What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Scarred" from Pakistan

I have written this last May in the wake of an incident near the Afghan-Pakistani border, in which a U.S. soldier was killed by someone wearing the Pakistani Frontier Corps' uniform during the visit of an ISAF delegation to the right from the Durand Line. I wondered in that post, more than a year ago now, why a high-ranking U.S. diplomat, such as former Kabul ambassador Robert Neumann, is sent to rush to Islamabad and reassure everyone there that "Musharraf certainly hasn't reached the end of his line," right in the wake of this kind of incident.
For some abstract speculation, I've drawn up there a scheme based on John Le Carré's novel, The Night Manager, pitting Enforcers and Pure Intelligence against each other within the U.S.
Enforcers are the ones who would demand tough action or at least more pressure on Pakistan, while Pure Intelligence are the ones, geo-politicians, who, even in the midst of the post-2001 GWoT, think of the Great Game and Pakistan's possible values for the U.S. in it.
Now WaPo has just done an interview with outgoing ISAF commander General Dan McNeill. And the general has just said some things that is ammunition to Enforcers, if not an Enforcer's statement itself. (Coming to think of it, being responsible for ISAF operations in Afghanistan, I guess there's a natural tendency to become an Enforcer. It comes with the job.)
McNeill said, referring back to the incident last May, mentioning which I started this post.

" McNeill declined to endorse a U.S.-funded program to train and equip Pakistan's Frontier Corps, which guards the border, questioning the effectiveness and loyalty of the tribally recruited guards. "It takes well-trained, well-equipped forces, disciplined to take this thing on," he said. "The Pakistanis, in using the Frontier Corps as a military entity to take on the insurgency, will find some challenges."
McNeill raised two instances in which the guards have shot and killed U.S. soldiers, saying he would be "forever scarred" by what he described as the "assassination" of Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr. of the
82nd Airborne Division after a border meeting last spring. Another soldier was shot in the neck and killed by a Frontier Corps guard in 2002, he said. "

(By the way, McNeill for his part buries the RC-East is improving meme.)
Meanwhile, the biggest threat is probably not that if lone Frontier Scouts decide to run amok (although when a whole unit of theirs ends up in a firefight with Afghan and U.S. forces, that's different). Rather, the threatening aspect here is the general cross-border nature of the insurgency, and the possibility that a more capable group of people could be helping the Taliban et al. carry out effects-based operations (with the intensity of about one per month for now) in Afghanistan, from the other side of the Durand Line.
Regarding the prison break of last week-end, some more points came up in me while seeing the Taliban again launch an attack on Arghandab district which had to be re-taken from them several times already.
So, do 400 insurgents (who got free among over a thousand inmates from Sarposa prison) matter in terms of the balance of power? Well, they do, if they are then killed in airstrikes that kill the same number of civilians or more.
The prison break was also, obviously, a huge intelligence failure for ISAF which will have to be looked at carefully. It was reported that Taliban-friendlies even held feasts, slaughtering sheep, prior to the operation. If that is true that shows that a surprisingly high number of people may have had foreknowledge of it.
As to Arghandab district... That's not an intelligence failure. It's simply that Arghandab is outside Canadian Forces' "triage system," devised because of their having to protect Kandahar's districts with an insufficient number of troops. They are focusing on Zhari, Panjway, Spin Boldak and Kandahar city itself. They are only focusing on Arghandab when the Taliban show up to take over villages there. Even if this sort of probing advance is usually telegraphed by the likes of the prison break operation - reacting to those, forces are tied down, and insurgents use these opportunities to win some time for other maneouvres.


Joshua Foust said...

How interesting that once Bomber McNeill is no longer in charge (seriously, google the term), he changes his tune about how the country is going. What a cad. Anyone that cynical is not worth listening to.

Péter MARTON said...

Well, Josh, of course I'm aware of the "bomber" label. I'm just not using it.
I'm quoting McNeill over his views of Pakistan now, so consistency could only be an issue regarding that subject in this post. But then it's plain obvious why one would be more subtle in wording any statement over that issue while on the job and when already leaving.
Whether he is worth listening to is something that depends, I would say. In this case I found it notable what he said.