Afghanistan: The cavalry leaves

The good news is that Pakistan is sending 20,000 troops to the border. The bad news, as you’ve heard, is that if you’re preoccupied with keeping bad guys out of Afghanistan, it’s the wrong border. Here’s an AP story that does a good concise job of explaining all the problems that will ensue if the Pak army leaves the border with Afghanistan to head east toward India.

Pakistani troops are far from useless in limiting insurgent Islamist activity and movement across that border. It’s true that they seriously aren’t great: they’re insufficient in number — it’s basically impossible to come up with enough soldiers to plug that border, as the Soviets found with multiples of the current combined Pakistani, ISAF and Afghan army deployment; they’re heavy-handed and uninterested in the relatively subtler techniques of counterinsurgency, which means that in cracking heads they create new enemies; and, as we are being reminded yet again, their political “masters,” to the limited extent they master much, are duplicitous and easily distracted. Still, for all that, everyone I’ve asked says it’s better to have the Pak army well-represented along the border with Afghanistan than not. And soon it will be “not.” To put that number of 20,000 in perspective: Barack Obama hopes to move 30,000 or fewer extra U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan over the next year and a half.  Suddenly, depending how you count it, about half that effort will now amount to merely treading water.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.