Playing Patty Cake In The Setting Sun

History often focuses on the metropole during Imperial twilight. Rich narratives in the decadence (technically defined), the cacophonies, the what could have beens. The satraps and clients states along the periphery usually get short shrift. Even if theirs is a more stressful transition — letting go of old certainties and discerning which is the next waxing power. Teetering metropoles exert distorting and unpredictable gravitational fields, adding to complications – and potential opportunities.

So it should come as no surprise that our AfPak client states manifest signs of looking past the U.S. for their new future. Irritation aggravated by still being encumbered with yesterday’s arrangements. Consider: the U.S. officially confirms ‘conclusive’ intelligence that the ISI directly organized and murdered Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad.

Shahzad’s work about militant radical infiltration in the Pakistani military had to go. The ISI isn’t thrilled to be fingered. But shrugs it off. (Astute readers might ask why the U.S. apparently didn’t intervene to save Shahzad? Part of the metropole cacophonies, supra).

The battle for an American-less future in Afghanistan continues. Pakistan reminds Kabul who is the local power with a shelling.. Karzai claims he’s for the high ground and calls for restraint. He’s got more pressing problems like a rogue ex-Central Banker on the run.

Pakistan’s got full hands, too. Some 100 Afghan Taliban (formerly of Swat and Malakand division) attacked a manned border outpost on the Durand Line. They attack coming or going. Pakistan’s internal turmoil continues to expand – over 1,100 have died during political violence in Karachi alone in 2011.

Lest anyone forget them, the Pakistani Army:

. . .extended an offensive against Taliban guerrillas in its borderlands with Afghanistan, its chief spokesman said.

Troops moved into the mountains of Kurram Agency, a tribal district that Taliban factions have used as a base, according to Major General Athar Abbas yesterday. While Abbas declined to give details, the newspaper Dawn and other Pakistani media cited residents and officials as saying thousands of troops were involved, some flown in by helicopter.

Taking control of central areas of Kurram may enable the army to block the last major escape route for militants based in North Waziristan, the country’s biggest remaining guerrilla stronghold where the U.S. has pressed Pakistan to conduct a ground offensive, said Ashraf Ali, director of the FATA Research Center in Islamabad, which monitors the conflict in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Petraeus promises U.S. fighting will pivot this direction, eastwards. All for naught. This typical sample merely underscores why withdrawing — or keeping — part of the surge forces is irrelevant to the actual battlespace. The U.S. is the only party that doesn’t seem to know. Questions about which batch of troops stay or leave only have internal twisted logic within a metropole’s cacophony. And expect that to get louder.


  1. says

    Hillary Clinton and State Department ratify notion of receding U.S. power perversely while trying to assert it:

    “@StateDept: #SecClinton: We cannot solve all the problems in the world, but there is no big problem that can be solved without us.”

    Remarkable in its defensiveness. As the saying goes, when a blood drop hits the water, the sharks will sense it immediately. HC and Foggy Bottom would be advised to stop splashing in these circumstances.

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