Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward’s re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book “Obama’s Wars” is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.
Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?
Like much else, the administration debated long and hard just how far to push Pakistan to cracking down on the militants, some of whom it had spawned as assets in Aghanistan and as a front against its much bigger traditional enemy, India. One of those arguing for a tougher posture inside the administration was Dennis Blair, then the director of National Intelligence who thought there were just too many carrots being handed out and not enough sticks. He suggested the United States bomb targets inside Pakistan without seeking Islamabad’s approval. “I think Pakistan would be completely, completely pissed off and they would probably take actions against us … but they would probably adjust,” he once told Obama.
Josh Rogin, recounting the debate from a piece in Foreign Policy, said that Obama chose a less confrontational path toward Pakistan. A year later, patience is running out. Last week’s repeated incursions by NATO helicopters from Afghanistan into Pakistan while pursuing militants seemed to signal a new, muscular strategy of the type Blair advocated.