September 18, 2008

New Pakistan policy risky – but necessary

This article appeared on

Pushing Pakistan might work but could cause the government to fall

American forces have expanded the war in Afghanistan to include cross border operations into neighboring Pakistan. This represents an escalation of the risks the United States is prepared to take in its war against the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Since July, American forces have increased in number and size the raids into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of North and South Waziristan, areas used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda as safe havens once thought immune from attack. Most of these raids consisted of Hellfire missile strikes launched from Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles operated by both the U.S. Air Force and the CIA; at least one raid included a ground incursion by U.S. special operations forces and CIA operatives.

At the same time, the United States is gradually increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan and urging its NATO allies to do the same. This “quiet surge” as described by the Bush Administration is in response to increased Taliban attacks on U.S. and NATO units in Afghanistan over the last six months.

With the situation improving in Iraq, American forces can – and should - now concentrate on the original battleground in the offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. However, as long as there is a safe haven for these groups’ fighters across the border in neighboring Pakistan, stepped up operations limited to the sovereign territory of Afghanistan can only do so much. The solution must include denying the Taliban the ability to use Pakistan as an operations, logistics and training base.

Denying the Taliban use of Pakistani territory should be the responsibility of the Pakistan government. To be fair, Pakistan has at times deployed troops into the lawless frontier regions. Each time they have been met with stiff resistance and suffered surprisingly significant casualties. The Pakistan armed forces are very professional – they well understand the level of force required to get the job done; they just seem unwilling to do it.

One must also consider the internal dynamics of Pakistan when either calling for newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari to take action or taking unilateral action across the border. There is a fair amount of sympathy in the population in general and the armed forces in particular for the Taliban and al-Qaeda – the Taliban was created by Pakistan’s intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate.

The ISI was also the primary funnel for American and Saudi money and weapons to the Afghan mujahidin and the Arab volunteers who later formed al-Qaeda, in the fight against the Soviet occupation in the 1980’s. Those bonds run deep. American demands that Zardari commit large numbers of troops to fight the Taliban, al-Qaeda and their Pushtun hosts in the border areas may cause a crisis in popular support for the new government. After all, there is little support in Pakistan for the United States and its war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A failed government in Islamabad would serve only the extremist agenda.

It is interesting – and telling – that the Pakistani government which accepts up to $100 million every month from the United States to reimburse the Pakistani military for its efforts against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, is willing to order its troops to fire on American forces. It is willing to try to prevent American forces from entering Pakistan, yet seems to be unwilling to prevent Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters from crossing the border seemingly at will.

The war cannot be won unless the flow of men and materiel in and out of Pakistan is stopped – it’s that simple. What is not simple is how to stop it. Pakistan does not want American forces to conduct cross border raids from Afghanistan into its territory, but will not stop the Taliban from doing essentially doing the same thing in reverse.

There is little choice here. American forces must strike the Taliban and al-Qaeda wherever they are – at times that will be in Pakistan. The trick will be to do it in such a way that we don’t cause the fall of the new government.

See my earlier pieces I did for on this subject:

September 7, 2008

Hizballah's Nasrallah says what we knew all along...

On September 4, Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah stated what any observer of Middle East politics has known all along: Hizballah has no intention of disarming and disbanding its militia, although it has committed to do so numerous times.

This should come as no surprise.  Hizballah has rarely, if ever, adhered to any pact or agreement it has made.  This includes the Ta'if Accords of 1989, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1559 of 2004, and UNSCR 1701 adopted at the end of the 2006 war between Israel and Hizballah.

All of the accords that Hizballah has agreed to include a requirement that Hizballah disarm and disband its militia, the
al-muqawamat al-islamiyah (Islamic Resistance).  The accompanying requirement is that "foreign forces" - read: Israel - would leave the country as well.  Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, ending an 18 year occupation - the United Nations declared Israel to be in compliance with the Tai'f accords.  UNSCR 1559 demanded that Hizballah live up to its end of the deal.

Hizballah refused, claiming that Israeli forces were still occupying part of Lebanon - specifically the Shaba' Farms (
mazari' al-shaba').  This is an excuse created with Syrian complicity.  (See my earlier The Shaba' Farms - Hizballah's Fig Leaf.)  

The Shaba' Farms sit adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  Both areas have been occupied since Israel seized them in the Six Day War of 1967.  Old Syrian army maps and United Nations maps both show the area to be part of Syria, not Lebanon.  When it became apparent that Israel was going to withdraw from Lebanon and remove any reason that Hizballah should maintain its militia, Syria claimed that the Shaba' Farms were actually part of Lebanon, not Syria.  A myth was born.

Israeli occupation of any part of Lebanon, in the eyes of Hizballah, justifies the continued existence of Hizballah's militia.  What changed on Friday was Hizballah's need for the myth.  Nasrallah said that regardless of whether Israel withdrew from the Shaba' Farms and another disputed border area (the village of al-Ghajar), it would not disarm.

One has to ask if Nasrallah will justify this complete disregard for Hizballah's commitment by claiming the Shi'a dispensation of
taqiyah - lying to protect the faith.

In any case, Nasrallah's words expose Hizballah for what it is - a lying bunch of thugs who are more interested in power than peace.