Thursday, July 10, 2008

Militants now heading to Pakistan

Apparently, Iraq is no longer the "hot spot" for ticked off Sunnis that want to kill Westerners

The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq has dropped to fewer than 40 a month from as many as 110 a month a year ago, a military spokesman in Baghdad said Wednesday. “The sanctuary situation in Pakistan’s tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province is more, rather than less, troublesome than before,” Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan, said in a telephone interview. “The porous border has allowed insurgent militant groups a greater freedom of movement across that border, as well as a greater freedom to resupply, to allow leadership to sustain stronger sanctuaries, and to provide fighters across that border.”

Looks like the "America is now winning in Iraq" story is a bit too good to be true. What seems to be the turning point, at least according to this article, is Pakistan's negotiations with tribal leaders (which began in March). Pakistan, unable to actually dislodge the militants and having to deal with possible rebellions in other provinces, backed out of the area and tried to convince tribal leaders to take on Al Qaeda themselves. This isn't necessarily a bad plan: the United States is using it with great success in Iraq right now.

Unfortunately, it isn't going over so well in Pakistan. Al Qaeda and Taliban have instead of dug in even more, and have solidified their operational relationship. Al Qaeda is training Taliban and financing cross border attacks, which are proving fierce (though they cannot hold any ground and withdraw quickly).

Options by the US are, of course, limited at the present time. Going into Pakistan is unlikely to happen (even if Senator Obama wants to pretend to a cowboy to get votes, any attack in Pakistan may be political suicide and bring down the Musharraf government). CIA planes in the area are small in number, and increasing special operations is currently an option dying a slow, bureaucratic death.

However, militants going to Pakistan is a far better situation than militants going to Iraq. In Iraq, the insurgents can blend in with the population in densely populated areas, and strike American/Iraqi forces at will. In contrast, the terrorists in Pakistan are holed up in the tribal area. We know EXACTLY where they are, and, if we need to, we can pound them into salt much like we did in Afghanistan (though it'll be more difficult without the equivalent of a Northern Alliance to help out). In addition, the Pakistani government is far more stable than the Iraqi government. Until relatively recently, the latter didn't even have a functioning army. So, the chance of Iraq tumbling was far higher than Pakistan toppling.

And, finally: We can actually create a pluralist government in Iraq. It's more vital to our long-term interests, especially since it means fewer dead American soldiers (which means more energy for future missions).

Still a good move for us, all in all.

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