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December 21, 2010

Afghanistan Misson Creep Watch Redux
Posted by Michael Cohen

So apparently a few senior members of the US military have lost their minds:

Senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas, a risky strategy reflecting the growing frustration with Pakistan’s efforts to root out militants there.

The proposal, described by American officials in Washington and Afghanistan, would escalate military activities inside Pakistan, where the movement of American forces has been largely prohibited because of fears of provoking a backlash.

The plan has not yet been approved, but military and political leaders say a renewed sense of urgency has taken hold, as the deadline approaches for the Obama administration to begin withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan. The Americans are known to have made no more than a handful of forays across the border into Pakistan, in operations that have infuriated Pakistani officials. Now, American military officers appear confident that a shift in policy could allow for more routine incursions.

The decision to expand American military activity in Pakistan, which would almost certainly have to be approved by President Obama himself, would amount to the opening of a new front in the nine-year-old war, which has grown increasingly unpopular among Americans. It would run the risk of angering a Pakistani government that has been an uneasy ally in the war in Afghanistan, particularly if it leads to civilian casualties or highly public confrontations.

Angering the Pakistani government is putting it mildly; how about creating the risk of a military confrontation between the United States and Pakistan. Where does one begin to count the ways that this undertaking could go badly astray? What happens if US forces find themselves confronted by Pakistani soldiers - our allies?

And how exactly does this further US interests vis-a-vis Pakistan? It's hard to see how this might help in the process of getting Pakistan to crack down on Afghan Taliban safe havens. If anything, one could very easily imagine that it will have the precise opposite effect; further embittering Pakistan and making cooperation on confronting the Afghan Taliban that much less likely. If one of the stated purposes of the US mission in Afghanistan is, in part, to stabilize Pakistan . . . well how does this further that goal? Indeed, these cross-border raids could actually risk destabilizing Pakistan politically.

Other than all that seems like a good plan.

And to what end would be contemplating this dangerous escalation of the war. If the Times reporting is to be believed what is driving this now is the nearing "deadline" for the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. What this seems to suggest is that you have folks in US leadership positions who are so desperate for a "win" in Afghanistan that they are willing to risk sparking a military conflict with Pakistan in order to "show progress" - any sort of progress against the Taliban.

If ever there was a moment to step back and fully consider the potential consequences of our actions in Afghanistan it is right now. If a cross-border attack is the only way to "defeat" the Taliban then its time to contemplate the possibility that the current strategy has more costs than it does benefits. It's moment like these when cooler heads must prevail and the civilian leadership needs to put its hand on the brake. 

Because, to a large extent, the very fact that ideas like these are being floated in the New York Times is indicative of how precisely out of control and divorced from US interests, are policy there has become. In the minds of some policymakers, the desire to win in Afghanistan seemingly trumps all other US interests in the region - heck across the globe. At the precise moment when the US desperately needs to be de-escalating in Afghanistan; there are those in the senior ranks of the military who would dangerously ratchet up the conflict and put the US and Pakistan on a collision course to open conflict.

Mr. President, you need to get control of your generals and this war. Because what is being contemplated here is insane.


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No way I'm for expanding the war into Pakistan. But I certainly don't believe that the Pakistanis are "our allies."

One would have thought that the supply cutoff a couple months back would make them think twice about sending US combat forces across the border. Then again, perhaps this is a 'brilliant' ploy by the Petraeus gang to portray Obama as not tough enough, thereby letting themselves off the hook. After all, Petraeus is a master of spin and DC politics but seems to be lacking in his knowledge of strategy.

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It's time to let go I believe. No strings attached anymore. They have the right to decide for themselves. Let's respect them as humans.

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I completely agree. I'll argue that Pakistan is a "Great Power", just not generally acknowledged. It's in the top ten countries in population globally, they have significant nuclear missile capability, they are a key player in balance of power maneuvers between China, India and Russia and the USA in Asia, and have had a nuclear war crisis similar to that of the USA and Cuba. The main thing Pakistan is missing now is ICBM's capable of reaching the US.

Would the US consider sending Special Forces into China, India, or Russia? I think not. Pakistan's govt can overlook drone missile attacks, but I doubt it could survive overt US ground presence. The direction that Petraeus and company are taking us could lead to very nasty blowback for us.

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