Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Developing Crises: Kurdistan and Waziristan

Are we seeing the pendulum swing once again in Waziristan? The Pakistani military is using major force--including warplanes--to strike militant positions. What remains to be seen is whether an overwhelming display of force will be followed by a return to negotiations, and perhaps the status quo ante July--when militant groups rejected the cease-fire arrangements they had reached with Islamabad. Certainly the military strikes will enhance General Musharraf's reputation and lessen criticism that he has been too reluctant to tackle Al-Qaeda and Taliban elements along the frontier.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani, former head of the ISI, opined today that Osama bin Laden is much more likely to have taken refuge in a Pakistani city than hiding out in a cave or open country, noting that bin Laden would have greater anonymity in a large urban area and could perhaps be secreted in a series of safe houses.

In terms of reports that Turkey is preparing an incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to deal with PKK elements, a cross-border operation would most likely torpedo any hope in the short run of trying to forge a closer economic link between northern Iraq and Turkey, and puts the one area where the U.S. has claimed the greatest post-Saddam success at risk. What could Washington offer Ankara as an incentive? Unlikely that the U.S. would assume any sort of border security responsibilities to prevent the PKK or related groups from engaging in cross-border operations. Baghdad would also not respond well to any perceived violation of the country's territory. An emerging lose-lose for the U.S.

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