Friday, July 20, 2007

Targeted attacks

Eric Martin at American Footprints links to a Kevin Drum comment on a Washington Post editorial recommending "targeted strikes" in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
I would view with great skepticism any claims that US intelligence has enough information to allow for "targeted strikes." The US did not have independent assets on the ground before 9/11. I remember a quote from a US intelligence operative about why they didn't have any agents within (or even remotely close to) Al Qaeda - something on the order of who wants to spend years sleeping on the ground eating crappy food with no women around. Which, among other things, said a whole lot about the professionalism of the current crop of intelligence professionals. The lack of inside information, even at the lowest level, contributed to the debacle at Tora Bora and has bedeviled all efforts at getting at Bin Laden and Zawahiri. As might be expected the situation has not improved since 9/11. While I am sure the US has excellent technical capabilities planning "targetted" strikes requires good human intelligence. The times when the US has used its predators to attack places where supposedly Zawahiri had a lunch date has only resulted in "collateral damage." The actions while killing many possibly innocent people also humiliated the Pakistanis, who had to rush in to unconvincingly claim "credit," and strengthened the jihadis by giving them a propaganda coup and highlighting the impotence of the Musharraf government vis-a-vis the US.

Blake Hounshell is right on the mark when he refers to the mandate that Musharraf has to go after the jihadis. There is a large segment of the Pakistan populace which is sick and tired of the jihadis and their antics. The Chief Justice issue has been a major diversion for Musharraf. The western press is calling the resolution of this issue with the decision of the Supreme Court against Musharraf a blow to Musharraf. I think Musharraf is probably breathing a sigh of relief as this is the least bad of the many bad options that Musharraf was facing. It is also a wake up call to him and his allies that their time is not unlimited. I think Musharraf is better positioned now to go after the jihadis than he has ever been and for the US to stick an oar in at this stage would be, as Hounshell points out, a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda. I would go even further. The Pakistanis are cooperating with the US because it is in their interest to cooperate. If we make it not in their interest to cooperate we will encourage them to look for alternative courses of action. None of which, I think, will be in the long term interest of the US. I am not as pessimistic as Eric is about possible US actions. We still have reasonably knowledgeable people in the government dealing with Pakistan and hopefully they will not do anything stupid.


Eric Martin said...

Good luck with the new blog!

-Eric Martin

empty said...

Thanks Eric, I feel like somewhat of an imposter but then there is that saying about the internet and dogs :)