Belmont Club

Yes we can and no, they can't

The BBC reports:

In recent days three top American generals have turned their guns on Pakistan, accusing elements of its main intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. The unprecedented broadside followed the announcement by the US President Barack Obama of a new strategy for Afghanistan. Mr Obama cited as its cornerstone the need to destroy militant safe havens in the Pakistani tribal belt along the Afghan border, something he knows can’t be achieved without complete cooperation from the country’s army and intelligence.

The article ends with this quote: “‘The concept of pressuring Pakistan is flawed,’ Ahmed Rashid and Barnett Rubin have written in the Foreign Affairs magazine. ‘No state can be successfully pressured into acts it considers suicidal.'” The integrity of the Pakistani government took on further importance after President Obama told Face the Nation that Pakistan will be consulted before any strikes against militants are carried out. If Islamabad isn’t fully onboard the effort then the consultation could turn into an advance warning system for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, thereby endangering any assets subsequently tasked with carrying the strike out. Bloomberg writes:

March 30 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama said the U.S. will consult with Pakistan before raiding militant bases on Pakistani territory, as he called on leaders in Islamabad to be “much more accountable” in combating terrorism. … The U.S. expects some accountability from Pakistan and its understanding of the “severity and the nature of the threat” from the terrorists.

Pakistan has told the U.S. it considers missile strikes on its territory counterproductive. The Pakistani government says it is doing all it can to combat militants and is pursuing a strategy of selective military action, coupled with political and economic development programs, to try to persuade tribal leaders to expel foreign fighters sheltering along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani view of “counterproductive” US missile strikes raises the initial challenge. There may be more. Taken in toto the BBC article leaves the reader with the distinct suggestion that while the US military will loyally carry out the instructions of the Commander in Chief, they do not repose a great deal of confidence in the willingness of Pakistani intelligence agencies to lift their end of the load. In fact, the BBC article has quotes which stop just short of suggesting that parts of the ISI are in league with the enemy.

General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, spoke of cases “in the fairly recent past” where the ISI appeared to have warned militants that their positions had been discovered.

Given this difficulty, a successful campaign in Afghanistan/Pakistan will require either a) the reform of the ISI so that it becomes a more suitable partner for the enterprise or; b) there is some kind of operational insurance to ensure the task can be carried out in the event the ISI falls down on the job, a kind of Plan B in case things miscarry.