- delivery of supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan is being delayed significantly;
- radicals are shifting tactics to focus on NATO supply lines rather than domestic social issues;
- radical pressure against Pakistani goverment forces in both Bajaur and the Peshawar area is intensifying.
Predictions in the social sciences may be challenging, but viewing these trends in the context of the evident financial confusion in Washington suggests that the following prediction is fairly safe:
Prediction: the U.S. position in Central Asia will significantly worsen over the next 1-2 years.
Mullen's recent public expression of gratitude to the Pakistani government for its harsh anti-radical military campaign in Bajaur since August seems, in view of the above, discordent.
In defense of the above prediction, consider:
- To the degree that the radicals focus their attacks on NATO supply lines rather than Pakistani political opponents or innocent locals who happen to disagree with the radicals' social agenda, the radicals are likely to gain popularity. I am guessing that even many Pakistanis who look favorably on Western society and democracy will find unsettling the image of Western forces or their military supplies transiting their country.
- In the midst of a deepening financial crisis in the industrialized world (but not among the Taliban!), the radicals really don't have to defeat U.S. troops or even kill U.S. troops. They may achieve their goals simply by raising the financial cost. And they will of course be aware that this tactic of ambushing convoys in mountain passes worked brilliantly against the Soviets.
- Whatever the truth of the competing propaganda claims about which side is "winning" the battle of Bajaur militarily, it cannot be denied that when a government has to transform 400,000 of its own citizens into internal refugees in order to "save them" from the enemy, it has suffered a grievous sociological defeat.
Most Americans, now focusing on deepening personal financial problems, are probably under the impression that they just voted for world peace. When they wake up, perhaps around Christmas or in the middle of the winter or at the latest as the anticipated Taliban spring offensive starts next March, to the coming of another major war before Washington has even managed to extricate its troops from Iraq, they may not view the prospect with much patience.