Obama Might Send Troops into Pakistan
Barack Obama has announced that he might send troops into Pakistan to fight al Qaeda if elected president.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists even without local permission if warranted — an attempt to show strength when his chief rival has described his foreign policy skills as naive.
The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.
“Let me make this clear,” Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
This is a bold pronouncement, especially for a man whose candidacy is based, at least in part, on his having been opposed to the Iraq War from its outset.
On the merits, I’m sympathetic to his argument. After all, President Bush promised to go after terrorists wherever they might go and stated categorically that governments that harbor terrorists within their borders would be considered “against us.” While Musharraf is in an incredibly shaky position and exercises little if any control over North Waziristan, where the al Qaeda leadership is thought to be, they are in his territory. It’s far from clear what good our “alliance” with his regime has done to enhance our security.
That said, the consequences of a U.S. invasion of Pakistan are hard to predict. Musharraf’s government would surely fall and the successor would likely be Muslim extremists. He pledged a few weeks back to make a serious effort to assert control of the region and combat “Talibanization” there. It would certainly be preferable to have him do it than for us to try.