How to hunt down al Qaeda using F-16s fitted with air-to-air missiles
The United States generously rewarded Gen Musharraf and his army for their services in the war on terror. The Pakistani army will receive $1.5 billion over the next five years for this purpose.
In an excellent article in Slate, Joshua Kucera reports on what Pakistan is doing with the money.
The operations against the insurgents in the northwest are centered in Waziristan, not around Quetta or Peshawar, where intelligence officials and analysts believe most Taliban and al-Qaida operatives are based. One analyst told me the Pakistanis are attacking Waziristan because it’s an easy target, and because tribal forces humiliated Pakistani army troops there earlier this year, and now the military establishment wants revenge. Yet U.S. officials praise the operations as an important battle in the “war on terror.
Even if Pakistan were serious about fighting the Taliban, it could certainly find a better way to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars the F-16s will cost. But the Pakistanis gave a clue as to what they really want with the planes: They are requesting that the F-16s be armed with top-of-the-line air-to-air missiles that would be of little use against targets like the Islamists it’s fighting on the ground. Other equipment Pakistan is getting from the United Statesâ€”navy surveillance planes, for exampleâ€”is similarly useless against a guerrilla insurgency. They would, of course, be useful in a war against India. [Slate]
Kucera highlights some very important points that usually go unreported in the United States — al Qaeda leaders have always been found in Pakistani cities, not in the lawless badlands of Pakistan’s tribal regions; what passes off as Pakistan’s effort in the war on terror is usually clever window-dressing; Pakistan continues to sell arms to rogue regimes; and American money is cementing not only cementing the army’s hold on political power but also artificially changing the South Asian balance of power.