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Belmont Club

“Afpak”

March 31st, 2009 - 6:42 pm

Outraged, maybe. Amazed? No. The Taliban have threatened to astound America with a spectacular attack that will be their answer to Obama, saying the attack on the police academy in Lahor was only the beginning. The Times Online reports:

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taleban, threatened yesterday to launch an attack on Washington that would “amaze everyone in the world” as he claimed responsibility for the raid on a police academy in Lahore and boasted of a new regional militant alliance.

Mr Mehsud, for whom the United States offered a $5 million reward last week, said that Monday’s raid, which killed seven police officers, was retaliation for US drone attacks on Pakistan’s northern tribal areas, now the main hub of Taleban and al-Qaeda activity. … The 35-year-old leader of Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (Movement of Taleban Pakistan), made the claims after taking the highly unusual step of telephoning Western news organisations from an undisclosed location. …

Mr Mehsud’s threat illustrates his growing confidence in the Pakistani Taleban’s strength and reach. He recently agreed to shelve differences with fellow commanders and join forces with the Afghan Taleban.

The alliance appears to be a deliberate response to President Obama’s “Afpak” strategy, unveiled on Friday, to send 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, pour $7.5 billion into Pakistan, and to treat the two countries as a single military theatre.

Now if only we could be sure that the ISI and the rest of the Pakistani government was on the American side then we’d know who wore the white and the black hats. There are hints in the article that the operations against the Taliban will have certain law enforcement aspects. The US Rewards for Justice website, referred to in the article, lists the persons who have been turned in by informants since its establishment.

Many of those listed as caught were the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines or Baathists in Iraq. The success of those efforts, at least in the Philippines I think, though I have no objective study to base it on, hinged on identifying and supporting key local law enforcement officials who could swim against the tide of corruption. You don’t operate through institutions, but through a network of personal trust. On a trip I took a couple of years ago to the south, I sat drinking a couple of beers with a senior counterterror official who I think of as one of the “good guys” as he lamented how full his cellphone SMS inbox was with death threats. He seemed used to it. It’s work that requires a certain fatalism if you’re to attempt it all.

However, despite the successes, the bandidos of the South are still in business. The endemic corruption of the Philippine government, together with the enervating ideological effect of the “peace process” has meant that the threat, though palliated, is never more than a little way under the surface. It’s like collecting garbage. There’ll be more on the ground tomorrow and you just can’t stop. Pakistan of course, is a far, far bigger problem than Basilan, which despite its heavy armament, has no nuclear weapons. And while the US government (and even the Philippine government) can afford to lose Basilan, a defeat in Southwest Asia will be more serious. These will be interesting times.

If you’re going to stir up a nest of hornets then you’ve got to dust them but good. Otherise there’s no point. Taking the fight to Pakistan is a logical move, but the key is to ensure that your proxies are well enough prepared and supported to win. Sending them off unprepared will only runs the risk they be defeated and demoralized and become susceptible to being turned by the enemy. Once the fight begins, there is really no substitute for victory. Iran has offered to “help”, but I wonder what their price will be.

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