More Afghanistan

The limits of BHO's efforts in Pakistan were emphasized during an interview given to the press.

WASHINGTON (AP) — As he carries out a retooled strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama says he will consult with Pakistan's leaders before pursuing terrorist hideouts in that country.

Obama said U.S. ally Pakistan needs to be more accountable, but ruled out deploying U.S. troops there. "Our plan does not change the recognition of Pakistan as a sovereign government," the president told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview broadcast Sunday....

In a wide-ranging interview, Obama sought to counter the notion that Afghanistan has become his war. He emphasized that it started on George W. Bush's watch. "I think it's America's war. And it's the same war that we initiated after 9/11 as a consequence of those attacks," Obama said. "The focus over the last seven years I think has been lost." ...

But Obama has irked Pakistan since taking office in January by retaining a powerful but controversial weapon left over from the Bush administration's fight against terrorism: unmanned Predator drone missile strikes on Pakistan along its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has urged Obama to halt the strikes. But Gates has signaled to Congress that the U.S. would continue to go after al-Qaida inside Pakistan, and senior Obama administration officials have called the strikes effective.

Without directly referring to the strikes, Obama said: "If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them. But our main thrust has to be to help Pakistan defeat these extremists."

As noted in an earlier post, the strategy of widening the war against Taliban targets in Pakistan by relying on Islamabad means everything hinges on Pakistani cooperation. "There is one further difficulty: this has implicitly now become a battle for Pakistan. The Jihadi elements will now concentrate on pressuring Islamabad into withdrawing support for the campaign against it. Destabilization efforts against the Pakistani government must now be expected." A former State Department analyst criticized efforts by the former Bush administration in Afghanistan by saying Kabul had never traditionally exercised control over the disputed hinterlands. But it may also be asked when Islamabad ever fully controlled the NWFP provinces. The magnitude of the problem can be understood in the figures below. If nothing else, President Obama's new strategy will give Islamabad a new mandate in the long Pashtunistan saga.

Afghanistan

Total Population:29,928,987

Pashtun Population:12,570,000

Pakistan

Total Population:162,400,000

Pashtun Population:25,042,000

Total Pashtun Population: 37,612,000

Richard Holbrooke recently visited the Mohmand Rifles in the NWFP. The article notes "He faces a host of challenges in dealing with the war in Afghanistan and an intensifying insurgency in northwest Pakistan while trying to ensure tension between old rivals India and Pakistan doesn't exacerbate the difficulties." The other factor in Barack Obama's strategy is India. Washington's pivotal reliance on Pakistan to attain its ends may give Islamabad new leverage over the administration in its diplomatic conflicts with India.