It’s been awhile since I’ve written about Afghanistan which is a shame since there’s been a lot going on there and being said about it. I’ll try to wrap it up now.
Dexter Filkins got a lot of kudos for his article on the Pakistani tribal areas in last week’s NY Times magazine article. It’s well written and gives a good overview of the situation there but I’m not sure there’s anything terribly new here.
- The Taliban is using the area as a base
- The Pakistanis are going through the motions (at best) in their support of our war aims
- Pakistan is becoming destabilized
- We’re in deep doo-doo
The big news lately has been that President Bush has officially authorized the military to conduct operations inside Pakistan without prior approval from the government in Islamabad.
The new orders reflect concern about safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, as well as an American view that Pakistan lacks the will and ability to combat militants. They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.
This distrust was present on the ground in Afghanistan back when I was there in 2003. I remember hearing periodic ‘reminders’ that the Pakistanis were our good and loyal allies and that there were not to be treated any differently from our other coalition partners. Of course those speeches were universally received with a ‘Yeah, right’ attitude and the fact that we had to be reminded of what good partners the Pakistanis were spoke to the true level of their reliability. I can only assume that someone high up had bought some serious rose colored glasses and felt that constant repetition about how stalwart the Pakistanis were would somehow make it so.
Of course, the Pakistanis aren’t too happy about this and are threatening to defend their sovereignty.
Pakistan’s top army officer said Wednesday that his forces would not tolerate American incursions like the one that took place last week and that the army would defend the country’s sovereignty “at all costs.”
And the Prime Minister agreed.
I don’t know if that was for internal consumption to keep the army and Pakistani population from totally wigging out or if it was a warning to the U.S. After all Pakistani forces firing on Americans isnt’ without precedent…
“When the Americans started bombing the Taliban, the Frontier Corps started shooting at the Americans,” we were told by one of Suran Dara’s villagers, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being persecuted or killed by the Pakistani government or the Taliban. “They were trying to help the Taliban. And then the American planes bombed the Pakistani post.”
I can definitely see how this sort of thing can blow up in our faces. A large scale (in size or duration) incursion into Pakistan could further weaken the secular forces there. They don’t have much control as it is but at least they control their nuclear arsenal. But what can we do? The Pakistanis have clearly demonstrated that they have neither the will or capability to work the tribal areas on their own and without getting a handle on those areas we’re going to keep losing ground and taking casualties.
As what I hope is my only political aside of this post, let me remind you that this ‘new’ policy was put forth by Obama in August of 2007 (I can’t draw attention to that date in any other way) and at the time McCain said:
“You don’t broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation and that you are dependent on … in the struggle against (the) Taliban and the sanctuaries which they hold.”
By the way…great primer of the area by the BBC.
How can you not get furious that we’re at this point:
“I am not convinced that we’re winning it in Afghanistan,” Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday…”Frankly, we are running out of time,” Mullen said, adding that not sending U.S. reinforcements to Afghanistan is “too great a risk to ignore.”
This did not have to be and a lot of people knew it.