malou_innocent_a_coherent_strategy

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The piece below appeared in World Politics Review , Sep. 5, 2008. A Coherent Strategy for Pakistan's Tribal Areas Would Draw Lessons from Anbar By Malou Innocent Following years of promising gains since 2001, Afghanistan is in a tailspin. Not long ago, a sophisticated Taliban assault on a Kandahar prison freed 1,200 inmates, including 350 Taliban members. The attack came only weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai survived a fourth assassination attempt. The main forces behind the country's downward spiral are al-Qaida and the Taliban, which have found sanctuary in the vast unpoliced region of western Pakistan known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Stabilizing the Afghan-Pakistani front of the war on terrorism will require U.S. policymakers to re-examine the fatal misconception that they face only two options: either heading full force into FATA, heedless of the desires of Islamabad and the Pakistani people, or hoping Pakistan's beleaguered army miraculously revitalizes itself. A coherent U.S. policy toward FATA must not be reduced to these two options. Here, the global war on terrorism's wider strategic pattern necessitates a third alternative. Lessons from Anbar U.S. successes in Anbar province, Iraq, hold important lessons for operations in FATA. The two most prominent fronts in the war -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- share common elements, including criminal gangsterism, sectarian violence and militant Islamist insurgencies. In both conflicts, U.S. and allied forces are confronting an adversary who can meld easily into the population. Both are battlegrounds for employing the doctrine of counterinsurgency, such as recruiting indigenous allies, maneuvering the blind alleys of tribal society and cultivating legitimacy from the local population while employing minimal use of force. But U.S. policymakers must understand that remedies for one conflict never can be perfectly transplanted onto another. For one, the two political and security situations are dissimilar. Anbar presents a liberation insurgency that includes indigenous groups attempting to expel a foreign occupier, while FATA has a national insurgency of
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indigenous groups attempting to control and unseat an established government. In this respect, Americans should not try to force the round peg of Anbar into the square hole of FATA, but rather should look beneath the overarching differences to each conflict's striking similarities, such as militant methods and tactics. Resistance to the American presence was stronger in Anbar than in any other province in Iraq. But over time, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), the group that in February 2006 destroyed the Shiite shrine in Samarra, also began to overplay its hand, proselytizing militancy and forcing its customs onto local Sunni tribes. In September 2006, U.S. forces tossed out their conventional war-fighting approach and teamed up with more than 30 indigenous Sunni tribes. By summer 2007, this united Anbar Salvation Council had overseen a
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