Obama Pakistan policy gets early rewrite

Washington Post:

The Pakistani government's inability to stem Taliban advances has forced the Obama administration to recalibrate its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy a month after unveiling it.

What was planned as a step-by-step process of greater military and economic engagement with Pakistan -- as immediate attention focused on Afghanistan -- has been rapidly overtaken by the worsening situation on the ground. Nearly nonstop discussions over the past two days included a White House meeting Monday between Obama and senior national security officials and a full National Security Council session on Pakistan yesterday.

A tripartite summit Obama will host here next week with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will center heavily on the Pakistan problem rather than the balance originally intended, officials said.

New consideration is being given to a long-dormant proposal to allow U.S. counterinsurgency training for Pakistani troops somewhere outside the country, circumventing Pakistan's refusal to allow American "boots on the ground" there. "The issue now is how do you do that, where do you do it, and what money do we have to do it with?" said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity yesterday.

On Capitol Hill, anxious lawmakers proposed breaking $400 million out of the administration's pending $83 billion supplemental spending request in order to fund immediate counterinsurgency and economic assistance to Pakistan. "We could pass it really quickly, in just a matter of days," said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who just returned from Pakistan. Waiting for debate and approval of the entire supplemental, Kyl said, "could be too little, too late."


Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, returned last weekend from his 11th trip to Pakistan "more concerned than I've seen him after any prior visit," a Pentagon official said, adding that at a meeting with senior aides Monday, "the word [Mullen] used was 'alarmed.' "

"We're not saying the sky is falling," the official said, "but it's raining pretty hard in Pakistan."


But on the eve of Obama's first meeting with Zardari, tensions were running high between the two governments. "We see more duplicity than ambivalence" about the fight against extremists, one participant in the administration's strategic review of the region said of Pakistani authorities.

Other officials expressed skepticism that the Pakistani offensive would continue. "The test of all these Pakistani military operations -- because we've seen them from time to time in the past -- is always their sustainability," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.


Pakistan's resistance to US troops training theirs in counterinsurgency operations has never made any sense and it makes even less right now. I can't think of one legitimate reason for Pakistan refusing the aid of US troops in training and it is ridiculous to have to do it in another country when the need is clearly so dire.

The skepticism about the sustainability of Pakistan operations is justified by their past failures.

The NY Times reports some progress in recent days against the Taliban. It also reports that about 6,000 of the 500,000 troops Pakistan has on the border with India have been transferred to the fighting. However other reports tell of several soldiers being taken captive by the Taliban.


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