April 27, 2009

Schmidle on Pakistan

Friend of the blog Nicholas Schmidle has a really good op-ed up on Slate right now:

If there's any hope of containing the insurgency, it's by building a wall along the Indus River. Not a physical wall, like the one Musharraf proposed constructing along the Pakistani-Afghanistan border, but an imaginary barrier that the Taliban wouldn't be able to breach. How would you go about building such a thing? First of all, the United States would immediately divert much of the $1.5 billion it is planning to spend annually in FATA and NWFP to Punjab. While development projects in South Waziristan are futile at this point in terms of building confidence in the state, they may still accomplish that goal in the villages and towns of Punjab, and even down in Karachi. Since these places are the next battlegrounds between the Taliban and the Pakistani state, U.S. funds could also be diverted to train the Punjab police, who will probably become embroiled in the insurgency over the coming months. Moreover, U.S. military advisers may be able to secure a more prominent role working with the Punjab police than with, say, the units stationed along the Afghan border, where some suspect that the Pakistani intelligence agencies are still backing certain aspects of the insurgency.

Dammit, Nick, you are now preempting our report! (You suck, Schmidle!) For this echoes an argument advanced by David Kilcullen last Thursday and one that I will also advance soon enough in a yet-to-be-released report (that Nick has been kind enough to help out with). There are just two immediate problems with this line of thinking, though: what about the logistical lines which run through Pakistan and into Afghanistan? Are we going to perform some kind of limited route-protection operations on these? (Dave K. raised this question to me last week. I had no good answers at the time.) The second issue is the little problem of authorization. The U.S. military does not -- with the exception of USSOCOM, which does under 1208 authorization -- have the authority to train police. I think transferring some of our aid to the police in the Punjab, though, is a smart idea.