Wednesday, August 1

Waziristan next

I see by the title of his Washington Post op-ed that David Ignatius is in fine fettle. Wonder who he's been talking with at State about Pakistan.
Sept. 10 in Waziristan

The National Intelligence Estimate released July 17 put the problem plainly enough: Al-Qaeda has "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability" using a new haven in the lawless frontier area of northwest Pakistan known as Waziristan.

The question is: What is the United States going to do about it?
You're missing the fettle if you don't read the entire report but to skip to the juiciest part, Ignatius reports that Henry Crumpton has a plan:
The best answer I've heard comes from Henry Crumpton, a former CIA officer who was one of the heroes of the agency's campaign to destroy al-Qaeda's haven in Afghanistan in late 2001. [...] Crumpton argues that the United States must take preventive action but that it should do so carefully, through proxies wherever possible.

The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaeda network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years.

It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.

"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens," says Crumpton. "We either do it now, or we do it after the next [9/11-style] attack."

Crumpton proposed a detailed plan last year for rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the Regional Strategic Initiative. It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counterinsurgency campaign. In Waziristan, U.S. and Pakistani operatives would give tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electricity for their remote mountain villages.Intervening in another Muslim country is risky, to put it mildly.

That's why a successful counterinsurgency program would need Pakistani support and why its economic and social development components would be critical. The concept should be President John F. Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress" to counter radicalism in Latin America, rather than "Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The United States can begin to take action now against al-Qaeda's new haven. Or we can wait, and hope that we don't get hit again. The biggest danger in waiting is that if retaliation proves necessary later, it could be ill-planned and heavy-handed -- precisely what got us in trouble in Iraq.
Sounds like a good plan to me, if we start 'yesterday.' The plan has State Department written all over it. I believe the Pentagon plan calls for flattening several mountains.

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