May 6, 2010

Real Counterinsurgency: Getting to the Bottom of Aafia Siddiqui

It appears the White House is going in a different direction from what we suggested. US officials have reached out extensively to Pakistani officials, which is good but also mandatory. We admitted that our response would be un-American in lacking retaliatory strikes and it still is.

“Justice will be done,” President Obama promised on Tuesday.

Several US officials then disclosed, to little surprise, that the CIA widened its drone range in 2008, targeting low level fighters for assassination instead of converting or using them in some way. Obviously this news didn’t leak by coincidence - it’s psychological warfare against the TTP.

Sounds like the White House is about to make it rain.

A Time report questions
: “How can the Pakistani groups be combatted? Bruce Riedel, a counter-terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, says the Administration's best bet is to launch a 'global takedown' of Pakistani jihadi cells outside Pakistan, especially in Britain, the U.S. and the Middle East. 'These external bases are the most threatening to us, much more than their operations in Pakistan.'"

Riedel, intricately involved in the White House’s war planning, makes no mention of the conditions that breed those external bases. Time adds, “As British authorities — who have had more experience with this challenge than those in the U.S. — know very well, such a takedown involves long, hard work by a host of law-enforcement agencies.”

Again no political or economic factors are mentioned. All Riedel suggests is counter-terrorism, reasonable in that America lacks the resources for counterinsurgency and Obama lacks the time.

But we’re skeptical of Hellfire missiles, 50 grand a piece, being expended on petty guerrillas. After 117 strikes the TTP is still able to lash out against the US homeland. Keep in mind the TTP’s intention was never to do so until recently, and that it almost succeeded on the first attempt.

A new barrage of drones in the FATA - or a “global takedown” for that matter - may provide a short psychological shock and tactical boost, but how far this goes on countering global insurgencies remains in doubt. We still argue that no retaliation would create more “shock and awe,” for what would shock more than a restrained America?

The TTP isn’t out revenge, like the US media represented by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal repeatedly and erroneously emphasized. Revenge is a secondary objective, with provoking more US aggression as the primary goal. For America this isn’t about whether it can attack, but proving it’s above the revenge it condemns the TTP for.

A correct response wouldn’t play al-Qaeda’s game, but instead demonstrate the US military mindset has truly reformed. Lipstick on a counterinsurgency pig won’t work.

What may or may not work, but has far more potential impact, is fighting a legal battle. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani women allegedly abducted in Afghanistan and tortured by US intelligence, is scheduled for sentencing today. In previous trials Siddiqui accused Israel of masterminding America.

All parties deny her claims and cover-up conspiracies run rampant; if Washington had true counterinsurgency on its mind it would start with her. Andy Worthington writes in Counter Currents, “The case of Aafia Siddiqui is one of the murkiest in the whole of the ‘War on Terror.’”

Worthington may not be exaggerating even when considering the wide selection to choose from. Hours ago reports surfaced that Hakimullah Mehsud sent a letter to Siddiqui’s sister, Fauzia, months ago vowing attacks in Aafia’s name. This alone provides a reason to open a new investigation into Aafia rather than sentence her to 30 years.

It doesn’t matter so much that Fauzia denied receiving the letter, the TTP may still relate to Aafia just like the majority of Pakistanis who view her case as typical US injustice. The water only gets murkier under Fauzia anyway.

Instead of the TTP, she claimed that Hakimullah’s letter is a conspiracy of “international agencies” to sentence Aafia - to connect her and the Time Square bombing.

Whether or not this is the case, the White House cannot allow it to be and must intervene if necessary. Drones attack the cause of the attack or threat, not the insurgent’s cause. Real COIN would clarify her case immediately. Treating Aafia to a fair investigation and allowing Pakistan to aid her is a missile that would do real damage to the TTP.

We can only make an educated guess that she’ll be found guilty, but America must redress the TTP’s cause.

Not legitimize it.

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