Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama to step up strikes in Pakistan in effort to force "moderate" Taliban to negotiate

This is curious. We seem to hear a lot about how fighting back against jihadists "radicalizes" people who were once mild-mannered moderates save for the brutish and insensitive workings of American foreign policy. Interesting. Has there been a breakthrough in "hearts and minds" technology for the Predator drones?Again, "moderation" in this context boils down to simply being less extreme than the next guy, which is not a useful predictor of someone's inclination to contribute to a stable, modern Afghanistan. The Taliban who might come to negotiate may think twice about dying in an airstrike, but not at all about the ultimate imperative to impose Islamic law by any means necessary.

More on this story. "US to step up attacks on Pakistan as it forces Taliban to talk," by Dean Nelson and Ben Farmer for the Telegraph, March 8:

The United States is planning to escalate aerial bombing raids on Pakistan's tribal areas in tandem with efforts to force moderate elements of the Taliban to the negotiating table, the Telegraph has learned.

Officials in contact with the State Department said on Sunday that a new offensive would see a dramatic increase in Predator drone attacks on Taliban targets in defiance of Pakistani objections to cross-border attacks.

President Barack Obama on Sunday admitted that the US military was pushing for talks with the Taliban, but officials consulted on the plans said the military conflict would be raised to new levels of intensity before talks could begin. "There will be talks but the Taliban are going to experience a lot of pain first, on both sides of the border," said one senior Western diplomat.

There are hopes of establishing a "hammer and anvil" encirclement of the Taliban with the Pakistan Army expected to extend its bombardment of terrorist safe havens within the Tribal Area's Bajaur agency.

"Hope is not a method." - Military adage

President Obama told the New York Times that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan as he hinted at the possibility of talks with the Taliban insurgents. The US leader said General David Petraeus, one of the key strategists in the war on al-Qaeda and its allies, believed "part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists.

"At the heart of a new Afghanistan policy is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy," Mr Obama said. "As long as you have got safe havens in these border regions that the Pakistani government can't control or reach in effective ways, we're going to continue to see vulnerability on the Afghan side of the border.

"And so it's very important for us to reach out to the Pakistani government and work with them more effectively."

The architect of Mr Obama's "smarter policy," former US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, has appointed Afghan policy expert Barnett Rubin to co-ordinate an approach to the Taliban.

In an article in Foreign Affairs magazine last December, Mr Rubin proposed a 'grand bargain' in which NATO would end military action if the Taliban agreed "to prohibit the use of Afghan (or Pakistani) territory for international terrorism". Such an agreement would "constitute a strategic defeat for al-Qaeda," he wrote....

But it would immediately degenerate into bickering about the nature of "terrorism," which, like "moderation," is another perilously vague term.

No comments: