50 US troops must be ‘blown to smithereens’ for America to take Haqqani Network, Pakistan seriously

This July 31 article in The New York Times displays the horse-has-left-the-barn mentality that is prevalent in higher echelons of the US government when it comes to terrorist threats and Pakistan. According to the report, the US government won’t take the threat of the Haqqani Network and Pakistan’s support of the terror group seriously unless another mass-casualty attack occurs against US forces in Afghanistan.

But a new boldness from the Haqqanis that aims at mass American casualties, combined with simmering political tension, has reduced the room for ambiguity between the two countries. Inside the administration, it is a commonly held view that the United States is “one major attack” away from unilateral action against Pakistan — diplomatically or perhaps even militarily, one senior official said.

“If 50 U.S. troops were blown to smithereens by the Haqqanis, or they penetrated the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and killed several diplomats — that would be the game changer,” he said.

American officials recently considered what that could mean. Days after the Salerno attack, the White House held a series of interagency meetings to weigh its options in the event of a major success by the Haqqanis against American troops.

Salerno had come uncomfortably close. Although just two Americans were killed, the attackers had penetrated the defenses of a major base to within yards of a dining hall used by hundreds of soldiers.

The meetings yielded a list of about 30 possible responses, according to a senior official who was briefed on the deliberations — everything from withdrawing the Islamabad ambassador, to a flurry of intensified drone attacks on Haqqani targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt, to American or Afghan commando raids on Haqqani hide-outs in the same area.

“We looked at the A to Z of how to get the Pakistanis’ attention,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, as did other American and Pakistani officials interviewed about the issue.

So, basically, the Haqqani Network can slowly bleed the US military in Afghanistan, killing American troops a handful at a time in frequent suicide assaults and IED attacks, with the support of the Pakistani government, and there will not be any serious repercussions. But if one of the Haqqani Network’s suicide assaults causes mass casualties (of US troops or personnel, of course, the slaughter of dozens of Afghans likely won’t matter much to the US officials quoted in the article), then Pakistan will receive the requisite slap on the wrist.

The Afghans and the US and NATO troops in theater deserve far, far better.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • blert says:

    The endless stream of orchestrated, official ‘leaks’ is entirely oriented towards ‘shaping the election space.’
    This leak is occurring while the top ISI commander is in America.
    What a coincidence.
    Meaning that the leak is really a plea — to the ISI to not disturb the electoral harmony.
    As previously noted by the LWJ, the Pakistani route is now open — with plenty of grease for the opfors — one way or the other.
    All of this is of a part: to get the electorate into a happy space before voting.
    I shudder to think what the ISI is demanding as quid. More than a few, I’d say.

  • LPD-RI says:

    Thanks for all of the hard work you have put in, I visit your site every day.
    I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it: until we come up with a plan to defeat Pakistan and its state-sponsored support of Al Qaeda and other groups, we are just treading water in Afghanistan. We will never, ever succeed there when the ISI can openly hide Osama Bin Laden and kill US troops, while at the same time our same troops are not allowed within 2 miles of the border.
    I guess my main question (after 11 years) would be this: Why are we so afraid of offending Pakistan if they were hiding Osama Bin Laden and are openly sanctioning the killing of our soldiers?
    Do we have anything to lose at this point by attacking the tribal areas? Other than the Pakistanis handing over our brand new, taxpayer-funded F-16 block 52’s to the Chinese? But then again, I’m sure the Chinese stole all of the technical data on those systems long ago.
    So what is the worst case scenario if we attack the tribal areas? I know everyone always mentions nuclear weapons being handed to terrorists, but…I wouldn’t put that past them as it is.

  • Nic says:

    There are many good comments stated above to which I would like to add the question: Why do we always let ourselves be played? We give the Pakistanis aid and Pakistan gives us the Haqqanis. What the United States wants is a leader that does what needs to be done. That is the measure of a great leader, damn the torpedoes. Here is a suggestion, loosen the ROI for Haqqani targets and, when the situation is optimal, have an American only commando raid.
    As for those of us on the home front, boycott all goods labeled “Made in Pakistan”. That action will reduce three billion dollars a year of US money going to Pakistan. Do this in remembrance of the two US service members killed at FOB Salerno.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    The intensity of US attacks against the enemy should always be at the highest possible level man and machine can bear. With all the capabilities the US military possesses, to do otherwise is negligient, irresponsible and criminal. I think this is exhibit A as to why many people disapprove of the way this was is being conducted.

  • JRP says:

    Look . . . AQ getting hold of Pakistani nukes is the big dog in the room. The ISI Chief is Stateside so that a deal along the following lines can be hatched . . . If Pakistan will take charge of and hand over all the AQ operatives, to include Zawahiri, to the U.S., the U.S. will look the other way with respect to whatever it is that Pakistan wants to achieve by being in league with the Taliban and its fellow travelers. I believe that only AQ has designs on the U.S. homeland. Eliminate the AQ threat and America couldn’t and shouldn’t care less about what goes on in and down in South Asia, so long as whatever it is stays in South Asia.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    This is playing out in a similar way to the Korean War, where Chinese actively were supporting the North Koreans but the US refused to mount attacks on staging and resupply areas beyond the border giving the Chinese and North Koreans a safe launchpad for the counter offensive that retook the country. Warizistan and other tribal agencies are a similar equivalent, so long as they remain free of heavy bombing and other conventional attacks they will remain a launchpad for Haqqani and Taliban attacks against ISAF.
    When the Axis in WWII used supposedly neutral airbases in Vichy French Syria to mount attacks on allied positions in the middle east, the Allies solved the problem by attacking Syria despite its neutrality and denying the area to the Axis. Attacks against allied areas of the middle east then virtually ceased for the duration of the war.

  • Charles says:

    Strategic victory in Pakistan will come when the USA defunds all the saudi supported madrasses that have grown up in Pakistan in the last 30 years.
    The way the defunding will work will be that first the USA become oil independent byo shale oil fracking. The the USA crushes down the price of oil by way of oil shale insitu mining in southwestern Wyoming. Most of that oil shale is on federal lands so while the US government is being funded the collapsing price of oil shale will defund the gulf states and make their emirs too poor to send money to Pakistan.

  • Eric says:

    This stuff drives speculation that the US will not take any more acts of open proxy war from Pakistan. The speculation drives some ridiculous thinking in Pakistan that a US invasion is coming about. They are actually, at this caught moment in history, weak enough to get into an open conflict with the US through ineptly concealed hatred. Foolish enough, and as it happens, ignorant enough to believe their own foolishness.
    God help them , you gotta love these Pakistanis. Someday they’re going to get the whole human race killed. And the Pakis will mostly all die in the first period of the contest.
    Birth Rate: Number of Madrassas: Number of graduates: Number of unemployed: US Aid in billions: How to make a train wreck out of Pakistan’s future. And like a train wreck it cannot just be stopped. Sure, its all coming from a flawed idealogy, endemic corruption, patronage over society like a chain-link fence, in-your face religiosity and religious bigotry. But even if all that were stopped overnight by a US invasion, there are 6 generations of brain-washed kids to go through before they can slow and reverse trend in ideological problems only over a period of many years. Pakistan is not just broken. It is stupid broken.

  • don owen says:

    International law allows the territories in Pakistan to be viewed as “lawless” and that no national power is in control. Daily Special Ops with full air cover for six months will dramatically reduce cross border activity and send the rats in every direction- with movement they will make mistakes. We never should have resumed the trucking, obviously we need to stop the trucking, remove all Americans from Pakistan etc prior to Special Ops in the Territories.

  • meena says:

    Every one knows who is supporting Haqqani Network? But the US is Sitting Duck because it desperately needs one thing called Supply Lines?

  • Mac says:

    These people have said it all. Read everything above carefuly.

  • Matt says:

    I’m interested to know what the opinion of India would be for a reunification. It would seem close coordination with India to neutralize them and then “pivot” to China together would be very smart for both of us. Regardless we should make clear the Pakistanis have a date with Hell.
    I’m also curious why Musharraf is still living nicely in England? Traiters and terrorists deserve the worst kind of consequences.

  • David says:

    meena is right. We can’t really take the fight to Pakistan until we are no longer dependent on them for supply lines. And the Northern Distribution Network also leaves us vulnerable to blackmail from other unfriendly powers. Having 2-3000 guys there supplied from the NDN, or by air if we get squeezed, might be do-able, I don’t know. But as long as there are 100,000 guys, or 50,000 guys in Afghanistan, I don’t see how we can squeeze Pakistan without getting squeezed back.
    If we could get the Europeans on board, like they are with Iran,
    strong sanctions might really hurt them enough to change their minds about the jihadis. At least they’ll have less money to wage jihad with. I realize sanctions haven’t worked well in the past, but they have really crushed the Iranian economy, and they
    would do a lot more damage to a non-oil-wealthy economy.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    This is all high level BS. We can’t wait for the Haqqanis to get lucky. They are no match for the American military and are particularly no match for our Spec Ops units…that’s why we need to eradicate thier leadership anbd HVT’s before they claim a success. This is why we have Tier 1 units like Delta and SEAL 6… to go into Pakistan and eliminate the Haqanni leadership. If the backstabbing Pakis and ISI scum won’t do it, we should do it for them. If they complain…screw em, cut thier aid to ZERO!
    Let’s get back to KATN Spec Ops style.

  • J House says:

    Read the NYT article very carefully. The Haqanni network has conducted multiple acts of war against the United States, but our elected leaders are hesitant to attack them unless there is a larger, mass casualty attack on the U.S.
    Where have we seen this movie before?
    1998- AQ attacks 2 US embassies
    2000- AQ attacks a US warship
    2001- AQ attacks NY and Washington
    Our leaders have failed the American people and have learned nothing from history.

  • Chris says:

    50 soldiers or a couple of Kabul diplomats. Thanks, Washington.


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