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January 29, 2004

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IceCold

No, we can pursue far more than just two goals at once. We've been pursuing more than two all along, from east Africa to maritime interdiction to Arabia, south Asia, and the Philippines. And we've got assets left over, and we've got assets in Afghanistan without enough to do -- or rather, without the info they need to act effectively (in addition to the assets at Bagram, I think Provincial Reconstruction Teams could switch quickly to other tasks if they had them). CENTCOM merged the task forces looking for "high value targets" in Iraq and Afghanistan not long before SH was captured -- this did not sound like a reaction to being over-stretched, but the opposite.

And that's just OBL and SH -- as for "al Qaeda," they're being pursued by many different means, naturally not all military, in various places. Before Iraq, during Iraq, after Iraq (now).

We won't count the AQ we actually nab IN Iraq, like Mr. Ghul. Collateral benefit, but not a real reason for the war, obviously.

There was over a year between the fall of the Taliban and the Iraq war. No "distraction," no OBL. Inability to develop actionable intel on OBL and the operational challenges of the Pakistan situation, not "distraction", has seemed to be the issue. The "official" quoted doesn't make much sense -- there'd be no reason to be more "aggressive" on the OBL hunt now than before.

Unless the Army was making it all up, the capture of SH involved patient local police-type work, done by the occupation force in the area. That unit's coming back to the US on rotation -- so who's been "freed up" for Pakistan? Secret details might explain all this, but based on what we know, no sale.


Jeremy

Well, it really depends if you take these reports at face value.

Remember all the talk about "Shock & Awe" in the run up to the Iraq war? But it never happened, it was just subterfuge.

Still, I do think the real stickler has been Musharraf. Having had several close calls lately, he is probably more likely to want to deal with these people. Since what can they do? Try to kill him? They already are.

And of course, it really depends on whether or not Osama is in Pakistan. Several people claim he's actually on Afghan-Iran border, the other side of the country. Heck, he might even be working for the BBC. (He does write for the Guardian, which is basically the print version of the BBC...)

My guess is, this whole thing is actually a plot to try to flush Osama out, since the CIA has clearly shown it is worse than useless.

Cecil Turner

AP report from Afghanistan adds credence. According to the military spokesman there: "We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year," Hilferty said. "We've learned lessons from Iraq and we're getting improved intelligence from the Afghan people."

If Iraq was a distraction, it was mostly in overtasking the intel folks. There wasn't a lot of overlap between the military assets between the two operations.

TM

Mr/ Musharraf's world has certainly changed in the past year - after two assasination attempts and a modest reconciliation with India, he might be inclined to put himself on the same team as India and the US.

Cecil Turner

I think that decision was taken on September 13, 2001, in response to a list of demands from the US:

  1. to share information about what Pakistan knows about "this action" and the al Qaeda organization operated by bin Laden;
  2. to take steps to cut off all activities and transits of al Qaeda members in and around Pakistan;
  3. to respond to further requests to United States will be making of Pakistan

That sort of interference in a sovereign nation's affairs could only be viewed as obtrusive and overbearing. The insistence and open-ended nature makes it even more unpalatable, especially as it led to military support against a fellow Islamic nation. Musharraf's response, in contrast, was meek and mild:
"I wish to assure President Bush and the U.S. government of our unstinted cooperation in the flight against terrorism."

We've seen various carrots since. But I suspect the decider was a very big stick displayed in private. Mr Musharraf may not be the most willing of allies, but after facilitating US military operations against Afghanistan, he really can't switch back.

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