India Crashes the Party

Although the subject of India was barely mentioned in public, it was central to the private discussions between U.S. and Pakistani officials in Washington yesterday. Here’s Helene Cooper writing in the NY Times:

[T]he one thing that no one seemed to be talking about publicly is theone thing that, privately, Obama officials acknowledge is the mostimportant: how to get the Pakistani government and army to move thecountry’s troops from the east, where they are preoccupied with a warwith India that most American officials do not think they will have tofight, to the west, where the Islamist insurgents are taking over onetown after another. (Emphasis added.)

Meanwhile, with what can only be called curious timing, Defense News reports that the Indian army began a week-long training exercise on the Pakistani border this past Monday. The units involved, the elite Kharga Corps, is “a rapid-action force of 15,000 . . . equipped to operate behind enemy lines and to carry out a proactive strategic role.”

Indian defense forces have been preparing for operations behind enemylines and incorporated a new military doctrine to this effect in 2004.The Army has 5,000 elite soldiers, trained at unknown locations byIsraeli troops, who can swiftly enter enemy territory and even operatebehind enemy lines, Indian Army sources said.

Laura Rozen did some excellent reporting during the transition period about how India lobbied to make sure it wasn’t lumped into the Obama administration’s “Af-Pak” framework. But this seems almost gratuitous. At any rate, it underlines the ways in which point of view effect perception. Given that India is on record as holding Pakistan responsible for terror groups that Islamabad does not directly control, the Pakistani concern regarding a potential Indian cross-border operation seems less outlandish from Islamabad than it does from Washington.

Finally, this passage — from another Cooper article on yesterday’s mini-summit — regarding just what the Pakistani troops are supposed to do once they are deployed to the tribal areas exhibits all the zeal of the newly converted:

[S]ome of Mr. Obama’s senior aides caution that Pakistan’s military isill-suited to carry out the kind of counterinsurgency operations neededto end the Taliban fighters’ control of Swat, in the North-WestFrontier Province, and to keep them from infiltrating again or shiftingto another region.

“They’re fundamentally not organized, trainedor equipped for what they’ve been asked to do,” said a senioradministration official who is closely following the Pakistani militaryoperations in Swat, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoidoffending the visiting Pakistani leaders. “They will displace theTaliban for a while. But there will also be a lot of displaced persons and a lot of collateral damage. And they won’t be able to sustain those effects or extend the gains geographically.”

That sounds like a bit of COIN hubris, considering the U.S. has only very recently codified its own counterinsurgency doctrine, and has yet to definitively demonstrate whether it actually works.

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