Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sherman's March to the Durand Line

As the Pakistani military blasts away the last few objects in Swat and heavily bombs South Waziristan in order to soften it up for an invasion designed to capture or kill Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, some experts are questioning Pakistan's blunt object approach to countering the Taliban. The debate also goes on as to how aggressive the United States should be with its drones, particularly following the strike--intended for Mehsud--that killed scores of people at a funeral last week.
Friend of the Blog Chris Fair writes in the Wall Street Journal Asia that more counter-Taliban aid should be spent on Pakistan's police force and less on its military. While I agree that the police would be very appropriate as a bigger player and a worthy recipient of more aid, I think this one is on the shoulders of the military. But they, like the United States, need to keep in mind that the goal is to protect the population and prevent them from opposing our actions rather than simply leaving a trail of scorched earth hopefully leading to Mehsud.
Despite reports that the Taliban in Swat are shaving their beards and playing possum, I continue to thing that the recent attacks on both military/government targets and on civilians are signs of an increasingly desperate Taliban. Mehsud's followers are killing anyone suspected of cooperating with the government in South Waziristan. That's not likely to make people more willing to come forward, but it's not likely to win him any friends among the local population either. Mao said a revolutionary should move among the people like a fish in water. Increased violence against the population does not do that. A recent poll supports my idea, showing that most Pakistanis oppose the Taliban and al-Qaeda and support the governments efforts to fight the "miscreants."
As for drone attacks, I think they should continue, but only for high value targets likely to be driven out by the Pakistani offensive. Killing Mehsud would be a remarkable success, bu the consequences of missing--especially when 65 other people are collateral damage--need to be taken into account as well.

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