September 13, 2009

THE WAR ISN'T IN PAKISTAN NOR AFGHANISTAN...:

US could shift Afghanistan focus towards eastern provinces: Senior military officials said to believe Taliban's ability to find sanctuary across border with Pakistan has made move essential (Simon Tisdall, 9/13/09, Guardian)

The primary focus of the US war strategy in Afghanistan could shift towards the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan and away from the south of the country, where British forces are heavily engaged, under a plan being finalised by commanders.

Senior military officials are said to believe the Afghan Taliban's ability to find sanctuary and support across the porous border with Pakistan ‑ plus the suspected presence in the lawless tribal Waziristan area of al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden ‑ has made a bigger effort in the east essential if the insurgency is to be defeated.


...but in Waziristan.

MORE:
Pashtuns and Pakistanis: A not-so-great game, but one America can't give up. (Reuel Marc Gerecht, 09/21/2009, Weekly Standard)

[T]here are many compelling reasons to keep fighting in Afghanistan. Most important among them is that an American withdrawal would return Afghanistan to civil war and reinforce frightful trends in Pakistan. In an Afghan civil conflict pitting the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Shiite Hazaras against the Pashtuns, the United States would have to choose the anti-Pashtun, anti-Pakistani side to protect against the possibility that the Taliban, a Pashtun-based movement, would again gain the upper hand. Remember Western insouciance about Afghanistan between 1994 and 1996, as the Taliban gradually gained ground? This time around, Washington would be obliged to intervene. It could not simply assume, as many suggest, that Pashtun jealousies, tribal differences, and powerful competing warlords would be enough to thwart a neo-Taliban advance. But successfully intervening in Pashtun politics from "over the horizon," with American troops no longer significantly deployed in Afghanistan, would be impossible. The Taliban currently have the offensive advantage throughout most of the Pashtun regions with U.S. forces active in the country; imagine U.S. forces gone.

Choosing sides would immediately thrust us into conflict with Islamabad, which remains a staunch and, at times, nefarious defender of Afghan Pashtun interests. Such a collision between Washington and Islamabad would be awful, fortifying Islamic militancy within Pakistan and placing al Qaeda and its allies, more clearly than ever before, on the same side as the Pakistani military establishment, which is only now getting serious about countering the radical Islamic threat at home.

The terrorist ramifications of this for us and for India could be enormous. Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5, is working around the clock to monitor and thwart terrorist plots emanating from Muslim militants on the subcontinent. Great Britain does not receive the credit it deserves for doing the heavy lifting in building a security barrier against subcontinent Muslim radicals and their militant brethren resident in Europe. Even more than the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, MI5 is America's frontline defense against mass-casualty terrorism.

Pakistan, not the Arab Middle East, is where extreme Islamic militancy probably has the most growth potential. And Britain's intelligence officers are quick to confess that they could not do their work without cooperation on the Pakistani side, which today, even after Islamic militants have lethally targeted members of Islamabad's intelligence and security services, remains complicated and problematic. Pakistan has been loath to sever long-standing ties to the Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun militant groups with which it has dealt for years. This is particularly true for those who come under the Taliban umbrella. Mullah Omar, the Taliban's divinely anointed founding father, is more or less an honored guest of Islamabad, holding court in Pakistan's western province of Baluchistan. Imagine scenarios where the Pakistanis receive requests for help from the British and the Americans, even as Western powers are aiding Afghanistan's bitterly anti-Pakistani non-Pashtun minorities against pro-Taliban Pashtuns.

We should never underestimate the potential for Pakistani recidivism.


But we should underestimate the potential of it--all it would do is widen the free-fire zone. And clarifying battle lines is never a bad thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 13, 2009 10:06 AM
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