The Obama administration on Tuesday gave Congress a harshly critical assessment of Pakistan’s efforts to defeat al Qaeda and other militants, saying that after years of work with the Pakistani military “there remains no clear path toward defeating the insurgency” that thrives in the country.
That conclusion, buried in a 38-page report on the state of the war in Afghanistan and the efforts to defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan, comes just three months before President Obama is scheduled to announce the pace at which American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
It amounts to a concession that the effort to match Obama’s “surge” of troops in Afghanistan with a new strategy to squeeze al Qaeda and the Taliban from the Pakistani side of the border has yielded virtually no results.
For more than a year American officials have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the Pakistani effort. But rarely have they gone public with the scope of those frustrations.
The report issued Tuesday was not accompanied by any public statement by Obama, who, like President Bush before him, has been loath to publicly criticise the efforts of Pakistan.
But the report states clearly what many administration and Pentagon officials have long said in private: Without pressure from the Pakistani side of the border, it is virtually impossible to wipe out the strongholds of Taliban or al Qaeda, except through American-led Predator strikes from the air.
The report noted that an effort by the Pakistani military to clear militants from Mohmand, a part of the tribal areas in northwest Pakistan, was failing for the third time in two years. The failure was “a clear indicator of the inability of the Pakistan military and government to render cleared areas resistant to insurgency return,” the report said.
The country cannot keep its helicopters flying, the report said, and is reluctant “to accept US-provided helicopter maintenance teams,” part of a broader concern about letting American troops operate openly on the ground in Pakistan.
The report also lamented the fact that four coordination centers operated by American, Pakistani and Afghan troops are up and running on the Afghan side of the border, but none are yet operating on the Pakistan side, despite a pledge in 2009 from Pakistan to do so.
The New York Times