Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gen Petraeus Says Pakistan Most Dangerous

At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings today, General David H. Petraeus, the newly-nominated head of the US Central Command, answered in the affirmative to a question by Sen Jack Reed if he agreed with the intelligence community and Chairman Mullen's assessment that the next terrorist attack on the United States would most likely come from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

With this answer, there seems to be consensus emerging in the United States that Pakistan's tribal areas represent the greatest terrorist threat for America. The US intelligence Community, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and future CENTCOM commander all agree that Pakistan is the greatest danger. There is also a seeming shift on diplomacy with Iran with General Petraeus agreeing with Defense Secretary Gates that the US needs a comprehensive approach to Iran that includes real diplomacy and engages on all issues. The US presidential candidate Barack Obama is already on record with his diplomatic outreach to Iran while at the same time calling for stiffer action along Pakistan-Afghan border.

As the Pakistani leadership currently focuses on restoration of judges, peace deals with the Taleban in tribal areas, and calls for UN inquiry into Bhutto assassination, this new consensus in the US has the potential to blind-side the newly elected government with sudden escalation along the border with Afghanistan. It is time for the new Pakistani leaders to start to pay attention to Pakistan's vital relations with the West and prevent any precipitous action by US and NATO along the Pak-Afghan border.

There is, however, some hope that a precipitous and purely military action along the western border can be avoided. The new CENTCOM commander General Petraeus believes in the use of diplomacy along with the military. “In most of the issues we'll address, a purely military approach is unlikely to succeed,” he noted, “and our strategy must recognize that.”

He said he’d seek to deal with the underlying causes of challenges in the region.

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