Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wire: Pakistan Objects to Obama's Expansion of Afghan War

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that Pakistan is objecting to expanded American combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan, creating new tensions in the alliance with Washington as thousands of new U.S servicemembers are arriving in the region.

The New York Times reported that Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled province of Baluchistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

Pakistan does not have enough troops to deploy to Baluchistan to take on the Taliban without weakening its border with India, the officials said. Talking with the Taliban, not more fighting, is in Pakistan’s national interest, they said, according to the NYT report.

The Pakistani account made clear that even as the United States commits troops and other resources under Obama's new Afghan strategy to take on a growing Taliban threat, Pakistani officials still consider India their top threat and the Taliban militants a problem that can be negotiated.

In the long term, The New York Times said, the Taliban in Afghanistan may even remain potential allies for Pakistan, as they were in the past, once the U.S. departs.

The New York Times noted the following details:
Pakistan’s critical assessment was provided as the Obama administration’s special envoy for the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday night.

The country’s perspective was given in a nearly two-hour briefing on Friday for The New York Times by senior analysts and officials of Pakistan’s main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. They spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with the agency’s policy. The main themes of the briefing were echoed in conversations with several military officers over the past few days.

One of the first briefing slides read, in part: “The surge in Afghanistan will further reinforce the perception of a foreign occupation of Afghanistan. It will result in more civilian casualties; further alienate local population. Thus more local resistance to foreign troops.”

A major concern is that the American offensive may push Taliban militants over the border into Baluchistan, a province that borders Waziristan in the tribal areas. The Pakistani Army is already fighting a longstanding insurgency of Baluch separatists in the province.

A Taliban spillover would require Pakistan to put more troops there, a Pakistani intelligence official said, troops the country does not have now. Diverting troops from the border with India is out of the question, the official said.
This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Pakistan Objects to U.S. Expansion in Afghan War

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