As I Was Saying // Ben FrankelNew U.S. strategy begins to take shape in Pakistan

Published 24 February 2009

The U.S. military and elements in the Pakistani national security establishments collaborate much more closely than in the past; the strategy of General David Patreus and the new Obama administration is to recognize that Pakistan is a fractured, divided country, and to work with those elements closer to us

We have written about the U.S. intensifying UAV war over Pakistan (see “Details Emerge about CIA Use of Pakistani Airbase to Strike Militants,” 19 February 2009 HS Daily Wire) — and about how, under the Obama administration, U.S. strategy in the region has shifted (see Ben Frankel, “Latest U.S. UAV Strike in Pakistan Signals Change of Strategy,” 19 February 2009 HS Daily Wire). The main elements of this emerging strategy:

  • Pakistan is a fractured, incoherent, and largely failed state on the verge of collapse; the United States should work to help unify and strengthen state institutions, but until that happens, there is no reason why the United States should not more firmly ally itself with some factions against other factions inside Pakistan
  • U.S. military strikes in the lawless Northwest Territories should aim not only to kill foreigners — Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters and leaders — but also Pakistani insurgents who fight the central government and who oppose the pro-American factions in the country
  • There is a need to settle some of the thorny issues between India and Pakistan — although a resolution of the Kashmir issues is beyond reach for now — in order to allow the Pakistani military to shift its attention from east to west
  • The Bush administration’s policy of providing the Pakistani military with nearly $10 billion in unsupervised military aid has failed; that money which was not stolen was invested in buying gold-plated weapon systems aimed at balancing India, not at fighting the insurgents

The New York Times’s Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez offer a very good account of how this new strategy is being carried out on the ground (note that some of the elements of the new strategy were put in place when General David Patreus assumed command of the Central Command last fall). They report about another covert U.S. operation on Pakistani soil, writing that “more than 70 United States military advisers and technical specialists… training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops, providing them with intelligence and advising on combat tactics.” The training program, which involves Special Forces trainers, combat medics, and communications experts, has not exactly been a secret, but its size and scope have been kept under wraps, until now.

Officials from both Pakistan and the United States agreed to disclose some details… to help dispel impressions that the [drone] missile strikes were thwarting broader efforts to combat a common enemy. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the increasingly powerful anti-American segment