Friday, December 4, 2009

Take the War to Pakistan(?)

. . . or, at least, thus recommends RAND analyst Seth Jones, who advocates stepping up raids and drone attacks against the Afghan Taliban leadership reportedly holed up in Baluchistan:
The United States and Pakistan must target Taliban leaders in Baluchistan. There are several ways to do it, and none requires military forces.

The first is to conduct raids to capture Taliban leaders in Baluchistan. Most Taliban are in or near Baluchi cities like Quetta. These should be police and intelligence operations, much like American-Pakistani efforts to capture Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other Qaeda operatives after 9/11. The second is to hit Taliban leaders with drone strikes, as the United States and Pakistan have done so effectively in the tribal areas.

But, as so many commentators have noted, powerful elements in Pakistan's military (especially the ISI intelligence arm) see the Afghan Taliban as a strategic necessity in preserving Afghanistan as a "strategic-depth" insurance policy vis-a-vis India, Pakistan's existential enemy.  And drone strikes are (1) invasions of Pakistan's sovereignty that serve to exacerbate already rampant anti-Americanism in Pakistan (as Hillary Clinton learned in her recent visit there), and (2) producers of "collateral damage" - i.e., killing of innocent bystanders - that - let's say it again - serve to exacerbate already rampant anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

And today's suicide bombing at a mosque in Rawalpindi (as many as 40 killed) only makes that worse. As Reuters notes:
In outlining his Afghanistan strategy in a speech on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama made a plea to Pakistan to fight the "cancer" of extremism and said Washington would not tolerate Pakistan allowing its territory to be a safe haven for militants.
That request may be unrealistic in a country where anti-U.S. feelings and suspicions run high. Many say Pakistan should not be fighting the United States' war against militants. Failure in Afghanistan could heavily damage Obama's presidency.
"This is not our war. This is America's war and as long as we continue to stay in the American bloc things will not change," said Rawalpindi resident Mujtaba Abbasi.

Nonetheless, as today's NYT reports, Obama seems to be listening to people like Jones: the CIA is indeed going to expand the use of drones in Pakistan.

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