Pakistani Officials: Obama's 2011 Withdrawal Timeline "Is Not a Wise Decision"
Pakistani Officials Fear the Taliban Will Be Emboldened By Obama’s Withdrawal Plans
Pakistani officials are worried that Obama’s plan to leave Afghanistan in 18 months will embolden the Taliban.
ISLAMABAD: President Barack Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan has sparked fears in Pakistan it will lead to more US drone attacks and military involvement in its border areas, possibly further destabilising Washington’s ally.
Many Pakistan analysts and security officials fear an emboldened Afghan Taliban could then capitalise on Obama’s plans to start withdrawing troops in 18 months by waiting it out in Pakistan, which already faces militants on its own soil.
The Pakistan government has cautiously welcomed Obama’s plans to send another 30,000 troops to battle a strengthening Taliban insurgency. But it came with a caveat – Islamabad warned Washington on Wednesday of the need to avoid ‘adverse fallout.’
The concern for many is that when extra US troops land in south Afghanistan the Taliban will just make a tactical retreat across the porous border to Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions.
That would up the stakes in Pakistan where its army has launched an offensive in the border region of South Waziristan.
The campaign has already sparked a backlash of suicide attacks in cities, raising fears for the country’s stability.
With the Afghan winter traditionally making guerrilla warfare harder, there is effectively one fighting season left – the summer of 2010 – before US troops may start to scale down.
Pakistan analysts say that next summer US military planners primed for war may get increasingly frustrated they cannot bring the battle to a Taliban just sitting across the border.
‘In that survival game, the Taliban may cross into Pakistan. Now there is a timetable, they might just avoid combat,’ said Tanvir Ahmed Khan, a former Pakistani foreign secretary and now chairman of the Institute of Strategic Studies.
‘If that comes true, the Americans would be really tempted to go after them at a scale we haven’t seen before, mostly likely with drones and perhaps also with special operations.’
‘We think giving the timeline of 2011 is not a wise decision because if the Taliban are wise enough they will stop fighting for now and they will wait for US, forces to withdraw and then play havoc,’ a senior Pakistan government security official said.