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Reviving the United States' Commitment to Pakistan and Afghanistan

Author(s): Dr. Steve Young | Dr. Imdad Hussain Sahito

Journal: Journal of Strategic Security
ISSN 1944-0464

Volume: 2;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 17;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Afghanistan | Islamic culture and politics | Pakistan | Radicalization | Taliban | Terrorism / counterterrorism

As President Obama is in the midst of deciding whether additional U.S.combat forces are needed in Afghanistan in addition to the 21,000 troops recently committed, he must realize that additional armed forces are only a stopgap measure in Afghanistan's downward spiral into an 'undergoverned' failed state. Similarly, as Pakistan's fragile and fractured civilian government continues to appease the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organization of Pakistani Pashtun tribesmen with Taliban cultural values led by Baitullah Mehsud and others, it comes closer to the concept of a "misgoverned" failed state, possessing a small arsenal of nuclear arms. The problem for the U.S. administration is that neither of these countries can be allowed to fall further into disrepair. At the same time each requires a different and unique approach to the threat of "Talibanization" that faces each country—the control of territory within each country by Islamic radicals seeking to impose their ultraconservative interpretation of shar'ia law onto the general populace. Generally acknowledged is the belief that what has tentatively worked in Iraq, that is, the additional U.S. troops and employment of former Sunni insurgents to help fight foreign fighters associated with al-Qaida, will not work in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. While a regional approach to the conflict in these two countries is warranted, Afghanistan and Pakistan are on two different economic, social, and political playing fields. Hence, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution for the two countries, especially one that draws on the Iraq playbook. In addition to its internal political problems, Pakistan also faces the issue of al-Qaida and Taliban training camps positioned in its literal back yard, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA or Tribal Areas). Resolution of the War on Terror cannot come to fruition without addressing the problems that exist in the Tribal Areas. This largely self-governed terrain has come under Taliban influence and serves as a safe haven for Taliban and foreign-fighter cross-border attacks into Afghanistan and, more recently, large-scale attacks into Pakistan itself.

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