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The Pakistan Problem

And the wrong solution.

11:00 PM, Nov 20, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Given this history of capitulation, relying on the Pakistani military to protect those tribal leaders opposed to al Qaeda and the Taliban without the support of U.S. forces seems certain to place any anti-al Qaeda elements in grave and immediate danger. During the rise of the Awakening in Anbar province in 2006, the anti-al Qaeda tribal leaders were nearly defeated. The first iteration of the Awakening, called the Anbar Revenge Brigades, was routed after al Qaeda assassinated its leaders and murdered or intimidated its fighters.

The Awakening was only able to survive the al Qaeda onslaught with the direct support of the U.S. Marines and soldiers based in Anbar. U.S. forces provided protection for the group's leaders, as well as air support, financing, and communications and other equipment to bolster its efforts. U.S. forces also conducted joint operations with the Awakening's fighters and coordinated operations between the Iraqi police and Army. Despite this U.S. support, the Awakening was close to being defeated after al Qaeda conducted a massive terror campaign up and down the Euphrates River Valley in the winter and spring of 2007. Al Qaeda used suicide bombs, chlorine gas attacks, and targeted assassinations against the tribal leaders and their supporters.


In Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, al Qaeda and the Taliban have extended their influence well beyond the tribal agencies and into its "settled" districts. The tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, and North and South Waziristan are firmly under Taliban control, and the Orakazai, Kurram, and Khyber regions are on the verge falling into that camp as well. The Taliban recently took control of the settled districts of Swat and Shangla, and two more are effectively off limits to the central government, as the police and military will not stray from their bases in those areas.


Under these conditions, arming anti-al Qaeda and anti-Taliban tribes and bolstering the Frontier Corps without solid support from both the Pakistani and the American military would be a death sentence for any tribe foolish enough to join the fight. The United States must get its counterinsurgency strategy in Pakistan right the first time, lest it risk the annihilation of any potential allies that remain in the region. But Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province isn't Anbar. More, not less, direct support from the United States military will be necessary for such a strategy to have any chance of success.

Bill Roggio edits the Long War Journal and is a contributor to THE WORLDWIDE STANDARD.