The Asymmetric State

I’m always a bit skeptical about triumphant military operations that encounter no resistance, especially when the operations are of he counterinsurgency variety. And sure enough, it turns out that one of the reasons the Pakistani sweep of the Khyber Pass turned out to be such a success was because “. . .there are indications that the militants had moved out of the area before the offensive was launched.” That, of course, is the nature of an asymmetric insurgency. What’s interesting is that we’re increasingly seeing the rise of the asymmetric state, by which I mean a state that can’t actually secure its entire territory and so must resort to Pakistan’s strategy: negotiate peace deals with the guys who will be reasonable, and go after the ones who kidnap your government ministers and security forces. One question that lingers, though, is how a vital transit route for NATO logistical supplies wasn’t secured in the first place?

Update: This Syed Saleem Shahzad article in Asia Times Online is decidedly less sympathetic to the Khyber Pass operation, calling it a “smoke and mirrors” affair that targeted partisan groups that are sympathetic to and not allied with the Taliban.

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