Pakistan Again

The Asia Times highlights the greatest proximate danger from fast-breaking developments in Pakistan. The truce between the Taliban and the fracturing Pakistani government has released thousands of fighters to begin an offensive in Afghanistan. (typo corrected)

In addition, after striking peace deals with the Pakistani security forces, the newly formed United Front of Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas is ready to pump at least 15,000 to 20,000 fresh fighters into Afghanistan. These are expected to start crossing the rugged - and unmanned - border in April.

Bill Roggio describes how the fight seems to have drained out of some parts of the Pakistani armed forces, who have now resorted to try and buy the Taliban off.

The military ceased operations in Swat in February 2009 after it failed to dislodge the Taliban. ... Javed and the military have refused to respond to the Taliban infractions. Javeed even went out of his way to praise Mullah Fazlullah. He described Fazlullah as a "good human being," Daily Times reported.

Javed's [the Malakand Division Commissioner] proposal to integrate the Taliban into the security forces comes as the US Congress is debating a $20 billion aid package to Pakistan. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar have proposed giving Pakistan a one-time $5 billion grant plus a 10 year aid package worth $15 billion. Some of this money is slated to improve the security forces in Paksitan's Northwest Frontier Province and the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.

But Pakistan's history of appropriately spending US aid money is appalling. More than $3.8 billion of an estimated $5 billion of military aid given to Pakistan up until December 2007 is unaccounted for, and it has been reported that millions of dollars in US aid has gone to pay reparations to the Taliban in Swat.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's government continues to implode. The VOA reports that it has put a former Prime Minister under arrest and sealed off the capital against protesters. ABC Online has reported yet another attack on US supply trucks through Pakistan. The New York Times reported on March 11 that the US was seeking to supply NATO troops through Russia and Iran.

The United States is seeking new supply routes for the war in Afghanistan that would bypass Russia, and has even had logistics experts review overland roads through Iran that might be used by NATO allies, according to military planners and Pentagon officials.

Before very long, the magnitude of the problems with Barack Obama's vision to turn Afghanistan into the main focus of American military pressure against radical Islam will become manifest to all. He ran for office promising to end al-Qaeda where it began. As he outlined his sweeping vision, there were many posts on the Belmont Club wondering how the logistical circle could be squared. Now, within a scant two months of assuming office Obama glittering vision has already been scaled down; Obama is now willing to 'reach out' to the Taliban. All talk of victory has ended. What about a draw? Washington is still hoping that Pakistan will hold together, but Reuters is already imagining the 'worst case scenario'.

A worst-case scenario could arise if government efforts to stifle the protests fail and demonstrations snowball, leading to bloody clashes on the streets. Violence by Islamist militants intent on accelerating a descent into chaos can never be ruled out. Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said on Saturday security agencies had information that "enemies of Pakistan" would launch suicide bomb attacks during the protest march.

If the worst happens, the downside can be very considerable. Ever since assuming office the current administration has pursued an ambitious -- perhaps an overambitious -- program of social change. Health care, "Global Warming", stimulus, engagement, diplomatic reset were all undertaken as if there were unlimited energy to do it all. The pursuit of these many things may have come at the expense of focus on the existential questions facing the US: the crisis of the banking system and the threat posed by enemies abroad.  The reason the Pakistani crisis seems to be coming out of the blue is because Washington is preoccupied by so much else. The world is still dangerous; perhaps even more so today than when George W. Bushchimp left office to the delight of so many on the Left. But contrary to expectation, America's enemies did not stop their depradations upon the ascension of The One.  Winston Churchill once said that "God watches out for little children, fools, drunks and the United States of America". Let's hope the charm holds.