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Target: Quetta

Last week, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Maples, acknowledged a simple truth about the presence of the Taliban senior leadership

Jul 31, 2020
Last week, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Maples, acknowledged a simple truth about the presence of the Taliban senior leadership in Pakistan. “Sir, the Quetta Shura is operating openly, as you know, in Quetta,” Maples told Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both Maples and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair assessed that the Pakistani government considered itself hamstrung to respond — “a combination of lack of capability, their overall approach in which they believe that there needs to be a compromise and cooperation with some groups in that area and their assessment of the threat to that group to Pakistan as opposed to Afghanistan,” in Blair’s words.
The admission carries an obvious implication: what will the United States do about the Quetta Shura? Recall that on the campaign trail, President Obama saidthat he would consider using direct military force against “Al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, [if] Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act.” Would the leadership of the al-Qaeda-aligned Taliban qualify?
According to The New York Times, expanding strikes into Quettais a consideration for the White House’s Af-Pak strategy review team. Reviews led by Generals David Petraeus and Douglas Lute are said to favor “expanding American operations” beyond the Pakistani tribal areas if the Pakistanis don’t demonstrate greater capability in combating the growing Taliban presence in places officially under its sovereignty. It’s unclear what sort of operations those would be, but the Obama administration appears inclined to continue the Bush administration’s authorization for covert and clandestine intelligence and military action in Pakistan:
“It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs,” said one senior administration official. “One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we’ve got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens.”
There’s a lot of talk about revising U.S. goals in Afghanistan-Pakistan downward. Disrupting the safe havens is often discussed as a minimal one — far less than the creation of a flourishing Afghan democracy. Indeed, Obama himselfhas set that goal, telling his first press conference, “what we haven’t seen is the kind of concerted effort to root out those safe havens that would ultimately make our mission successful.” But what we haven’t heard is a concerted discussion of what it would take to disrupt those safe havens; what constitutes “disruption”; and whether it’s ultimately achievable and at what cost, should we have to do it ourselves.
Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke is an economist, marketing strategist, and orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience crafting compelling narratives that resonate worldwide. He holds a Journalism degree from Columbia University, an Economics background from Yale University, and a medical degree with a postdoctoral fellowship in orthopedic medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dexter’s insights into media, economics, and marketing shine through his prolific contributions to respected publications and advisory roles for influential organizations. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive knee replacement surgery and laparoscopic procedures, Dexter prioritizes patient care above all. Outside his professional pursuits, Dexter enjoys collecting vintage watches, studying ancient civilizations, learning about astronomy, and participating in charity runs.
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