Tuesday, July 12, 2011

US – Pakistan Relations Continue To Deteriorate

Pakistani Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has announced that Pakistan will begin pulling troops back from the border area with Afghanistan, affecting the manning of some 1100 checkpoints, as a consequence of the US cutting some $800 million in military aid.

The announced cutback in funding will also affect operations of the Pakistani military in the outlaw tribal areas of Waziristan, involving some 147,000 troops.  This is the area where the US has been concentrating its focus and drone bombing strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda targets.  To quote Mr Ahmad Mukhtar:
If at all things become difficult, we will just get all our forces back. . . .
If Americans refuse to give us money, then okay. . . .  I think the next step is that the government or the armed forces will be moving from the border areas.  We cannot afford to keep military out in the mountains for such a long period.
The story briefly outlines just some of the highlights of the tenuous relations between the US and Pakistan, which have reflected a strong sense of realpolitik since the strange bedfellow bonding that Pervez Musharraf agreed to following the 11 September attacks.  Pakistan is the original source of the Taliban prior to their moving into Afghanistan to fill the vacuum after the Soviet retreat from the country in 1989, and elements within the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, have long been suspected of aiding the Taliban, even extending to US suspicions that these elements supported for years the re-location of Usama bin Laden to a suburb of Islamabad.  The US attack which killed bin Laden and secured a treasure of intelligence happened without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities due to our doubts about their security, and has resulted in those authorities being furious about the attack, and embarrassed that it could happen under their very noses.

There has been an escalation of responses, including this latest cut in some one third of the American military aid to Pakistan, and the resulting threat to withdraw Pakistani troops from the border regions, including Waziristan.

Seen from a larger perspective, though, the problem worsens.  As I have previously written, we are on the cusp of our last great operation of the surge of troops into Afghanistan – the move into the last section of the country, that which borders Pakistan.  But Obama has imposed a drawdown of the 30,000 troops that constitute the surge – a number smaller than a surge of more than 40,000 troops recommended by the military, and a drawdown at a faster pace than that recommended by the military as well (the President calls for 10,000 troops out by the end of the year and the remainder of the 30,000 out by September 2012; the Pentagon’s request is 5,000 troops out by the end of the year, and all 30,000 out by January 2013).  Our advance into the last and most difficult region so far will happen at practically the same time that we are pulling troops out. 

Any strategist worth his salt must agree that our attack from the west, in order to have a chance of a high degree of success, must be accompanied by a simultaneous movement by Pakistani forces on their side of the border – a hammer and anvil approach.  Otherwise, the Taliban will simply drift across the border into their sanctuaries in Pakistan as they have done before (and I have to expect that there are those in the military who retain the corporate knowledge of trying to fight in South Viet Nam with the NVA basing out of their sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos).  A large strategic operation of this sort must require not only close military relations with Pakistan but also ties with like-minded Pakistanis at all levels – and it is certainly to the advantage of our allies there to gain control of their country away from radical Islamic Supremacists. 

We are losing our advantage in this fight by hampering our troops by cutting logistic, manoeuvre, and strike capability in order to gain (frankly) a political advantage with the Left in America just before the final phase of the election season for 2012, and we are attenuating at best our chance to deliver a telling blow to the enemy, while driving him into a country where he can gain not just a sanctuary but a political advantage.

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