Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rip Out the Roots

Reporters are wondering whether the Taliban Campaign frame is the right way to look at the two fights in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Q Thank you. Returning to the question of Pakistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that was asked earlier, is it -- from a military standpoint, is it now a situation where Afghanistan and those parts of Pakistan are essentially one conflict now, with no real division between them, because of the way al Qaeda and the Taliban are fighting it?

ADM. MULLEN: I've had no discussions with commanders that that's the case. Clearly, that border is a particularly challenging border. The tribal aspects of it -- the tribe that dominates in that region is certainly on both sides. I think, probably more than anything else, it speaks to the complexity of the challenge that we have there, the difficulty that we've had in that we -- not just us, but also Afghanistan and Pakistan and the leadership. There are very few people that don't understand the acuteness of the challenge there, the -- it's how you get at that that we are -- we
continue to try to figure out the best way to do that.

Q Do you think the enemy regards it as one sort of seamless concept --

ADM. MULLEN: Well, I wouldn't speak for the enemy, but certainly it's back -- sort of the tribal piece. And there is a tribal aspect of this, which I think is very important for us to understand, on how they think.

I don't think it is so much whether our jihadi enemies think that the two campaigns are one war. Even if al Qaeda has decided to focus on Pakistan rather than Afghanistan, there are Taliban who will always focus on Afghanistan who will use the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a rear area. And other Taliban will use the FATA as a rear area to attack east.

The point is that the rear area of the FATA that used to support the Afghan terrorists and insurgents is now the rear area for both our war in Afghanistan and the jihadi efforts to move out of the mountains into the populated parts of Pakistan. Enemies with common jihadi outlooks but with different objectives use the same area to support their different efforts.

It would be great if our enemies remain separate. But NATO/Afghanistan and Pakistan need to think of this as one joint campiagn with the objective of destroying the enemies' FATA rear area.

Alas, the Pakistanis are way behind in adjusting to this reality.

UPDATE: Wretchard also notes the two-way nature of sanctuaries and frontlines in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

UPDATE: Jane's, too (from my email update), sees the common basis for our focus on a Taliban Campaign:

Divided between Afghanisation and Pakistan, 'Pashtunistan' has become a hub for resurgent Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their allies. Plagued by political turmoil, Pakistan remains incapable of countering the growing threat ...

It looks like critics of our war policy will get the focus on Pakistan they've claimed they've wanted instead of fighting in Iraq. This should be fascinating to behold as it unfolds.