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The Definition of Insanity…

14/07/2009

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. For example, using air power to try to defeat an insurgency.

I’m already on record saying I think that rushing into S. Waziristan before Swat is secure is a bad idea. And by secure I mean knowing that Pakistani forces are able to hold the area and enable refugees to return while ensuring militants do not. Refugees may be returning, but it is far from certain that it is actually safe for them to do so.

On the plus side, the army has pledged to keep a presence in Swat for a year. Though exactly what that means I’m not certain. But as Saed Shah reported over the weekend, Pakistan is anxious that its forces not be overextended, a danger from an all-out Waziristan offensive.

Hmm… yeah, I could see how the Army might be nervous about that.  Presumably, the Army could commit more troops to the fight. Or maybe hold off on the S. Waziristan operation until it could take a comprehensive approach. But according to Shah the Pakistani Army has come up with another solution… bomb their way to victory.

The operation is unlikely to destroy the enemy, however, and will leave in place some Taliban warlords whom the United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan regard as a significant cross-border threat. It will raise questions about the seriousness of Pakistan’s fight against insurgents after the country won international praise for its concerted efforts in Swat.

 

“The nature of the operation is totally different from what we did in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It is just blocking the entrance. Nothing goes in, nothing comes out. We’ll keep punishing (the enemy) with long arms, air (power), Cobra (helicopters).

“It won’t be the army physically moving and attacking, with your combat power dwindling with each passing day, and the need to put in additional” troops, the security official said, adding that the military couldn’t afford to open up more than one front.

To be fair to Pakistan it took America quite a while to (re)figure out COIN in Iraq. And it’s taking even longer in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is still trying to get its act together. So it’s not like I think we’re such geniuses as this. But if they understand what is necessary (and Swat indicates they might) then regressing to an enemy-centric approach in S. Waziristan is all the more baffling.

 

I understand the desire to do something about militants who are savaging the country. But knocking over a bunch of buildings, (probably) wracking up a lot of civilian casualties and maybe clipping a militant here or there is not going to solve the problem.