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Holbrooke: No One’s Invading Western Pakistan « The Washington Independent

Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, is in Brussels to talk Af-Pak with the NATO allies. (And perhaps to escape a spate of unwanted press coverage.) There, ahead of an important alliance meeting next week, he made some clear declarative statements about the administration’s emerging Af-Pak strategy. The Christian Science Monitor runs them down. Here’s one that seems interesting in light of the prospect of military or intelligence strikes deeper into Pakistani territory:

“The heart of the problem for the West is in western Pakistan,” [Holbrooke] said. “But there are not going to be US or NATO troops on the ground in Pakistan. There is a red line for the government of Pakistan, and one which we must respect.”

There are still a panoply of options for the United States and NATO in Pakistan short of invasion: missile strikes are one, and there seems to be a U.S.-Pakistani modus vivendi on that front. If the United States is committed to increased training of Pakistani forces for prosecuting their own counterinsurgency, there’s that, also. But the eternal question there is how much political will exists among the Pakistanis to actually wage that fight.

Two other interesting elements: Holbrooke said that the era of the United States. “demand[ing]” more troops from NATO countries “is over,” though he added that NATO-country troop contributions are still necessary. And he drew an uncomfortable analogy when discussing the Pakistani Taliban’s communications infrastructure in the tribal areas:

He also said that the Taliban-linked leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, has “set up 150 low-wattage FM stations … just like we saw in Rwanda,” implying the stations are a key source of direction – and effective in convincing local populations that NATO is an occupation force.

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