On Both Sides of the Durand Line
In an op-ed in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, says it's "time for a collective deep breath." (Note: Crocker—now a professor at Texas A&M—was also U.S. ambassador to Iraq after his stint in Islamabad. You can find his thoughts on the current situation in Baghdad in Tuesday's article for The National Interest online.) First, he provides a history lesson—America worked with Pakistan to oust the Soviets, then left them with a big mess to clean up and slapped sanctions on Islamabad; the Pakistanis have welcomed U.S. assistance after 9/11, but worry the Americans will leave again; Pakistani foreign policy is built on intense fear of India; Afghanistan-Pakistan relations have been complicated by the Durand Line, which the British drew between the two states to divide the Pashtun people.
Next, Crocker lays out his prescriptions: In the wake of a cross-border NATO helicopter raid that ended up killing three Pakistani soldiers instead of suspected militants, Crocker recommends halting such assaults, which are "clearly counterproductive." He also urges Washington to keep its criticism of Islamabad private, and make negotiations between the Afghans and the Taliban transparent to the Pakistanis. But above all, Crocker thinks the future "requires making long-term commitments."
On the Afghan side of the Durand Line, the big news is that U.S. Special Operations forces may have accidentally killed kidnapped nonprofit worker Linda Norgrove, a British citizen, during a raid intended to free her. The military had originally said she died after one of her captors detonated a suicide vest. The New York Times and Washington Post report that the incident puts British officials in tough bind, defending the mission itself and trying hard not criticize the Americans' involvement, even as public opinion in the United Kingdom has soured on the war.
But Max Boot doesn't see how the result would be any different if Norgrove had died at the hands of her kidnappers: "As far as I am concerned, whatever the case, moral culpability rests with the heartless fanatics who grabbed her. Period. End of story." Michael Yon agrees, comparing the botched attempt to the risks patients face when being operated on by surgeons. "There is always a chance that things will go wrong. Yet during these military operations, the 'doctors' often die with the 'patient.'”
And speaking of Special Operations forces, Marc Ambinder is reporting that the Delta Forces have changed their official nomenclature. Formerly referred to by the military as the "Combat Applications Group" (CAG), Delta soldiers are now being called "Army Compartmented Elements" (ACE)—which Ambinder says basically translates to "Army Secret Units." But, he also notes, they're not so secret anymore: troops have popped up with ACE designations next to their names in the public phone directory on Ft. Bragg's website. Naturally, the Pentagon is investigating, and if the new acronym has been comprised, they'll have to change it again.