Friday, June 12, 2009

The War in Afghanistan and Northwest pakistan can be won

America's real fight in Afghanistan is against al Qaeda fighters and the leaders who direct and supply them. Al Qaeda is allied with and supporting the Taliban attempt to retake control of Afghanistan. This is a movement largely motivated by an extreme fundamentalist version of Islam, which provides the basis for the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda. The alliance allows al Qaeda to conduct its worldwide mission, while the Taliban protect them and use al Qaeda expertise and resources to retake control of Afghanistan.

The U.S. and NATO forces are succeeding in driving the leadership out of Afghanistan. So they are taking refuge in Northwest Pakistan. This has led the Taliban to try to strengthen their control of territory in Pakistan. This puts the Pakistani nuclear weapons in danger of being taken over by radicals who are likely to either use them or sell them to terrorists.

The Pakistan Army has redirected some of its resources* away from Pakistan's border with India and gone after the Taliban in the Swat valley in the Northwest region. They appear to be having some success against the Taliban. The New York Times reported yesterday:
American officials say they are seeing the first evidence that dozens of fighters with Al Qaeda, and a small handful of the terrorist group’s leaders, are moving to Somalia and Yemen from their principal haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In communications that are being watched carefully at the Pentagon, the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, the terrorist groups in all three locations are now communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions, the officials said.
Of course, this will increase the need to create more effective governments in Yemen and especially in Somalia. In the age of terrorism**, such failed states cannot be allowed to become refuges for the bandit and insurgent groups who operate using assymetric war against the rest of the world. With the stronger motivation of those nations possibly being too weak to remove them then perhaps those weak nations will be able to get the assistance they need to become more modern and effective states. All of that is going to be required to win the war against terrorist tactics and the insurgents who use them. But with greater success in Pakistan, we (meaning the modern industrialized nations of the world) may be getting there.

Now the Pakistani pressure on the Northwest Pakistan refuges together with the targeted predator strikes on the insurgent leadership based there is forcing them to look to move elsewhere. So some al Qaeda leaders and fighters are leaving Pakistan and moving to Somalia and Yemen.

The solutions will result from the effects of many nations all using diplomacy, trade policies and limited military actions. The quite rapid progress in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater clearly demonstrate the greater effectiveness of the Obama administration methods over the go-in-alone military-oriented methods of the Bush administration.

[A note: "NATO extends anti-piracy mission off Somalia". This is, of course, related to the battle against al Qaeda and its Taliban ally.]

* This raises a number of questions. The Pakistani government is quite weak, having only limited control over the Army. The Army itself still sees the great threat against Pakistan to by India. The biggest symbol of the conflict between those two nations remains the Kashmir conflict, so the Pakistani Army is loath to take any resources away from focus on India and Kashmir. In fact, the Pakistani Army assisted the growth and combat by the Taliban as a way to maintain control of the Pakistani border away from India.

A major reason for the Terror attack on Mumbai, India by terrorists from Pakistan is surely intended to cause the Indians to increase military pressure on Pakistan.

So has the incursion of the Taliban into Pakistan proper convinced the Pakistani Army to take resources away from defense from India to deal with the more immediate threat to Pakistan? Has there been effective diplomacy between Pakistan and India to give the Pakistanis the belief of a reduced threat from the Indian borders? One hopes the U.S. has brokered such diplomacy, since an American guarantee of Indian promises adds credibility to the Indian promises. British guarantees are probably very effective there also.

As I say, there are a lot of questions raised by the Pakistani attack into the Swat Valley.

** John A. Nagle in his excellent book on counter-insurgency Learning to eat soup with a knife points out that the growth of insurgency and terrorist tactics since WW II is not surprising. It results from the loss of Imperial control over much of the world along with the wide spreading of cheap and effective small arms and bomb technology and supplies. The tactics have grown as communications technology has developed. The result is that the problems that are resulting in terrorism have to be dealt with as civil-military political problems with the primary focus on political solutions rather than on military ones. Neither the American culture nor its military deal well with this kind of problem. In spite of long experience with irregular warfare, the military has never easily adapted to this environment.

No comments: