Obamas biggest foreign policy challenge? Its Pakistan


Via McLatchy
By Jonathan S. Landay and Saeed Shah | McClatchy Newspapers

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A nearly completed U.S. military study is expected to say that nuclear-armed Pakistan, not Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran, is the most urgent foreign policy challenge facing President Barack Obama.

Pakistan, convulsed by a growing al Qaida-backed insurgency, hamstrung by a ruinous economy and run by an unpopular government that's paralyzed by infighting and indecision, is critical to U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, thwart the spread of nuclear weapons and prevent tensions with neighboring India from escalating into a nuclear showdown.

The U.S. Central Command review is assessing the situation in the Middle East and South Asia as the Obama administration plans to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq and double the 30,000-strong American military presence in Afghanistan, several people involved in the study told McClatchy. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the study is still underway and they weren't authorized to discuss it publicly.
Hardly a startling revelation, it's always been surprising how post 9-11 a deepening crisis in Pakistan was largely ignored. Our deceptively easy initial intervention in the Afghan war and the Iraqi misadventure are partly to blame but Cold War mindsets lie behind this lack of focus.

If Barry was coming at this problem without the collection of strategic deficits bequeathed to him by the last two feckless incumbents it would be hard enough: a large populous nuclear power with a genocide prone military rapidly going off the rails. As it is he's faced with a draining long term commitment to Iraq an increasingly difficult Pashtun war, a cocky empowered Qom and an increasingly belligerent Kremlin. Add to this he now heads a heavily indebted tax shy nation addicted to the drunken sailor spending sprees of the Bush years that's deep in hock to its strategic rivals.

It's perhaps time to sit back and really consider Afghanistan in the wider context of the region. The risks South of the Durand line are of a different order and our vague notions of what victory might look like in Afghanistan may not be compatible with Pakistan's stability or even existence. Talk of escalating the Pushtan war may have provided a chance to hang tough on the campaign trail how it affects the containment of Islamabad's problems should be on our minds.
Washington's biggest foreign policy challenge is to convince Europe that its other foreign policy challenges have merit and deserve their input.


Book Reviewer
Pakistan is only ever one crazy coup away from an ISI - supported Islamist takeover with a rabid determination to 'praise Allah' and get those 72 virgins at the expense of a nuclear MAD scenario with India.


whitecity said:
msr said:

The CIA is correct with this analysis.

And is a direct result of US/UK military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The latter theater probably breeds a larger terrorist threat in Londonstan. Simple reason for that: not many folk with Iraqi kin in the UK but a good few followers of Pashtunwali.
Intelligence briefings for Mr Obama have detailed a dramatic escalation in American espionage in Britain, where the CIA has recruited record numbers of informants in the Pakistani community to monitor the 2,000 terrorist suspects identified by MI5, the British security service.

A British intelligence source revealed that a staggering four out of 10 CIA operations designed to thwart direct attacks on the US are now conducted against targets in Britain
The stats may be slightly skewed by Blighty being a CIA case officer's idea of heaven i.e. a comfy CCTV packed goldfish bowel where the natives grunt a dialect of Yank and are less bothered about civil liberties than the Canadians.
Silly question perhaps, but are the CIA actually sharing the int with us? Or a case of we find them and the CIA takes them off our hands and makes everything noforn?
Sometimes though CIA involvement can be unhelpful. Look at the court case involving the "alleged airline bombers". Only 3 of the 8(out of 24 arrested) who went to court were found guilty. Some commented that the CIA pushed for them to be arrested sooner while The Security Service wished to gather more evidence.
I wonder if American lack of trust/eagerness will lead to more arrests being carried out earlier and more court cases failing?
Comments like this do not help the civilian goverment much!

In a recent interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, gave a rather startling reply when asked about the reluctance of Pakistan’s military to apprehend senior Taliban leaders based in Quetta and elsewhere in Pakistan: “Shouldn't they be allowed to think and say what they please? They believe that jihad is their obligation. Isn't that freedom of opinion?" (Der Spiegel, January 6). The remark was undoubtedly of concern to U.S. counter-terrorism officials, who view the ISI with deep suspicion and have had only limited success in encouraging Pakistan’s military to engage Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan’s north-west frontier region. General Pasha directed military operations in that region from 2005 until his appointment as ISI commander on September 29, 2008.

Pakistan’s military later downplayed the ISI chief’s remarks through the armed forces’ Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), which claimed that “important issues have been reported out of context or have been incorrectly constructed as a result of mistranslation… Some of the things reported are either incongruous or have not been clearly stated.” ISPR added that the general’s “views on the handling of al-Qaeda and other terrorists have been incorrectly reported” (NDTV [New Delhi], January 7; Daily Times [Lahore], January 10). ISPR claims of mistranslation may be a reach – Der Spiegel noted that the interview was conducted in English and in the General’s “surprisingly accent-free German,” learned while taking officer training in Germany during the 1980s.

The leader of the opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N)), said the ISI chief should not be giving media interviews and described his remarks as “out of place” (Daily Times, January 13).

General Pasha denied that he and Armed Forces commander Ashfaq Pervez Kayani discussed U.S. drone attacks on Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects on Pakistani territory during a meeting with U.S. officials held on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier last August: "We never discussed that, nor did we agree to it… But to be honest, what can we do against the drone attacks? Should we fight the Americans or attack an Afghan post, because that's where the drones are coming from? Can we win this? Does it benefit Pakistan?"

In another recent Spiegel interview, the head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS – domestic intelligence), Amrullah Saleh, noted, “When the Americans offered to fight the [Taliban/al-Qaeda] fighters themselves, the Pakistanis rejected them, saying you can’t go in, we are a sovereign state. The true reason behind this is that Islamabad is providing the militant groups with ammunition and training” (Der Spiegel, December 8, 2008).

The ISI director also stated that he reports “regularly to the president [Asif Ali Zardari] and take orders from him." The problem is that ISI is supposed to report to the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani (Dawn [Karachi], July 27, 2008; BBC, July 28, 2008). Prime Minister Gilani was forced to drop plans to transfer control of the ISI to the Interior Ministry last summer after objections from Armed Forces commander Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and the General Staff (The Nation [Islamabad], July 27, 2008; Times of India, August 6, 2008; BBC, July 28, 2008). Pasha was appointed head of the ISI by General Kayani last September, despite efforts by the Prime Minister to assume control of the appointment process.

During the Spiegel interview, Lt.-Gen. Pasha suggested a war with India over the Mumbai incident was unlikely: "We may be crazy in Pakistan, but not completely out of our minds. We know full well that terror is our enemy, not India."

How fragile is the Pakistani civilian goverment? A military with elements still dreaming of General Zia's Greater Pakistan, a civilian population hard hit by the economic downturn and a majority of the Pashtun
population still thinking the Afghan Taliban are fighting the good fight on the one hand. While on the other you have an American Government pushing for greater Pakistani involvement in destroying AQ and the Taliban.

Will the new policy ideas of increasing civilian aid help win the hearts and minds of the Pakistani population? Will tying military aid to Pakistan's effectiveness against the Taliban and AQ help motivate it or push it ever more closely to China and Iran? Or worse cause the civilian goverment to fall?


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Lets hope they don't take their eyes off Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Palestine, and the unacceptable conditions that many in Africa have to live and die under.

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