January 24, 2008

File Under: Things We'll Believe When We See With Our Own Damn Eyes

"I'm encouraged that he seems to understand the necessity of doing counterinsurgency," Fallon continued. He said Kiyani will try to reorient the army from its focus on the external threat posed by India to greater recognition of the internal danger posed by Muslim extremists, especially the al-Qaeda terrorists who operate out of the Waziristan region in northwestern Pakistan, known here as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA.

Musharraf tried to subdue these tribal areas by marching troops in -- and ultimately was forced to accept a humiliating truce with the rebels. Kiyani plans a different approach, more in keeping with America's new ideas about counterinsurgency. "He knows that you can only do so much with military force," Fallon said. To contain an insurgency, "you need to take care of the population" through economic and social development.

Fallon said the United States plans to work with Kiyani and the Pakistani army on new programs that will bring more economic growth and the rule of law to the tribal areas, which since the days of the British Raj have usually been treated as ungovernable. The United States will help the Pakistanis train and expand the Frontier Corps, a local constabulary in the tribal areas that is now toothless. The United States also wants to provide training and equipment for Pakistani special forces, which would make it easier for them to operate jointly with their American counterparts.

It's all well and good that Pakistan's new Army chief has charmed the likes of Admiral Fallon and David Ignatius, but consider Abu Muqawama a deep skeptic.