Belmont Club

Back of Beyond

Eight Germans and four Britons are now reported to be part of a terror operation linked to drone strikes in Pakistan. One of the Britons was killed in the attacks, according to the Associated Press. The Europeans had been making calls back to Europe and plotting “Mumbai-style” attacks from Pakistan. The AP said it underlined the role the Southwest Asian country plays in international terrorism and specifically to attacks scheduled for Europe and perhaps for the US.

This came as NATO helicopters crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan “in self defense” and killed a large number of militants in three incidents. The Christian Science Monitor says the attacks demonstrate the new policy of “hot pursuit”, a term which suggests the attackers in Afghanistan were fleeing across the border into Pakistan and that this had been going on for some time. Three Pakistani soldiers were killed by the helicopters.

According to news reports, a Pakistani Frontier Constabulary post came under heavy fire for half an hour, with three soldiers killed and three injured. “The helicopters shelled the area for about 25 minutes. Three of our soldiers manning a border post were killed and three wounded,” a security official told Reuters.

Thursday’s airstrike is the latest in a series of coalition attacks on Pakistani soil. Kurram was struck by International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) on Sept. 28, a day after 30 militants were killed in a strike on North Waziristan tribal agency. ….

But a change of direction may ultimately place a great strain on relations with Pakistan and prove counterproductive, according to retired general Talat Masood.

“These attacks are very serious for Pakistan. It goes to show [coalition forces] are expanding their zone of conflict and violating Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty,” he says.

“We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies,” a Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said after the three troops died, said MSNBC.  Anger at the attacks resulted in Pakistan suspending a NATO logistical route in retaliation. “The blockade appeared to be a major escalation in tensions between Pakistan and the United States. A permanent stoppage of supply trucks would place massive strains on NATO and hurt the Afghan war effort.”

Well might Malik ask the question — but of Pakistan. The Southwest Asian nation was at the center of the Mumbai attack itself, and much else. It was even involved in recent attacks on New York.  MSNBC reported in a separate article that “an employee at Pakistan’s state-run Islamic advisory body has been detained for allegedly playing an important role in assisting the failed New York Times Square car bomber, an intelligence officer said Thursday.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani made assurances Thursday that his country will help foil any terror plot if actionable intelligence is provided, NBC News reported. Gilani made the pledge during a talks with CIA director Leon Panetta in Islamabad.

The Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for cooperation with America was not widely shared. A poll by the New America Foundation supported Georgetown University’s Christine Fair’s observation that many, if not most Pakistanis supported suicide bombing attacks on American troops and were against the drone attacks on militants.  America is far more popular in Iran and Iraq than it is in Pakistan or Egypt.

Nearly nine out every ten people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their region. Nearly 70 percent of FATA residents instead want the Pakistani military alone to fight Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the tribal areas.

The intensity of opposition to the American military is high. While only one in ten of FATA residents think suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified against the Pakistani military and police, almost six in ten believe these attacks are justified against the U.S. military. (The United Nations has determined that many of the suicide attackers in Afghanistan hail from the Pakistani tribal regions.)

More than three-quarters of FATA residents oppose American drone strikes. Indeed, only 16 percent think these strikes accurately target militants; 48 percent think they largely kill civilians and another 33 percent feel they kill both civilians and militants. Directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, missiles are launched from unmanned drone aircraft in the FATA region of Pakistan. President Obama has dramatically ramped up the drone program, authorizing 122 so far during his administration, more than double the number authorized by President George W. Bush during his entire eight-years in office. This may help account for why Obama is viewed unfavorably by 83 percent of FATA residents in our poll.

But suspending the drone attacks is not an option. Wired reports that threats to Europe originating from Pakistan’s tribal areas have made an increase in drone attacks necessary. To stop them now would give “militants” a free hand.  Even ground assaults in Pakistan may now be in the cards. An entire secret CIA army is operating in the region. The meme of the “war in Afghanistan” being fought to ‘end it where it began’ is now falling apart. Links to Europe, Pakistan and the Middle are simply too numerous to deny and too serious to ignore.

The only question that now remains is what strategic paradigm will replace the ruins of Obama’s fantastic conception of a law-enforcement campaign against a localizable enemy. This paradigm is failing dismally as a framework around which to organize an effective response to the global threat. If the US is not to be dragged piecemeal into conflict around the earth without limit it must do several things:

  1. First,  it must name the enemy and identify its ideological, financial and organizational center of gravity.  Who purveys these radical ideologies, funds the madrassas and victory mosques worldwide? Where do they get their money? What states provide technical support and training for these elements? What vehicles are they using to establish beach heads in third countries and the West?   To do this would require an enormous act of political courage which establishment politicians have so far proven incapable of.
  2. Second, given the identity of the enemy, what combination of cultural, ideological , diplomatic and — where necessary — military force is needed to defeat the enemy and bring about a lasting peace at the minimum human cost.
  3. Third, how can the US build a consensus in the politically correct West to implement the above?

None of this is rocket science. It is common sense.  But it is common sense which the current crop of politicians will do their damndest to avoid until they can no longer avoid it.  Until then, they will pursue a strange, illogical, counterproductive and unnecessarily bloody campaign to preserve their political point of view. They will try to save their political face even at the cost of losing their pants.


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