Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Pakistan Trap And Obama's Afghanistan Follies

There is one way that Osama Bin Laden could still inflict catastropic injury upon the United States... by serving as the bait luring the USA to step into "The Pakistan trap." In fact, if he is still alive, Osama may be plotting exactly this from the hills of Waziristan.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama ridiculed Bush's record in the war on terror. Those who attacked the United States on 9/11 came from Afghanistan, he argued. Obama claimed that the war in Iraq was a "distraction" from the war on terror. In other words, America should concentrate on chasing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not liberating Iraq. Vice President Joe Biden declared in August 2007 that it is U.S. policy to deploy U.S. troops inside Pakistan.

However, liberal analysis of Bin Laden is hopelessly naive. Liberals accused the Bush Administration of failing to pursue Osama Bin Laden. Trouble is... Bin Laden is in Pakistan. And Pakistan is dangerously unstable.

For the United States to invade Pakistan, as Joe Biden suggests, would risk an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. An already troubled society would erupt. If Muslim extremists took control of Pakistan, Islamabad's publicly-announced nuclear weapons would fall into the hands of Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and his Taliban friends. For Pakistan's military to invade the regions in which Bin Laden is hiding would risk provoking a civil war, with the same possible result.

The Bush Haters, wishing to discredit whatever Bush did, simultaneously tell us that (a) the United States can never win the war in Afghanistan, and the United States is doomed to fail, but (b) Bush should have been fighting in Afghanistan instead of in Iraq, because the war in Afghanistan is so important. Liberals contradict themselves about whether the USA should or shouldn't be fighting in Afghanistan.

In reality, the war on terror has never been exclusively in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was founded in the Sudan, not Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's war on America probably began with the "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. Some analysts insist that Al Qaeda helped the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, though in deep background. Most politicians and commentators fail to recognize that Al Qaeda ("the base") was meant to be a training organization (enabler) of hundreds of other terrorist groups. Bin Laden's strategy was to equip other groups and set them all loose against the West. Therefore, many terrorist acts are stimulated by Al Qaeda, even though actually performed by other groups. Al Qaeda directly attacked the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing hundreds of African bystanders in the process. And Al Qaeda attacked the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, showing an extensive terrorist presence in Yemen (not Afghanistan).

Al Qaeda moved from the Sudan to Afghanistan when the danger of being captured in the Sudan grew too serious. In Afghanistan, Al Qaeda set up extensive training camps at which thousands of terrorists -- including those who were not "members" of Al Qaeda -- were equipped to make war on the infidels. When the U.S. liberated troubled Afghanistan from the Islamofascists, the Taliban, Al Qaeda moved across the border into Pakistan's wild mountain regions in Pakistan's Waziristan province.

However, once Al Qaeda's leadership escaped into Pakistan, the game became extremely complicated. The only ways that Bush could have pursued Bin Laden inside Pakistan are (1) pressuring Pakistan's troubled, ambivalent government into arresting the hero of much of the Islamic world, or (2) sending US troops in as a full-scale invasion of Pakistan to do the job ourselves. Either possibility risks a political explosion inside exceedingly-fragile Pakistan. That was especially true a few years ago when Bush was faced with this choice.

Pakistan is dangerously unstable because so much of that country is already a hotbed of Taliban-style Islamic revolution. Indeed, the Taliban that conquered Afghanistan originated in Pakistan, and were covertly sponsored by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. Pakistan's ISI saw a Taliban conquest of Afghanistan as a means for extending Pakistani influence and control over its large neighbor. Beholden to the ISI, the Taliban would cooperate with the Pakistani government. And a Taliban conquest of Afghanistan would eliminate all rival powers that might diverge from Pakistani goals.

The mountanious border regions near Afghanistan are ungoverned wilderness. The Pakistani goverment effectively has no authority there, and is unable to enforce its laws or governance in these wilderness areas. These regions are sometimes called the "tribal regions" indicating that tribal leaders -- not the Pakistani government -- controls the region. This includes the area known as Waziristan and the Swat Valley. The Taliban has increasingly gained power in this area, imposing Sharia law. The Taliban has grown so strong that it now threatens a full-blown civil war with the Pak government.

Pakistan's government is riddled with Islamic extremists who have infiltrated every level and area of Pakistani government in any event. Until polarizing President Musharaf was replaced by President Bilawal Bhutto Zadari, Pakistan's political situation was disturbingly similar to Iran under the Shah, just before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. And yet Pakistan is still deteriorating by the day.

The Sunni Taliban originally was a creation of Pakistan's intelligence services (ISI) as a means of gaining influence in neighboring Afghanistan, first against the then-Soviet Union and to counter traditional Indian and growing Shiite Iranian influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan regards Afghanistan as being rightfully in its sphere of influence. However, it now appears that Pakistan will be taken over by Afghanistan's Taliban, instead. "Pakistan is in the process of being gobbled by a Frankenstein's monster of its own creation," according to B. Raman, security expert with the South Asian Analysis Group.

This is why the Bush Administration -- wielding far more diplomatic wisdom and expertise than the liberal poodles yapping at its heels -- changed tactics regarding Bin Laden. Bush went from promising to capture Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive" to adopting a "wait and see" game. Bush hoped that Musharaff could gradually defeat the forces of Islamic extremism and shift the balance. The hope was that the situation might improve and there would come a time when either Pakistan would go into the tribal areas or the U.S. could do it without sparking a revolution.

Therefore, Bush, with a more thoughtful foreign policy than Obama's or Biden's, realized that it would be better to patient in apprehending Bin Laden rather than handing Al Qaeda and the Taliban the entire country of Pakistan complete with Pakistan's previously-announced nuclear weapons. The Bush Administration conducted a covert war against the terrorists with missile strikes along the border (and across the border) from unmanned aerial vehicles, and with cross-border raids. These have caused an uproar in the Taliban-friendly communities of Pakistan. But it is clear that the Pakistani government has secretly given its permission to the USA to pursue the terrorists into Pakistan's tribal wilderness regions, while officially protesting the attacks.

Meanwhile, there is also great confusion among voters and in Washington about who the players are in this situation. Contrary to common confusion, during the Cold War the USA supported the local Afghan fighters, the Mujahideen. Native Afghans were already fighting the Soviet invasion, and the USA slowly came around to supplying the local Afghans with weapons, money, food, and other supplies. But the USA wanted the money to go to the native Afghans fighting the Soviets, not to Saudis and Yemenis and Egyptians with no knowledge of the terrain in Afghanistan or how to fight there. The native Afghans had more experience fighting the Soviet military than anyone else on Earth, from their direct confrontation with Soviet forces on their own territory.

Al Qaeda did not exist at that time. However, Al Qaeda developed from Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, Iraqis, and Iranians foreign to Afghanistan. They had no expertise in fighting inside Afghanistan, unlike the locals. They arrived very late in the game, when the war was already six or seven years old. The USA never supported the foreign fighters now associated with Al Qaeda. Indeed, Bin Laden's only claim to fame at the time was Osama's ability to bring Saudi oil money from Saudi princes. Bin Laden would destroy his only strength if he could not deliver Saudi money. Bin Laden's people were then novices at warfare, and had nothing to offer on the battlefield compared with the local, battle-hardened Afghans. When the Soviet Union pulled out, the local Afghan Mujahideen fought a bloody nine-year war against the foreigners, who were seeking to install the extremist Taliban from Pakistan against the will of the Mujahideen.

So if Al Qaeda already moved once, from the Sudan into Afghanistan, what's to stop Al Qaeda from simply moving again? If Bush had attacked the Taliban and Al Qaeda only in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda could have simply moved to Iraq or Libya. Libya renounced terrorism only after being scared silly by Bush's invasion of Iraq. Libya used to be a prime training ground for a variety of terrorist organizations. If Bush had not invaded Iraq, Al Qaeda and other terrorists would now be thriving in Libya.

Similarly, we are seeing with the Somali pirates how Somalia is an ungoverned area, with essentially no govenrment. Al Qaeda could move there as well. So the war on terror requires attacking the terrorists everywhere, and "draining the swamps" in which the terrorists can hide, as Bush announced. Bush's declared strategy was to eliminate potential hiding places and bases of operations to prevent the spread of Islamic Jihad.

Many say -- as a triump of imagination over reality -- that Saddam Hussein was a secular Muslim and would not get along with Al Qaeda. That is absurd. United in hatred for the United States, Saddam would have gladly helped another group to inflict damage upon his enemy. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Consider the example of the Axis Powers in World War II. Imperial Japan believed that the Japanese were a superior race destined to rule the entire world (indeed the origin of all other races) and that the Emperor should rule the Earth. Nazi Germany, by contrast, believed that the Germans were a superior race destined to rule the entire world. Yet despite this incompatible clash of goals and visions, Japan and Germany were united in their opposition to the United States and European democracies. In fact, at one point despite Hitler's hatred of communists, Hitler entered into a treaty with the Soviet Union. Similarly, the United States cooperated with the Soviet Union despite the hostility between the USA and USSR.

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