Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
America’s ramped-up Predator drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan’s northwest is starting to pay off, according to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence authorities quoted in a clutch of media reports.
Eleven of the group’s top 20 “high value targets” along the Afghan border have been eliminated in the past six months Newsweek magazine reports, citing Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The strikes by the unmanned drones circling high above Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas have been so pin-pointed that in one case a missile fired at a hideout in North Waziristan didn’t just hit the right house, but the room in which Mustafa al-Misri (“Mustafa the Egyptian”) and several other Qaeda operatives were holed up. the magazine reports, quoting a Taliban sub-commander.
A U.S. counter-terrorism official goes so far as to suggest that the CIA-directed strikes have been so successful that it was possible to foresee a “complete al Qaeda defeat” in the mountainous region , according to this report in America’s National Public Radio.
According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
As has become increasingly clear, the administration of President Barack Obama faces a hard time raising its troop presence in Afghanistan without either relying on precarious supply lines through Pakistan or making political compromises with Russia to win its support for using alternative routes through Central Asia.
Violence in Kashmir is down to its lowest level since the separatist revolt began in 1989, but peace remains a distant prospect in one of the world’s most beautiful regions.
The Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Studies which tracks militant violence across South Asia says 541 people were killed in militant-linked violence in 2008, continuing the declining trend from the previous year when fatalities had fallen to 777. That was well below the 1,000 mark used to define a high-intensity conflict and way lower than the 2001 peak of 4,507 deaths in a single year.
U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan’s president said the United States must close its military base there.
Militants blew up a bridge on the Khyber Pass, cutting the supply route to western forces in Afghanistan and underscoring the need for the United States to seek alternative supply lines. The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through Pakistan but has been looking at using other transit routes through Central Asia. Although Washington has been sketchy on the details of its plans, its Manas military airbase near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has so far provided important logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan. During a visit to Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base, opened after the 9/11 attacks. Bakiyev made the announcement after securing a $2 billion loan and a further $150 million in aid from Russia.