Oct 19 2009
I stand by General McCrystal and his request for more troops, even though that likely means our son will go to Afghanistan as part of any surge. Depending on the timing of these new forces, though, the war on terror could be wrapping up sooner rather than later.
The US and Pakistan have been tightening the noose around the Taliban holdouts in the tribal regions of Pakistan for a couple of years now. The US, NATO and Afghan forces are established along the Afghan border which runs across the northern edge of this hot spot. And the Pakistanis have been pushing through the region taking down the viral Taliban forces (see map below, click to enlarge).
When the Taliban and al Qaeda forces were at their peak they were ranging into the Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province, wreaking havoc. Pakistani forces drove them from Swat, then pushed the Islamo Fascists from Bajur, Mohmand, and Kurran Agencies. As can be seen this drive from East to West has pushed the Taliban and al Qaeda back into the two Waziristan Agencies in the far western regions of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). This appears to be the birth place of the Taliban and al Qaeda and is their stronghold in the region.
During this same time armed US Predator drones have been surgically taking out Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in FATA. The US and NATO forces act as a barrier to the North, while the Pakistanis swept through from the South and East. They also have forces along the Western edge of FATA. A nice little shooting gallery for the world’s last large sanctuary for radical Islam.
Last week, after months of aerial assaults to soften up the enemy, the Pakistanis began their drive into the heart of Islamo Fascism as they entered South Waziristan in force:
Pakistani soldiers surged into the region on Saturday from three sides, and military officials said they were targeting the vast holdings of the Mehsud tribe, whose members make up much of the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. Among the towns that the Pakistani military has captured is Kotkai, the hometown of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, according to Shahab Ali Shah, South Waziristan’s top civilian administrator.
The military says its forces are fighting as many as 12,000 militants in a battle it expects to last two months.
Make no bones about it, Pakistan’s army is deadly serious about its operation against the Taliban in the lawless tribal area of South Waziristan.
It has deployed thousands of troops and a vast array of weaponry for what it knows is a crucial battle for the future of the Pakistani state.
The militants have entrenched themselves in fortified positions in the areas where the military is marching in.
But they are likely to resort to traditional guerrilla tactics once the army is firmly inside territory controlled by the Mehsud tribe.
This is the heartland of the resistance, and it is here that the fate of the campaign will be decided.
But despite all these measures, it increasingly appears that traditional factors in this remote mountainous region bordering Afghanistan will be decisive.
Emphasis mine. There is little doubt the modern Pakistan Army supported by air power can win the battle. The question is being prepared for the follow up, after taking back the region.Â And here is another important detail:
Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, was holding meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad.
Gilani called for more international aid for relief efforts and reconstruction in the tribal region of South Waziristan, a refuge and a power base for insurgents operating in Pakistan and along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
This is why we need more troops in the region, and a lot more aid. We need to make sure once the back of the Taliban is broken and scattered they cannot regroup in any large numbers to attack again. That means securing the southern provinces of Afghanistan (our job) as well as controlling the tribal areas of Pakistan (Pakistan’s job).
This is where the Iraq Surge overlaps with this final battle over the birthplace of al Qaeda and 9-11. We need to secure and rebuild, turning the populace from the Islamo Fascists. In Iraq, al Qaeda went from being the future of Islam to the enemy of Islam because of our dedication and their brutality. As we built they bombed, mostly Muslims.
It is similar in the Pak-Afghan tribal regions – but also different. In Iraq al Qaeda were outsiders. They were Muslims but no Arabs. In this battle over the heartland of Islamo Fascism it will not be so easy to turn hearts and minds. But we must in order to bring this war to its conclusion. It has happened in some places in the region already, so it is not impossible. But it requires focus and determination.
Some previous posts on this matter: