Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Sunday, January 06, 2008

US Forces Going Into Pakistan?

Last month I asked in a post about Al Qaeda's role in the death of Benazir Bhutto:

Given the political upheaval in Pakistan and the tenuous grasp General Musharraff maintains is now the time to gamble and introduce NATO or American forces in Pakistan's North West Frontier?

Today the New York Times runs an article titled US Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan. A snippet:

President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

Not the NATO incursion I'd discussed but an operation with a much smaller footprint.

The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.

The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.

The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said.

And the opposition to the operations sound very much like Adam and Adrian in the commentary of my above linked post from December with Adam likening it to a 21st century chase of Pancho Villa.

Even now, officials say, some American diplomats and military officials, as well as outside experts, argue that American-led military operations on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan could result in a tremendous backlash and ultimately do more harm than good. That is particularly true, they say, if Americans were captured or killed in the territory.

As long as the North West Frontier of Pakistan remains a haven and base for Taliban forces the US and NATO are fighting in Afghanistan what true headway can be made by not including Pakistan? Should we rely entirely on a shaky regimes military efforts and a quasi-militia made up of the very tribal elements we're fighting?