Tuesday, February 16, 2010

America's Af -Pak strategy

The US vowed revenge following the daring suicide bomb attack that killed seven CIA operatives in Khost in Afghanistan. They were true to their word. Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud was taken out in a drone attack.

The Americans had been after Mehsud for a while. They did not have any luck. If they succeeded recently, it must have been because of high-quality intelligence. That could have come only with the cooperation of Pakistan's security apparatus. It must have been one of those situations where, as they did following 9/11, the American told the Pakistanis: deliver or else.

If this is what happened, then American resolve and the tacit Pak cooperation do suggest that, perhaps, talk of America planning an exit at all costs, following the London conference on Afghanistan is overdone. That is because the implications of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are far too serious for the region- and for the US itself. The recent US-led offensive on Marjah city in Helmand province, which involves 15,000 troops, suggests that the US is not inclined to follow the line of least resistance in Afghanistance. Rather, it wants to neutralise and stabilise before it exits.

Security expert K Subrahmanyam believes that there is some misreading of US intentions and is reluctant to take the view that US will just cut its losses in Afghanistan and run:
Professional analysis of the Obama strategy will focus on what will happen in the next three months as the surge gets completed and the forces take action, instead of being obsessed with the beginning of the withdrawal some 18 months later. The latest US QDR says, "The first (objective) is to prevail in today's wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq the first time this objective has been stated in a QDR. "America's ability to deal with threats for years to come will depend...on our success in the current conflicts." In other words, the US doesn't have the option of losing the war and withdrawing from the Af-Pak area.

..........CIA director Leon Panetta said one of the greatest concerns was a possible al-Qaeda attack on the US in the next 3-6 months; the threat was the prime reason the US has undertaken to dismantle terror infrastructure. A media report recently suggested that the US National Security Council has downgraded the intelligence priority of China. The speculation is that intelligence effort is concentrated on Af-Pak. In his State of the Union speech, Obama, referring to the war, said he was no quitter. He has designated five terrorist organisations as enemies to be dismantled, disrupted and defeated. He has also warned that, when actionable intelligence is available and Pakistan does not act, the US will do so.

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