Petraeus Is a Failure -- Why Do We Pretend He's Been a Success?
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As Kilcullen had noted earlier, these “larger problems” include the potential “collapse of the Pakistani state,” which he called a calamity that in light of the country’s size, strategic location and nuclear stockpile would “dwarf” all other dangers in the region. While Petraeus obviously does not bear sole responsibility for all problems in the Af-Pak theater, his many “strategic errors” have played a major role in weakening the U.S. and strengthening its enemies, as I will outline below.
Petraeus has driven the Taliban east into Pakistan, where they have joined with local jihadi forces and gained increasing amounts of territory.
On Feb. 16, The New York Times reported from Pakistan, “Analysts are now suggesting that the drone strikes may be pushing the Taliban, and even some Qaeda elements, out of the tribal belt and into Swat, making the valley more important to the Taliban.” The Swat Valley is part of Pakistan proper, and the consolidation of Taliban forces there represented a major setback to U.S. and Pakistani interests. Pakistani government weakness there forced Islamabad to hand over effective control of the valley to its enemies and accept the imposition of sharia law there. A month and a half later, the Times followed up, saying, “American policy has arguably made the situation even worse, for the Predator-drone attacks along the border, though effective, drive the Taliban eastward, deeper into Pakistan. And the strategy has been only reinforcing hostility to the United States among ordinary Pakistanis.”
With Swat as a base, Taliban forces then took over the Buner district in late April.
And, most ominously, the Taliban and local extremists have been making inroads into the Punjab, Pakistan’s heartland, as the Times documented: “Taliban insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country. ... As American drone attacks disrupt strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, the insurgents are striking deeper into Pakistan -- both in retaliation and in search of new havens. … Bruce Riedel, who led the Obama administration’s recently completed strategy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan, said the Taliban now had ‘extensive links into the Punjab.’ ”
The Petraeus strategy has strengthened radical Islamic groups within Pakistan.
On April 20, The Washington Post reported that “a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people at a Taliban compound in the South Waziristan tribal region; such attacks have become a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups in Pakistan as anti-American sentiment builds.” Extremist success has worked to “create an arc of radical religious energy between the turbulent, Taliban-plagued northwest region and the increasingly vulnerable federal capital, less than 100 miles to the east. They [extremists] also appeared to pose a direct, unprecedented religious challenge to modern state authority in the Muslim nation of 176 million.”
Post columnist David Ignatius reported on an April meeting between regional envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen with Waziristan tribal leaders: “ `We are all Taliban,’ ” one young man said -- meaning that people in his region support the cause, if not the terrorist tactics. He explained that the insurgency is spreading in Pakistan, not because of proselytizing by leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud but because of popular anger. For every militant killed by a U.S. Predator drone, he says, 10 more will join the insurgent cause. ... `You can’t come see the people because they hate you,’ he warned.”