The two towers

It was Leon Trotsky who said, âÄúYou may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.âÄù In two months President-elect Barack Obama will take the reigns of the war on terror that will require immediate attention. Given its definition, the war is vast, but it can be broken down geographically. Two main fronts exist, one of AmericaâÄôs own device. Iraq has received the most attention, both in terms of material and public attention. Yet it is the front in Afghanistan, and concomitantly neighboring Pakistan, that will come to define the fight against terrorism. With a splash of jingoism, America invaded Afghanistan less then a month after Sept. 11. From a military perspective, the campaign was a great success. However, Afghanistan has become politically fragile. Worse, Pakistan has become less of an ally and more of a concern. Commanders worry about a lack of resources, and politicians are calling for a âÄúsurgeâÄù in Afghanistan, styled on the tepid success that has come to Iraq. Such calls do an injustice to the differences between the situations. Part of the strategy in the war on terror is to eliminate the safe havens that terrorists have used in the past. Afghanistan is wretchedly poor, unlike Iraq. And AfghanistanâÄôs sovereignty is somewhat shared by Pakistan. The artificial Durand Line that was drawn by the British in 1893 successfully created a line on a map but little else. Areas of PakistanâÄôs northwest that border Afghanistan are all but lawless. This has created a refuge for insurgents and a dilemma for the United States. First, not all fighters are Taliban or al-Qaida. Many tribes have never accepted the central authority of Kabul, AfghanistanâÄôs capital, and resist any foreign influence. Second, in the past the United States has relied on the support of the Pakistani government for cross-border incursions targeting suspected terrorists. This practice has resulted in many innocent deaths and created uproar in the Pakistani public. The new government in Islamabad is fragile and has largely heeded public concerns. Officials have condemned the violation of PakistanâÄôs borders and the military has reputedly fired upon U.S. forces. Although, in recent months, missile strikes into the tribal regions have continued, likely in a bid to kill an al-Qaida bigwig before President George W. Bush leaves office. The case for strikes is simple. Pakistan lacks good control over the northwest provinces, thus is unable to curb the militants there. Those fighters threaten the stability of Afghanistan and must be destroyed. It is hypocritical for Pakistan to deride missile strikes while simultaneously shelling Indian territory. And the civilian death toll is often exaggerated âÄî it seems every missile strike manages to accidentally hit a wedding or some other social gathering. That leaves much to be desired as an argument. A fundamental problem is that Pakistanis feel ethnic ties to the militants. A natural belief is that they are resisting foreign occupiers. Pakistani soldiers have reportedly refused to undertake combat operations out of fear of collateral damage. Even though most experts agree that terrorism is an existential threat to Pakistan, the average person, rightly or wrongly, still believes the West intends to be in Afghanistan forever and proscribe any notion of aiding it. Along a similar line, the Pakistani military is hesitant to commit to fighting militants. Pakistan has long used them as paramilitaries. More importantly, the Pakistani military does not necessarily want Afghanistan stabilized. Indeed, Afghanistan is a pawn in a greater conflict between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani army considers Afghanistan a retreat corridor in the event of an Indian invasion. A weak government in Kabul in such an instance is paramount. India recognizes this, and has spent over $1 billion in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Pakistan fears India filling the gap that the United States will leave once it withdraws. Even as the fighting against terrorists has ensued, there have been flare-ups in Kashmir, a region India and Pakistan have disputed for years. Fears of a return to full-scale war have surfaced. Very little of the money given to Pakistan by the United States is used against militants, which demands a new approach. Pakistan has a history of corrupt government and military coups. The United States now must move to further support the nascent but struggling government. The economy is a wreck. Officials had to turn to the IMF for a loan when it nearly ran out of money two weeks ago. Fanning public unrest with military incursions could very well collapse the government. Pakistan is nuclear capable, and if the goal in Iraq was to eliminate possible sources of terrorist nukes, creating one is a giant step backwards. Not to mention the generations of anti-American sentiment that would be created. Gen. David Petreaus has recently taken over command of Afghanistan and the broader region, bringing the words of Seneca the Younger. âÄúLuck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.âÄù The United States is losing hearts and minds by sitting in city centers and ignoring AfghanistanâÄôs rural areas where insurgents thrive. So far the opportunity to engage the tribes has been squandered by a lack of coherent strategy. Obama created a furor when he claimed he would attack inside Pakistan if intelligence suggested al-Qaida members were present. It is fair to note most any president would say the same thing. He should resist temptation. No matter what, killing Osama bin Laden but collapsing Pakistan would be an absolute failure. Send us comments at [email protected]