Belmont Club

The Trouble Spreads

“Still angry over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistani lawmakers demanded an end to American missile strikes against Islamist militants on their soil Saturday, and warned that Pakistan may cut NATO’s supply line to Afghanistan if the attacks don’t stop,” says the AP. A fuel convoy headed for Afghanistan was recently hit by an IED, causing the loss of 5 tanker vehicles.

The divided nature of Pakistan was recently illustrated by a pair of recent incidents. Bill Roggio reports that a team of five female suicide attackers were recently killed in a running gunbattle in Quetta, as they tried to grenade their way past a checkpoint. “Today’s failed attack is the third major attempt by terrorists in Pakistan since al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden was killed by US SEALs and CIA operatives at his safe house in Abbottabad.” But in other news, Pakistani border forces exchanged fire with NATO helicopters operating on the Afghan side of the border.

Pakistani troops and Coalition helicopters exchanged fire along the Afghan-Pakistani border earlier this morning, resulting in two Pakistani troops wounded. The Pakistani military has “lodged a strong protest” and insists on a high-level meeting.

Initial reports from both sides are in conflict. The clash took place at the Admi Kot Post in the Datta Khel area in North Waziristan, according to the Pakistani military. Pakistan claimed that the Coalition helicopters based in Afghanistan crossed the border, but an unnamed Western military official said the helicopters opened fire from Afghanistan after taking fire from the Pakistani side of the border.

“Two NATO Helicopters violated Pakistan air space today at Admi Kot Post, North Waziristan Agency in the in the early hours of the morning,” the Pakistani military said, in an official statement released at the Inter-Services Public Relations website.

Another sign of division was the fatal attack on a Saudi diplomat in Karachi by motorcycle-riding assassins, which could signal the open entry of Iran into the fray. “In the wake of the shooting, a Saudi foreign ministry official said the nation will increase security for its diplomats in countries considered as danger zones, starting in Pakistan.”

Saudi Arabia has funded hardline Sunni groups in Pakistan for years, angering its minority Shiites. Meanwhile, Iran has channeled money to Shiite groups, and in the 1980s and 1990s the country was the scene of an effective proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi an especially bloody battleground.

John Kerry, who is on a trip through the region to patch things up with Islamabad said “we believe there are things that can be done better”. Reuters says Kerry’s mission is to “ask tough questions” about what Pakistan knew of Osama bin Laden “but he will also be keen to ensure Pakistani anger over the U.S. raid does not subvert security cooperation.”

One of the subjects Kerry may be discussing is an agreement between the US and Pakistan to govern operations against high value targets. “The U.S. and Pakistan agreed Monday to work together in any future actions against “high value targets” in Pakistan, even as U.S. Sen. John Kerry defended Washington’s decision not to tell Islamabad in advance about the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The pledge, which was made in a joint statement, could help mollify Pakistani officials and citizens, who were enraged that one of the country’s most important allies would conduct a unilateral operation on its soil. But details of the promised cooperation were unclear.”

How much luck Kerry will have is unclear. ISI’s powerful chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha has warned India that any Abbottbad-like attack by it would invite a befitting response from Pakistan as targets inside the country “had already been identified” and “rehearsal” carried out.

The internal conflicts within the Islamic world are now being internationalized, perhaps intentionally, by regimes whose populations are boiling over with discontent. The Christian Science Monitor says Israel now believes that Syria and Iran are trying to deflect tensions from the Arab spring by dragging Israel into it.

deadly clashes Sunday with Arab demonstrators who challenged Israeli forces at the Lebanese, Syrian, Gazan, and West Bank borders showed it may be difficult for Israel to remain above the fray.

Israeli officials have warned in recent weeks that “radical” Islamist groups and Iran are trying to leverage the unrest in the Middle East to expand their influence and pull Israel into the conflict.

Now, the unprecedented breadth of Sunday’s border protests, which marked the anniversary of Israel’s independence in 1948 – known to Palestinians as the “nakba’’ or “catastrophe” – are likely to strengthen Israel’s anxiety that the so-called Arab Spring will destabilize its neighborhood. And that will make the Jewish state less likely offer concessions for peace, security and political analysts say.

Even as the Libyan operation lurches forward to indefinite conclusion, the US and its European allies “are lobbying the United Nations nuclear watchdog to formally accuse Damascus of covertly building a nuclear reactor.” “It is our longstanding view that the Syrian facility…was a nuclear reactor configured for plutonium production,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the discussions.

Despite the recent elation flowing the death of Bin Laden, the War on Terror may be ramping up, not winding down. An administration which promised to treat terrorism as a law enforcement problem may now find this model is less and less apt to the situation. Recently, the DOJ announced that it “is planning to prosecute Ali Mussa Daqduq, a dangerous Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian Qods Force agent who is responsible for organizing the Shia terror groups in Iraq and the kidnapping and murder of US soldiers. A letter written by 5 Senators asks why Eric Holder why there are plans to treat a war criminal like he was a common felon.

Dear Attorney General Holder,

We are deeply concerned that the Administration and the Department of Justice are moving forward with plans to prosecute Ali Mussa Daqduq in federal court for clear violations of the laws of war that occurred in Iraq. … We believe the best avenue is to try Daqduq before a military commission, rather than in a federal civilian court. His actions clearly defy the laws of war. Moreover, we are concerned that if Daqduq is left in the custody of the Iraqi government, AAH will successfully negotiate his release. There is little doubt that Daqduq will return to the battlefield and resume his terrorist activities against the United States and our interests.

That is because the word “war” no longer exists in the administration’s vocabular. R2P, “kinetic military events”, and “bringing people to justice” maybe, but not the three letter word. Yet will the old habit of fixing everything by dealmaking work? Or are unavoidable conflicts between the administration’s philosophy and the exigencies of the situation inevitable. Gizmodo worries that politicians care more for PR than operational security. “Details of what happened on the night we killed Bin Laden have been dripping slowly from the White House, but anonymous government sources have just handed the AP the entire story. Every single detail. Even the SEAL dog’s name.” The Stars and Stripes writes that “the team that killed Osama bin Laden told Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week that they are worried that their identities will be leaked. The secretary is not happy.”

“I would tell you that when I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families,” Gates said. Gates added that the military was looking at measures to pump up the security around them.

The basic problem is that an administration which came to office on the promise of engagement is being dragged by the tide of events into unavoidable confrontation. It may not be possible to apply the logic of engagement to a situation which may at some point resemble, if it has not already become, war. It is not always in the power of government to avoid conflict. As Clausewitz pointed out, the enemy gets to vote.


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