resistance in Syria, and facts seem to have little to do with it.

As to the author's point about the moderate principles not be developed into an ideology that can inspire, motivate, and mobilize they can turn to the great American propagandists during the American Revolution for inspiration, but even then at least half of the population remained loyal to the England. That isn't a popular narrative in the U.S., so it is seldom heard, but then again narratives don't have to reflect the truth, they only have to reflect the world the way we desire to see it.
Bill,

I have know the author for maybe eight years now. In that time he has been involved in counter-radicalisation messaging in Pakistan and most recently Syria - from a perch in Turkey. His close association with the FSA is in the public domain.
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Old 01-16-2015   #19
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Default Terror in Paris: we lost this propaganda battle

Terrorism is invariably armed propaganda, Londonistani argues that the reaction in the "West" has given the violent Jihadists a victory, as they:
Quote:
...always relied on a sort of geopolitical judo, using its enemies’ strength against them by making them prove its own worldview

The idea, as stated in the jihadi strategy document “Management of Savagery,” is to “transform societies into two opposing groups, igniting a violent battle between them whose end is either victory or martyrdom.” The best way to make sure the intended audience understands the justification for the attack is to make the attack itself self-explanatory, the strategists behind the document say. Clearly, the targeting of Charlie Hebdo, a magazine well known for printing images that many, if not most, Muslims would find offensive, but were seen as part of a cherished European tradition of free expression, fit very comfortably in this strategy.

...the attack is sharpening differences between communities and isolating European Muslims from their countrymen.

How a group sees its place in wider society is a key factor in recruitment to extremist organizations. When a community feels victimized, an opportunity presents itself for champions and saviors.
Link:http://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...l#.VLprByxx8dV

His arguments, are not easy IMHO for us to accept. We are not the primary audience for the violent jihadists, they aim to get more support, especially recruits to their cause.

Rarely does officialdom consider how the opposition is likley to react, let alone preparing messages that do not give our enemies yet more "ammunition".

Thanks to contact with a "lurker" this Sun Tzu passage is very appropriate:
Quote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
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Old 01-17-2015   #20
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Errrr... link?

n/m, here it be
http://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...l#.VLpnzy4vuSo

Politico has a serious Progressive slant. Separation between their position and reality may vary greatly.
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