The Fragility of Afghanistan

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Officials at the United Nations are calling for the creation of a special panel to examine “the ethics and legality of unmanned military weapons,” the Washington Post reports.

“The international community urgently needs to address the legal, political, ethical and moral implications of the development of lethal robotic technologies,” according to Christof Heyns, a UN official specializing in the investigation of extrajudicial executions. Heyns says the UN should address “the fundamental question of whether lethal force should ever be permitted to be fully automated.”

Most Americans recognize the drone war as an essential element in the wider campaign against terror. Indeed, CIA Director Leon Panetta calls the drone war “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al-Qaeda leadership.” However, the UN Human Rights Council apparently views drone strikes as executions without trial. “It is important to note that if a targeted killing violates [international law]…then regardless of who conducts it—intelligence personnel or State armed forces—the author, as well as those who authorized it, can be prosecuted for war crimes.”

Given the president’s stated desire for U.S. policies to be endorsed by the UN, it’s not difficult to imagine international pressure having a negative impact on this successful aspect of the war.

Playing Games in Pakistan

“Pakistan is central to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and prevent its return to the region,” according to the report. Consolidating the gains of 2010 “will require that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries for violent extremist networks.”

Yet Pakistan is not a dependable partner, as its military and intelligence agencies prove again and again.

Leaked diplomatic cables indicate that Pakistan’s “military and intelligence establishment has taken steps since spring 2009 to hamper the operations of the [U.S.] embassy.” The U.S. ambassador was forced last week to explain away the Pakistani military’s failure to carry out promised attacks on tribal areas. Also last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed his Pakistani counterparts of America’s “strategic impatience” with Islamabad’s phony war. And this week, we learned that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) “deliberately exposed the identity of the CIA’s top spy in Pakistan,” as the Washington Post reports.

It pays to recall that a) this is the behavior of a supposed ally, b) it was ISI that spawned the Taliban in 1994-95 in a shortsighted attempt to stabilize Afghanistan and c) Osama bin Laden’s address is somewhere in Pakistan’s ungoverned Taliban territories.

Through all the diplomatic duplicity and military games, Islamabad spurns offers for direct assistance, invoking its sovereign borders in one breath before claiming it is too weak to control its territory in the next. We are left with two unsettling prospects: Either Pakistan’s intelligence and military assets are beyond the government’s control, or the government is complicit in what its intelligence operatives do and what its military won’t do.

This same conundrum confounded the Bush administration’s war efforts in Afghanistan, and it will continue to undermine the Obama administration’s efforts in Afghanistan unless or until elements within the Pakistani government are recognized for what their actions reveal them to be: enemies of the United States.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.

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  • ObamaYoMoma

    I have a prediction to make. I predict that the fantasy-based nation-building missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq, along with the creation of two Sharia states in the process, will in the long run eventually be recognized as the two biggest strategic blunders in American history.

    When GWB declared that Islam is a Religion of Peace™ being hijacked by a tiny minority of radicals and extremists, it was analogous to HST declaring that Communism is an ideology of Peace being hijacked by a tiny minority of radicals and extremists. Had HST been so stupid back then, we’d all be sipping vodka today and calling each other comrade.

    In fact, when GWB declared “War on Terrorism” in 2001, it was analogous to FDR declaring war on Kamikazes in WWII instead of the Imperialist Japanese. Had FDR been so stupid, we’d all be speaking Japanese and sipping sake today.

    In WWII can anyone imagine what would have happened had we put the Marshall Plan and winning the hearts and minds of Nazis and Imperialist Japanese at the forefront of our main strategy?

    Indeed, those are the house of cards foundation upon which the fantasy based nation-building missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are built upon, and yet today for some reason we still can’t come to grips with the futility of both missions.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-war or anti-military, but nevertheless I’m not stupid either. One of these days we must come to grips with the reality of the situation and what led to the situation in the first place, and learn from our mistakes so that they will never be repeated again.

    In any event, if anyone believes continuing to prop up two corrupt Sharia states is worth it because it will eventually somehow miraculously lead to victory, then I have a bridge for sale in New York I need to sell them.

    Finally, with all due respect, the drone war in Pakistan amounts to pissing on a forest fire. We need to fundamentally rethink how we are going to fight the war, but before we do that we must at least come to grips with reality, and we can start by acknowledging the global jihad and identifying correctly who are our friends and allies and who are not.