Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen insisted that the United States has “a clear national security interest” in taking on the Taliban in Afghanistan and that the 21,000 additional troops coming in the surge is “about right.” At the same time, Adm. Mullen cautioned that the attempt to reverse the Taliban’s gains in Afghanistan could have dire consequences for neighboring Pakistan.
“We can’t deny that our success in that regard may only push them deeper into Pakistan,” Mullen conceded, adding that “we may end up further destabilizing Pakistan without providing substantial lasting improvements in Afghanistan.” The Admiral’s only answer to this seemingly enormous problem was to call for more military and economic aid to Pakistan.
Pakistan is seemingly plenty destabilized as it is. Millions of civilians have been driven from their homes by a military offensive north of the capital city of Islamabad, and President Asif Ali Zardari intends to expand the war across the nation’s entire border with Afghanistan. He too seems to think the big answer to the growing problem is more international aid.
Pakistan’s stability has been a serious concern for the US, particularly given the nation’s significant arsenal of nuclear weapons. There has even been speculation that the US may attempt to seize the weapons from Pakistan, though whether they will or even can remains very much in doubt.