Dexter Filkins takes a long look at the role of Pakistan in our ongoing struggles in Afghanistan and against Islamic extremism. Filkins traveled to the heart of areas with large "No Foreigners Allowed" signs in the Khyber region in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He interviewed warlords and tribal leaders, trying to figure out why Pakistani and U.S. forces, supposed allies, have exchanged fire in that region.
While Pakistan was advertising a new offensive on the region, Filkins spoke with Haji Namdar, leader of the brutal enforcers of Sharia in Khyber, Vice and Virtue Ministry:
What’s going on? I asked the warlord. Why aren’t they coming for you?
“I cannot lie to you,” Namdar said, smiling at last. “The army comes in, and they fire at empty buildings. It is a drama — it is just to entertain.”
Entertain whom? I asked.
“America,” he said.
This conversation took place just a few weeks before Namdar was assassinated.
Filkins proceeds to lay out how we are completely losing by any definition in that area of the world. The chain ends up something like 1) We give enormous sums of money to Pakistan to fight terrorism. 2) Pakistan films empty displays of force but funnels much of the money to Islamic extremists in the Khyber pass. In exchange, 3) the extremists focus their attacks on neighboring Afghanistan to keep it destablized, which 4) makes our presence there appear more aggressive, so 5) recruitment in Pakistan for martyrs goes up, while 6) we have a rising need to contribute more money to Pakistan, thinking they will rout the training camps on their side of the Khyber pass.
UPDATE: Given the fact this war is apparently centered in the Pakistan side of the Khyber pass, is it any wonder that Pres. Bush ordered troops to conduct missions in that area?
I'll stop here for a hat tip to FP, though their post mostly focuses on the Washington Post story of an intelligence report being prepared for the next President on the role of U.S. power in the coming years. The Post article contains this gem:
The report... concludes that the one key area of continued U.S. superiority -- military power -- will "be the least significant" asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because "nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force."
The DIME model suggests state power is captured by diplomacy, intelligence, military and economic capabilities. Basically, it's time to look away from our giant M towards some of those other little letters. Maybe stop grossly underfunding the diplomatic corps, stop sabotaging the careers of potential human intelligence recruits, and start trying to put a little more economic thought in our policy.