This was very interesting but the argument in the op-ed contains an important logical disconnect.
Exum and Kilcullen are certainly correct that technology, in this case the predator and global hawk drone strikes being used to kill al Qaida and Taliban targets in Pakistan, are no substitute for a coherent strategy. They are also correct that there are, in Exum’s words at Abu Muqawama “second and third order effects”on Pakistan from using predators and their end-goal of enlisting local allies is where the U.S. needs to go to be successful. That said, we should also note that there are also second and third order effects on al Qaida from these strikes – namely that AQ cannot function operationally as a transnational terrorist group in the catastrophic terrorism business. Optimum counter-terrorism objectives are not always going to be congruent with optimum COIN situations and in the Afghapakistan border region, they appear to be in significant conflict.
The logical disconnect in the op-ed is in that to get to that desirable strategic end-state described by Kilcullen and Exum, the U.S. needs to be able to send uniformed people to operate in FATA, which Islamabad adamantly refuses to entertain. Frankly, the Pakistani generals prefer the predators buzzing around to U.S. troops walking around. “Local allies” that are armed, funded and trained by the U.S. military are likely to make short work of the ISI’s radical Islamist militia proteges, which is why Kilcullen wants to get to that policy destination and why Islamabad is unlikely to ever agree except under the greatest duress and in completely bad faith. Our “local allies” are also likely to become a legacy headache for Pakistan once Bin Laden is swinging from a tree in Waziristan and we are long gone.
While Exum and Kilcullen are correct to point out the costs, it is hard for me to say that predators should be taken off the table in Pakistan until COIN can be put on the table. Not sure how we get to that point from here, either but they deserve credit for trying to get the strategic ball rolling in that direction.
Hat tip SWJ Blog.
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“The best report on cloud computing ever published”. E-book format.