Monday, November 15, 2010


While U.S. assassination has undoubtedly killed a handful of genuine insurgent leaders -- 18 of the 1659 Pakistanis murdered since 2006 according to the far right-wing Long War Journal, it has created far more jihadists who are cooperating far more and are far more motivated to do far more damage in a far greater area of Pakistan. And beyond. The "Times Square Bomber" who almost killed many Americans described how he was motivated by his anger toward the U.S. government for its routine murder of Pakistanis by drones. Foreign Policy reports that total suicide attacks worldwide have risen sixfold since 2004, and that “over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops."
Petraeus and the Obama team make the mistake of measuring progress by body counts. Woodward reports that “(Rahm) Emanuel showed an intense interest in the drone strikes and called CIA Director Leon Panetta regularly with one question: ‘Who did we get today?’” Our credulous media reports the latest CIA leak on “high level insurgents” killed but don’t ask how many are left.
ABC News reported October 15, “citing success with counterterrorism operations, Petraeus said 300 Taliban leaders had been captured or killed in the last 90 days.” But Petraeus has forgotten the basic lesson of Vietnam: it’s not how many “insurgents” you kill but how many you create.
The American people are not told an obvious fact: U.S. policy is creating many more insurgents than it is killing among the giant pool of 41 million Pashtuns on both sides of the border, 28 million in Pakistan, whose culture includes a major focus on revenge.
Knowledgeable observers of Pakistan are now worried as never before. Ahmed Rashid, Pakistan's best-known analyst, has warned that Pakistan is facing "a gradual meltdown, with the army and the political elite unable to challenge the rising power of the Pakistani Taliban or protect the civilian population. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has written that "as someone who has visited Pakistan often over the past year, I worry that the country is nearing .. a moment when the multiple pressures overwhelm the government's ability to cope and Pakistan borders on becoming a failed state.”
To fully grasp how reckless and myopic Petraeus has been, it is important to first understand the array of crises the country now faces:
·         Economic collapse. The New York Times has reported that "Pakistan's Army Chief, General Kiyani, last month reportedly warned President Asif Ali Zardari that the country is on the verge of economic collapse." Its Finance Minister has stated that the economy is "heading toward the abyss" and the government may be unable to pay its employees in two months. Pakistan also has $55 billion in foreign debt it couldn’t service even before the summer floods, which will add $43 billion more debt, according to an estimate by the Prime Minister. Inflation is expected to be as high as 20 percent next year.
·         Massive flood damage. The Los Angeles Times reported that "agriculture accounts for 43% of the country's jobs, but a fifth of Pakistan's irrigation infrastructure, livestock and crops have been destroyed."

·         A corrupt and incompetent government and ruling class. The corrupt and feudal Pakistani ruling class is also incompetent, as shown by its inability to help 20 million of the country’s citizens displaced by the floods. The Economist reported that "international donors ... are frustrated by the government's inability to put forward any sort of post-flood reconstruction plan. Nor has the government taken the chance to push through economic reforms that, as the floods have made clear, are urgently needed."

·         A parasitical, brutal and ineffective military. The military, Pakistan's real rulers, enrich themselves by running giant commercial enterprises and increasing military spending while millions of Pakistanis go hungry. As Ahmed Rashid has reported, "this year's $38 billion budget has seen a 30 percent increase in military expenditures from last year. This clearly leaves little money for health and education." They also have no interest or experience in conducting counter-insurgency. When forced by America last year to attack the Swat Valley and southern Waziristan, they conducted mass attack from the air, stuck to the roads, generated 1.5 million refugees, lost 2,500 soldiers, could not hold on to the areas they captured, and committed numerous crimes of war.

·         The NY Times reported that "the Pakistani military relies more and more on American-supplied F-16 fighter jets and Cobra helicopter gunships to bomb militants in areas of treacherous terrain, increasing civilian casualties, according to reporters and Pakistani officials in the tribal areas."

·         Widespread anarchy and violence. Writing of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city with 18 million people, and its major port and financial center, Rashid reported that "Karachi is in the grip of heavily armed mafias and criminal gangs … Ethnic violence and is translated into interparty political assassinations; party workers of all groups are being targeted." In Balochistan Province, he writes, "there is another civil war going on between Baloch separatists and the army. The insurgents launch ambushes and assassinations, and lay land mines every day (and) the army in turn has brutalized Baloch society."

·         Growing Al Qaeda and Jihadist strength in Pakistan’s heartland. The most serious unintended consequence of Petraeus' tactics has been the growing strength of jihadist forces in Pakistan's Punjabi heartland, as the NY Times reported on June 2: "A senior Pakistani official declared in a surprising public admission that extremist groups were entrenched in the southern portion of the nation's most populous province (Punjab), underscoring the growing threats to the state.”

·         Nuclear confrontation with India. Pakistan is engaged in a dangerous nuclear arms race with India, as the Wall Street Journal reported: "Pakistan currently has about 70 to 90 nuclear warheads, and India has between 60 and 80, according to estimates published by the Federation of American Scientists." It deploys 400,000 troops against India and funds insurgent groups in India's Muslim-majority Kashmir, a constant flashpoint.

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