The Pakistan Problem

The widening of the Afghanistan War into Pakistan takes on added significance in light of two news items today. The first is a report that Pakistani forces on the Afghan frontier once again opened fire on American helicopters that “strayed” across the border. The second, more damning, is a report via Army Times that Pakistani helicopters repeatedly “strayed” across the frontier last June in order to resupply Taliban forces engaged in a “significant fight” with Afghan Border Police. The report is based on the account of an American officer embedded on a training mission with the Afghan troops, and is supported, according to the officer, by both Afghan and American intelligence. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that Pakistan is playing a similar role in Afghanistan as Iran was at one time playing in Iraq, with the main difference being that Pakistan is doing so on our dime.

Perhaps the only reassuring news to come out of this theater is that Gen. Petraeus has plans to conduct a top-to-bottom strategic reassessment of the CentCom area of responsibility, headed by Col. H.R. McMaster. I’ve no doubt that formulating a coherent strategic approach to Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghanistan War will be a central part of the assessment. McMaster worries that the initiative might be regarded as a “military takeover” of policy, but I think he’s being generous in implying that some sort of policy exists to take over.