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Second Thoughts on Missile Strikes in Pakistan

Reader UFRED emails this Daily Times of Pakistan item reporting a successful warhead-on-forehead operation in Pakistan against a Jalaleddin Haqqani commander, Mohammed Omar. The DT reports:

Muhammad Omar, a commander of Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, was among the 20 men killed in Sunday’s suspected U.S. missile strike in South Waziristan, officials said. Two lower-level commanders – Waheedullah and Nasrullah – and five Taliban from North Waziristan who had come to meet Omar also died. Omar was active in attacks on U.S.-led and NATO troops in Afghanistan’s Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. He was a cousin of Taliban commander Nek Muhammad who was killed in 2004 in the first such US missile strike. A Taliban leader told Reuters by telephone the strikes were “very accurate.” “The missiles struck rooms where the guests were having dinner. None survived.”

So let me amend my previous item about this. I’m wrong to imply that missile strikes are necessarily useless or counterproductive. You’re as good as your intelligence with these operations, and this Taliban leader is conceding that our intelligence was pretty good in this case. If we have good intelligence in this case, that gives a glimmer of hope that we’re developing a pretty good intelligence apparatus into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. (Yes, that is a very poor argument form. But the contingencies of the intelligence world make it, paradoxically, a fairly good inferential case.)

Still, that’s a caveat, not an argument-changer. When possible, you should attempt to replace air strikes with the far-more-discriminate Dude With Gun. It seems pretty clear at this point, though, that the Pakistani government is willing to turn a blind-ish eye to missile strikes and will absolutely not accept infantrymen at the moment.

So if you’ve absolutely positively got to go this route, you’re playing with fire, but I suppose you’ve got little other choice. This would be a pretty good time to, say, offer Mullah Omar and other non-al-Qaeda insurgents a better endgame.

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