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Predator Strikes In Pakistan: The Least Bad Option

2:44 PM, May 19, 2009 • By BILL ROGGIO
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Counterinsurgency gurus David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum wrote an op-ed over the weekend on the U.S. Predator campaign against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terror groups based in the region. Essentially Kilcullen and Exum argue that the campaign is misguided because it hampers the Pakistani government's ability to wage a counterinsurgency campaign.

The Predator campaign is one of the least bad options in a series of really bad options that exist in Pakistan. The fact that we have to launch airstrikes in our own "ally's" territory is in itself an indication of the very real problems that exist inside Pakistan. This campaign is undesirable, but absent a better plan, what alternative exists to cull the spread of al Qaeda and curb its external operations?

Absent the Pakistani military taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda and practicing counterinsurgency techniques to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal areas and the NWFP, there really are no viable options. The Taliban wiped out the most promising of the much-touted "Pakistani Awakening" movement, and the military is even complicit in their destruction by failing to aid them. Clearly a U.S. invasion/counterinsurgency operation in Pakistan is a non-starter. And here is what General Kiyani thinks about COIN:

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani on Saturday said that Pakistan Army has developed a full range of counter insurgency training facilities tailored to train troops for such operations. "Therefore, except for very specialized weapons and equipment, high technology, no generalized foreign training is required," the COAS said in a press statement issued here.

Owing to its vast experience, Pakistan Army remains the best suited force to operate in its own area, the COAS said. So, the comments from various quarters coming on the level of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) training of Pakistani troops and about their shifting from eastern borders is unsuited. Uncalled for aspersions through various quarters on our training methods/orientation are apparently due to lack of knowledge and understanding of our training system in vogue, he said.

In other words, Kiyani is saying 'we won't train for COIN because we don't need to, please send us money and weapons and we'll do whatever we want to do with them.'

There is a real national security & political dimension to this whole mess. The CIA isn't merely headhunting, although high value targets are on the list. The Predator campaign is designed to keep al Qaeda's external network from striking in the West again. If the strikes are stopped and there is an attack on the U.S. homeland, there will be hell to pay.

Wishing for the Pakistani military to practice COIN or even counterterrorism operations in the northwest isn't a plan -- recent history tell us it is a pipe dream -- nor is allowing al Qaeda to operate unhindered. I've yet to hear an alternative to the strikes in Pakistan. Until Pakistan gets serious and send the Army into Waziristan, Mohmand, Kurram, Arakzai, Khyber, Bajaur, and ... and parks it there to practice COIN [good luck with that, please don't hold you breath] the Predator campaign is the only option on the table.