Category ►►► Pakistan Perplexities
August 10, 2011
Obama Very Popular - Among Moslems and Mullah Omar
Evidently, talks between spokesfolk for Barack H. Obama and aides to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar have "broken down." Those of us still flabbergasted that they were being held at all may be excused, I hope, for not feeling let down that they've evidently collapsed.
For all the secrecy, it was never particularly a secret: The talks -- what, conditions under which we would give Afghanistan back to the Taliban? -- were widely discussed in several news stories over the past few months. In fact, that appears to be the reason they crashed and burned:
Secret exploratory peace talks between the United States and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, Western diplomats have told The Daily Telegraph.
The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by 'paranoid' Afghan government figures....
[A]fter only three sessions details of two meetings in Germany and one in Qatar – held in March and April - were leaked to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel news magazine which named Tayeb Agha as the key Taliban negotiator.
Well. All I can say is... Holy Hudna! Mullah Omar himself appears to have given his blessing for the talks:
Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's former private secretary, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. The meetings were chaired by Michael Steiner, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan....
After years of the Taliban rejecting Hamid Karzai's overtures, news of contact with a senior aide to Mullah Omar had kindled cautious hope in Kabul.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the Taliban's former envoy to the United Nations and now a member of Mr Karzai's High Peace Council, told the Daily Telegraph in June that the contacts were "helpful".
He said: "[Tayeb Agha] is still very close to Mullah Mohammad Omar, it's a good sign. Not only close to Mullah Omar, but also close to Pakistan."
But the saddest part of the story is this:
Michael Semple, the former deputy European Union representative in Kabul and a leading expert on Taliban thinking, said the disclosure of the talks and the identification of Tayeb Agha was regarded as damaging by the insurgents.
"The Taliban have long claimed that they will drive the foreigners out by force before contemplating talks. They need a period of confidential contact to satisfy themselves that there is something serious on offer to warrant them taking the big step of acknowledging that negotiations have to start now and not after things have been settled on the battlefield," he said.
"When the fact that talks had taken place and the identity of the Taliban envoy were leaked the Taliban shifted into their version of damage control. The leadership put it about that the contacts were nothing out of the ordinary. They were just routine discussions about prisoner releases, which a movement at war has to undertake periodically.
The Taliban will "drive the foreigners out by force before contemplating talks." Why does Mr. Semple say they've decided to start negotiations "now and not after things have been settled on the battlefield"? The Obamunists are proclaiming throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof that we just can't wait to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan; that we shall do so unilaterally and without regard to the facts on the ground; and that withdrawal will proceed no matter whether we're winning or losing.
So haven't the Taliban met their original requirement, then? If that's not surrender, what is? The Taliban can enter into "negotiations" -- when, where, and how we are sheepishly to return them their country, throwing ordinary, anti-totalitarian Afghans under the camel's hooves -- with a clean conscience, basking the holiness of having already defeated B.O. on the battlefield!
Meanwhile, Obamic love is not distributed evenly throughout the religions; there appear to be some meaningful differences:
Eighty percent of Muslim Americans approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president (!), according to a newly released survey conducted by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, a partnership between Gallup and the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.
According to the survey, 65 percent of Jewish Americans* approve of the job Obama is doing; 60 percent of atheists, agnostics, and those of no religion approve; 50 percent of Catholics approve ; 37 percent of Protestants approve and 25 percent of Mormons approve .
So it's hardly surprising that Mullah Omar is pleased as punch that our president plans to negotiate away everything we've won over the past decade: He's in the 80% majority!
'Zounds, how I wish we could hold the November, 2012 election this September. At this rate, I'm not sure we can survive another seventeen months.
* That is, probably close to 100% of irreligious Jews.
A strong talking point for Mitt Romney.
January 19, 2011
Obamacle Tries to Make Lemonade Out of a Sow's Ear
For years during both the George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama presidencies, American military commanders have complained that Pakistan is not fighting hard enough against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces along the Pakistan/Afghanistan "border" -- which is entirely artificial, as the Pashtun and other tribes move back and forth across the menagerie lion with impunity, indeed without even being aware (I suspect) that they have crossed from one country to the other.
Though every region in Pakistan is dangerous, the most deadly is likely the seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs), called Agencies:
- North Waziristan
- South Waziristan
(The FATAs also include six Frontier Regions: Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan [Darazinda], Kohat [Darra Adam Khel], Lakki Marwat, Peshawar, and Tank [Jandola].)
Pakistan (L) and FATAs pullout (R)
Because the FATAs abut Afghanistan, terrorists and insurgents attack Afghans, Americans, or our Coalition partners, then flee back across the "border" and moon American troops, which must perforce come to screeching halt at that crayon mark. Once in Pakistan, the most we can do is lob Hellfire missiles from drone aircraft.
The situation in the FATAs got significantly worse when Pakistan strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf was ousted from power in August, 2008, after seven years of iron-fisted rule. Musharraf had "aligned" Pakistan with the international coalition that fought the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but he was eventually forced to resign after being threatened with impeachment.
He was succeeded by the head of the Pakistan People's Party, President Asif Ali Zardari -- widower of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, likely by al-Qaeda and possibly on orders of Ayman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's left-hand man. Since assuming the Barnacle Throne, or whatever they call it, Zardari has prosecuted the war against the terrorists with a notable lack of zeal.
And even more recently, Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (N for Nawaz faction) -- long suspected of having cozy ties with terrorists -- has yet again become a rising star in Pakistan. Correspondingly, the prospects of that country fighting a full-on war to expunge the Taliban, the ocean in which the fish of al-Qaeda swim, has sunk even lower.
The current strategy appears bizarre: The Pakistan army has fought against the Taliban in six of the FATAs; but they have by and large ignored North Waziristan. Not surprisingly, a motley crew of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and assorted other nuts, fruits, and flakes has collected there, sludge always finding the lowest level:
Pakistani Army operations in the other six of seven tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan have helped drive fighters from Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militant groups into North Waziristan, the one tribal area that Pakistan has not yet assaulted.
And now, in an almost freakish claim, "senior United States intelligence and counterinsurgency officials" are saying that the existence of a safe haven along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a good thing:
A growing number of senior United States intelligence and counterinsurgency officials say that by bunching up there, insurgents are ultimately making it easier for American drone strikes to hit them from afar.
American officials are loath to talk about this silver lining to the storm cloud that they have long described building up in the tribal area of North Waziristan, where the insurgents run a virtual mini-state the size of Rhode Island. This is because they do not want to undermine the Obama administration’s urgent public pleas for Pakistan to order troops into the area, or to give Pakistan an excuse for inaction.
“We cannot succeed in Afghanistan without shutting down those safe havens,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week, underscoring a major conclusion of the White House’s strategic review of Afghanistan policy last month.
But as long as the safe havens exist, they provide a rich hunting ground, however inadvertent it may be.
It's an amazing bit of rhetorical gymnastics. While these anonymous intelligence and counterinsurgency stratgists admit it would be better if Pakistan actually stepped up and destroyed the terrorists -- you think? -- they nevertheless continue making excuses and trying to minimize the embarassment of a presidential administration that has fecklessly and only half-heartedly fought against those who struck the United States ten years ago. (And the embarassment of the Zardari administration, as well.)
How's this for rationalization:
A senior counterterrorism official concurred, saying: “We’ve seen in the past what happens when terrorists are given a de facto safe haven. It tends to turn out ugly for both Pakistan and the United States. It’s absolutely critical that Pakistan stay focused on rooting out militants in North Waziristan....”
But half a dozen senior intelligence, counterterrorism and military officials interviewed in the past several days said a bright side had unexpectedly emerged from Pakistan’s delay. Pounding the militants consolidated in the North Waziristan enclave with airstrikes will leave the insurgents in a weakened state if the Pakistani offensive comes later this year, the officials said.
“In some ways, it’s to our benefit to keep them bottled up, mostly in North Waziristan,” said a senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed agreed to speak candidly about the Pakistan strategy if he was not identified. “This is not intentional. That wasn’t the design to bottle them up. That’s just where they are, and they’re there for a reason. They don’t have a lot of options.”
The claim might have some merit under two conditions:
- First, if we had a real plan for taking advantage of this "bunching up" of terrorists, something a bit more robust and lethal than Predator drone attacks that kill three or four of them at a time and often miss the actual commanders. Alas, President B.O. has no stomach for the fight, and indeed is sticking to his timetable for pulling all our troops out of Afghanistan starting in June 2011. The odds that he would send American troops directly into Pakistan (as he suggested during his presidential campaign) is nil.
- Second, if those advancing the claim were confident enough about it that they were willing to use their names. Alas, nobody is willing to go on record saying it's a good thing that Pakistan is leaving the terrorist haven of North Waziristan unmolested... and I suspect we all know the reason why they won't.
By contrast, those who say it's a rotten thing that Pakistan is shying away from North Waziristan are willing to show their faces, are much more highly placed, and are legion. For example:
All the more reason proponents of Pakistani action say time is of the essence. “I’ve been very clear in my conversations with General Kayani over the last year or so that there needs to be a focus, from my perspective, on North Waziristan,” [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Admiral [Michael] Mullen told reporters in Islamabad last month. “That’s where Al Qaeda leadership resides, that’s where the Haqqani network, in particular, is headquartered, and the Haqqanis are leading the way and coming across the border and killing American and allied forces. And that has got to cease.”
Admittedly, North Waziristan is the hardest Taliban/al-Qaeda nut to swallow. But as noted above, that's all the more reason to swallow hard and crack it.
And wouldn't it be nice if we had a president with enough leadership that he could not only persuade our supposed allies to step up, but also step up himself and cancel the troop withdrawal. We could certainly use the extra forces to move into North Waziristan and deny the terrorists their safe haven.
Then we might obliterate the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and we might even break the back of the terrorist Haqqani network, which enjoys widespread support within Pakistani security and intelligence forces themselves, since Haqqani often launches terrorist attacks against Afghans perceived as supporting the United States. In June of last year, the Pakistani Army and Intelligence heads, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, held power-sharing talks with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, offering to incorporate Haqqani into the Afghanistan government after the U.S. leaves:
Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. In a sign of the shift in momentum, the two Pakistani officials were next scheduled to visit Kabul on Monday, according to Afghan TV.
The Haqqani network has its base in North Waziristan, another reason Pakistan has avoided attacking that Tribal Area:
But there have long been suspicions among Afghan, American and other Western officials that the Pakistanis were holding the Haqqanis in reserve for just such a moment, as a lever to shape the outcome of the war in its favor.
On repeated occasions, Pakistan has used the Haqqani fighters to hit Indian targets inside Afghanistan, according to American intelligence officials. The Haqqanis have also hit American ones, a possible signal from the Pakistanis to the Americans that it is in their interest, too, to embrace a deal.
Evidently, Pakistan considers the eventual behind-the-scenes control of Afghanistan after we withdraw a much more important war -- of conquest -- than the minor war of mere national defense in their own tribal areas. Sadly but not shockingly, even some members of the Obama administration seem willing to allow Pakistan and the Haqqani terrorist network to carve up Afghanistan:
Some officials in the Obama administration have not ruled out incorporating the Haqqani network in an Afghan settlement, though they stress that President Obama’s policy calls for Al Qaeda to be separated from the network. American officials are skeptical that that can be accomplished.
Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said on a visit to Islamabad last weekend that it was “hard to imagine” the Haqqani network in an Afghan arrangement, but added, “Who knows?”
"Realists" like the late Richard Holbrooke may go and come, but the urge to appease abides.
July 26, 2010
Brilliance at Midnight
The take-away from the massive dumping of leaked U.S. military documents on WikiLeaks, documents related to the conduct and progress of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is this: The putative "rift" between Islamist terrorists on the one hand, and radical Islamists who "reject terrorism" (at specific times and places) on the other hand, has nothing to do with any ultimate goal of Islamism.
The rift reflects only a difference of opinion about the precise strategies and tactics for achieving that goal. Islamist victory conditions are the same in both groups: a pure, radical Islamism dominant across the globe, with sharia the final law in every country.
This is, of course, the central thesis of Andrew McCarthy's seminal work, the Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. But we see it played out in the carefully parsed response of the administration of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to the documentation, throughout the leaked papers, of cooperation between Pakistan officials and the Taliban... at the very time the former are supposed to be allied with the United States and NATO at war with the latter.
Note how carefully spokesmen dance around the actual accusation:
A senior ISI official, speaking on condition of anonymity under standard practice, sharply condemned the reports as “part of the malicious campaign to malign the spy organization” and said the ISI would “continue to eradicate the menace of terrorism with or without the help of the West.”
The unnamed official pointedly restricted the term "menace" to terrorism; but the danger is not terrorism but Islamism. The accusation against the ISI, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan, is not that they, themselves engage in "martyrdom operations" in Pakistan or Afghanistan; of course they don't (in general). Rather, the data-dump documents that the ISI especially, but other Pakistan government bodies as well, leak military intelligence like a sieve. Some of the leaks are simple incompetence; but others are due to corruption (bribery) or a radical ideology that deliberately aids and abets Islamist groups... including those who prematurely engage in terrorism at this time, before Pakistan has been sufficiently "Islamicized" to embrace the ideology of the Taliban.
Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, dismissed the reports and said that Pakistan remained “a part of a strategic alliance of the United States in the fight against terrorism....”
Mr. Babar questioned how Pakistan could possibly have the kind of connections to the Taliban that some of the reports suggest, asking if “those who are alleging that Pakistan is playing a double game are also asserting that President Zardari is presiding over an apparatus that is coordinating attacks on the general headquarters, mosques, shrines, schools and killing Pakistani citizens?”
Yes, I think we all agree that the current quasi-democratic, partially authoritarian regime in Pakistan believes it should remain in charge; consequently, it opposes terrorist attacks on "mosques, shrines, schools," and especially upon "the general headquarters" of Pakistan's military. But that isn't the question, is it?
Are elements of the ISI collaborating with the Taliban to bring about an Islamist revolution in Pakistan? That is the real question, and it remains unanswered by the Zardari administration.
Such a revolution needn't include terrorism; for example, if Zardari himself fully embraced Islamism and enacted sharia law, overturning what democracy Pakistan still possesses and joining "the Project" -- but if he declared himself the supreme Taliban leader in Pakistan -- that would still constitute an "Islamist revolution," without firing a shot. And it would be just as catastrophic for America and the rest of the West as a bloody insurrection or coup d'état.
Terrorism is not the enemy; it is a tactic of the enemy, one bolt in an entire quiver of bolts. A "global war against terrorism" has no meaning; but surely we can understand and support a war against radical Islamism. (To highlight this point, I am changing the category formerly known as "the War Against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis" -- too limiting! -- to "the War Against Radical Islamism.")
This specifically includes not only those who want to advance Islamist ideas by terrorism but also those, like the Muslim Brotherhood, who share that goal but believe, at this time in history, that the Islamist Project is best advanced by propaganda, sabotage, bribery, "democratically" electing a totalitarian government (which then "pulls the ladder up" behind it)... and only sometimes by terrorism and bloody revolution.
Thus the surety we need is that Pakistan rejects the Islamist Project, and all it comprises:
- Dominance -- Islam is dominant over all the world; infidels worldwide must pay the special tax and be treated as inferior beings.
- Purity -- Islam is the Islam of Mohammed and his original followers; no reformation, no enlightenment, containing no Western ideas of individual liberty, democracy, or separation of religion and State.
- Completeness -- Sharia is the entire law in every country and Islam the entire morality.
- Hegemony -- the "true" Caliphate is restored to its rightful place as supreme ruler of the world.
If highly placed individuals within Pakistan (or Afghanistan) still support any element of the Project, then those individuals are our enemies, regardless of whether they believe terrorism is the best route to advance the Project at this time, in that particular place; and they should be treated as enemies by anyone who purports to reject radical Islamism.
The clever way found by representatives of Pakistan to ignore the implication that high-ranking government and intelligence officials either support the ideology of radical Islamism, or are at least willing to ally with them (for money, for power), and tendentiously redefine the question to focus only on the straw man of direct ISI involvement in terrorist attacks upon themselves, should make us very nervous indeed.
Why can't Pakistani officials, or President Zardari himself, just come right out and denounce the ideology of the Taliban? While it's important what tactics they use to advance that ideology, the most important factor is radical Islamism itself.
But don't look for the current American administration of Barack H. Obama to demand an answer; it has already ruled out ideology as a motivator of "Man-caused disaster" in the first place (an act of "Willful Blindness"). We cannot possibly win the war until and unless we are willing to confront the real enemy -- radical Islamists -- and win the war of ideas.
There are many ways to win a war of ideas or ideologies; but our core strategy is the same as that of the Islamists: conversion. We must convert the unaligned and even the enemy -- either to another religion entirely (Christianity, perhaps), or at least to a non-radicalized version of Islam.
One path to conversion is to prove that our Western "culture of life" leads to a better life than the Islamists' cult of death. Another is to show that the West is the "strong horse;" this plays directly into the Arab cultural tendency to gravitate to the winning side in any conflict. But in order to convert, we need a Borg-like ideology that is powerful and seductive, against which "resistance is futile."
Fortunately, we have a couple ready to hand: Evangelical Christianity is winning that war in Africa, for example, as Animists and even Moslems on that continent are converting in mass numbers to an African Christianity that is both Western in outlook and native in local implementation.
Too, our own American ideology of individual liberty, Capitalism, rule of law, separation of religion and State (while maintaining the connection between religion and culture), and democratic governance by the consent of the governed is itself powerful and awesome, leading to a staggering improvement in human life and meaning, and to a strength that has made the still-young America the most powerful nation on Earth. (Even after eighteen months of Obamunism!)
But you can't surrender your way to victory; we must engage on the most important front -- the ideological one.
That's how our Founders won the Revolutionary War, how the North won the Civil War, and how the Democratic West won World War II and the Cold War... they fought and won the war of ideas. Yet by allowing the multi-culti "elite" to jettison the entire intellectual arsenal of liberty, we have disarmed ourselves in what could be an existential armageddon.
So to hell with taking back "the night;" it's long past time for real America to recapture the light of the Western day.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
May 7, 2010
The Flying Fickle Finger of Guilt
I'm a little tired of seeing everything and everybody blamed for the failed intelligence, failed security, and failed prevention of the ultimately failed bombing that Faisal Shahzad failed to perpetrate... that is, blaming everybody except Barack H. Obama, of course. I come not to praise Obama, but to accuse him.
Here are a few facts:
According to a CBS story published Tuesday, May 4th at 2:41 PM, Shahzad was arrested "late Monday night." That would have to be Monday, May 3rd. The story includes the following sentence: "Shahzad... was later read his Miranda rights and continued to cooperate with authorities after that, [Deputy Director of the FBI John S.] Pistole said."
If Shahzad was arrested "late Monday night" and Mirandized prior to Tuesday afternoon, when the story was posted, that means the Feds questioned him less than one day before telling him he had the right to clam up and lawyer-up. This is insane, but hardly unprecedented; they did pretty much the same with the Undiebomber.
(It's irrelevant that Shahzad chose to keep on yapping; just as our counterterrorism strategy cannot be "hope the bombs fail to explode," our terrorist interrogation strategy cannot be "hope the detainees waive their Miranda rights.")
The supposed reason he was Mirandized so quickly was to make it easier for prosecutors to try the case. But that's hardly the most burning issue, is it? It's much more important to determine whether he acted alone, whether he had accomplices who might carry out further bombings -- successfully, this time -- and whether he was part of a large plot directed from Pakistan, by the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or some other international terrorist organization. Prosecution is far down the list of critical tasks, particularly if we can hold him in custody until we finish interrogating him, using enhanced techniques as necessary and legal.
In the case of a terrorist attack, safeguarding the country takes precedence over a criminal prosecution. The inverted priorities are stupid and incompetent.
In a segment on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, I heard some administration spokesman say that they couldn't hold Shahzad as an unlawful enemy combatant because "he is an American citizen.... We can't just hold an American citizen without charges indefinitely." But is he really an American citizen? Let's examine that a bit more thoroughly.
First of all, it was the Obama administration itself that made him a naturalized American citizen on April 17th, 2009. The president and his federal government clearly dropped the ball by not investigating Shahzad more thoroughly -- just as they did in the months leading up to the Fort Hood massacre last November.
But unlike natural-born citizenship, naturalization is not irrevocable.
In order for Shahzad to become naturalized, he must have filled out form N-400 Application for Naturalization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Reading that form, I notice the following on page 7:
9. Have you ever been a member of or in any way associated (either directly or indirectly) with:
c. A terrorist organization?
10. Have you ever advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence?
And on page 8:
D. Good Moral Character
15. Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?
24. Have you ever lied to any U.S. government official to gain entry or admission into the United States?
Shahzad was naturalized in April of 2009; less than two months later, he flew to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he claimed to have undertaken explosives training.
Considering that he had flown to Pakistan many times in the last eleven years, it is a reasonable inference that he did not suddenly develop an interest in -- and contacts with -- terrorist training camps in Pakistan. The most reasonable interpretation of the facts suggests that Shahzad was already in contact with the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda and/or Lashkar-e-Taiba before last April.
If so, then Faisal Shahzad lied on his Application for Naturalization. Lying about a material fact in order to obtain citizenship makes the application fraudulent, which is grounds for administrative denaturalization.
In other words, the Obama administration had an excellent case for stripping Shahzad of his U.S. citizenship... after which he could be held as an unlawful enemy combatant and even transferred to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. So much for the risible claim that his "American citizenship" required the FBI to Mirandize him less than 24 hours after being captured.
Don't let's get buffaloed again: There was no reason at all to Mirandize Faisal Shahzad -- not within 24 hours, nor afterwards. Rather, President Obama should have directed the Justice Department to call an immediate immigration hearing to strip him of the shield of American citizenship precisely so that he could be held as an unlawful enemy combatant and interrogated for as long as it takes to extract all possible intelligence from him.
Anything less constitutes a dereliction of duty on the part of our (ugh) Commander in Chief. Ask not at whom the flying, fickle finger of guilt points; it points directly at B.O.
September 30, 2009
Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Plus Future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming
I just heard Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show dropping a couple of political bombshells:
- First, Kristol now believes for the first time that President Barack H. Obama is paving the groundwork for rejecting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation of a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, including increasing troop levels.
Note that it was the Obamacle Himself who appointed McChrystal to head up his present commands, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), just three months ago; and he it was who ordered McChrystal to undertake a complete review of the Afghanistan policy.
I suspect Obama expected McChrystal to recommend declaring defeat and pulling out. But in response to Obama's order, McChrystal released a 66-page report to continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that called for significantly increasing troop levels there and redeploying the force in a counterinsurgency mode, similar to Iraq.
Ever since, as several bloggers have argued (notably John Hinderaker at Power Line), Obama has acted like a man who deeply regrets having picked an actual fighting general in the first place -- and who wants to prepare the American people for the complete rejection of his own appointee's report, in favor of a phased withdrawal from "the war we should be fighting," as some guy named Barack Obama called it during the campaign (in contrast to Iraq, the war we were supposed to lose, one presumes).
- Second, and far more shocking, is some political intel that Kristol received from a person who is in "cose contact" with top Defense officials: That holdover George W. Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be asked by Obama to step down at the end of the year... and that Obama plans to name former senator Chuck Hagel, who never met a war he didn't want us to withdraw from, as his new Secretary of Retreat and Defeat.
Hagel was an infantry grunt in Vietnam for two years, leaving shortly after the Tet Offensive; that experience seems to have colored his attitude towards all subsequent conflicts: He sometimes votes for them (as for example the Iraq war); but as soon as the going gets tough, Hagel demands an immediate and aggressive surrender.
- He was one of only four Republicans in July 2007 who voted in favor of cloture on a bill to force withdrawal from Iraq starting 120 days from that vote; the other three were Olympia Snowe (ME, 12%), Susan Collins (ME, 20%), and Gordon Smith of Oregon, liberals all.
- In railing against the Iraq COIN strategy of Gen. David Petraeus, Hagel called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." (I don't recall Hagel ever issuing an apology, or even a statement, after the Petraeus strategy proved decisive in our victory in Iraq.)
Speaking about Israeli's incursion into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks on their northern cities, Hagel blurted out:
"The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now.... President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."...
"How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Yes, the perfect man to defend America -- Barack Obama style. I can just picture the furious and manly letters of strong disapproval Hagel will shoot off whenever some dictator funds and gives safe haven to a terrorist group while they blow up another American embassy.
Currently, Chuck Hagel is Chairman of the Board of the Atlantic Council, a foreign-policy think tank cum policy advocacy group that appears to lean heavily towards diplomacy above everything -- talking loudly and forgetting to bring any stick at all, big or small. (E.g., its International Advisory Board is headed by Brent Scowcroft and includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Edelman, Lawrence H. Summers, and a huge inflation of bankers and CEOs of vast multinational corporations.)
Hagel replaced outgoing Chairman Jim Jones, who was tapped to serve as Obama's National Security Advisor; Jones was last seen offering what we called "the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic."
Since the Jim Jones appointment as security sock puppet worked out so well for Obama, it certainly seems plausible that he would go back to the same well to draw out a bucketful of Defense Secretary. Admittedly, Kristol just lost his father, Irving Kristol; but it was hardly the sort of shocking or unanticipated demise that might throw William Kristol into a blue funk and darken his normal optimism.
The threatened appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be catastrophic for the war efforts, all of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, intelligence gathering, interrogations, dealing with Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia... and of course, Hagel would be a disaster for Israel, as he would almost certainly back Obama to the hilt in the latter's quest to force Israel back to the indefensible borders of the pre-Six Day War era. (In exchange for the Palestinian's promise that they might seriously consider deciding whether or not to recognize Israel sometime in the distant and not very likely future.)
Appointing Hagel would seriously diminish our ability to protect our allies or even defend ourselves, and in general would signal the end of American power and leadership in the world, at least for a while (say until 2013). Therefore, I conclude that Obama is already plotting to make the appointment.
I must also conclude that the Senate will swiftly approve the nominee; Hagel was once one of them... therefore, "comity of the Senate" and all that, Republicans will probably support him, though he rarely supported them while in that august body.
And there you have it, your recommended minimum daily allowance of political pessimism and national-defense despair.
Cross-posted (of course) to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 23, 2009
Surge Against the Resurgence of the Insurgency
Since Barack H. Obama took office, anti-war protesters, major media figures, and even conservatives seem to have forgotten that there are wars going on still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to General David Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) in Iraq, the situation dramatically improved there during the tail end of the Bush adiministration. But in Afghanistan, the situation is not improving; it anything, it's deteriorating.
Our Marines are still there and fighting; we can always rely on them. But they cannot win this war alone; ultimately, Afghanistan must be won by the Afghans themselves. But in a place where terrorist and vengence killings and kidnappings by the Taliban continue to be "situation normal," getting Afghans to join the fight against so-called "jihad" is easier promised than delivered, as the Obamacle is finding out.
The New York Times notes that the Marines are not getting the help they need, either from local tribes or the Afghan national government:
Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for “vacation.”
It all raises serious questions about what the American mission is in southern Afghanistan -- to secure the area, or to administer it -- and about how long Afghans will tolerate foreign troops if they do not begin to see real benefits from their own government soon. American commanders say there is a narrow window to win over local people from the guerrillas.
Didn't we hear the same story in 2006, in Iraq? Americans are strong; the Marines can win every pitched battle. We have killed tens of thousands of Talibani, conquered most of the territory of Afghanistan, and occupied them with American and local security forces. But have we secured Afghanistan? Hardly. Instead, it threatens to again become what it used to be called: the graveyard of empires.
Why is it that we cannot win the hearts and minds of the Afghans? All right, when George W. Bush was in the White House, distrust was understandable, liberals might argue; Bush was that evil dictator, that big meaniee, who refused to negotiate or even talk with the "freedom fighters" who only had the best interests of their fellow Pashtuns at heart. Naturally Afghans didn't trust Bush -- everybody in the entire world hated him! But Barack Obama -- the One We Have Been Waiting For, the Obamessiah -- surely ought to be able to resolve this situation diplomatically with a few well-chosen words from his trusty teleprompter.
Yet the sad truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter who the president is; all that matters is our long term, consistant, relentless presence in the country... for a long time to come; probably as long as our military presence in the Philippines, fighting the Moro insurgency -- around 15 years -- as an earlier post discussed.
Afghans are afraid: Even if the Marines secure a region, the populace knows we'll eventually leave; we don't plan to live here permanently as colonial masters. And then what?
Counterinsurgency is much like building a road in the desert. We can shovel and smooth, lay tarmac, and build a superhighway; but if we do not constantly maintain it, if we even take a breather, the desert will reclaim its own and turn the fancy road back into sand dunes, as if we were never even there. Look what is happening in Iraq, since Barack H. Obama arrived and began his months-long victory lap. [Sergeant Garcia: How did we capture Zorro? Capitan Monastario: "We?" You had nothing to do with it, baboso! -- DaH]
Afghans will have to live in Afghanistan long after the Americans leave. They need to be convinced that siding with American troops to build a free Afghanistan is a courageous, honorable, and rational idea -- that cooperating with us does not mean signing their own death warrants. Unless we can guarantee the safety of the Afghan civilians, as we did in Iraq (while President Bush was still in charge), we cannot expect the Afghan tribes to cooperate anytime soon.
What Afghanistan needs is a COIN operation, like the one Gen. Petraeus executed to brilliant victory in Iraq; it would have to adapt to local and regional differences between Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the main goal would be the same: protecting the civilian population long enough for effective and honest civil institutions to arise naturally. But with Barack Obama in the White House, I am not as confident we'll succeed as I once was.
July 28, 2009
I found this juxtaposition fascinating -- in a horrifying sort of way. First, we certainly can't talk to those scheming Honduran diplomats... they represent the coup leaders:
The U.S. government said Tuesday it has revoked the diplomatic visas of four Honduran officials, stepping up pressure on coup-installed leaders who insist they can resist international demands to restore the ousted president.
The U.S. State Department did not name the four, but a Honduran official said they included the Supreme Court magistrate who ordered the arrest of ousted President Manuel Zelda and the president of Honduras' Congress.
The State Department is also reviewing the visas of all officials serving under interim President Roberto Micheletti, department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
(How dare the Honduran Supreme Court rule according to the Honduran constitution, rather than sit quietly and wait for instructions from the One They Have Been Waiting For!)
But of course, we can't simply refuse to talk to people; that would be puerile and unproductive:
A concerted effort to start unprecedented talks between Taliban and British and American envoys was outlined yesterday in a significant change in tactics designed to bring about a breakthrough in the attritional, eight-year conflict in Afghanistan.
Senior ministers and commanders on the ground believe they have created the right conditions to open up a dialogue with "second-tier" local leaders now the Taliban have been forced back in a swath of Helmand province.
Oh, I know, I know; it seems just a tad inconsistent:
- Refusing even to allow into the United States diplomats and officials from one of the most pro-American countries in Central America, because they refused to sit idly while a Cuba- and Venezuela-backed wannabe dictator unilaterally and illegally changed the constitution to allow him to become President for Life;
- And then turning around and opening a diplomatic initiative with the terrorist group that (a) was fully complicit in the September 11th attacks, and that (b) we ousted in a -- well, not exactly a coup; in our case, we used a full military invasion to institute regime change. (See? Totally different.)
It may seem inconsistent, hypocritical, hysterical, adolescent, cement-headed, awkward, slovenly, ad-hominem, and amateurish... but appearances can be deceiving: Perhaps President Barack H. Obama is just living by the motto that defines his life: Keep your enemies close, and your mortal enemies actually in bed with you.
But then again, maybe the president is signalling that he now has second thoughts about the war of Christianist aggression in Afghanistan, started by a previous administration. Maybe this is the first step towards demanding that the current illegal "government" of that country disband, fly to the Hague, and surrender themselves... so that the legitimate government of 2001 and prior can retake its rightful place in Kabul.
I understand that later this year, the president plans to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special-Olympics Spokesman Joe "Litella" Biden to South Korea to share a beer with President Lee Myung-bak and PM Han Seung-soo -- then deliver a long and serious lecture about dissolving the South Korean entity and making amends for their war of imperialist aggression against their northern brothers 59 years ago.
Cross-toasted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
February 17, 2009
Say, Let's Nuclearize the Taliban!
Yesterday was a wonderful day in Pakistan... if you're a militant Islamist terrorist, that is. If you're a fan of civilization, however, it's a day of somber reflection for some -- and atonement for others.
Yesterday, the craven, new government of Pakistan signed a deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda... this time handing Malakand over to them; the region includes the Swat Valley area of Pakistan, which used to be one of the nicest, calmest, and least violent tourist areas of that very troubled country:
Pakistan agreed Monday to suspend military offensives and impose Islamic law in part of the restive northwest, making a gesture it hopes will help calm the Taliban insurgency while rejecting Washington's call for tougher measures against militants.
A U.S. defense official called the deal "a negative development," and some Pakistani experts expressed skepticism the truce would decrease violence. One human rights activist said the accord was "a great surrender" to militants.
It has become increasingly clear that the endpoint of the current government's pathetic "war" against the Taliban -- which seems to be fought primarily using Obamic principles of defensive apology punctuated by frequent concession -- will be complete surrender to Mullah Omar, allowing the Taliban, having been kicked out of power in Afghanistan, to take over Pakistan instead... a nation that possesses actual functioning nuclear weapons.
It also possesses an actual functioning mad scientist: A.Q. Khan was just released from house arrest by the Islamabad High Court this month; Khan confessed to helping Libya, Iran, and North Korea's nuclear weapons programs by sending them centrifuges and other components for building nuclear bombs (he later recanted his confession, saying he misspoke). Khan is now free to travel about Pakistan or out of the country, and even to take control of the Pakistan nuclear program again, should the government decide to invite him back, either before or after they hand Pakistan over to the Taliban.
Why would Pakistan commit such a devastating act of appeasement against a group that is trying to violently seize control of the country itself? Because the government of Pakistan is increasingly afraid to fight for the country. As bad as Pervez Musharraf was, the new tag-team of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, both of the Pakistan Peoples Party (formerly led by Benazir Bhutto), and behind-the-scenes khan-maker Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) -- the "N" is for Nawaz -- is staggeringly worse. At least Musharraf actually fought against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, in between occasional "cease fires" allowing both sides to recover; the current government for the most part simply retreats.
And what did Pakistan get in return? They got a ten-day cease fire:
The Swat Taliban, which had said Sunday it would observe a 10-day cease-fire in support of the government's initiative, welcomed the deal.
"Our whole struggle is for the enforcement of Shariah law," Swat Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said. "If this really brings us the implementation of Shariah, we will fully cooperate with it."
Pakistan officials hasten to add that the form of sharia they offer isn't quite as extreme or cartoonish as what the same Taliban enforced in Afghanistan:
Hoti said the main changes to the legal system promised by the accord already are included in existing laws stipulating Islamic justice. But he said they would be implemented only after peace was restored in the valley. [Aha, hence the "10-day cease-fire"!]
Hoti said the laws, which allow for Muslim clerics to advise judges when hearing cases and the setting up of an Islamic appeals court, would ensure a much speedier and fairer justice system than the current system, which dates back to British colonial times.
The rules do not ban female education or contain other strict interpretations of Shariah that have been demanded by many members of the Taliban in Pakistan -- restrictions imposed by Afghanistan's Taliban regime that was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.
The rules do, however, strengthen "Islamic justice," where secular judges are "advised" by "Muslim clerics," and where such harsh penalties can also be decided by "Islamic appeals court" judges; thus, while the rules do not explicitly call for, e.g., stoning "adulterers" (including rape victims) and homosexuals to death, allowing "honor" killings, and banning music and dancing, they likely would allow individual judges to impose such sentences themselves. Certainly nobody has gone on record saying they wouldn't allow such grotesqueries.
There is a certain "the biter bitten" irony to this; Pakistan helped create the Taliban in the first place, hoping a fundamentalist Islamist Afghanistan would support Pakistan's struggle to seize the part of Kashmir that is still controlled by India, to join it to the part already controlled by Pakistan.
In fact, it was Benazir Bhutto herself who initiated that policy when she was prime minister in the 1990s. She was later assassinated by the Taliban's ally al-Qaeda. Today, the government that appeases the Taliban is led by her widower husband (and partner in corruption) President Zardari; by the party she used to lead, the Pakistan Peoples Party; and by her former ally in bringing down Musharraf (and later rival for the presidency), Nawaz Sharif. Thus the gratitude of the Taliban.
Perhaps this should give Pakistan a clue of how satisfied the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be by controlling but a few regions of that country and imposing only partial sharia law. I think it just barely possible that they will instead see Malakand and the Federally Administrered Tribal Areas as safe havens from which to launch increasingly savage and successful attacks on the rest of the country, until all of nuclear-armed Pakistan is in the hands of those terrorist groups.
Well, President Barack H. Obama -- what is your plan; do you still plan to launch a ground invasion of Pakistan?
"When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won," he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the District. He added, "The first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Do you have any specifics? Will you settle upon the Colin Powell approach, taking six months to build up a huge invasion force in the Indian portion of Kashmir? Have you any serious thoughts about the following issues:
- Where we are to get those forces in the first place?
- How we are to get India to allow them to march across their country to threaten all-out war with Pakistan?
- Do you anticipate India will eagerly join the expedition to launch Armageddon between the two unfriendly neighbors?
- How we are to support and supply them in the field?
- What is the goal -- to conquer Pakistan?
- What then... nation rebuilding? Do you have a plan for that?
- How we should respond if the Islamists drop a nuke, which we know Pakistan has, on our expeditionary force? Should we nuke Islamabad in retaliation, a city with a population of 1.5 million, 4.5 million in the metro area?
- Have you consulted with Gen. David Petraeus, who is the commander of CENTCOM? Or even offered him cookies?
- Have you figured out how to sell to the American people a war that would utterly dwarf the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined?
Afghanistan has 33 million people, Iraq has 25-30 million. Pakistan has a population of 173 million, three times the GDP of Afghanistan and Iraq combined, 1.4 million men in its military forces (including paramilitary and reserves, which would surely be activated in such a war), an air force of 523 combat aircraft (the entire United States has but 2,604)... and those pesky nukes.
If President Obama no longer wants to invade Pakistan, then is he willing to accept a nuclear nation controlled by al-Qaeda and the Taliban? If not -- then what is his plan? He doesn't seem to have commented. Or noticed.
In the meanwhile, Pakistani immigrants living in America -- some of them American citizens -- are being threatened, both directly and by proxy attacks against their families, into sending ransom and tribute to the Taliban and to cease protesting or organizing against terrorists... even to cease speaking about the subject right here in America.
But Zardari, Gilani, and Sharif are hoping the Islamist terrorists will be satisfied with sharia-lite in some areas of Pakistan, that the agreement will bring peace in our time. Well, perhaps; but if so, they would be the first fanatics ever to be bought off by partial appeasement. I think others are more foresighted (from the AP article above):
Critics asked why authorities were responding to the demands of a militant group that has waged a reign of terror [and has specifically fought to overthrow the Pakistan government, both under Musharraf and under Zardari, Gilani, and Sharif].
"This is simply a great surrender, a surrender to a handful of forces who work through rough justice and brute force," said Athar Minallah, a lawyer and civil rights activist. "Who will be accountable for those hundreds of people who have been massacred in Swat? And they go and recognize these forces as a political force. This is pathetic."
President Obama has proven himself an adept at Bush bashing, al-Arabiya kowtowing, and Ahmadinejad fawning. Now let's see him in action in the real world. We'll see if, like his hero Franklin Roosevelt, he excoriates his predecessor... then apes every one of his major policies -- but on steroids.
February 10, 2009
Al Qaeda's Army of Darkness
Bill Roggio has a chilling report up at the Long War Journal about the resurgence of the "Shadow Army," comprising elements from al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and numerous other terrorist and paramilitary units. It has been allowed to fester not only in Pakistan but in Afghanistan as well; clearly we blundered in trusting NATO units to take on the fight in the latter country:
The Shadow Army is active primarily in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, and in eastern and southern Afghanistan, several US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
The paramilitary force is well trained and equipped, and has successfully defeated the Pakistani Army in multiple engagements. Inside Pakistan, the Shadow Army has been active in successful Taliban campaigns in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur, Peshawar, Khyber, and Swat.
In Afghanistan, the Shadow Army has conducted operations against Coalition and Afghan forces in Kunar, Nuristan, Nangahar, Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Zabul, Ghazni, and Kandahar provinces.
"The Shadow Army has been instrumental in the Taliban's consolidation of power in Pakistan's tribal areas and in the Northwest Frontier Province," a senior intelligence official said. "They are also behind the Taliban's successes in eastern and southern Afghanistan. They are helping to pinch Kabul."
We first encountered the Shadow Army, then called Brigade 055, during the 2001 invasion; we destroyed it then, but aQ and the Taliban have resurrected and rebuilt the army until it is at least as good as it was pre-invasion (probably better):
The effectiveness of the Shadow Army can be seen in a video taken by an Al Jazeera reporter during an operation in Loisam in the Bajaur tribal agency in the fall of 2008 [see video at the Long War Journal blogpost]. The Taliban forces drive off a battalion-sized assault from regular Pakistani Army troops that are supported by at least a platoon of tanks. The Pakistani tanks are seen racing away from the fighting, and the Pakistani infantry moving in behind them does the same after taking fire. The reporter describes the Pakistani tank commander as "quite shaken." The tank commander calls for airstrikes to take out the Taliban positions, but the infantry and tanks go into full retreat and return to base after the Taliban counterattacks.
Will our new president have the guts to send those "30,000 American troops" into Afghanistan to fight? Or will they simply mill about to make it appear as though Barack H. Obama is "doing something," but in reality will be about as effective as we were during the hunt for Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Somalia?
I know Obama once talked about invading Pakistan, but that was when it was still our ally. I'm not at all convinced that he would be willing to invade Pakistan if it were taken over by the al-Qaeda/Taliban axis and became our enemy again.
August 25, 2008
Does a "Pakistani Awakening" Forthcome?
The Taliban in Pakistan has begun to behave as bloody-mindedly as did al-Qaeda in Iraq, when it seized control over the Sunni areas of Iraq under Musab Zarqawi in 2004, when he publicly declared his allegiance to the main al-Qaeda.
The more AQI practiced indiscriminate human sacrifice upon the Iraqi Sunnis, the more desperate the victims became; in the end, they turned on AQI with the ferocity of the damned. We now call this moment the "Sunni Awakening," and it played a crucial role in our victorious counterinsurgency strategy against the insurgent forces in that country -- as Gen. Petraeus and his top COIN advisor, David Kilcullen, along with COIN architects Fred Kagen and Gen. Jack Keane, always knew it would.
Simply put, they realized that if you give fanatic death-worshippers like al-Qaeda power, life under its rule will inevitably turn intolerable, even impossible. The Sunni will revolt, and that would be the perfect opportunity for us to recruit them to the side of Iraq and the United States.
It looks to me as if the Taliban has devolved into the same pattern of mindless devastation right now in Pakistan -- and I believe it will produce the same results:
Concern that the turmoil was distracting the government from tackling urgent economic and security issues was borne out Thursday when twin Taliban suicide bombers killed 67 people at an arms factory near the capital.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik announced Monday that the group responsible for the attack, the Tehrik-e-Taliban, was banned. He said the militants had "created mayhem" in the nuclear-armed nation.
Anyone caught aiding the Taliban in Pakistan - which will have its bank accounts and assets frozen - faces up to 10 years in prison.
The ban came 24 hours after Pakistan rejected a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajur tribal region, a rumored hiding place for Osama bin Laden, where an army offensive has reportedly killed hundreds in recent weeks.
"This organization is a terrorist organization and created mayhem against public life," said Malik.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of militants along the rugged Afghan border set up last year, has claimed responsibility for a wave of suicide bombings in the last half year that have killed hundreds.
Its leadership is formally separate from the Taliban movement which was swept from power in Afghanistan in 2001.
However, some of its members are believed to help recruit, arm and train volunteers for the Taliban-led insurgency against government and NATO troops on the Afghan side of the frontier.
Bear in mind, this is the same fragile Pakistan coalition government -- which collapsed today -- that earlier cut a deal (brokered by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) with the Taliban militants in the Waziristan and Balochistan areas of Pakistan, allowing them autonomy so complete it verged on independence in exchange for a promise not to engage in suicide attacks inside Pakistan.
Now that agreement is clearly ended: The Pakistan army is going after the Taliban hammer and tooth, while the terrorists are busily sacrificing as many Pakistanis as they can cram into the mouth of their blood-and-soul eating Moloch idol.
In poker, when you have the worst hand, the only way to win is to raise and try to buffalo the player with the best hand into folding. The Taliban understand this principle, even if they've never played Texas Hold 'Em in their lives; and they know they have the weaker hand. The only chance they have to win is to go all out to seize the country before the fractious, now fractured government can respond.
That means total terrorist war against Pakistan. And that, of course, is exactly the scenario that created the Sunni Awakening in Iraq: No matter how anxious people are to avoid a fight, no matter how afraid they are, if you back them into a corner and then try to take away even that last refuge -- they will fight for their lives.
And being cornered, they will fight with the ferocity of a stag at bay, with complete abandonment of any scruples about killing, maiming, or torturing captured Taliban death-worshippers.
The current -- rather, the former government of Pakistan, now fallen, will be of little help; the two major figures are former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the author of the deal with the Taliban devil, and presidential front-runner Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- and perhaps the most corrupt man in Moslemdom, which is saying an awful lot. Zardari is colloquially known as the "Three Billion Dollar Man," the amount he is believed to have stolen, embezzled, and otherwise squirreled out of Pakistan, Switzerland, Poland, France, and many other countries. He spent eleven years in prison for corruption and was only released under heavy pressure from Nawaz Sharif.
But Sharif now believes that Zardari has betrayed him:
The main problem between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari was a profound disagreement over the future of the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was fired by President Musharraf in March 2007, reinstated by the court in July, and placed under house arrest in November. He was finally freed in March of this year, but has yet to be restored to the bench.
Mr. Sharif has insisted that Mr. Chaudhry along with some 60 other judges, who were also fired in November, when Mr. Musharraf declared emergency rule, should be restored to the bench.
To drive home the point about broken promises, Mr. Sharif, a former two-time prime minister, released an accord signed by the two men on Aug. 7.
The document shows that Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif agreed that all the judges would be restored by an executive order one day after Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment or resignation. But Mr. Zardari stalled.
In an interview with the BBC Urdu-language radio service on Saturday, Mr. Zardari defended his position, saying agreements with the Pakistan Muslim League-N were not “holy like the holy Koran.”
And why does Zardari not want to allow Chaudhry to return to the high court? Asif Ali "Mr. Bhutto" Zardari is only free and able to run for the presidency because he was granted amnesty from still more corruption charges after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, allowing him to return from exile. Zardari believes that Sharif and his favorite judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry intend to revoke that amnesty and immediately arrest Zardari -- clearing the way for Sharif's own presidential puppet-candidate, former Chief Justice Saeed-uz-zaman Siddiqui. With Siddigui as president and (likely) Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister, the latter would be the de facto dictator of Pakistan -- more or less just like his arch rival Pervez Musharaff did, but without the backing of the military.
This could easily precipitate a real civil war (not the ersatz "civil war" the Democrats periodically rediscover in Iraq)... a bloody civil war between three sides -- the Pakistan Muslim League-N ("N" for Nawaz Sharif), the Pakistan Peoples Party (formerly Bhutto, now her husband Zardari), and of course the Taliban -- where the grand prize is control of the nation's demonstrated nuclear arsenal.
But there is a fourth side none of those three has yet taken seriously, and that is the Pakistan people themselves. If, as I expect, the oceans of blood unleashed by each of the three players in the main event leads to a widespread revolt against them all -- a Pakistani Awakening -- then we may actually see real democracy, not dictatorship, kleptocracy, or theocratic totalitarianism, come to Pakistan for the first time in its short existence as an independent state.
That is probably the only outcome that might avert a nuclear catastrophe. We indeed live in interesting times.
I wonder what Barack H. Obama's plan is for dealing with the Pakistan perplexity?
July 16, 2008
NYT Wonders: Why Didn't Bush Invade Pakistan, As We All Urged?
The New York Times, in the first of an expected 632 installments, explains to us why al-Qaeda is much more powerful now than it was in 2000... and all because President George W. Bush neglected to do what the elite media now claim they repeatedly urged him to do: Send American "commandos" in "ground raids inside the tribal areas" of Pakistan, instead of fighting the thousands of open members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, in the country that al-Qaeda itself declared the core of their jihad.
I have never before been so convinced of the existence of alternative realities.
Here, on a nutshell, is how the Times perceives the buildup of Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Pakistan to be Bush's fault:
After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world....
The story of how Al Qaeda, whose name is Arabic for “the base,” has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.
This is a remarkable change of tone. The biggest Democratic rap on the Iraq invasion has always been that we acted on the basis of ambiguous intelligence, rather than waiting until we had achieved perfect knowledge of exactly what stockpiles of WMD Saddam Hussein had. But now, the New York Times whines that President Bush hasn't even yet sent massive numbers of Special Forces (SF) into our ally Pakistan... against its will, enflaming the very tribal areas where we would have to work, and possibly driving Pakistan further into the arms of Taliban-style radical Islamism. "What's the matter with that Bush guy, anyway?"
Maybe it's just I; but honestly, I can't quite recollect all those Times editorials urging us to violate Pakistan's sovereignty, sending in hundreds of SF even after the president of Pakistan had already rejected such operations... and all on the basis of disputed intelligence:
The militants’ flight [post Tora Bora from Afghanistan to Pakistan] did not go unnoticed by American intelligence agencies, which began to report beginning in the spring of 2002 that large numbers of foreigners appeared to be hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan.
But Gen. Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in northwestern Pakistan, was skeptical. In an interview this year, General Aurakzai recalled that he regarded the warnings as “guesswork,” and said that his soldiers “found nothing,” even when they pushed into dozens of square miles of territory that neither Pakistani nor British forces had ever entered....
Former American intelligence officials said General Aurakzai’s sweeps were slow-moving and easily avoided by militants. Robert L. Grenier, the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002, said that General Aurakzai was dismissive of the reports because he and other Pakistani officials feared the kind of tribal uprising that could have been touched off by more intrusive military operations. “Aurakzai and others didn’t want to believe it because it would have been an inconvenient fact,” Mr. Grenier recalled.
So the same intelligence agencies that the Democrats -- led by the Times -- were busily hounding off the stage as serial exaggerators anent Iraq were also saying that al-Qaeda and the Taliban were massing in Pakistan, and the drive-by media were lapping it up. In more clinical terms, the Times now insists that we should have incorporated CIA intelligence about Pakistan, while at the same time rejecting CIA intelligence about Iraq.
So why, demands the elite media, didn't we simply set up SF bases in Pakistan and finish the job?
When American military officials proposed in 2002 that Special Operations forces be allowed to establish bases in the tribal areas, Pakistan flatly refused. Instead, a small number of “black” Special Operations forces -- Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units -- were allowed to accompany Pakistani forces on raids in the tribal areas in 2002 and early 2003.
That arrangement only angered both sides. American forces used to operating on their own felt that the Pakistanis were limiting their movements. And while Pakistani officials publicly denied the presence of Americans, local tribesmen spotted the Americans and protested.
Under pressure from Pakistan, the Bush administration decided in 2003 to end the American military presence on the ground.
Liberals attack Bush for "going it alone" against Iraq, ignoring what our allies said (though most agreed to join us). And then they castigate Bush for refusing to actually invade one of our most important allies, clumsily thrashing around in the barely controlled tribal areas without even the support of Pakistan itself. I think I need to lie down with a wet towel on my forehead.
Shouldn't Bush have just gone with the facts on the ground, as reported by the CIA stations in the region? Yet even the Times admits there were pitched battles about that very intelligence, fought between the CIA on the one hand, and the CIA on the other hand:
Along with the Afghan government, the C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan expressed alarm at what they saw as a growing threat from the tribal areas. But the C.I.A. officers in Pakistan played down the problem, to the extent that some colleagues in Kabul said their colleagues in Islamabad were “drinking the Kool-Aid,” as one former officer put it, by accepting Pakistani assurances that no one could control the tribal areas.
On several occasions, senior C.I.A. officials at agency headquarters had to intervene to dampen tensions between the dueling C.I.A. outposts.
Missing from this odd exhortation to destabilization is any recognition that Pakistan is special in any way. In fact, in one very big way: The New York Times completely ignores the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear nation. After 9/11, and possibly because of the successful attacks, which boosted the stock of radical Islamists everywhere ("strong horse"), the secularist president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, was on the ropes. Any major incursion by the United States into Pakistan, particularly in the face of Musharraf's flat rejection of such American SF operations, would make it appear to Pakistanis that the United States was treating their country like a servant.
Such an infuriating image could well have toppled Musharraf; and as we're seeing today, with Musharraf weakened (even though not yet out of the picture), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has begun making overtures to the Taliban. Given that reality, the sudden collapse of Musharraf due to American intervention in his country could have brought to absolute power those like Sharif and Benazir Bhutto who are distinctly more friendly to the Talian and al-Qaeda. In fact, it was Bhutto herself who gave the Taliban its "start-up" money in the early 1990s, thus materially helping create that insane, theocratic, terrorist government.
It's true, as the Times notes, that the Pentagon and some CIA executives wanted a big strike in Pakistan to capture Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's number-one deputy and spiritual mentor; but the only intelligence indicating Zawahiri was to be in Pakistan for a terrorist conference was flakey... and President Bush decided, in the end, to listen to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and back off the mission (which had already crept up to a 100-man strong military assault). Maybe it would have worked; but if it didn't -- if it killed a lot of tribals and failed to net Ayman Zawahiri -- it would have been a strategic catastrophe.
With such high stakes, we want people making the decision who are not simply military; we have civilian control of the armed forces precisely because the latter often don't consider the political implications of military action: Had the tribes in the tribal lands risen up and rebelled against Islamabad, we would have lost all intel and all access altogether.
The Times article includes no consideration of the danger that excessive meddling by the United States in Pakistan could drive the Pakistani government away from us, and possibly into cooperation with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In fact, there is not even a single mention of the undisputed fact that Pakistan has demonstrated a nuclear weapons capability... and has a shameful history of transferring nuclear technology to very bad actors (via the A.Q. Khan network).
Too, the elite media's obsessive focus on bin Laden, the person, missed the point of the response to 9/11. Per Douglas Feith's book War and Decision, the focus was not on punishing Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda but on protecting America from further attacks. The Pentagon and CIA pulled off this miracle by aggressively confronting the attackers, if possible before they even launched their operation, even if that meant preemptive war -- but only as a last resort, not (as the Times seems to want) as a first option -- at least where our allies are concerned.
Simply put, the Times is still arguing, for the thousandth wearying time, that instead of invading our enemy Iraq, we should have invaded our ally Pakistan.
The closing dig by the Times against the administration is illuminating:
Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.
“The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.
“The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”
What does Jones mean by saying America faces a threat "that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001?" We were successfully hit on 9/11 because we did not yet realize we were at war with the Iran/al-Qaeda axis... rather, that they were at war with us. But now we know; and now we have been acting as we should to prevent terrorist attacks on American soil, territories, or military forces. And except for within the hot-war zones themselves, we have been 100% successful. Nothing succeeds like success; the Bush administration must have been doing something right since 2001.
To equate this with our eight years of somnambulism from 1993 through the first eight months of 2001 is not only tendentiously wrong... it's actually laughable. The elimination of Gorelick's Wall alone, along with the other changes wrought by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, render us far less vulnerable today than we were on that dreadful day in September... and if Seth Jones doesn't know that, then he damn well should.
We're not perfectly secure; we never have been and never will be. And we may well need to step up our clandestine military activity in Pakistan. But if so, we must tread very softly; lest in our impatience at the pace we find ourselves sitting on a nuclear warhead, smoking a lit stick of dynamite.
February 25, 2008
Bombs and Bombast
In a post today, Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics gleefully reports that the "virtual fence" program hasn't worked well so far:
Keith Epstein of Businessweek reports that the "virtual fence" all the candidates kept referring to (especially the GOP ones) as the cornerstone of border security turned out to be a miserable failure....
Doesn't this hurt McCain, given that the virtual fence was one of the tools he was counting on to help deliver his promise of "certifying" the security of the border? Will he have commit to building the real "g**damn fence" now?
No, it shouldn't hurt McCain... any more than the early failures of the ballistic missile defense system seriously hurt the BMD program. It just means we have to keep building the physical fence -- while continuing to work on the virtual one.
For some reason, the idea of a virtual fence became the focal point of the ire of immigration-absolutists during the debate last year over McCain-Kennedy. It became vital to anti-plea-bargain conservatives to "debunk" the virtual fence, presumably on the grounds that only a real fence -- three hundred feet high and sixty feet thick, dotted with machine-gun emplacements and sporting a minefield -- could keep out the illegal Mexicans.
They saw the virtual fence as a heavily watered drink some cheapskate bartender was trying to foist on them.
Do I sound a bit caustic? Sorry, I tend to get that way when Republicans act-out like Democrats. In particular, the reflexive bias against technology has always set my teeth on fire.
Democrats in the 1980s became hysterical at the thought of a technological shield against incoming nuclear missiles; and now the conservative wing of the GOP is running around like a chicken with its legs cut off over the possibility of a technological shield against illegal immigration.
I can only conclude that they believe even breathing the words "virtual fence" amounts to "surrender" and "amnesty," as if it were always just a ruse to avoid building a real fence. But the areas suggested for the virtual fence are precisely those that have such rugged terrain that (a) there are hardly any illegal crossings, and (b) it's extremely difficult (if not impossible) to build a "real" fence in the first place.
So that those areas would not be left totally unguarded, various people proposed a network of radar installations, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, and a computer system tying it all together... modeled roughly on the Aegis combat system that protects many of our cruisers and destroyers.
Regardless of whether or not this particular version of a virtual fence has worked, we absolutely need one. Believe it or not, keeping out Mexicans is not the only problem we have that requires some sort of barrier:
- The border with Canada is vastly bigger than the southern border, and it would take a long, long time to toss a fence across it;
- And then, of course, there's the Gulf of Mexico; terrorists can boat up the Gulf and hop out onto the beach;
- And there are the Iraqi borders with Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran;
- And don't forget the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and (naturally) Iran;
- Not to mention borders between our allies and their enemiess;
- Finally, any physical fence that can be built -- can be breached; cf. the fence that used to separate Gaza from Egypt. Even if we could literally build fences separating us from all potential enemies, those fences can be tunneled under, flown over, or blown up.
We need to keep working on the virtual fence because we are soon going to need it -- desperately, and in many, many places. Similarly, it's a darned good thing that we kept working on BMD, despite early failures of the components of the original Strategic Defense Initiative (particle-beam technology, railgun ground launchers, nuclear-powered pulse weapons)... because now we really, really need it for a completely unforseen adversary. Thank goodness we have it.
It's quite reasonable to argue that the virtual fence technology is not yet good enough to rely upon, so we need to build a physical barrier. But it's wrong -- one of those few actions that are always wrong -- to heap scorn upon a technological program because the early alpha-tests weren't entirely successful. Worse than wrong, it's foolish, Luddite, and short-sighted.
By all means, build the physical double-fencing along the southern border with Mexico; but don't delude yourselves that that's all we need. Or that we'll never need the virtual fence. Or even that we'll actually be able to build an effective physical fence everywhere that we need to stop people from coming... or even along the entire southern border itself.
The physical fence is a stopgap; we urgently need to do two things. As Caiaphas says in Jesus Christ Super Star, "We need a more permanent solution to our problem":
- Perfect the virtual-fence, smart-card, and employer verification technologies;
- Reform our own legal immigration system so that it is rational, just, and above all, predictable, to take the pressure of millions off the wall.
When law-abiding, eager-to-assimilate immigrants see a system that tells them what they need do to be granted residency or citizenship, they will follow the legal brick road. Contrariwise, if they see a system that arbitrarily excludes them, while welcoming much less assimilable immigrants with open arms, the pressure to just give up and sneak into the country, making a better life for their wives and chilren, becomes overwhelming.
(Imagine that you go through four or five years of university, passing all classes and tests; but at the end, somebody hands you a pair of dice... and you only get your diploma if you roll ten or higher.)
Until these two problems are solved, a physical fence is just a very wide target for bombs -- and bombast.
February 20, 2008
Jobs for Jihadis!
The AP headline: Religious Hard-Liners Out in Pakistan.
Fed up with violence and economic hardship, voters in the deeply conservative northwest have thrown out the Islamist parties that ruled this province for five years - a clear sign that Pakistanis are rejecting religious extremism in a region where al-Qaida and the Taliban have sought refuge. [Say... that sounds promising...]
Instead, voters in turbulent North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan, gave their support to secular parties that promised to pave the streets, create jobs and bring peace through dialogue and economic incentives to the extremists.
...And that sounds about as effective as making little al-Qaeda dolls and sticking pins in them. Or electing Barack Obama.
The New York Times carries essentially the same message:
The winners of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections said Tuesday that they would take a new approach to fighting Islamic militants by pursuing more dialogue than military confrontation, and that they would undo the crackdown on the media and restore independence to the judiciary....
The two opposition parties share similar views of how to tackle the terrorism problem. The new approach is more likely to be responsive to the consensus of the Pakistani public than was Mr. Musharraf’s and is more likely to shun a heavy hand by the military and rely on dialogue with the militants.
Mr. Zardari [Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and head of the PPP since her murder] said his party would seek talks with the militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda have carved out a stronghold, as well as with the nationalist militants who have battled the Pakistani Army in Baluchistan Province.
Alas, what the victors propose is not "a new approach;" it's the same old approach that has been used in Pakistan under the previous administrations of Bhutto and Sharif, is currently being used in European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, and is being pushed by the Democrats in the United States Congress -- and in particular by Barack Obama, favorite for the Democratic nomination for president, who wants to sit down and dialogue with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Who I believe just said that Israel was a "filthy bacteria... lashing out... like a wild beast." And as George Orwell quotes, "the fascist octopus has sung its swan song.")
We even have a name for this strategy: Appeasement. But at least Neville Chamberlain never fantasized that appeasing Adolf Hitler would produce permanent peace... only "peace in our time."
A combination of trying to buy off al-Qaeda and the Taliban, coupled with the relegation of terrorism to a police problem, not enemy military action, has been tried repeatedly... and has produced one colossal failure after another. President Clinton's policy of policing and appeasing led directly to the 9/11 attacks, for a recent American example. It fails because it avoids the most fundamental and necessary strategy to combat Islamist terrorists: naming the enemy.
This is the perennial problem with Pakistan and other Islamic countries: Even more than the West, the ummah rejects the idea that the problem with hirabis is not that they're poor, downtrodden, or unemployed; their problem is that they are monstrously evil butchers whose vision of Islam demands constant human sacrifice. Militant Islamists are like a mutant hybrid of mullahs and Aztecs.
Naturally, the putative "new approach" of the winners in last Tuesday's Pakistan elections plays well in the elite media, because it plays into the Bush derangement syndrome that fevers their brains; and it also makes everything seem much less scary: They don't want to kill us because of who we are... they want to kill us because they don't have jobs! If we just get them jobs, feel their pain, reassure them that we love them, and dialogue with them, then all this scary stuff will just go away.
And besides: The enemies (Pakistani parliament leaders) of our enemy (President George W. Bush) must be our brothers. Back to AP:
That [the plan to "bring peace through dialogue and economic incentives to the extremists"] may conflict with U.S. pressure to step up the fight against armed militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban....
Five years ago, voters in this mostly Pashtun province -- many of them from the same ethnic group as the Afghan Taliban -- set off alarm bells in the U.S. when they elected a provincial government dominated by a coalition of pro-Taliban clerics -- the United Action Alliance.
The alliance rode to victory on the crest of public outrage over the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, not only winning control of the North West Frontier but taking 12 percent of the vote in national parliament balloting as well.
See? It's all Bush's fault. If only we had listened to Sharon Stone, instead of the Israel lobby; if only, instead of invading Afghanistan after 9/11, we had chosen peace -- and offered the Taliban and al-Qaeda dialogue, understanding, and a jobs program. Possibly membership in NATO.
The election results are very mixed. There were two major winners: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP, headed until she was assassinated by Benazir Bhutto, the first head of state to formally recognize and heavily fund the Taliban), nor the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N, headed by the beloved protege of former Pakistan dictator General Zia, Nawaz Sharif). But neither could even crack the a third of the seats in the National Assembly; the PPP got 86 out of 268 seats (32%), and the PML-N got 66 (25%).
The Pakistan Muslim League (Q) -- the PML faction that supported Pervez Musharraf -- took only 38 of the 268 contested seats, for 14%. And "the remaining seats were divided among seven smaller parties and factions and 27 independent candidates," as the Times reports. (Ten seats are not yet decided.)
In addition, neither of the winning parties has a successful track record. From the Times:
But Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif have reasons to bear grudges. Mr. Zardari, who returned from exile only after Ms. Bhutto’s death, spent eight years in prison on murder and corruption charges under the government of Mr. Sharif. Mr. Musharraf was army chief at the time.
Mr. Sharif was thrown out of the government in 1999 by Mr. Musharraf, who mounted a coup and arrested and then exiled him. Many Pakistanis agree that the governments of Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Sharif did not distinguish themselves. Both were ridden with corruption.
But I believe there is real hope here, though not in the way that the drive-by media fantasize. See if this reminds you of anything:
Powerless to stop the militants, local police stood by as tribal leaders opposed to the Taliban were assassinated and owners of video and music stores received threats to close their businesses or face death.
"They made false promises. They said they would give us education, food and jobs but they didn't give us anything. They were all lies," said retired soldier Mohammed Akram Shah. "I am from a village of more than 30 homes and we don't have any electricity even after five years."
As I read this, I see the nascent beginnings of a Pakistan Salvation Council. I don't know if it will be born, but the sperm (the staggering arrogance and murderous hatred of the militant Islamists) and egg (more than five years of Pakistans in the tribal areas having to live under the brutal jacksandal of Taliban/al-Qaeda rule) have merged, and the anger of the people indicates we're at least at the blastocyst phase, if not yet a full-blown embryo.
As Pakistan is still a Democracy, gestation of a Pakistan Salvation Council would likely take the form of a political party, rather than a militia. But if the Moslem terrorists respond as they always have before -- murderously -- then the party will likely metamorphose into an armed political movement. But clearly, the people of Pakistan are fed up to the eyelids with living under terrorist rule... but also by the feeble, half-hearted military tactics of Musharraf's army, which is strong enough to rile the terrorists but not enough to destroy them, cripple them, or drive them out. It's been a "lite" version of the American strategy in Iraq prior to the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus.
So on the whole, I'm pleased by the vote. Not because it's the right solution -- it isn't -- but because it indicates that Pakistanis are groping for a way to boot the militant Moslems. They recognize that what Musharraf was doing wasn't working; they're somewhat willing to give the PPP and the PML-N a second chance (but not particularly persuaded that they're going to succeed)... and I think they're going to start edging closer to the solution that has worked throughout Iraq and that is starting to appear in Afghanistan: Sunni tribesmen themselves rising up against the slaughterhouse-rule of al-Qaeda and the Taliban and recapturing Islam from the Baal worshippers who have declared themselves beyond any judgment but their own.
Islam has gone through periods of horrific expansionist violence against the West and times of relative peace. We're currently in one of the former; but ordinary Moslems around the globe have the power -- and increasingly the will -- to wrench Islam back to the latter.
The rise of salvation councils à la Iraq is exactly what we mean when we call for a more "moderate" Islam.
February 5, 2008
Al-Qaeda "Movin' On Out?"
According to prepared testimony delivered by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- chaired, oxymoronically enough, by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IVth (D-WV, 60%) -- al-Qaeda has largely been thwarted in their attempts to launch attacks in Iraq; so they are focusing on conducting future operations from the "lawless" regions of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border. But they are still aggressively pursuing a strategy of carrying out major attack on the West, and have indeed tried several already (which we and our allies shut down):
Last summer, for example, with our allies, we unraveled terrorist plots linked to al-Qa’ida and its associates in Denmark and Germany.... The death last week of Abu Layth al-Libi, al-Qa'ida’s charismatic senior military commander and a key link between al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in North Africa, is the most serious blow to the group’s top leadership since the December 2005 death of then external operations chief Hamza Rabi’a.
Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) suffered major setbacks last year, although it still is capable of mounting lethal attacks. Hundreds of AQI leadership, operational, media, financial, logistical, weapons, and foreign fighter facilitator cadre have been killed or captured. With much of the Sunni population turning against AQI, its maneuver room and ability to operate have been severely constrained. AQI’s attack tempo, as measured by numbers of suicide attacks, had dropped by more than half by year’s end after approaching all time highs in early 2007. We see indications that al-Qa’ida’s global image is beginning to lose some of its luster; nonetheless, we still face multifaceted terrorist threats.
Unfortunately, they are also making progress towards once again being able to attack the United States directly:
Al-Qa’ida’s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component. Last July, we published a National Intelligence Estimate titled, "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland," which assessed that al-Qa’ida’s central leadership in the past two years has been able to regenerate the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the Homeland.
In particular, here are McConnell's concerns:
- That "Al-Qa’ida has been able to retain a safehaven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)." It's not as large or secure as the one that used to be in Afghanistan; but it can be used for training purposes and as a platform whence to stage attacks "in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States."
- They have managed to maintain a cadre of somewhat skilled lieutenants and operations officers in the Pakistan border region.
- And they have managed to recruit a number of Westerners to their Pakistan safe haven to carry out major attacks on the West.
One very positive note from the DNI:
AQI tactics, tradecraft, and techniques are transmitted on the Internet, but AQI documents captured in Iraq suggest that fewer than 100 AQI terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries.
So the spirit is willing, but the investment of flesh is weak.
Also, interestingly enough, it appears that, like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, AQI's mission is a failure, their lifestyle's too extreme: Numerous religious leaders formerly associated with al-Qaeda have begun denouncing them and their violence (against Moslems, that is); and fewer unconnected terrorist groups and extremists see AQ, or especially AQI, as the model for their own hirabah (unholy war).
I think it increasingly clear that the current situation in Pakistan is unacceptable: Americans can go up to but not across the border between Afghanistan and Pakisan, while President Pervez Musharraf pledges to crack down on the militants in Waziristan and Balochistan and then breaks his pledge. (Whether out of mendacity or simple inability to make headway against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their supporters is irrelevant.) We must either negotiate a new arrangement with Musharraf -- or else implement one in spite of him.
Later, speaking abour Iran's WMD programs, Mike McConnell clarifies some of the conclusions of the infamous National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had stopped its nuclear program. What the NIE actually meant, says the Director of National Intelligence is:
- Iran stopped "warhead design and weaponization" and covert attempts to enrich uranium;
- They have not stopped declared programs to enrich uranium (perhaps even weaponizing it);
- And they have actually accelerated their ballistic-missile program, closing in on being able to fire a missile from Iran and hit targets in the United States mainland.
About the other elements of Iran's WMD program:
We know that Tehran had a chemical warfare program prior to 1997, when it declared elements of its program. We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW agent in times of need [sound familiar...? -DaH] and conducts research that may have offensive applications. We assess Iran maintains a capability to weaponize CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.
We assess that Iran has previously conducted offensive BW [biological warfare] agent research and development. Iran continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare.
Finally, McConnell noted that, like Iraq, the Afghan army is growing slowly and becoming more and more effective; while the Afghan National Police has grown more quickly -- but "corruption, insufficient training and equipment, and absenteeism hamper their effectiveness."
McConnell concluded on a hopeful (if not Pollyannic) note:
I, my colleagues, and the Intelligence Community we represent are fully committed to arming our policymakers, warfighters, and law enforcement officers with the best intelligence and analytic insight we can. This is necessary to enable them to take the actions and make the decisions that will protect American lives and American interests, here and around the world.
Considering that the Senate I-Com, the very body that DNI Mike McConnell was addressing, now sports such stalwarts of the aggressive collection and distribution of intelligence as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100%), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, not yet rated), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Dianne "DiFi" Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) -- not to mention their Republican counterparts, including Sens. Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), John Warner (VA, 64%) (for the rest of this year), and Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%) -- the idea that they will make any decision or take any actions at all about anything significant is charming... but about as realistic as the idea that Ron Paul would aggressively pursue the war against global hirabah.
December 28, 2007
Bullets for Ballots: Benazir Bhutto and the Future-Past Imperfect of Pakistan
A roundup of more or less random thoughts on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. First, of course we've all read yesterday's horrible faux pas by Mike Huckabee -- the man who would be Bill Clinton:
With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of “Right Now” by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing “our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan.”
He (rather, his campaign) quickly issued a statement saying he misspoke (quelle surprise!); he meant to say "concern and sympathies." But how on earth could he manage to misspeak and offer an apology to a radicalizing Islamic nation for the assassination of a beloved (if hapless) once and future leader? What use does Huckabee think the Islamists will make from that blundering soundbite?
This sort of gaffe, coupled with fatuously calling Bhutto a "profile in courage," when she was in fact a profile in power struggle (and the Taliban's first patron in 1996), is exactly why we should demand that the President of the United States have a better foreign-policy understanding than this century's "former governor of Arkansas" has ever demonstrated.
It's not enough to quip, "I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night." I suppose it's a clever play on a commercial (that I've never seen). But the killing itself should tell us that complete naiveté when it comes to foreign affairs is no joke in the midst of an existential war with those preaching global hirabah -- en route to a global caliphate.
The Democrats are no better, of course; they responded to the assassination by blaming Pervez Musharaff and demanding his instant resignation (to be replaced by whom -- Nawaz Sharif, the protégé of former "strongman," General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq?) Here's Joe Biden:
"This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders -- I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.
And Bill Richardson:
A leader has died, but democracy must live. The United States government cannot stand by and allow Pakistan's return to democracy to be derailed or delayed by violence.
We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. [Formed how, exactly? Which angels in the forms of kings will fly down from the sky and put together this coalition of wise men?] Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. [Such a boycott of Pakistan will surely cripple the Islamist movement there!] Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible. [Put into place by...?]
It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go."
This is as irresponsible and reckless as "Huckabee’s Sunday School Foreign Policy" is credulous. If Musharaff resigned tomorrow, what would happen? Would the parties in Pakistan simply come together in calm reflection and decide to rule the country wisely and for the good of the people? Who are the Democrats kidding (besides themselves)?
Assassination has been a commonplace in Pakistan politics ever since the country was created amidst a convulsion of Islamist terrorism. It has been truly democratic in the past; but without a dictator like Musharaff at the helm at this moment, the other powers would begin killing each other off like the last act of Hamlet.
In the long run, President George W. Bush is right: There must be a restoration of democracy in Pakistan with free and fair elections. But that cannot happen in the poisoned atmosphere of intimidation, violence, corruption, and murder brought by the Islamist parties -- such as Jamaat-e-Islami, ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and proponent of sharia law for Pakistan -- and their sometime allies, such as Nawaz Sharif, who partnered with Jamaat-e-Islami to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad coalition in 1988 that brought him to power two years later. (Of course, intimidation, violence, corruption, and murder are also practiced by opponents of the Islamist parties, including Musharaff himself; but that fact doesn't sweeten the democracy pot any.)
Pakistan is in the same situation as Germany in 1933 or the Palestinian Authority in 2006: When parties campaign by bullets instead of ballots -- Nazis and Communists, Hamas and Fatah -- then there is no such thing as a "free and fair election;" there is only victor and vanquished. This is simply war extended to the voting booth.
The Musharaff government insists that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were responsible for the assassination of Bhutto. This has to rank up there with the least surprising news of 2007; they had repeatedly threatened to slay her if she returned to Pakistan, and they already tried to kill her once by a huge suicide attack in Karachi in October.
But of course, many Bhutto supporters accuse Musharaff instead... so they rampaged through the streets killing 23 other innocent people, to show the wickedness of politics by murder:
On Friday, Bhutto's supporters ransacked banks, waged shootouts with police and burned trains and stations in a spasm of violence less than two weeks before parliamentary elections.
Soldiers patrolled the streets of the southern cities of Hyderabad and Karachi, witnesses said. At least 23 people were killed in unrest, said Ghulam Mohammed Mohtaram, home secretary for Sindh province.
Are these the people who are going to form "a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties?"
While it's naturally tragic that Benazir Bhutto was slain the way she was, I'm quite certain that it would have been a dreadful thing for her to re-assume power in Pakistan. Mark Steyn says Bhutto represented yesterday's Pakistan and would have been doomed to fail -- and drag Pakistan with down with her -- had she returned as prime minister in today's Pakistan:
The State Department geniuses thought they had it all figured out. They'd arranged a shotgun marriage between the Bhutto and Sharif factions as a "united" "democratic" "movement" and were pushing Musharraf to reach a deal with them. That's what diplomats do: They find guys in suits and get 'em round a table. But none of those representatives represents the rapidly evolving reality of Pakistan. Miss Bhutto could never have been a viable leader of a post-Musharraf settlement, and the delusion that she could have been sent her to her death. Earlier this year, I had an argument with an old (infidel) boyfriend of Benazir's, who swatted my concerns aside with the sweeping claim that "the whole of the western world" was behind her. On the streets of Islamabad, that and a dime'll get you a cup of coffee.
Bhutto was, as Steyn sarcastically put it, "everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be": Female, secular, and socialist. But her previous governments (1988-1990, 1993-1996) were marred by corruption and socialism.
Both times, she and her party, the Pakistan People's Party, were dismissed from power by corruption charges, which have been substantially confirmed by subsequent investigations by Pakistan, France, Switzerland, and Poland; though one government report -- produced in 2005 at Pervez Musharaff's orders, while he was courting Bhutto to return to Pakistan -- claims the charges were mere fabrications. Musharaff granted Bhutto amnesty in 2007 when she agreed to return.
But she and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari (who spent eight years in prison for corruption), appear to have assets in Swiss bank accounts and in real property held in Great Britain and elsewhere totaling nearly $1.5 billion... money which cannot be easily accounted for legitimately. They were both convicted of money laundering in Switzerland in 2003; and both France and Poland have conducted investigations that found corruption by Bhutto and Zardari in those countries.
Her party, the PPP, was founded in 1967 by Bhutto's father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto -- who was eventually executed for corruption (or judicially assassinated by General Zia, take your pick). It is linked to the Socialist International, and its credo is "Islam is our faith; democracy is our politics; socialism is our economy; all power to the people."
Honestly, I cannot see how Benazir Bhutto, for all that our own State Department has loved her since she was in power (and may have "loved her to death" yesterday), could have represented anything but a Pakistani "Fulgencio Batista," who would likely have ruled so incompetently and corruptly, that she would have opened the door for the tiny minority of Islamists in Pakistan to seize power... just as Batista opened the door to Fidel Castro's Stalinists. I have believed for a couple of years now that the return of Bhutto to power in Pakistan would have been utter catastrophe: What the country needs now is stability, which can only come from the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban... not the turmoil of another controversial reign by Benazir Bhutto.
Sad as it is to say, and I am aware of how monstrous this may sound, the assassination of Bhutto by the terrorists may have averted a much worse fate for the nation of Pakistan -- and for us as well, considering the nuclear arsenal that would have been laid in the hands of Ayman Zawahiri and Mohammed Omar.
Max Boot has a more sanguine view of Bhutto. He also says (and I agree with this part) that Pakistan is mostly secular, and the Islamists are only a small percent of the nation:
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Islamic factions are not popular with the people of Pakistan as a whole; they are polling only 4% at the moment, about what Ron Paul is getting in polls of Republican voters. Their support has never exceeded 12% in any election, and that only because Musharraf hobbled the mainstream parties from competing. Now their backing has cratered because of their failure to deliver on their good governance pledges in Northwest Frontier Province which they have been running since 2002.
There is a vast “silent majority” in Pakistan that abhors the militants and has come to detest military rule. They are waiting for a leader. Bhutto, for all her imperfections, could have been that leader. She won’t be now. Alas. But let us hope that she will at least become a martyr for the cause of Islamic democracy, and that her death will inspire others to carry on her brave struggle.
Yet I think that Boot, in the passion of the moment, has failed seriously to consider how severely another corrupt socialist government would have set back the cause of democracy in South-Central Asia; it's just the sort of thing that leads to revolutions -- whether in Russia, Cuba, Iran, the PA, or Pakistan.
All human life has value, but sometimes that value is a negative number. Even occasionally when the person in question is affable, likeable, charming, secular, socialist, and pretty... "everything we in the west would like a Muslim leader to be."
August 6, 2007
Democrat Inadvertently Blurts Out Truth
A spokesman for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) accidentally let slip an inconvenient truth... and nobody noticed! (Except the lizards, of course; the lidless eye sees all.)
Defending Obama's feckless threat to invade Pakistan if their war against al-Qaeda doesn't proceed fast enough for Obama, Bill Burton spake:
“The fact that the same Republican candidates who want to keep 160,000 American troops in the middle of a civil war couldn’t agree that we should take out Osama bin Laden if we had him in our sights proves why Americans want to turn the page on the last seven years of Bush-Cheney foreign policy.”
The problem with this puffery is that it's simply not true that "Americans want to turn the page." Some do, some don't; in the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll on the war, 57% say we shouldn't have invaded (i.e., want to "turn back the page"); but 57% is not a consensus. However, a simple substitution makes the statement absolutely true and virtually a tautology. Consider this version with one word rewritten:
Yes it does; it indicates ("prove" is too strong a formulation) that to Democrats, the war on global hirabah begins and ends with Osama bin Laden: To the congressional majority, we can win everywhere else; but if bin Laden isn't captured and prosecuted, we have lost. But even more ominously, we can lose everywhere else; but so long as we capture bin Laden and put him on trial (in the U.N.'s International Court of Justice at the Hague, of course), then we've won!
Such juvenile thinking permeates the Democratic party more thorougly than Shiite militias have penetrated the Iraqi National Police. Another example, just enunciated by Max Boot in an interview on Hugh Hewitt: the unreasonable demand put upon Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki to ram reforms through the Iraqi parliament... when we, ourselves, deliberately wrote their constitution to weaken the prime minister, back when our greatest fear was another Iraqi "strongman" rising to replace Hussein. We weaken the prime minister, then imagine that if only we replace Maliki with another guy, he'll be able to solve the political problems ("Daddy fix!").
The gravest problem facing America today, in my never particularly humble or hesitant opinion, is the fact that a huge chunk of the electorate suffer from -- and an entire major political party is now based upon -- Peter Pan Syndrome: They've never grown up, living instead in a perpetual state of adolescence and "teen logic":
- They make unreasonable, truculent demands;
- They have no idea how such demands could possibly be met, no strategy or even vague suggestion;
- Yet they promise vast retribution if the magical president doesn't make it so;
- When thwarted, they fly into a rage;
- They blurt out horrid things they never meant to say -- then defend their misstatement with the ferocity of Howard Dean defending his latest verbal gaffe;
- And when the policies they demand (or inflict upon the American people) collapse, leaving a shattered industry or sector as testament to Democratic fecklessness... their only explanation is to shrug and say, "it seemed like a good idea at the time."
Republicans and GOP-leaning independents have it in their power to prevent another Peter Pan presidency. And the first step is to stop forming a circular firing squad at the drop of a disagreement. To quote that great small-f federalist, one of the authors of the Constitution, and perhaps the greatest epigrammatist in American history -- I refer to Benjamin Franklin, of course -- "gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
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