Af/Pak Still Matters

by Joshua Foust on 9/7/2009 · 3 comments

From the New York Times story about the plane bombers convicted in the UK:

The idea, intelligence officials said, was to show the world that the security measures adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks were insufficient to foil the kind of low-technology, “asymmetric” attacks favored by Islamic extremists in their war with the West — using box-cutters in the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, and soft-drink bottles filled with a commercially available bleach in the 2006 plot. Evidence at the London trial showed that several of the plotters, like those on Sept. 11, had traveled from their homes in the London area to Pakistan and Afghanistan for indoctrination and training by extremist groups linked to Al Qaeda.

You can argue whether or not Afghanistan and Pakistan matter in the grand scheme of things, but they remain important even now.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Bart September 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm

“You can argue whether or not Afghanistan and Pakistan matter in the grand scheme of things, but they remain important even now.”

This is a vague and worthless comment. You are trying to cite this case of a few guys going to Pakistan or Afghanistan as evidence supporting you’re arguement that the war in Afghanistan needs to be fought. Fine, but this is hardly compelling evidence supporting this case.

Nor is it clear that even if the US did what you want it to do, that British Pakistanis would be unable to get to Pak or Afg. Oh, and not to mention that the more the US stays in Afghanistan, the longer masses of people keep getting killed in attacks like the one that just killed 120 lives last week, there will be some number of Pakistanis in the UK that want to get revenge, ie participate in what we call terrorist activities. The Muslim world is not making neat distinctions between the Germans and the US forces. In the eyes of Afghans and Pakistanis, the tanker attack is on the hands of the US.

So you can’t just argue that Afghanistan/ Pakistan matters because some people in the UK have supposedly learned how to make bombs there, and then refuse to acknowledge that the US presence in Afghanistan is fueling some of the “demand” for paritcipating in these terrorist activisities. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a war monger and refuse to acknowledge the condsequences of your war monging.

myra macdonald September 8, 2009 at 9:52 am

I’d probably argue that’s why Kashmir and the broader India-Pakistan context matter so much. The bombers were linked to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, one of the Kashmir-oriented groups.

The problem with the “Af/Pak” label is that it tends to obscure these details.

Steve Connors September 8, 2009 at 11:18 am

Forgive me for stating the blindingly obvious but the plot to carry out this operation was thwarted, not by having tens of thousands of foreign troops in the region but by diligent police work based on professional intelligence gathering. The plotters were then brought before a jury in a transparent judicial process that saw fit to convict them of a crime.

Indeed, it could be argued that the process succeeded despite the rather hamfisted approach to our security interests in the region. Given the nature of the work done to secure these convictions one does not need to look very far in order to identify the importance of cooperation in the investigative process and how easily that could have been hindered by a sense of grievance among just a few members of the agencies whose help was needed in the case.

This is not an issue of whether or not Afghanistan and Pakistan matter – of course they do – but whether the hammer is an appropriate tool in defence of our interests.

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