I want to be clear. This continues to be a very difficult endeavor. But I can report that thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.
It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people. It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies. And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks.
And that’s why, from the start, I’ve been very clear about our core goal. It’s not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation. Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
In pursuit of our core goal we are seeing significant progress. Today, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago. Senior leaders have been killed. It’s harder for them to recruit; it’s harder for them to travel; it’s harder for them to train; it’s harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down. It will take time to ultimately defeat al Qaeda, and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country. But make no mistake — we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.
[End of Transcript]
This goes without saying: this review becomes very difficult to conduct – and extremely redundant in hindsight – after the death of Special Representative Richard Holbrooke (yes, he was never an Ambassador for AfPak since AfPak isn’t a country) since this mandate was specially created (and reconfigured) for his use. The Obama Administration ostensibly believed that the late Holbrooke would be able to recreate some of the magic he did to bring peace to Serbia in the Bosnian War. Well, we know how that turned out. The last words Richard Holbrooke ever spoke were “you’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan“. Before the nurse could remind him that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were in Pakistan, and that the war could never end successfully without Pakistan’s full support, Mr. Holbrooke passed away; apparently sick and tired of hearing the same reply over and over again. Or maybe he couldn’t finish his sentence…? Incidentally, Mr Holbrooke’s surgeon – and not nurse – who heard these last words happened to be a King Edward Medical College-educated Pakistani doctor. Anyone care to venture at conspiracy theories on this one…? No, wait. The Obama Administration already rubbished Holbrooke’s dying words, with P J Crowley calling them “a jovial back-and-forth with the medical staff“. Nicely played, Mr. Crowley. What went down in your head? Oh, Mr. Crowley, did you talk to the dead?
This AfPak review has been awaited long before Wikileaks, before the NATO Lisbon Summit, and at about the time the US was “pressuring” Pakistan to attack and invade North Waziristan to disrupt and dismantle the Haqqani network; the proverbial backbone/rear base of the Afghan Taliban. Why? Because Obama had stated – in his Presidential Campaign, no less – that if the US has credible intelligence on high-value Al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to act, then the US will act with decisive force – even if it means violating Pakistani sovereignty. Needless to say, the Haqqani elements have, since long, found shelter in Kurram, Darra Adamkhel, Jhang, Quetta and Karachi, blending in with their new friends from LeT, LeJ (now LeJA) and HuJI. Sympathetic and/or ignorant populations, coupled with disenchanted sectarian elements officially banned in 2002 by Musharraf, have formed an urban-tribal terrorism combine that threatens the very fabric of Pakistan. Many of these “sympathetic” Pakistanis blame US presence in Afghanistan for the terrorism, suicide bombings, kidnappings and wanton crime in Pakistan. What is the US doing in Afghanistan in the first place?
Well, they’re not their to secure Afghanistan – the Afghans must secure their country. They’re not there for nation-building either; the Afghans they bombed back to the stone age must conjure their own IKEA which can make appliances suited to caves and bomb-addled buildings. Oh no! Maybe they’re referring to the (second) elections that Karzai won… Yes. Nation-building indeed! An intelligent analysis in the Daily Times reads: The word victory has never featured in Mr Obama’s speeches in the Afghan context and is unlikely to pop up now.
After having formally been at the front line of the War on Terror for nine years – and practically facing the brunt of the WoT since 2007 – the very foundations of the Pakistani state are trembling; political instability, economic chaos and rampant insecurity have forced Pakistanis to form mental fiefs and psychological ‘safe rooms’ to protect their sanity from constantly being bombarded by bad news from everywhere… No wait, that’s just the ‘free’ and ‘responsible’ *chuckle* Pakistani media…
The White House statement said that there has been “significant progress” in their Afghan pursuits and that Al-Qaeda “is hunkered down” finding it harder to recruit, train and plot attacks. This means that Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the Stockholm car bomber, was trained and motivated and deployed in Europe DESPITE these difficulties that Al-Qaeda now faces in recruiting, training and plotting attacks… But to save face, the US president warned that: “It will take time to ultimately defeat Al-Qaeda and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country.” And in what he thought would be an uber-cute move, al-Abdaly wrote to his wife and child asking for forgiveness for his actions. Maybe he should’ve thought about his family sooner…
Disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al-Qaeda cannot happen unless and until there are viable nation-states in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the lawless and ungoverned territories of both countries are minimized (if not finished once and for all). And while it is hellbent on ruthlessly attacking the United States of America, it deeply resents US presence in Afghanistan and thereby ruthlessly attacks the civilians and security forces of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Af-Pak that!
Needless to say, the United States is still on course to start withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011 despite ‘fragile and reversible’ progress against insurgents, an official review of the US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan shows. And on the flip side, Germany’s foreign minister played down the country’s expectations for Afghanistan’s future Thursday while reiterating that German troops will start their withdrawal by the end of next year as planned. Yes, thats 2011.
That’s a lot like handing Taliban the victory they had been denied – for better or for worse – since 2001…
And invading Pakistan is going to be something like Afghanistan + Iraq x Chinese weapons; far worse than what Iran would do under US invasion, so its better to leave this stone unturned as long as US forces are pinned down elsewhere. The Pakistani Armed Forces are better trained than the Afghan National Army and more motivated than Saddam’s troops ever were; they have the nuclear bomb because they don’t want to go down without a fight… Or without a boom. It would be sad indeed if the surprises being prepared for an unforeseen Indian attack (thankfully discouraged by ‘minimum credible deterrence’ and an ambiguous no-first use policy) were to be visited on an invading US Army already sick and tired of the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, an American invasion – pretty much like an Indian invasion – would be the rallying point for the civilians and the military, much like the temporal unity that invigorates the Pakistani being upon news of an impending Indian attack (the post-26/11 ‘surgical strike’ and ‘respond within minutes‘ rhetoric is a good example).
The American public wouldn’t like to see an upsurge in body bags, especially not when there’s going to be a Presidential Election in 2012. (Of course, Palin and Romney have no lead… for now). But the fact remains; one way or another, the pressure is going to be increased on Pakistan – whether by the US or by Al-Qaeda. Note one Wikileak about $96 million meant for the Army to put up barbed wires and carry out radar maintenance going to the Islamabad government coffers. The US states that the Taliban has no air power so the money for the radar repair isn’t really counter-terrorism: I say you’re looking at the money flow in a very wrong way…
Let me use your own words – and rephrase them a bit – to explain, Mr. President;
If an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan (or Pakistan), that would give al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks (that target innocent civilians and increase global concern for terrorism in South Asia)
Too bad Pakistani-Americans – a constituency Obama could have pandered to – can’t stand up or make a platform where they can rebut Pakistan-bashing in the United States. Everyone knows damn well how Pakistanis are dealing with fundamentalism, extremism AND terrorism the likes of which America has never seen. But while Pakistanis are busy running away from the motherland, Pakistani-Americans are busy passing themselves off as Indians to escape embarrassment and discrimination in the US job market. Even Zee News wrote a piece on it titled “To be or not to be a Pakistani in the US“. What an ultimate shame! Especially for the Strategic Dialogue and all its hubbub about people-to-people contacts.
On one hand, its collective national shame about our image and identity abroad, and on the other, it serves you right for abandoning your country just to keep yourself and your family safe (which is also a pressing and forgivable concern).
Or you could just continue to let Hillary Clinton interact with an abstract and hurriedly conjured ‘cross section of Pakistani society’ that is dressed for the part.
Final Say: If you lump together two completely different countries that share some (but not all) problems, you’re gonna get a very weird review because you’ll have all your priorities mixed up and you won’t know which road leads where… You’ve got to stop the war in Afghanistan for sure, but that doesn’t mean stirring up a hornet’s nest in Pakistan, or in Iran, for that matter. Live up to your Cairo promises, no matter how hollow and incomplete they were in terms of what the Muslim world expected of the new and improved post-Bush US Government. Tackle a problem one at a time; merging two problems into one and tackling them singularly – instead of simultaneously – is a judgment error of magnanimous proportions.