Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, August 07, 2009

Good News From Pakistan

The continued pressure on the Pakistani branch of the Taliban is continuing to show progress. The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was apparently killed in a CIA drone attack. I think it would be a mistake to think that the Taliban will collapse because of this. It would be more accurate to see this as a symptom of the positive swing in the broader war between the Taliban the democratically elected government of Pakistan.

Right now there are simultaneous offensives being carried out on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border. The Pakistani military successes and popular support for the government and opposition to the Taliban have all been increasing for the last year or so. Meanwhile on the Afghan side of the border, NATO forces have been building up since Obama took office and are now mounting a major offensive against the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces in Helmand province.

Since 2001, Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been able to use the border as a shield. When pressure rose on one side or the other, they'd simply jump the border for a while. For the first time, they are being pressured from both sides and the results are starting to tally. It's frustrating to me to see how quickly we are getting good results with Obama's change in strategy and focus. If only the Bush administration had done this from the start instead of bleeding off our military strength (and allies' support) in Iraq. Arg!!


The Law Talking Guy said...

Bodycounts. Awesome...

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, it is a bit gruesome. But unfortunately, I don't see any other way to confront the Taliban movements in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Gee for the fifteenth or twentieth time the "good" guys have defeated the Taliban or al Queda. The levels of "leaders" must be more than their entire operation.

I say an immediate pullout when we've won is more than acceptable.

Raised By Republicans said...

Anonymous 1:18 is right to point out that it would incorrect to claim victory just because single leader was killed (I said as much in my original post).

I don't think we can write off Pakistan/Afghanistan the way we wrote off Iraq though. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. If that state collapsed it would be a complete disaster for the whole world. Afghanistan and Pakistan are linked. The fundamentalist groups are linked to tribal leaders on both sides of the border.

We should negotiate where we can but fight where we must and it would be best to fight on both sides of the border at once.

Pombat said...

Quick recommendation: The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen is well worth a read - am currently reading it, and he really adds ground level detail understanding to these conflicts.

I concur that Pakistan & Afghanistan are linked, and that Pakistan is a very important area for the entire world, due to the nukes. Thankfully, the Pakistani gov't now seem to be actively wanting to resist the Taliban, seemingly because they've finally realised that the Taliban are happy to threaten not just 'the western world', but places like Pakistan too.

Raised By Republicans said...

Pombat, I recently saw a documentary on PBS (I think it was on Frontline/World) about the Taliban in Pakistan. It was done by a Pakistani woman who had lived in the UK for a long time. She risked her life to interview average families in Swat and Peshawar as well as madrassas in Karachi etc. She even interviewed wounded soldiers and teenage boys in refugee camps along the border who were swearing they would join the Taliban army and fight against the government.

It was really well done. Basically, the Taliban exploit people who have next to nothing in terms of material wealth and next to no education beyond what the Taliban choose to provide.

In a perfect world, the Pakistani and Afghan governments could simply make these exploitive practices illegal. However, the Taliban are heavily armed and willing to spend the lives of others (both direct victims and people they convince, manipulate or force to fight for them) to maintain their own authority in the border regions.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"Pakistan is a very important area for the entire world, due to the nukes."

This, sadly, is why Pakistan wanted nukes, and why so many others do too. If we ignore countries until they get nukes, guess what will happen.

As for the "bodycount" remark - I wasn't concerned it was gruesome, but that, like bodycounts in Vietnam, this is a phony victory.

Raised By Republicans said...

Right, tallying up dead bodies in of itself is not much of a victory. But to the extent that this latest guy is an actual leader and to the extent that it forces organizational restructuring of some kind for the Taliban, it is note-worthy.

To abuse the Vietnam analogy, it's one thing to say "US forces killed 250 Vietcong guerillas this week" and quite another to be able to say "US Forces killed Ho Chi Min today."

The Law Talking Guy said...

Sure, RBR, but this isn't Ho. It's just some Talibureaucrat. I mean, you wipe out the Undersecretary for Denying Education to Children and what do you get? The Deputy Undersecretary.

Pombat said...

I think one important thing to note is that not all of the Taliban fighters are actually Taliban.

What the book discusses is the way groups such as the Taliban will move into an area, resisted by the local population, and go about forcing the locals to accept them, via brute force, marriages into families etc (and longer term, as RbR notes, exploitation via being the only source of education etc). Then when we, i.e. Western types, rock up, with zero understanding of the local culture and the intention to wipe out just the core 'bad group', we end up facing both the bad group and a sizeable number of the exploited locals, because the bad group have convinced the locals that they want to defend the local way of life, whereas we want to destroy it, and westernise/americanize them.

This is why cultural understanding is so very important whenever we go into different regions - shock and awe is all very well, but hearts and minds is a whole lot more effective and necessary long term. And that kind of cultural understanding can be partially provided by a pre-deployment training course of some kind, but really needs to start at home, with eradication of all the misunderstandings and bias between cultures. Not sure how we achieve that though...

LTG: yes, that's exactly why Pakistan wanted nukes, and why other countries do too. Sadly, we (the Western world) are too selfish to be interested in other countries unless they've got something we're concerned about (nukes), something we want (oil), or can generally support our consumerist lifestyles through import/export. And countries who don't get a blind eye turned to them, despite their people desperately needing help.

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, the Pakistan nukes issue is a little more complex than just "they wanted respect." or whatever.

China developed nukes because they - with some justification - feared nuclear attack from both the USSR and the USA.

India and China had fought a war over their border. India couldn't tolerate a world where China had nukes and they did not. So India started working on a nuclear bomb.

Pakistan couldn't allow India to have a bomb without developing a Pakistani bomb too so...

Raised By Republicans said...


I don't intend to be facecious here but if the people who run the Taliban have successfully recruited large numbers of non-Taliban to engage in an armed conflict with the Pakistani government and even participate in terror attacks on India or the UK or US or whereever, how do we stop them doing that?

I'm not saying we should ignore the local situation/culture. But you seem to be proposing a dichotomy between one approach that is overly violent and another approach that is based exclusively on "cultural understanding." Is that really what you think the choice is? Or is there a more nuanced approach that combines both cultural understanding and military violence in some varying measures?

Pombat said...

The more nuanced approach is the one that's needed. Yes, we need some military force at times, but we can't go in all guns blazing every time and expect to win.

The local population have to understand - and very rapidly - that we're there to help them, we don't want to change their culture/way of living if they're happy with it, and we have no intention of killing anyone except 'the bad guys' (our soldiers need to understand this before they go in too). Also that we will give help to fix anything we broke on the way in, and then get out as soon as they want us to.

And so much of what's needed in terms of on-the-ground during a military action is simple stuff - everyone learning an appropriate greetings phrase in the local language, as well as appropriate body language. Going out without sunglasses, or, if you must wear them, taking them off when you come into contact with locals, in order to make eye contact whilst talking. Patrolling in the first instance in soft berets with guns over backs, as opposed to hard helmets with guns in hand.

We've also got to make sure that there's no easy access to propaganda 'showing' that we want to westernise these cultures - sadly, there seems to be quite the perception that their countries will be turned into little Americas, and most countries are very opposed to that.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think that's what they are doing - within the constraints of the technology available to the Pakistani military. The US military has drones that can blow up a house or a room in a house but the Pakistani army can only blow up whole neighborhoods at once.

From what I've heard, the Taliban alienated many people in Pakistan who were resisting a military option and American participation in particular. When they took over Swat, they conducted a short lived reign of terror complete with video taped executions. When that got onto the Pakistani TV, people were outraged. And this guy who BBC reports in the link included in the original post is the guy who was in charge of all that.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think it's worth pointing out that it is entirely possible that civilian casualties in the tribal areas of Pakistan would be far lower if the US military took over from the Pakistani army (or some other technologically advanced, western military - like the Australians, Kiwis, or a NATO force).

Of course that is a political non-starter. It was only after the televised executions of Pakistani towns people in Swat that Pakistani public opinion started to be more supportive of even a limited role for the US military in Pakistan (via armed drones etc).

The Law Talking Guy said...

"Well, the Pakistan nukes issue is a little more complex than just "they wanted respect." or

Of course it is, RBR. That's kind of a cop out. The reality is always more complex than what we say in blog comments.

But in a broad strategic sense, this is a correct observation: the desire of Pakistan for nukes was based in large part on the fact that it would dramatically increase their relevance in the world.

Bob said...

This is off-topic but, since there weren't any recent posts about Denmark or free speech, this seems the most relevant.

Apparently, Yale University Press is doing what RbR accused myself and others of supporting,
according to this.