US 'Afpak' strategy troubles some in US and Pakistan
American lawmakers say they haven't been briefed on plans, as some in Pakistan describe the administration as 'confused.'
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There's a growing sense that Pakistan may finally be taking on the Taliban, as Washington has pressed it to do for months. But how Washington itself will conduct the war against the extremists seems increasingly unclear: concerns are mounting in Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul over command, long-term strategy, and the controversial use of Predator drones.
The abrupt dismissal this week of Gen. David McKiernan underscored that the administration is still reworking its strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. General McKiernan was overall commander of US forces in Afghanistan, a post usually filled for two years. McKiernan had barely served for one. His replacement by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a veteran of special operations and unconventional warfare in Iraq, is supposed to signal a "new strategy" and "a new mission," according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Many security analysts who follow US 'Afpak' strategy have welcomed the change, lauding the skill set McChrystal brings. "McChrystal is known as one of the smartest and least conventional thinkers in the Army, and a counterinsurgent's counterinsurgent," wrote Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent, an online paper, predicting "a lot of glowing praise for him from the counterinsurgency community." Many experts also supported the appointment of Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez as deputy commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
But exactly how the generals' expertise will be brought to bear remains unclear. According to Joshua Foust at Registan.net, a blog on Eurasian politics and news:
McChrystal's appointment is a jarring shift for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, which are currently transitioning commands between the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. It is unclear what having a Special Operations commander in charge will do the overall country strategy, just as it is unclear what two major changes of commands in a short period of time will do to the current units who are deployed there.
As the crisis in Pakistan escalates, some Pakistani analysts fear that confusion reigns in the White House, as a recent opinion piece in Pakistan's The News, expresses:
In 100 days on the job, President Obama's response to the growing crisis in Pakistan has been defined by three C's: confused, confounded and contrived.
Confused, because let's face it. Nobody really knows who's running the show on Pakistan. Is it Joe Biden? ... Or maybe ... Richard Holbrooke ... ? Perhaps, it is really Bruce Riedel, whom President Obama tasked with drafting a new Af-Pak strategy? But wait, maybe ... Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who makes more trips to Islamabad than even General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani does. Or perhaps it is the other military man, Centcom Boss General David [Petraeus]? Maybe, it is ISAF & US forces chief David McKiernan? He thinks Pakistan needs to do more to erase the Taliban.... There's always the other David, David Kilcullen. The one that thinks Pakistan is toast in less than six months.