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Replace Petraeus

Posted on Jun 2, 2009
USAF / Staff Sgt. Bradley A. Lail

By Fred Branfman

(Page 2)

The Petraeus strategy has strengthened radical Islamic groups within Pakistan. 

On April 20, The Washington Post reported that “a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people at a Taliban compound in the South Waziristan tribal region; such attacks have become a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups in Pakistan as anti-American sentiment builds.” Extremist success has worked to “create an arc of radical religious energy between the turbulent, Taliban-plagued northwest region and the increasingly vulnerable federal capital, less than 100 miles to the east. They [extremists] also appeared to pose a direct, unprecedented religious challenge to modern state authority in the Muslim nation of 176 million.”

Post columnist David Ignatius reported on an April meeting between regional envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen with Waziristan tribal leaders: “ `We are all Taliban,’ ” one young man said—meaning that people in his region support the cause, if not the terrorist tactics. He explained that the insurgency is spreading in Pakistan, not because of proselytizing by leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud but because of popular anger. For every militant killed by a U.S. Predator drone, he says, 10 more will join the insurgent cause. ... `You can’t come see the people because they hate you,’ he warned.”

Counterinsurgency adviser Kilcullen has warned that the drone war “has created a siege mentality among Pakistani civilians ... [is] now exciting visceral opposition across a broad spectrum of Pakistani opinion in Punjab and Sindh, the nation’s two most populous provinces. ... ”


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The Petraeus strategy has also strengthened al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida’s success in Pakistan—including attracting recruits and joining forces with local extremists—makes it unclear whether the terror network would even bother to return to Afghanistan should the Taliban regain power there. A senior intelligence official told The New York Times that “recent successes by the Taliban in extending territorial gains could foreshadow the creation of `mini-Afghanistans’ around Pakistan that would allow militants even more freedom to plot attacks.” Al-Qaida would presumably be as welcome in such new “mini-Afghanistans” as it is presently in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier, and even safer.

Petraeus’ strategy is increasing support for a “Pashtunistan,” threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan’s survival.

By attacking Pashtuns in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Petraeus is increasing local support for a radical Islamic entity combining the 13 million Afghan and 28 million Pakistani Pashtuns on either side of the artificial Durand Line dividing the two countries. As Selig Harrison wrote in The Washington Post on May 11: “It is equally plausible that the result could be what Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani has called an `Islamic Pashtunistan.’ On March 1, 2007, Haqqani’s Pashtun predecessor as ambassador, the retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, said at a seminar at the Pakistan Embassy, `I hope the Taliban and Pashtun nationalism don’t merge. If that happens, we’ve had it, and we’re on the verge of that.’ ”

Petraeus’ strategy helped push the Pakistani military into a disastrous military operation that is strengthening the government’s enemies over the long term.

As Kilcullen has noted,“Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies must be defeated by indigenous forces—not from the United States, and not even from Punjab, but from the parts of Pakistan in which they now hide. Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.” All observers agree that if Pakistan is to be stabilized, the Pakistani military will need to shift its priorities from defending against India and learn to wage an effective counterinsurgency war within Pakistan.

Petraeus’ blunders and U.S. threats to withhold military and economic aid have helped force the clearly unprepared Pakistani military into premature fighting in the Swat Valley, creating 2 million refugees in the process—what the United Nations, quoted in the Guardian, dubbed “the world’s most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.” Even if the Pakistani military succeeds in retaking Swat, it has alienated much of the local population with heavy bombardment. And it is unlikely to defeat the Taliban in the long run, as the Post explained on May 24: “Highlighting the difficulty, some extremists are simply melting back into the civilian population so they can fight another day, as they have during previous clashes over the past 18 months in Swat.”

A “senior [Obama] administration official who is closely following the Pakistani military operations in Swat, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid offending the visiting Pakistani leaders,” was even more blunt, telling the Times on May 6 that the Pakistan military is “fundamentally not organized, trained or equipped for what they’ve been asked to do. ... They will displace the Taliban 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.”

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By SINGLE PAYER, June 5, 2009 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

It is the economy, stupid.
Now the core of this conversation is about the AK-47, OMG!

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By heavyrunner, June 5, 2009 at 12:21 am Link to this comment

It would require a few million U.S troops to attempt to control Pakistan, a huge nation with a population of 170 million. Such an effort would kill a lot of people, but would be completely doomed to failure.

Colonialism won’t work anymore for many reasons.  People are more educated in general.  AK-47s are widespread and are a great equalizer.

The Pakistanis also possess many nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting Baghram or anyplace else U.S. military personnel could disembark for Pakistan. 

Of course, Baghram wouldn’t work anyway because U.S. forces in Afghanistan are supplied through Pakistan, that is, from ships docking in Karachi.  There is no other access route to Pakistan or Afghanistan, so the idea of war against Pakistan is absurd on its face.  The other routes would be through China, India, or Iran.  Forget it.

Petraeus tossed the coin at this year’s Super Bowl.  His uniform needed a sandwich board to display all the medals and ribbons he was wearing.  He looked like he came from a Banana Republic, not the United States of America.

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By Lou, June 4, 2009 at 3:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The falsity of Petraeus’s Iraq “surge” success will become increasingly evident as US troops pull out and all hell breaks loose.

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By ardee, June 4, 2009 at 3:02 am Link to this comment

hippie4ever, June 4 at 2:12 am

I am curious, by what standard do you judge the effectiveness of the use of drone aircraft as successful?

I believe they are very successful in turning large segments of the population against our efforts there.

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By hippie4ever, June 3, 2009 at 11:12 pm Link to this comment

Petraeus is a technical general trying to wage a technical war. An unruly civilian population requires the use of ground soldiers and results in violence and loss of life. He isn’t as good handling these messy situations, but who is? I don’t envy him his job and don’t blame the general for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld.

The drones, according to BBC correspondents, do appear to be making a difference against the Taliban, but also against many defenseless civilians. The Pentagon lies that they are becoming more accurate as time goes on. Even so, this no doubt will be the warfare of the future: machines against man. What a great surface Afganistan is: room for lots of armament testing.

Not to mention all the cheap heroin useful in sedating the American public over the next decade.

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By Dominick J., June 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Petraeus is only popular to those loyal to Bush and Cheney, like the whole Conservative party.  Obama is trying to keep things at an even keel which makes him even more wrong to keep our troups there.
Petraeus is a war person.  It’s in his gut, what he needs is to be brought down a peg or two…

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By samosamo, June 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

““aura of success resulting from reduced violence in Iraq”“.

Wow, what an accomplishment!

Totally unimpressed!

But why just petraeus? Why not any upper level officer that wants to continue this imperial ‘war’ for the military industrial congressional complex?

Oh, forgot, obama bush is still impressed with this farcical waste of time, money and resources, should have known.

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By taikan, June 3, 2009 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

Obama, like Bush before him, makes the mistake of viewing, and therefore treating, the Taliban and Al Qaeda as military entities rather than as criminal gangs.  By doing so, our government has given to the Taliban and Al Qaeda a legitimacy in the eyes of the local populace that they do not deserve.  That, in turn, has helped the Taliban and Al Qaeda to obtain new recruits and other forms of support.  Treating them as criminals, on the other hand, would encourage the local populace to distance themselves from both groups.

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By xyzaffair, June 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey, McChrystal can win this one.  Just give him time to build up the Afghani army…or was that the Iraqi army…or the South Vietnamese army…?

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By Folktruther, June 3, 2009 at 8:41 am Link to this comment

Truthdig deserves credit for printing this important article that states a few geo-strategic home truths.  But of course it is not Pretraus to blame but Obama, or whoever does his military thinking, proably Biden.  The US imposition into Pakistan by Obama was a WORSE blunder than the original one into Afghanistan by Bush.

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By Purple Girl, June 3, 2009 at 5:23 am Link to this comment

Might as well Replace all in Congress Too.
I had to tip my hat to Petraeus during one of his subsequent hearings before Congress when he actually turn the tables on them and what they had allow happen.
Lets get this straight- Petraeus and all others in Command are merely Soldiers with more glitter,then the others. Had the Congress done it’s job as the Second Branch of Gov’t- required Real documentation and evidence to support Cheney’s Claims and Decisions (since W knew only “basically” what was ever going on), We would not be in either on of these Cluster fucks Now!
The Bush Admin AND CONGRESS handed all these men the fiasco of an Impossible mission. How many Empires have been laid to waste on the sands of Afghanistan- The English, the Russians….Didn’t Alexander the Great have some problems with controlling that region too?
I refuse to put a pelt and horns on these mere soldiers to be used as the Scapegoats for the Politicos who should have studied history- at least the reports they were given before signing onto either damn War.Is Petraeus,McChrystal or even Gates, or any other, the idiots who Ordered Boots on the Ground to begin with- NO.They are just the ones expected to clean up the mess the Exec and legislative branches created….AGAIN (who decided to covertly help the ‘freedom fighters’ against the Russians in the ‘80’s then left the afghani population to be victimized by them?)
These men have been handed a backward ass Tribal mayhem and expected to create a functioning peaceful Democracy.The Sanest person can begin to do the most insane things when in an insane environment- any surprise they’re efforts have failed? The entire region is a psyche Ward and always has been.As far as I’m concerned they should have been Walled off and left to their Stone age mentality Centuries ago.

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By ardee, June 3, 2009 at 3:13 am Link to this comment

I do not know the General’s political aspirations but I do know an impossible task when I see one. The way to successfully combat Islamic extremism is not with military intervention. Extremism takes root among the poor, the weak and the disenfranchised.

It was my impression that Petraeus was overseeing an alteration of strategy that encompassed more and more responsibility on Afghani and Pakistani participation in their own defense from extremism. What happened to it I wonder?

One might spend futile time berating the Generals but the real criticisms are twofold;
Our Commander in Chief sets the goals , and the electorate decides who that CinC will be.

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By Mary Ann McNeely, June 2, 2009 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment

Petraeus will eventually be the Republican presidential candidate.  It’s only a matter of time and to what extent he will debase himself to be the far right standard bearer.  The Democrats will court him also but, like Eisenhower, he’ll go Republican.

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