Just in case we haven’t noticed, Pakistan’s president Zardari wants us to know that we are losing the war in Afghanistan. Reports the Daily Telegraph this morning:
Mr Zardari warned the international community that it had “lost the battle to win hearts and minds”.
In an interview with Le Monde, the French newspaper, on Tuesday Mr Zardari said the US and Nato-led coalition forces had “underestimated the situation on the ground” in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s war-torn western neighbour.
“I believe that the international community, which Pakistan belongs to, is in the process of losing the war against the Taliban,” he told the paper just hours before meeting Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, in Paris on Monday night.
“And that is, above all, because we have lost the battle for hearts and minds.”
He added, however, that he thought that while the Taliban had “no chance of regaining power, its “grip is strengthening”.
He ought to know, if anyone does. His military intelligence service plots daily with Pakistan to kill Americans and their allies, as we know from the Wikileaks dump of nearly 100,000 secret U.S. intelligence reports.
Supporters of the Afghan war despite the WIkileaks documents, which simply confirm what every observer in the region has known for years, argue in effect, “That was then, this is now.” That was the Obama administration’s response, as well as that of Reuel Marc Gerecht of the conservative Weekly Standard who now blogs at The New Republic. Wrote Gerecht July 27,
The Pakistani army and the ISI are now at war with their country’s jihadists, especially the Pashtun Islamists who make up the Pakistani Taliban. Lots of military and intelligence officers have now died in this conflict. The impulse to backtrack is no doubt still there—an impulse made much more powerful by Americans who want to wash their hands of Afghanistan, and who somehow believe that Pakistan will be no worse off with an American withdrawal.
Except that Pakistan officially thinks that we’re losing. Pakistan always has focussed on the big picture, namely its irredentist claims against India. This country of 173 million people with a 50 percent literacy rate, half of whom live on less than a dollar a day, is united only in its hatred of its much larger and stronger southern neighbor. It solicits Western as well as Chinese support in order to maintain the balance of power against India. And the Pakistanis know perfectly well that America will not be in Afghanistan forever; that Washington will take the first face-saving moment to get out; and that whatever regime that follows the American withdrawal will include the Taliban. It wants the Taliban as a long-term instrument against India.
Gerecht is wrong; the entire nation-building exercise in Afghanistan and Iraq has turned into the greatest fiasco since Vietnam, and the result is that the credibility of the Republican party on Central Asia went from nearly 100 percent after 9/11 to about zero today. But the last generation of Republicans is still obsessed with defending past errors and tattered reputations. Until this changes, it will be hard to an alternative leadership to emerge.
The whole strategy was preposterous to begin with; American should have allied with India from the start. I doubt that Pakistan would be “no worse off with an American withdrawal,” as Gerecht suggests; I want to leave Pakistan to its fate and build an American alliance with India, the world’s largest democracy and one of the great future sources of economic growth. The result will be a bloody mess on an epic scale in Pakistan and Afghanistan—make no mistake. But it will be a bloody mess in which we have the initiative, not the terrorists who are killing us by a thousand cuts.
Pakistan exports terror, more than Afghanistan ever did. The easiest way to prevent Pakistan from exporting terror to the US is to put every visa application from Pakistan under the microscope. That is much cheaper than spending $300 billion in Afghanistan. There is a related problem, as Daniel Pipes reports today at National Review: Pakistani citizens of British origin are the great single source of prospective terrorists entering the US. UK citizens don’t require a visa to come to America. That should be remedied: the U.S. should place UK citizens of Pakistani origin under the same sort of scrutiny as Pakistanis, which would require ending the visa waiver for the UK. That is inconvenient for the Brits, but they brought it on themselves.