Every Major Terrorist Threat Has Ties to Pakistan

CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Atlantic Council this afternoon that al Qaeda’s safe haven in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas have provided a “sanctuary” that has “allowed it to recover some capacity lost when expelled from Afghanistan” nearly seven years ago. It has developed a “close, co-dependent relationship with Pashtun extremist and separatist groups” through very careful exploitation of cultural norms, respect for tribal leaders and, increasingly, intermarriage.

“Let me be very clear,” Hayden said, “Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas.”

Continued at New Atlanticist.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey weighs in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. FireWolf says:

    It’s time for Obama to show us how tough a President he will be and bomb some aspirin factories in Pakistan…errr wait….uhm terrorist hideouts… errr.. no I mean WMD’s! Yeah, that’s it!

  2. tom p says:

    this ain’t gonna be easy, no matter what is done.

  3. Drew says:

    In a previous post I had expressed my disappointment in the simplistic sniping at Bush that ‘if only you had focused on Afganny or Pakistan instead of Iraq’ all would be well with the world.

    Well, Pakistan is proving to be the mother of all high wire balancing acts in an effort to further US interests.

    Every bone in my body tells me that Obama is not prepared for this task. But as my newly elected President I (gulp) wish him the best, and hope he surrounds himself with some steely eyed realists with expertise and insights into the region.

  4. tom p says:

    In a previous post I had expressed my disappointment in the simplistic sniping at Bush that ‘if only you had focused on Afganny or Pakistan instead of Iraq’ all would be well with the world.

    But Drew, I hope you realize that Iraq and Saddam had nothing to do with our “larger goal”? In other words, you are saying that it is a little simplistic to say that “if only we had finished the job in Afghanistan, all would be be well in the world.” ???

    Nothing was ever gonna be easy in “Afghanny”… which is why I thought we should not “go” there to begin with.

    But then, it is a litle too late for that, isn’t it?

  5. Drew says:

    Tom P –

    This post is going to be hard, because the first paragraph is horrifically cryptic and necessarily vague. I apologize in advance.

    WRT Iraq and “larger goals” I have contacts and information that suggest that everything feared about Iraq, Syria and Iran are true, including WMD. No, I’m not a lunatic, or tin foil hat wearer. I’m not a Kool-Aid drinker, etc. I can only hope that this information can come to light in a reasonable time frame and in a rationale fashion. (But I doubt it.) I will go to my grave questioning why Team Bush did not more aggressively promote this info, although I understand the stated rationale.

    With respect to ‘Sweet Home Af-ganny.” (Sorry, James.) I do not understand your point. I never said if AGanny was “fixed” all would be well. Others did, and others pointed to AfG as the appropriate locus of focus. (How’s that rap?) I don’t believe that for a second. Schuler recently pointed out – and I believe credibly so – that AfG may have been under and inappropriately resourced – inciting the locals. OK, that’s a mistake to be addressed. But “fixing” AfG is not the end all.

    Lastly, the point of James original post was Pakistan. What a complete mess. The left have been vocal critics of Bush policy. Easy to be a critic. Hard to be a policy maker. Pakistan is a policy tightrope walkers’ nightmare.

    Good luck, Barack. Simple minded “we are the one’s we have been waiting for” statements won’t fly now that he has to actually deal with the Paki-mess.

  6. HiItsNino says:

    “I have contacts and information that suggest that everything feared about Iraq, Syria and Iran are true, including WMD”

    If this is true then why aren’t you – or these contacts – coming forward with the information? If there really is a threat that involves all the things we were told back in 2001 then surely its a hot story that needs to be told, otherwise its just more bs to try to justify a mistake, or incite fear of a new president. I’m looking forward to a new foreign policy, and I am hoping it mostly ignores that part of the world and focuses and preventing these creeps from getting into this country in the first place. We can’t keep focus on the whole world, not while our own house is not in order.

  7. just me says:

    Pakistan would be the same problem whether we went into Iraq or not.

    Pakistan has been a problem, and it will be a problem. I think Obama is a tad too much like Carter (all talk little action and very naive) with a little bit of Clinton thrown in (wage war from the air, but don’t use ground troops) on foreign policy-so we will see what happens. My guess is whether the president is Obama or McCain we will eventually see the US military heading into these areas whether Pakistan wants us to or not. Whether it is just bombs or actual boots is yet to be seen.

  8. Drew says:

    Not a chance. I probably shouldn’t have said anything.

    If the principals involved haven’t come forth publicly, far be it from me to get involved. They must have their reasons. But I guarantee our President-elect has had some sobering briefings.

    For tea leaf readers, watch for an evolving tone in his public statements on terrorism and those countries.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    This supports the position I’ve staked out for some time: that we should start raising Al Qaeda’s cost of operations by isolating Pakistan. It will be hard on Pakistan but they’ve made their beds.

  10. od says:

    Not a chance. I probably shouldn’t have said anything.

    If the principals involved haven’t come forth publicly, far be it from me to get involved. They must have their reasons. But I guarantee our President-elect has had some sobering briefings.

    For tea leaf readers, watch for an evolving tone in his public statements on terrorism and those countries.

    In a democracy leaders are expected to justify their decisions – “trust me” is the rational of monarchs, not elected representatives. It’s possible that he had good reasons for going into Iraq, but if he decided against publishing them you can hardly blame citizen’s for not taking his word for it.

    The absence of evidence might mean that someone feels they can’t release what they know, but far more often in life it simply means there is no evidence. The change from superstition to science, and all the benefits that came with it, are based upon that.

  11. Drew says:

    od –

    Fair points, all. I will tell you that the individual I referenced was in a position to brief Congressional committees, and wanted to pull his hair out at the lack of acknowledgment and response. Further, he claims its all political. A shameful commentary, but that’s the claim.

    James pointed out that Hayden’s remarks came out differently in the press than what he had just heard with his own ears.

    Place yourself in the Administration’s position. For political reasons the opposition party will claim you are just crying wolf. The press can’t seem to get things correct, whether through benign neglect, incompetence or willful dis ingenuousness. What do you do? Go about the business of fulfilling the prime directive of doing what you believe necessary to protect American citizens, and let the politics of the day fall as they may? (and let the historians set the record straight down the road) Or wage a non-stop PR battle.

    Remember Cheney’s response to Tim Russert’s question about public opinion polls and the Iraq war? “So what.” I guess we know where the Administration came out on the issue.

  12. Grewgills says:

    Or wage a non-stop PR battle.

    Thanks for the morning laugh.
    Certainly the one thing the Bush administration did not want to do was to wage a non-stop PR battle. Never.

  13. Bithead says:

    If the principals involved haven’t come forth publicly, far be it from me to get involved. They must have their reasons. But I guarantee our President-elect has had some sobering briefings.

    For tea leaf readers, watch for an evolving tone in his public statements on terrorism and those countries.

    Indeed. I suspect and suppose Obama will find atually dealing with reality to be quite different than the pie in the sky nonsense he issued to the morons he was trying to get votes from… who will now be gravely disappointed when Obama is forced to react to the reality of the situation in exactly the way of which they disapprove so stongly.

    And so, once again yet another element of ‘change’ disappears in the face of reality.

  14. od says:

    Place yourself in the Administration’s position. For political reasons the opposition party will claim you are just crying wolf. The press can’t seem to get things correct, whether through benign neglect, incompetence or willful dis ingenuousness. What do you do? Go about the business of fulfilling the prime directive of doing what you believe necessary to protect American citizens, and let the politics of the day fall as they may? (and let the historians set the record straight down the road) Or wage a non-stop PR battle.

    Part of the ability to conduct a war in any society, but especially in a democracy, is receiving the support of your citizens. Part of the responsibility of any national leader who feels his country’s safety is at stake is to convince his citizens of the need for war. Going ahead without that support almost inevitably leads to a poorly run war and a divided country.

    If Bush had legitimate reasons for invading Iraq but was unable to communicate them then he failed in that aspect of his presidency.

    As an aside, I don’t think it had much to do with the press – the left wing thinks the press is run by the right wing, the right wing thinks the press is run by the left wing, but as far as I can tell most citizens don’t believe anything they read or hear in the media anyway other than sports scores. People interested in politics almost always grossly exaggerate the influence the press has on most people, especially regarding politics – by now most people are so cynical they don’t believe much of anything said by any politician. Even Obama, who supposedly is a press darling, received about a third of the total eligible votes … if that’s a powerful press I’d hate to see a weak one.

  15. Drew says:

    od –

    Look, you are preaching to the choir on making the case to the people. Maybe it was Bush admin incompetence, maybe arrogance, or maybe just the recognition that they couldn’t win the PR war. I’m not sufficiently sophisticated in the ways of Washington or insider stuff to really opine.

    But here is a point of departure with your view. I in no way, shape or form believe that people are immune to the media. Just listen to man in the street interviews. Just listen to the chatter at dinner parties, or on radio shows. It is actually embarrassing the way canned talking points heard in the media sphere are recited over and over – almost verbatim!! There is precious little original thought. No, media matters alot. Propaganda works and is alive and well.

    But there is a bottom line here. The politics has been flipped 180 degrees here. Obama et al are soon to be in power. It will no longer be sufficient to simply slogan about “Bush lied, people died,” blah blah blah. Obama now has a very sobering responsibility. Faced with that reality he will no longer (nor will Reid and Pelosi) be able to capitalize on backbench status and just hurl politically expedient and advantageous invective from the peanut gallery.

    Now they have to actually govern, giving consideration to the realities of a nasty world. That’s a rather confining box compared to “hope,” “change,” and “a new beginning.”

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….

  16. od says:

    But here is a point of departure with your view. I in no way, shape or form believe that people are immune to the media. Just listen to man in the street interviews. Just listen to the chatter at dinner parties, or on radio shows. It is actually embarrassing the way canned talking points heard in the media sphere are recited over and over – almost verbatim!! There is precious little original thought. No, media matters alot. Propaganda works and is alive and well.

    Well, you attend different dinner parties than I do – the folks I know socially and professionally all seem to be very cynical about the media and politics in general. In fact its almost never discussed, even during elections – there’s just an underlying assumption that it never changes. Your quote “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” exactly sums up the feeling of the people I meet in person as opposed to see in interviews etc. I suppose you’re correct in saying no one is immune to the media, but I think the influence is small. Put it this way, if the media is biased to the left (which I think it is, though there are elements of it on the right as well), then the media has been doing a horrible job of getting its message across if their “wonder candidate of change” can only get a third of registered voters. Not exactly an impressive performance.

    Man in the street interviews I find pretty unconvincing – a media company will edit them to project the viewpoint they prefer. Talk radio is more interesting, though I suspect its generally the same few callers dialing in repeatedly – I think its actually more of a social network for callers than anything else.

    But there is a bottom line here. The politics has been flipped 180 degrees here. Obama et al are soon to be in power. It will no longer be sufficient to simply slogan about “Bush lied, people died,” blah blah blah. Obama now has a very sobering responsibility. Faced with that reality he will no longer (nor will Reid and Pelosi) be able to capitalize on backbench status and just hurl politically expedient and advantageous invective from the peanut gallery.

    Now they have to actually govern, giving consideration to the realities of a nasty world. That’s a rather confining box compared to “hope,” “change,” and “a new beginning.”

    I agree with this (as you said, we only disagree on the power of the media) – but I note that it’s actually a pretty cynical statement. If you also said more or less the same thing when Bush was elected, you’d fit right in at the diner parties I attend.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss….

    I think this sums up at least modern politics very well. Obama’s young supporters will soon be part of the cynical majority – not because Obama will turn out to be evil, but because he will turn out to be a politician, and in the end will govern more or less like every other President.

  17. Drew says:

    od –

    1. I guess where we pass like ships in the night on media power is its reach. I have no doubt there is great cynicism on the part of many, many people in your sphere (and mine.) But there are alot more voters than just those spheres. And in my opinion, they are affected. And after all, how many does it take to move an election? But hell, I’ve been arguing this with people and chasing my tail in circles on the topic for years.

    2. I also seem to be a contrarian wrt to Bush. (Your reference to my cynical statement and Bush’s election) As he was campaigning in 2000 it was my take that he actually had a more independent streak than the average pol and might actually do what he said. (As opposed to his poll obsessed predecessor) And that has actually been the case during his tenure. Critics now call this “stubborness” and cite opinion polls. Call me crazy, I though that was leadership.

    3. Only time will tell with Obama. But I find the public utterances of this current crew (Pelosi, Reid and Obama) to be particularly void of substance or thoughtfulness.

    Obama may also be the first President in a long, long time to be presented with an incredible and confounding boundary condition. Despite the ‘just another Presidency’ implied by my “same as the old boss” reference the fact of the matter is that for about 50 years now the Great Society and other government (including state and local) spending programs have slowly become a horrific financing problem.

    Real dollar total government spending per household has doubled since the mid-60’s. Politicians (and voters) have been kicking the problem down the road for decades. But now the “big three” – Medicare, Medicaid and SS – are poised to truly break the Treasury. (and the infrastructure is a mess!) I’m sure you have seen the estimates, after years of Fed spending taking 18-22% of GDP, some estimates now go up to 35%+. (and that’s just the Feds)

    Meanwhile, corporate and personal overall tax burdens have been growing. But this is actually an understated problem. Despite claims of tax breaks for the rich, taxes have become much, much more progressive. The most economically productive are truly carrying a historically huge load. That’s not sustainable.

    So where is Obama going to go? He’s in a box. His campaign promises are estimated to cost 80% of his proposed tax increases. And you know the costs are undersetimated and the projected tax revenues overstated.

    If your worldview is like mine – you don’t spur economic activity by taxing more heavily, even his advisors are downplaying tax increases give the current situation. I have no idea what he is going to or how he is going to reconcile his governing with his basic economic campaign platform. But actuarily, it looks like the, er, um, chickens are going to come home to roost during his presidency.