Foreign Policy Blogs

Missile Attack Expansion Inside Pakistan

The New York Times has reported that the Obama administration has widened the scope of missile attacks inside of Pakistan. The report details two specific drone attacks inside of Pakistani territory that directly targeted Baitullah Mehsud, an insurgent leader who mainly targets Pakistani forces, not the US/NATO/Afghan forces across the border, and his camps. The authors Mark Mazzetti and David Sanger use an anonymou Pakistani official who stated that the Bush administration was twice told about the whereabouts of Mehsud, but did not act. Bush officials dispute this claim, arguing that the Pakistani officials were the ones reluctant to take on Mehsud.

In any case, the two missile attacks reportedly directly targeted Mehsud, missing him, but each hit his camps. This shows a higher penchant for encroaching on Pakistani sovereignty, but also in branching out to try to help the fragile civilian Islamabad government get some of their enemies in check. It looks like a blessing for the Zardari government and a curse, as once again they are undermined by forces outside their control.  While these strikes have been successful in downgrading the ability and livelihood of Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders they have also proven to be destabilizing in a region already quite shaky.

Officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the US have set up more group meetings in the last few weeks than has probably ever before been seen and this raises hope for an element sorely missing from the conflict so far, including the missile drones, and that is a comprehensive plan.  What would make these missile attacks truly effective is a clean up plan after the fact that would not only root out the poisonous elements, but also lay the groundwork for a better a life for all of those Afghani-Pakistani citizens caught in the crossfire.  One quick, seemingly simple move would be for the US to somehow provide the Zardari government some legitimacy by letting participate more publicly in these tactical triumphs.  Though this is easier said then done as the CIA and ISI still do not trust each other, for good reasons, and it will always be difficult for the Zardari government to look very legitimate in the FATA and Northwest Territories if the US is pulling a lot of the weight.