Belmont Club

Sign and Countersign

Pakistan has arrested 5 of the informants who helped the US find Osama Bin Laden. Reuters reports “One of the detainees was reported to be a Pakistani Army major whom officials said copied license plates of cars visiting the al Qaeda leader’s compound 30 miles northwest of Islamabad.” Leon Panetta has raised his concerns with the Pakistanis.

The New York Times says that Pakistani is increasingly unwilling to monitor or let US assets monitor al-Qaeda activities inside Pakistan. They are now threatening to shut down the drone program. “It is the future of the drone program that is a particular worry for the C.I.A. American officials said that during his meetings in Pakistan last week, Mr. Panetta was particularly forceful about trying to get Pakistani officials to allow armed drones to fly over even wider areas in the northwest tribal regions. But the C.I.A. is already preparing for the worst: relocating some of the drones from Pakistan to a base in Afghanistan, where they can take off and fly east across the mountains and into the tribal areas, where terrorist groups find safe haven.”

The problem with moving the drones to Afghanistan is that country itself is sustained largely through supplies shipped through Pakistan. Recently, NATO convoys were once again attacked inside Pakistan. Seven fuel tankers were blown up in the latest attack. “Most supplies and equipment required by the soldiers in Afghanistan are shipped through Pakistan, although US troops increasingly use alternative routes through Central Asia.”

Pakistan’s unreliability has threatened to undermine the entire Afghan strategy of the Obama administration. By shifting the focus of efforts to Afghanistan the administration made its policy increasingly dependent on Pakistan. Now a House Panel is proposing a commission to review the entire basis of the strategy. “The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted for an assessment of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan modeled after the 2006 Iraq Study Group.”

The Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group would also be made up of five Democrats and five Republicans and would have 90 to 120 days to complete the study. “We need fresh eyes on the target,” Wolf said. “Some of the best minds I’ve spoken to have said this is a good idea.”

The real alternatives are going to be depressingly obvious. It will mean and admission that the current administration has been barking up the wrong tree for some time. If Pakistan is in fact the real epicenter of terrorism in Southwest Asia, then operations would have to pivot from Afghanistan to face Pakistan. That meant a realignment of the mission in Afghanistan and the formulation of a wholly new strategy to fight, or at least contain a “US ally”. Most importantly, it implies not only that the war has not yet been won, but that the enemy has only just been identified.

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