The Stakes Rise in Pakistan

The days of denying the presence of US military personnel in Pakistan came to an end after three US soldiers were killed in a bomb blast near a girls’ school in North West Frontier Province this week.   The admission that US troops are in Pakistan training the country’s paramilitary Frontier Corps could not have come at a more delicate time. Not only could it further weaken Pakistan’s embattled central government; it could up the stakes considerably in the Great Game for supremacy in Central Asia.

Between insurgency, corruption charges and a bad economy the government in Islamabad was already facing severe domestic criticism.  Following on the heels of increased US drone strikes in Pakistan, the revelation that US troops have been operating in the country with Islamabad’s consent will almost surely increase public resentment.  Insurgents have already exploited the news for their own purposes.  The TTP, Pakistan’s largest coalition of Taliban groups which claimed responsibility for the girls’ school blast alleged that the US personnel involved were not soldiers but employees of the scandal-prone private security firm Blackwater Worldwide.  (The TTP employed the same propaganda tactic last year when it blamed an attack on a market in Peshawar on US private security contractors).

The impact of such allegations should not be underestimated.  Chaos breeds conspiracy theories and right now, Pakistan is rife with them.  One in particular which has gained momentum in recent months is the accusation that the US is not trying to stabilize Pakistan but to destabilize it along sectarian lines in order to influence Afghanistan, contain Iran, promote India as the regional superpower –and most crucially, control the flow of energy between the Middle East and China.

Conspiracy theories that float on the fringes of society are one thing.  But the destabilization theory is seeping into the Pakistani mainstream.  The crucial question now is – has it reached China?

Pakistan is key to securing China’s energy needs.  China has invested billions in developing energy routes through Pakistan including highways and a strategic port in Gwadar in Baluchistan province that sits at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf.  The last thing China wants is to see its plans dashed by a Yugoslavia style bust up of Pakistan.

How far would China go to protect its interests in Pakistan?  An article posted last week on a Chinese government website may offer a clue. In it, Beijing signalled it was considering building military bases overseas asserting that it was its ‘right’ to do so.  The article also stated the biggest threat to China is not pirates in the Gulf of Aden (where the Chinese Navy patrols) but countries which would block its trade routes.

Was China speaking specifically of Pakistan?  I’ll leave that to the big shot analysts.  But the lifting of the veil on US military personnel operating in Pakistan will have undoubtedly raised eyebrows in Beijing.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories PakistanTags, , , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “The Stakes Rise in Pakistan”

  1. there obviously seem’s to be some knock on effect from afghanistan,as it’s obvious that the topmen have re-grouped in pakistan,planning/recruiting god only knows what and who..and i really do think that the bigger picture now needs to be focused not only in Afghanistan,Pakistan but also now china is in the picture how long will it be until North Korea,Iran get their fingers in the pie.
    So would like to ask bob on his views on this and maybe he might get an assignment their…idea for nxt book maybe.

    many thanks

  2. Would it be possible that the Taliban/Al Qaeda are deliberately targeting the special operations groups in the border areas in a bid to expose the presence of Western private military contractors fighting a proxy war in Pakistan under the guise of Kestral (the Islmabad based PSC), so as to further lower public support in the West towards the war in Afghanistan and raise questions about the legitimacy of covert Western operations being conducted in Pakistan?

    Without being too much of a conspiracy theorist here, could it be that with this latest incident and the bombing of the CIA base that also killed two Xe/Blackwater/TIS employees on the 30/12/09 were orchestrated by a counter-intelligence operation run by the Taliban/AQ/ maybe even a third party for the aforementioned reason?

    I appreciate as a civvy now, I shouldn’t even be able to ask these questions, but the information is out there on t’internet, so forgive me for asking.

    Furthermore, I’m flying through your book Bob, it’s a savage read and you’re a credit to the profession!

  3. I could foresee China co-operating more with the United States over Pakistan. It is true that China vitally needs to secure its trade routes but at the same time they need to protect their American investment. America and China need each other and are probably the classic odd couple.

    If America is trying to destablise Pakistan then I’m not surprised that China is aghast and are probably behind the scenes lobbying as hard as they can to stop this from happening.

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