November 19, 2007

U.S. to Train Pakistani Tribesmen

Abu Muqawama is not entirely sure why this report warrants the coverage the New York Times is giving it:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 — A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.

If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said. The United States now has only about 50 troops in Pakistan, a Pentagon spokesman said, a force that could grow by dozens under the new approach.

First off, it's just a proposal. Second, this whole training-foreign-security-forces thing should have ceased to be controversial a long time ago. Like, in 1958 or thereabouts. The fact that the U.S. advisor presence in Pakistan might grow by mere dozens -- goodness me, an invasion! -- doesn't seem like it should be Page 1 news. We've probably got more economic advisors in some countries. What should be Page 1 news, though, is an analysis of whether or not the Pakistanis are up for what looks to be a long-term counterinsurgency fight in their back yard. Just before Abu Muqawama went to bed last night, he read a report announcing the Pakistani government was mobilizing more forces in the northwest to stop Sunni-Shia fighting.

But mobilizing forces is comparatively easy. What's difficult is convincing those same forces they're going to participate in a years-long counterinsurgency campaign against their own people. Immediately prior to this latest political crisis in Pakistan, several Army units as much as openly rebelled and said they were sick of killing other Pakistanis in the northwest while watching their own soldiers captured and beheaded. It seems to Abu Muqawama that someone has to convince the Pakistani Army -- as an institution -- that a fight against the militants in the northwest is in their best interests and that striking some kind of separate peace isn't an option.* Because as it stands, more generals in the Pakistani Army care about this than they do fighting al-Qaeda.

*That someone is you, George Bush. The Washington Post was 100% right to call you out yesterday for not making a personal effort to capitalize on the military successes of the COIN campaign in Iraq, and they would be 100% correct in similarly demanding you take a hands-on approach in Pakistan. You make $400,000 a year. Earn your paycheck. (Is it just Abu Muqawama, or is George W. Bush the J.D. Drew of American politics? Going into his presidency -- love him or hate him -- he looked as if he had all the right tools to be a successful president. But just like J.D. Drew, he always looks like he would rather be doing something other than the job he's getting paid to do.)