Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What do with al-Qaeda in Pakistan?

A summary of the possible answers from Robert Haddick.

1. Large-scale U.S. ground attack
2. Air strikes
3. Small-scale U.S. raids
4. Employ Afghan soldiers or militia as a proxy
5. Divide and conquer - support anti-al Qaeda factions inside Pakistan
6. Convince President Musharraf to take action against al Qaeda in Pakistan
7. Do nothing about the al Qaeda sanctuaries and rely on U.S. border security.

There are problems with all 7 of these.

The US has no army for a large scale ground attack and doing so would wreck the shaky Musharraf government.

Air strikes are unreliable given we do not have the on the ground information as to the targets. These bombs are never quite so "smart" and civilians will be killed and likely the AQ leaders would escape.

The raids would involve covert, special ops forces. One problem they will have is on the ground allies, intelligence.

Afghan soldiers, proxies sound like a good idea, except that the Afghan army could in no way fight the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda. As in #5 it is not clear that there is a force ready to fight the Taliban and AQ in Waziristan. The Taliban are executing tribal chiefs who worked with the Pakistani army. But the Taliban is the strongest player out there. Would require massive US effort, training, and logistics.

Musharraf wants/needs a pro-Pakistan Pashtun tribal government in Afghanistan (i.e. Taliban). It will be hard, but perhaps not impossible to get the Taliban to sell out bin Laden, but then he can flee to the Pakistani tribal grounds, where they are now. The Pakistani Army can not fight in those areas--they lost last year.

And 7, the Home Security Dept. has been the biggest pork barrel failure of all.

The Long War will continue long after the US is out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The real targets have always been Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt in the first stage and then in the second it will be Nigeria, Sudan, other sub-Saharan Muslim African nations. And likely by then the next great iteration of anti-liberalism will have emerged (fascism, communism, Islamism, ?).

I think the US is crazy to try and pull Iran into this orbit and should leave that one alone, ditto for Syria.

SA, Pak, Egypt are three tough nuts to crack. It was debatable whether it required the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the last great anti-American Arabist dictatorial tyrant to pull the focus into greater clarity. Whether or not it did is now irrelevant. It happened.

al-Qaeda is parasitic and is not the same fight as the Long War. The Democrats have under appreciated the Long War element and are pushing for withdrawal and fighting al-Qaeda only. The Bush Republicans--and it is yet unclear about the next breed of Republican foreign policy--has under appreciated the threat from al-Qaeda (which is very real as this article states, they could land another attack on the US it seems any time now) AND under appreciated the total society-wide necessity of the task ahead. Bush has put all of the strain on the military and not called for responsibility from the people. Hence the military is now broken and strained on every level--troop deployments, medical care (Walter Reed Scandal), Reserve Corps depleted, recruiting marks never met, lack of proper equipment and armor to this day in Iraq, etc.

The Pakistani situation is quite nerve racking. The US fears Musharraf being pushed out because of the possibility of someone much worse with a nuclear weapon/technology, but Musharraf does not have the same foreign policy objectives as the US: he is anti-India, anti-Iran (a major supporter of the Afghan govt), anti-Karzai gov't in Afghanistan, and pro-Taliban.

As much as we send VP Cheney to go yell at him those foreign policy objectives are not changing and not in line with the US. Pakistan will continue to make a high level AQ arrest and then release the man after the right-wing US bloggers cheer how much progress is being made in the fight.


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