Pak emerging as wild card in predictions on Afghanistan: NYT

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Washington, Sep.8 (ANI): Pakistan remains the wild card that complicates all predictions on Afghanistan, an analysis in the New York Times has opined.

Proponents of the increased American force in Afghanistan say a withdrawal of troops would reinforce Pakistan's fears that the United States is not committed to security in the region, and thus encourage an old Pakistani strategy of maintaining ties to Islamic militants.

But according to Daniel L. Byman, director of Georgetown's Center for Peace and Security Studies, calculations on Pakistan's role are complicated.

"The more we escalate in Afghanistan, the more we depend on Pakistan for logistics, and the more Pakistan may feel it can resist our pressure to go after the militants," he said.

As opposition to the war in Afghanistan builds, some of US President Barack Obama's strongest supporters say he must do a better job of explaining how deploying a large American ground force there safeguards Americans at home.

In deploying 68,000 American troops there by year's end, President Obama has called Afghanistan "a war of necessity" to prevent the Taliban from recreating for Al Qaeda the sanctuary that it had in the 1990s.

But according to the NYTY analysis, nearly eight years after the American invasion drove Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan, the political support for military action that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has faded.

In interviews, most counter-terrorism experts have said they believe that the troops were needed to drive Taliban fighters from territory. Critics on the other hand say that if the real goal is to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States, there may be alternatives to a large ground force in Afghanistan.

They say Al Qaeda can be held at bay using intensive intelligence, Predator drones, cruise missiles, raids by Special Operations commandos and even payments to warlords to deny haven to Al Qaeda.

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, said the alternatives would have at least as much chance of preventing attacks on the United States as a large-scale counterinsurgency effort, which he said would last 5 to 10 years, require hundreds of billions of dollars, sacrifice hundreds of American lives and have a "slim likelihood of success."

But most specialists on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, inside and outside the government, say terrorism cannot be confronted from a comfortable distance, such as by air strikes or proxy forces alone. It may take years to turn Afghanistan into a place that is hostile to Al Qaeda, they say, but it may be the only way to keep the United States safe in the long term. (ANI)

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