Friday, April 18, 2008

GAO: US Unprepared for Al-Qaeda Attack

From Democracy Arsenal:

"Here is the title of a report from the Government Accountability Office on combating terrorism released today: The United States Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

That is not some line buried in the report. That is the title. Wow.

This GAO report may be the most damning condemnation of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism efforts. The report goes on to say that the Bush administration has failed to develop any plan to address the Al Qaeda threat. Worse, the report finds that Al Qaeda is now able to attack the United States and represents the "most serious" threat to this country."


hank_F_M said...

Well yes the “policy” seems to be a rather ad hocish approach of dealing with problems and opportunities as they happen. See Let Us In Or Else from Strategy Page.

This is the part of the old Raj where the British drew an International border on one side to keep other counties out and an administrative boundary on their side beyond which the writ of the Empire did not extend. Except for an occasional punitive expedition if to many riders crossed crossed the border. The Pakistani government has been even less willing to go into that area. Though an insurgency has developed and the Pakistani’s are engaged. From the Long War Journal in the usual back and forth of an insurgency.

So what would suggest?

I would think the most effective policy “nuke them ‘till they glow” is totally unacceptable.

A surge (aka a punitive expedition) to clear it out is impractical given the troop commitments in Iraq, to say noting of completely destabilizing Pakistan and creating an even worse problem.

Resuscitating the Trusteeship Council and take on a 1000 year “Nation Building” operation in a place where even the Raj did not want to rule?

So what would suggest? I sure don’t have any good ideas.

Cleitus the Black said...

My dear Mr. F, et al.

Let's consider some of your thoughts on dealing with the growing insurgency in Pakistan's Tribal Areas, and the single solution to them.

Firstly, let me say that if I never again hear a supposedly educated and civilized human being refer to nuclear holocaust as a "most effective policy", I can assure you it will be too soon.

Since it is apparent that you, Sir, along with many of your fellow Americans, suffer no moral qualms with the idea of wiping out a mere 3.4 millions souls to ensure your own safety, I am left to apply simple mathematics to prove the folly of this sort of thinking. The tribal areas constitute a mere 27,000 kilometers square; the blast radius of the standard nuclear warhead will assure complete destruction of everything in a 10 kilometer radius. Thus, to be sure of instantly killing all those rascally tribesmen instantly, the US would have to employ about 2700 nuclear warheads, a mere half of our active arsenal. Of course, if you don't mind the majority of the savages to die at a somewhat later date of radiation vice blast effects, you could achieve the same effect with a mere 450 warheads, which would leave the US in a much better position to prosecute its next nuclear battle with either Pakistan proper, India, Russia, China, or a combination of these states; because depending on prevailing winds, they would be the recipients of the largest event of radiation exposure in the history of the human race, and could hardly be expected to accept this as a small price to pay for the elimination of a small insurgency.

We are left, then, to take a page from history (those who are interested may find a fairly concise and accurate treatise online here Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Wikipedia) - but great Zeus, man! Does no one read books any more?

No matter. Since the days of Alexander, this part of the world has produced only two useful things; opium and warriors.

One is encouraged to read "Savage Wars of Peace" by Max Boot, and "The Village" by Bing West to gain an understanding for how the US, or its Pakistani surrogates, must deal with these tribes.

However, it must be noted that these are savages, not civilians. I mean that, of course, in the most respectful of terms, in the same way that the Apache Indian, or the Mongol horseman was a savage. They do not lack for society, but it is a society based on the strange duality of violence and hospitality.

Do not expect to reform them in the short term, or perhaps any term at all. Do not ride in on a white horse promising freedom, justice, and security, as you will be in a position to dispense none of the above.

Instead, hire the most brutal tibes and use them to help supress your foes. Be prepared to exhibit, on the one hand, stunning firepower to cow those who will inevitably challenge you, and on the other hand, extreme generosity and benevolence to those who support you.

Billet your troops, not in massive military "green zones" but in every village. Let them earn their salt, and the respect of the tribes, for it is only this sort of spirit that they do respect. Show you have no fear of the enemy. Make the enemy fear you.

Tell your media moguls to prepare for some gory sights, or keep them from the fray. Those long knives are not kept for ornamentation. Scalping and other forms of mutilation and torture are not pretty, but they are a fact of tribal warfare. Your troops may not participate in such acts, but your allies certainly will.

Either turn a blind eye to opium selling, or simply buy the crop at a better price than anyone else (even if you surreptiously burn it or dump it in the sea at some later date.) Hire all excess warriors and send them abroad as mercenaries, or arrange for them to be employed in such a manner by a surrogate state.

Be prepared to stay for fifty years or more, to see soldiers go native, and maintain a presence such that the enemy cannot return.

What price would America pay for such a campaign? A few billion dollars in hard cash will go a long way in the tribal areas, as will a few hundred lives.

Security on the cheap, when you think about it, considering the alternatives.

hank_F_M said...


Thank you for your comments. You were much more successful at being sarcastic than I was. Congratulations.

Rest assured that my comment on “nuke ‘em ‘till they glow” was meant not as a recommendation, but to express my frustration at reports and articles that say the sky is falling with no discussion of real alternatives, which that is not one. And I did say I thought it was “totally unacceptable”

And if I would chose to word it differently, I don’t have that much disagreement with the rest of your post. And those who know less about that area than either of us would certainly be educated by your comments and your link.


Diodotus said...

Hank, good points all, and in case you were wondering your sarcasm was not lost on me, though my co-blogger Cleitus does like to go off on rants...

IMHO, the troop commitments in Iraq problem is likely to be resolved as the US gradually draws down, assuming the Democrats win in November... but even if not, boots on the ground for a surge in a place like Pakistan (not that it could work without Pakistan's consent) would be feasible if the US reinstated a draft of able-bodied women and men without children who have not yet served, for reasonably short rotations. I think this will become increasingly viable as the public becomes aware of the injustice of the DoD's stoploss policy and is humiliated into sacrificing more for the GWOT.

The problem of making matters worse is another story. I've never been convinced that the war on terrorism needs to be fought in this form, and so I'm actually not sure I agree with the GAO's conclusions that the US failure to secure these areas represents a huge mistake - it does only if you accept their logic that al-Qaeda is the most important threat we face... but I think in global and historical terms, the threat posed by al-Qaeda has always been pretty small beer.

hank_F_M said...


Yes it is small beer, and not even good beer. But it can't be ingored either.

The problem is that Al Qaeda a decentralized organization and people not a place, all three on my non-suggestions were for dealing with a place. If someone were to write a document entitled “Comprehensive Plan” it would be pretty much to do what is being done, get the people and disrupt the organization, with the missing caveat in a legal manner. A thousand and one small things that never get reported. I rather suspect it could be done better. I also suspect none of the candidates will do any better if they win. But even if there was a document entitled “Comprehensive Plan” like all plans would not survive contact with the enemy.

BTW: I was on active duty for the end of the draft and in the National Guard with the last of the draft induced enlistments and in the reserves and when I was a DA civilian employee I dealt with issues concerning reestablishing the draft. The draft is a panacea for nothing, it is not a good solution, it is not even an adequate solution though sometimes it is a necessary solution. We are not in that much trouble. It would likly cause much more problems than it would solve. Maybe sometime when I’m in a bad mood I will do a full scale rant on reestablishing the draft, but it is spring and I want to enjoy it.

angefoncé said...

Interestingly enough, the best solution for a decentralized network like Al-Quaeda is to create cultural changes in that part of the world. I recently read a book about how building schools on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan served as some amount of damage control in the early 2000's when extremist schools were popping up to teach military jihad to impoverished communities that the government didn't bother with. Education won't solve everything, but it will be a good start. Check out "Three Cups of Tea"

sorry for the unembedded link

"; urchinTracker();