Successes in Pakistan

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Eli Lake reports that we’re managing to kill al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan faster than they can gain new recruits. It’s hard for me to assess whether or not that’s true, but for it to be true what you need is basically very accurate intelligence—you need to kill the people you want to kill, but not be blowing so much stuff up that your actions prove counterproductive:

Mr. Munoz, who is now an analyst at the Rand Corporation, added that one reason for the success of the attacks has been the CIA’s recruitment of local sources in the Pashtun border area.

“The reason why the Predator strikes are so precise is in part the technological means of espionage, but also the informants on the ground,” he said. “It is the combination of the two that allows us to do the Predator strikes, which is one of the most effective things we have done. We have decimated their leadership. It is the result of a systematic continuous campaign.”

Again, I don’t really know whether this is true or not. But if it is true, it seems to me to seriously cast doubt on the assertion that protecting the United States from al-Qaeda—or protecting the Pakistani state from collapse—requires us to establish effective physical control over 100 percent of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistani officials appear to have captured one of the key Taliban figures in the Swat Valley. The moral of the Swat Valley story, it seems to me, is that insofar as the Pakistani state is motivated to take on radicals—as the incursion into Swat seems to have made them—it has the ability to beat them. But Pakistan’s perception of what Pakistani interests requires just doesn’t happen to be the same as what our perception of our interests requires.

Meanwhile, Senate Armed Forces Carl Levin is joining Nancy Pelosi in expressing serious skepticism about the wisdom of deploying more forces to Afghanistan. Pelosi never seems to get any credit from anyone over this, but before she was Speaker she was Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee and thus, like Levin, has the kind of background that normally gets you taken seriously as a national security policy thinker on the Hill. The problem, of course, is that both Levin and Pelosi have a record of taking “unserious” stands like “we shouldn’t invade Iraq.”