Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, November 19, 2007

NYT Leaks Again, To Detriment Of War

It's a pipsqueak by comparison, but today's NY Times leak-driven story on the new Dept. of Defense planning for alliances in the tribal regions of Afghanistan is not entirely unlike the paper leaking details of the Normandy invasion during the months leading up to D-Day.
A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said.

If adopted, the proposal would join elements of a shift in strategy that would also be likely to expand the presence of American military trainers in Pakistan, directly finance a separate tribal paramilitary force that until now has proved largely ineffective and pay militias that agreed to fight Al Qaeda and foreign extremists, officials said.
We're not talking a lot of U.S. troops here -- just the current 50 or so growing by "dozens." Any U.S. troops in the tribal regions of Pakistan are already at high risk of terrorist attack, and this story won't calm down the Islamists any.

Its real risk, though, is against the tribal leaders with whom we hope to ally. Until today, they were just tribal leaders under the watchful and threatening eye of Islamists, who have shown in Iraq and Afghanistan alike their eagerness to assassinate any leader who affiliates with the Americans. Now, they are potential U.S. allies.

We know that already this story has been translated and is circulating amidst al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan. They know the best tactic against the U.S.: Ruthlessly murder a few of the potential U.S. allies and their families, leave them beheaded in pools of blood, and let the other potential allies consider the road ahead.

Without the NYT, special ops forces could have quietly begun working with the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force recruited from the various border tribes. Granted, their presence there would have been known soon enough, but it would have been known on our terms, not the NYT's terms.

NYT acknowledges that aspects of the new effort have already been leaked by the LA Times and WaPo. These stories dealt with increased aid to the region and did not put soldiers or their allies at risk. The NYT got the leak on the military support and joined the leak-fest to avoid being journalistically one-upped.

The story itself is straightforward and remarkably non-critical, drawing parallels to successes in Anwar that it does not question ... much:
The proposal is modeled in part on a similar effort by American forces in Anbar Province in Iraq that has been hailed as a great success in fighting foreign insurgents there.
"Has been hailed as a great success" is about as positive as you'll get in the anti-military media today. But that sentence is followed with this:
But it raises the question of whether such partnerships, to be forged in this case by Pakistani troops backed by the United States, can be made without a significant American military presence in Pakistan.
Nowhere in the story is that concern addressed again, let alone attributed to any source, named or unnamed. Who raised the question? The three-reporter team it took to break the story? Did they, in raising the question, consider that by leaking the plan and putting the military and the tribal leaders at greater risk, and that they therefore may be contributing to the need for more than a few dozen additional troops?

Who knows? All we k now for sure is that beating the LAT and WaPo is reason enough to put soldiers' lives at greater risk.

See more coverage at memeorandum.

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