What President Obama didn't say about the other South Asian country where we're at war
In his speech Wednesday night announcing the beginning of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Obama mentioned only three times the country that, in a November 2009 Oval Office meeting, he said was the source of the "cancer" that had spread into the Afghan war: Pakistan. Though the U.S. has spent much of the last year expanding its assault on the Taliban across the border into Pakistan, sending drones and special forces teams against the militants based there (recently, Osama bin Laden, who appeared to be living in relative comfort with support from Pakistani military elements), Obama took a slightly softer tone toward this ostensible U.S. ally.
Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us: they cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.
the war in Afghanistan, violence against the U.S. has increasingly come
from across the border in Pakistan, where many militant groups are
based, supported and at times outright shielded by Pakistan's
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a powerful branch of the military.
Because the U.S. cannot send its troops en masse into Pakistan where the
"cancer" is, and because increasing its fighting in Afghanistan only
seems to provoke further militancy in Pakistan, Obama was faced with a
dilemma: how to combat Pakistani militancy without simply making the
problem worse. His only hard words for Pakistan -- a warning that he
"will never tolerate a safe-haven" -- seem to suggest that, even though
the war will be winding down, the drone strikes and special forces raids
into Pakistan's many safe havens will not.
counterterrorism expert and former Obama administration adviser Bruce
Reidel put it to the New York Times after bin Laden's death, his
discovery "demonstrated more vividly than ever is that we need a base
to strike targets in Pakistan, and the geography is simple: You need to
do that from Afghanistan." The Obama administration's recent shake-up of
national security staff, putting Afghan war leader General David
Petraeus in charge of the CIA and Director of Central Intelligence Leon
Panetta at the Pentagon, suggest that even if Obama is ending the war,
he is not planning for peace
in South Asia. The quiet war against Pakistani militants and rogue ISI
elements has escalated rapidly under his guidance, establishing a
not-quite-CIA, not-quite-military clandestine campaign that shows no
signs of waning.