Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The big squeeze, and Pakistan

The news on Afghanistan is that U.S. supply routes to it from both the north and the south are being squeezed. But I think that tactical moves will backfire, because they will focus American officials and others on the strategic requirement to deal with Pakistan differently and more emphatically. As sensei Abu Muqawama puts it, ...

588818_090204_pakistan_2.4_resized2.jpg
588818_090204_pakistan_2.4_resized2.jpg

The news on Afghanistan is that U.S. supply routes to it from both the north and the south are being squeezed. But I think that tactical moves will backfire, because they will focus American officials and others on the strategic requirement to deal with Pakistan differently and more emphatically. As sensei Abu Muqawama puts it, "It's tough to fight a war in Afghanistan when the opposing team decides to fight the war in Pakistan."

The Pakistani military seems to be both the problem and the solution. It won't be easy, as this great video report by an al Jazeera reported embedded with the Pakistan army in Swat shows. (The second half, not the first half, which is refugees.) It is striking to see Pakistani tanks running away from the Taliban. It reminded me of  the military expert I quoted in my last post on the Wanat battle who observed that the enemy we face in Afghanistan may resemble Hezbollah in Lebanon more than al Qaeda in Iraq.

The news on Afghanistan is that U.S. supply routes to it from both the north and the south are being squeezed. But I think that tactical moves will backfire, because they will focus American officials and others on the strategic requirement to deal with Pakistan differently and more emphatically. As sensei Abu Muqawama puts it, “It’s tough to fight a war in Afghanistan when the opposing team decides to fight the war in Pakistan.”

The Pakistani military seems to be both the problem and the solution. It won’t be easy, as this great video report by an al Jazeera reported embedded with the Pakistan army in Swat shows. (The second half, not the first half, which is refugees.) It is striking to see Pakistani tanks running away from the Taliban. It reminded me of  the military expert I quoted in my last post on the Wanat battle who observed that the enemy we face in Afghanistan may resemble Hezbollah in Lebanon more than al Qaeda in Iraq.

Looking at the blown bridge in the Khyber Pass, I remember reading somewhere that prime ambush sites along the Pakistani-Afghan border were passed along from generation to generation, much as Boston’s WASPs pass on vacation homes in New Hampshire. I would bet that the RPGs already are waiting on the alternative routes being considered. I’m glad I have no plans to travel through Spin Boldak anytime soon.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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