Raids in Pakistan: A Rethink?

By Nicholas Schifrin, ABC News Islamabad, Pakistan

There is a must-read story in today’s Army Times about Pakistan and Afghanistan and the U.S. approach to the problem here. It goes much deeper into the psyche of the United States here than we’ve seen anyone else do.

The United States decided to let its special forces go into Pakistan because it was frustrated by the level of attacks in eastern Afghanistan. But now it’s realized the one major ground attack in Pakistan has backfired, and has decided – once again -- to let the Pakistan military handle the ground offensives.

The article says the special forces raid into Pakistan Sept. 3 came about after a “watershed moment” in Afghanistan – the attack on a base near the Kunar-Bajaur border that killed nine troops July 13. Special operations forces had been itching to go into Pakistan for years, the article says, and “in the wake of the increased Taliban attacks we’ve seen over the last several months and the sense of frustration that we haven’t been more successful, their point of view has finally gained traction,” an unnamed government official told the Army Times’ senior writer Sean Naylor.

But the military didn’t realize the backlash that raid would cause in Pakistan, the article says, and has since once again restrained its special forces from going into Pakistan on foot.

The mission “was meant to be the beginning of a campaign,” the government official says. “We miscalculated, and now we’re trying to figure out how to walk the dog back. … Once the Pakistanis started talking about closing down our supply routes, and actually demonstrated they could do it, once they started talking about shooting American helicopters, we obviously had to take seriously that maybe this [approach] was not going to be good enough,” the government official said. “We can’t sustain ourselves in Afghanistan without the Pakistani supply routes. At the end of the day, we had to not let our tactics get in the way of our strategy. … As much as it may be good to get some of these bad guys, we can’t do it at the expense of being able to sustain ourselves in Afghanistan, obviously.”

I think that quotation goes to the heart of the issue here:

1. What U.S. diplomats and Pakistani military/government officials have been calling long-term vs. short-term goals. In the short term you might get more bad guys if you launch raids in Pakistan, but in the long term you need to win over the Pakistani people in order to defeat the militancy in the tribal areas. And there is nothing that will turn Pakistanis – even anti-Taliban Pakistanis – toward the bad guys faster than multiple U.S. raids in Pakistan.

2. The United States does not like to talk about the supply lines, but they are vitally important. More than 80 percent of the gear being used in Afghanistan goes on an 1,100-mile journey through each of Pakistan’s four provinces. In the last few months the supply line has been attacked repeatedly, and was even temporarily shut down by the Pakistani government as a political protest to the Sept. 3 raid. That was a big deal.

Add the importance of that supply line to the vulnerability of U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan and no wonder the United States is chomping at the bit to fix the tribal areas. But never before have we heard anyone in the United States publicly admit the recent decision to give ground forces free reign in Pakistan had backfired.

“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those type of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do.”

Anyway, it’s worth a read... Click here to read the article

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