Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 30, 2009

You, me, Obama, Osama, and Omar: hiking higher into the Hindu Kush

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 30, 2009


Friday President Obama set out his policy for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and combating terrorism in that region.  He explained, “I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”

During the President’s EOB remarks he set out the nature of the threat, saying, “The situation is increasingly perilous… Al Qaeda and its allies — the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks — are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban — or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged — that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”

The President continued, “The future of Afghanistan is inextricably linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan. In the nearly eight years since 9/11, al Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier. This almost certainly includes al Qaeda’s leadership: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, to communicate with followers, to plot attacks, and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan. For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.”

(A full transcript of the President’s remarks is available from the White House website.)

To deal with this most dangerous place in the world the President’s policy does not offer much that is new, but it does promise greater priority, resources, and energy being applied to Afghanistan.  Many will quibble with the simplification, but the policy shifts our gun scope from the Euphrates to the Hindu Kush.

Reaction to Friday’s policy roll-out was mostly positive.  Both Pakistani and Afghan leadership promised support.  President Kharzai of Afghanistan said, “It is exactly what the Afghan people were hoping for, and we’re seeking… This is better than we were expecting, as a matter of fact.”

Some others, of course, were not as positive.  In a Reuters interview Noor Muhammed, a prominent cleric in Quetta, Pakistan, said, “”America is foolish because it will only force more people here to stand up against it… If infidels occupy a Muslim land then it’s obligatory for all Muslims to do jihad.”

By coincidence or in response, on Sunday the Taliban kidnapped eleven Pakistani policemen in the Northwest and are suspected in a Monday morning attack on a police academy in the East.

Complicating the President’s policy is support for the Afghan Taliban by elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services.  Responding to questions about Pakistani support for the Taliban insurgency, General David Petraeus said, ““There are some cases that are indisputable in which that appears to have taken place…” Links between the Taliban and ISI “are very strong and some unquestionably remain to this day.” There is  also evidence that these ties – and sympathies – will resist quick dilution.

Tomorrow the President  leaves for Europe.  In addition to seeking international cooperation to manage the financial crisis, he will push for increased NATO support on the Afghan-Pakistan border and in the Taliban-dominated areas of Southern Afghanistan. Several argue that the President’s  Af-Pak policy depends largely on his ability to enlist more robust NATO involvement.   

So… we will renew and strengthen our fight in the Hindu Kush, where we began our fight in the weeks after September 11.   How this fight ends will, I think, influence how soundly we sleep for many years to come. 

One hundred-twenty years ago, Rudyard Kipling in A Man Who Would be King, wrote of the Hindu Kush, “That was a most mountainous country… They were tall and black, and coming home I saw them fight like wild goats… And these mountains, they never keep still, no more than goats.  Always fighting they are, and don’t let you sleep at night.”

(The policy White Paper  and a press briefing on the new policy is available from the White House website.)

UPDATE: “The chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has told the BBC his group was behind Monday’s deadly attack on a police academy in Lahore.” (Read BBC report.)

SECOND UPDATE: On April 1 the Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan held a summit meeting in Turkey.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 30, 2009 @ 8:40 am

Despite focus on Afghanistan will start referring to AF_PK war here. Estimates are less than 500 Arab AQ in those two countries. Okay so why not just let Afghanistan go back to what it does best–tribal wars. Let’s shift the entire focus to Pakistan which is definitely a national secuirty threat. Holbrooke says that unlike Viet Nam where he first learned hard lessons, Afghanistan is a definite National Security threat but Viet Cong and North Viet Nam were not. Well again I don’t believe Afghanistan is a national security threat but nuclear armed Pakistan surely is. If AQ strategy is keep Afghanistand destabilized so that Pakistan can be destabilized so that India with its third largest in the World Islamic population also destabilized looks like AQ gets the grand strategy prize over the US. China of course will be ultimate beneficiary of any South Asian instability.

Connection of all this to Homeland Security? Two main things from my point of view! First will domestic intel and policing be trained specifically to deal with offshoots from the destabilzation of S.Asia? Second, will the continuation of war in S.Asia and CENTCOM AOR continue to drain financial and technical assets, like the NG, away from domestic focus even as Mexico, Cuba and Western Hemisphere generally heats up as a NS/HS concern over next two decades? If GWOT and LONG WAR are obsolete terminology are we really transitioning to OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR as the DOD future? Economics of world situation has been specifically labeled by DNI as greatest national security threat so what does that mean for US foreign/international/domestic policy and who is doing that analysis given the labeling by Blair. I count almost 20 major and minor WHITE HOUSE czars, so what does the Cabinet do? Certainly not integrate multi-executive branch org policy!

Comment by christopher tingus

March 31, 2009 @ 7:01 am

Mr. President –

I hope you, too are reading William Cumming as what he has written here is in fact just what is taking place before our eyes and the AQ strategy is quite clear to the enlightened William R. Cumming and just as Churchill warned, I believe Mr. President and Congressional members that all should be quite attentive to these reflections as (we) here on the street have not seen the so-called “expert” policy advisors do a very good job in maintaining our global posture – we must be proactive, diligent and very focused.

From the lay person, reading everything possible and listening to CNN, NPR Fox, and other information outlets as well as listening to the words of Congress and watching its policy implementations, it is William R. Cumming who should be graciously “invited” before Congress to share his perspectives as (we) hear no one else – even thoose with their education diplomas – really having a clue as to Germany’s intent, Russia’s intent, China’s intent and AQ and its strategy – do not underestimate those that seek ourt demise. The time for both sides of the aisle to get on the same page is ticking away and never mind that we will find ourselves a third world country almost overnight, however, we here on the street are fearful for our well-being as we see little clarity when it comes to the reality of global ambitions.

God Bless our American military leadership. Our politicians continue in their self-agenda and grandiose ways patting each other on the back while the country slips away….So many before us have given their precious lives to uphold our forefathers’ insights and almost overnight, to us on the street, those who entrust leadership to make appropriate and timely decisions in the best interests of the majority, well I am on the street and the good ‘ol boys obviously are turning their cheek to us for we do know better than you even though you may think we need to be cared for by your good ‘ol boy ways –

The wonderful and most charitable populace of this great nation is growing very much unhappy and I (we) believe that the experienced William Cumming should be asked for his perspective as it is most often in sync with how (we) perceive local, national and global economic and political concerns. At least someone has their glasses on – wake up – history teaches us much and while others are deleting history in their childrens’ schoolbooks, that might be to our advantage, for we should understand how integral history is to our Life today! Afterall, whether anyone else appreciates, it is America who has sent its prescious young to the islands of the Pacific, to the beaches in Europe, to the sands of Africa and the Middle East and so on and so forth….

The clock is ticking…time is precious. Be vigilant as those seeking our demise are indeed very savvy and intent on carrying out policy.

Christopher Tingus
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA USA

Pingback by Counterterrorism: Carrot and Stick | Homeland Security Watch

April 6, 2009 @ 3:50 am

[…] has been noted mostly for increased application of military force  along the Hindu Kush (see prior post on the White House announcement).  The military aspect was especially underlined by the President’s departure for the NATO […]

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May 6, 2009 @ 5:14 am

[…] will be extensive media coverage.  But given this blog’s ongoing attention to the Hindu Kush, following are a collection of links for your further background. As Harry Truman cautioned, […]

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