Mister Obama's War hits a speed bump
Mister Obama’s War has hit a speed bump in Times Square. The question is will the President and members of Congress pay any attention to it and slow down, or will they floor the accelerator and race into Pakistan?
The speed bump is a nobody named Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old, westernized Pakistani, highly educated, and a naturalized American citizen with a wife and two kids. A casualty of the US financial meltdown, a career in the finance industry fizzled and his $285,000 home went underwater and was foreclosed.
Shahzad then trekked to North Waziristan in Pakistan along the Afghan border, where someone allegedly taught him how to make a car bomb. Fortunately, that training was either inadequate or he was a lousy student.
Following on the bloody Fort Hood shooting and the failed underpants bomber, Shahzad’s action has become leverage for greater US military intervention into the rugged Pashtun areas of northwest Pakistan.
That intervention is currently limited to deadly CIA drone attacks and reluctant Pakistani army assaults under pressure from the Obama administration. Past incursions into Pakistan territory by US special ops elements caused serious disturbances in Pakistan.
The focus of all this concern is an area of Afghanistan and Pakistan populated by the Pashtun people and known unofficially as Pashtunistan. Both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban are virtually all Pashtuns.
The Pashtun homeland was divided in 1893 by the British, specifically Sir Mortimer Durand, who drew the current border, called The Durand Line. Afghanistan has traditionally claimed the areas across the Durand Line in Pakistan, but Pakistan won’t give any of it up.
Essentially, the US has inserted itself into the middle of an ethnic conflict between the dominant, ruling Punjabi people of eastern Pakistan and the Pashtun people, who are seen by the Punjabis as backward mountain people, a prejudice that ignores a Pashtun brilliance for military strategy.
North of Pashtunistan, making up the top piece of bread in the sandwich, is The Northern Alliance, the coalition of ethnic groups the US linked with when it attacked in 2001. Pashtunistan is the meat in the middle.
The Pashtuns, of course, are very tough, have always used a rigid form of Islam as an organizing principle for their rugged lives and they do not like foreign intervention.
Four years after Durand made his line, at age 23, Winston Churchill wrote this about the Pashtun people in what is now northwest Pakistan: “A continual state of feud and strife prevails throughout the land. …The people of one valley fight with those of the next. …Every man’s hand is against the other, and all against the stranger.”