Trouble on the Afghan-Pakistan Border

Maybe, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter notes dryly, the United States has no right to preach to other countries about border security.

"After all, look what happens on our own southern border with Mexico," points out the Michigan Republican.

But American lives depend on whether Pakistan takes policing their border with Afghanistan -- which is three-quarters the size of the U.S.- Mexican line -- seriously. And the dangers on the Asian border far outweigh anything going on in the U.S.

McCotter recently returned from a bipartisan congressional delegation trip through the region, led by Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman, a trip that included meetings with both Afghan and Pakistani heads of state.

The trip took place as the numbers of US and other NATO troops were on the rise; for the first time, exceeding the number of casualties in Iraq.

"Why are the numbers so high? It's because NATO forces are going into places where they weren't going before. They are now in a position to get to the border with Pakistan, trying to get to places that have become sanctuaries for terrorists. You can consider it either a good sign or a bad sign.... that fighters from other Arab lands are choosing go to Afghanistan rather than Iraq to wage war," McCotter said in a telephone interview with PJM during his trip.

For anyone invested in the success of the mission in Afghanistan, it's obviously a bad sign -- and needs to be dealt with on both sides of the border -- which is why the delegation's meetings with the new Prime Minister and chief of the army in Pakistan focused to a great extent on how to stop the flow of arms and jihadists into Afghanistan via the porous border, which on the Pakistani side, includes the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the haven for terrorists where Osama Bin Laden has been believed to be hiding for years. It is a region where the Pakistani government has preferred to negotiate settlements with the extremist forces -- not root them out.

For now, the Pakistani military is cooperating with this policy for political reasons.

"The military wants public support to deal comprehensively with the nation's problems -- it doesn't want to act alone. Public opinion in Pakistan right now is focused on fuel, food insecurity, worries about economic stagnation and their relationship with India, not on border security and Afghanistan. With a government is in a holding pattern, and elections on the horizon, everyone is sensitive when it appears that money and time and attention is diverted from the needs of the population."