Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Expecting Logic in South Asia?

I've worried that our supply lines through Pakistan to our forces in Afghanistan make us too vulnerable to really press Pakistan for more help in fighting the Taliban inside Pakistan who cross into Afghanistan. And I worry about adding troops to the area, putting more troops at risk in a crisis with Pakistan.

Strategypage says the Pakistani implicit threat is outmatched by their need for US weapons to prepare for a possible war against India, which is Pakistan's main concern:

In the last few months, the U.S. changed its policy, after quietly warning the Pakistani leadership, and allowed commando raids despite Pakistani protests. It didn't take long for the Pakistani terrorists and media everywhere to get hold of this and raise a stink. This forced the Pakistanis to go through the motions of protesting and vowing to fight the American invaders. The Pakistanis threatened to halt NATO supplies, which go from a Pakistani port, via truck, into Afghanistan. But that's a hollow threat, as Pakistan depends on American weapons and other military aid, to equip Pakistani forces sufficiently so they can deal with archenemy India. Pakistan's only other supplier is China, which provides decidedly inferior weapons, at least compared to the American stuff.

I hope they are right. But isn't it a mistake to assume that others will think as we do?

I hope these statements are for public consumption only:

Pakistan's government has faced rising popular anger over a Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos into South Waziristan, a base for Taliban militants killing ever more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan says about 15 people were killed, all of them civilians.

The new firing orders were disclosed by Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Abbas said Pakistani field commanders have previously been tolerant about international forces crossing a short way into Pakistan because of the ill-defined and contested nature of the mountainous frontier.

"But after the (Sept. 3) incident, the orders are clear," Abbas said. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."

Yet we appear unconcerned about this:

Responding to the concerns, Donald Camp, deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, said: "I cannot envision a situation where we would find ourselves in a shooting situation with Pakistan."

Ah, our professional diplomats can't imagine shooting. That's comforting. With Pakistanis more mad at us for killing jihadis inside Pakistan than they are at jihadis planting bombs inside Paksitani cities, our State Department can't imagine a shooting situation.

I can. And I can imagine tens of thousands of our troops cut off from supply line running through Pakistan and reliant on supply lines that go north through Russia.

Remember, too, that Pakistani opinion is enflamed by a mere raid and a few more Predator strikes. Are Americans who want to send more troops to Afghansitan really laboring under the belief that 10,000 more US troops (three brigades) can deal with the source of the problem inside Pakistan without enflaming Pakistani opinion to the point that they will demand action. Can you fail to imagine a Pakistani civilian government triggering an armed confrontation with us to avoid losing power?

Won't having more troops at risk sway angry Pakistanis at some point that we have more to lose than they do if Pakistan breaks relations with us? Might not the Pakistanis think they can accept a short-term reduction in conventional power in order to grab us by the short hairs since they have atomic weapons to deter an Indian invasion? Is the threat really that hollow? And must it always be hollow as we place more potential hostages within Pakistan's reach?

Shoot, even if we refuse to be cowed and tough it out, how long do you think most of our non-fighting NATO allies with troops in Afghansitan will last before they beg for Pakistani get out of jail free cards?

And even if you can't imagine this type of confrontation between Pakistan and America, do you even believe that 10,000 more American troops can do what 100,000 Pakistani troops fighting in the tribal areas have failed to do?

Look, Pakistan has been our friend since 9/11. Well, they've been a friend enough most of the time, so that I'd rather not fight the war without Pakistan's help. Pakistan has suffered many casualties in this fight. But they weren't much of a friend before 9/11 and there are plenty in Pakistan who'd go back to those 9/10 days if they had a say.

I guess the logic is weak all over.