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Few countries on earth face as many serious problems as giant, nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is today like a seething, heaving, bubbling, and combustible pool of chemicals in increasing danger of explosion. America badly needs to try and stabilize the nation, through a vast increase in economic aid on the order of the tens of billions of dollars it is wasting in Afghanistan – most importantly to reduce the dangers of nuclear proliferation through “immense threats of theft from nuclear insiders with extremist sympathies, al Qaeda or Taliban outsider attacks, and a weak state,” of which one observer warned last April.
But rather than seeking to stabilize Pakistan, General David Petraeus has, incredibly, been irresponsibly lighting matches through his shortsighted and relentless effort to secure Afghanistan by using U.S. forces and drone strikes, and pressuring the Pakistani Army to attack Taliban “sanctuaries” in Pakistan’s northwest provinces. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London for the past 16 years and a pillar of the Establishment, has recently stated that U.S. drone and gunship attacks in Pakistan have “set the country on fire” and threatened that such acts could eventually lead to attacks on U.S. personnel in Pakistan.
Petraeus has disastrously miscalculated. The more “progress” he tries to show in Afghanistan, the more he weakens the U.S. position in far more important Pakistan. As reported in this space 16 months ago, unless General Petraeus is replaced U.S. leaders may well face a catastrophe in Pakistan that would dwarf their disastrous miscalculations in invading Indochina, supporting the Shah of Iran and occupying Iraq.
The single most important — yet surprisingly ignored — revelation of Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, is that Petraeus and the Obama team never discussed how their strategy for attacking Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan was weakening the Pakistani state. Woodward also makes clear that it is Petraeus, not Obama, who is driving U.S. policy in “Af-Pak.” CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that “no Democratic president can go against military advice, especially if he asked for it. So just do it. Do what they say,” according to the book. Petraeus’ power derives from America’s unconscious need for a military hero and his perceived and overblown success in Iraq. But this perception has blinded normally sensible observers to his disastrous performance in Pakistan since becoming Centcom commander in October 2008.
For the past two years Petraeus has relentlessly attacked Taliban forces in northwest Pakistan. But this policy has significantly strengthened Al Qaeda, the Taliban and local extremist forces instead of weakening them. A jaw-dropping development on August 16 revealed just how badly Petraeus has mishandled his two-year stewardship of U.S. military policy toward Pakistan, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
Pakistan’s main spy agency says homegrown Islamist militants have overtaken the Indian army as the greatest threat to national security … for the first time in 63 years.
Yes, that’s right. Pakistani military intelligence now rates domestic insurgency a greater threat than India for the first time since Pakistan was created — largely as a result of U.S. actions. As McClatchy Newspapers reported last April:
Concerns are growing among U.S. intelligence and military officials that the (drone) strikes are prompting Islamist radicals to disperse into the country’s heartland. As a result of the drone attacks, insurgent activities are “more dispersed in Pakistan and focusing on Pakistani targets,” said Christine Fair of the RAND Corp., ”So we have shifted the costs.” (i.e. from Afghanistan to Pakistan). A U.S. military official .. called the drone operations a ”recruiting windfall for the Pakistani Taliban.”