US Afghan Strategy Review and Spread of Drone Attacks to Khyber Agency

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Context

Pak China TableAs the Chinese premier continues his state visit to Pakistan, US pulled its station intelligence chief out of the country. The reasons cited for his departure were the threat to his life and a recent lawsuit filed by the victims of the drone attacks. Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, vehemently denied today to have played any role in blowing the cover of CIA head in Pakistan. His recall could potentially be connected to a wider US AfPak policy reset.

Analysis

What appears to be in progress is a revamping of Obama’s security team, which includes officials linked to the AfPak policy. Obviously these changes present a sign that US Homeland Security and AfPak policy are not going as planned.

In late October this year, Pakistan welcomed the new US Ambassador, Cameron Munter, who replaced Anne Patterson. Earlier this month, the US Consular General in Peshawar Elizabeth Rood was also called back due to security reasons. Meanwhile, the passing away of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, would no doubt impact the search for a political solution.

Since May of this year some important changes have taken place with in the Obama administration. In October, the National Security Advisor Jim Jones was replaced, and the same month Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel also resigned his position. Top economic adviser to the While House Larry Summer announced his intentions to leave in September, while General Stanley McChrystal lost his post as the top US General in Afghanistan in June. Around the same time frame, James R. Clapper Jr. substituted Dennis Blair, as the Director of the Office of National Intelligence.

The change in personnel could also be a reflection that US intends to adopt a course correction. Although the review of US Afghan strategy announced revealed no significant surprises, it does mention a growing concern as it relates to the role of Pakistan, a close ally of China.

On the other hand, while visiting India recently, key European leaders from France, Germany, and England, came out with a consistent warning messages for Pakistan. The Russian Ambassador to India asked Pakistan yesterday to close militant training camps operating from the country and prevent the spread of extremism.

In our assessment, the first evidence indicating that the reset in US AfPak policy has been initiated, is the expansion of drone attacks in Pakistan to Khyber Agency. PoliTact recently evaluated the dynamics of insurgency and extremism in Khyber Agency of FATA, and pointed out to the far-reaching consequences that the destabilization of Khyber Agency could have. If indeed Lashkar-e-Islam has been targeted, the chances of the group forming a firm alliance with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would grow considerably.

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