Is anyone paying attention to what Obama is saying?
In his interview with CBS News, Obama says:
Logan: Because you do have a situation seven years on into this war where Osama bin Laden and all his lieutenants and all the leaders of the Taliban, they’re still there. And they’re inside Pakistan.
Obama: Right. It’s a huge problem. And first of all, if we hadn’t taken our eye off the ball, we might have caught them before they got into Pakistan and were able to reconstitute themselves.
Several times in recent interviews, Obama has referred to “taken our eye off the ball” in terms of the invasion of Iraq, which began in March of 2003. We don’t know precisely when Osama bin Laden entered Pakistan, but it is generally believed that he escaped Tora Bora and crossed the border sometime in late November or the beginning of December 2001.
Somehow the U.S. took its collective eyes off the ball to prevent an event that occurred in December 2001 by sending troops to another country starting in March 2002 for an invasion that began in 2003.
It’s not as if the geopolitical challenges of sending U.S. troops into Pakistan suddenly appeared in March 2003. Once Osama crossed the border, the potential cost of pursuing him –i.e., a civil war in a country with nuclear weapons — became higher and the consequences became riskier.
Also note that CBS’ Lara Logan forces Obama to concede that his oft-touted call to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory is actually current U.S. policy.
Logan: Isn’t that the case now? I mean, do you really think that if the U.S. forces had Osama bin Laden in their sights and the Pakistanis said no, that they wouldn’t fire or wouldn’t go after him?
Obama: I think actually this is current doctrine. There was some dispute when I said this last August. Both the administration and some of my opponents suggested, well, you know, you shouldn’t go around saying that. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that that should be our policy, and will continue to be our policy.
Logan: But it is the current policy.
Obama: I believe it is the current policy.
Logan: So there’s no change then.
Obama: I don’t think there is going to be a change there.
And that Obama and Logan get stuck in a merry-go-round of “I’ll get the Pakistanis to destroy the training camps”/”What if they won’t?”
Obama: I think that in order for us to be successful, it’s not going to be enough just to engage in the occasional shot fired. We’ve got training camps that are growing and multiplying…
Logan: Would you take out all those training camps?
Obama: Well, I think that what we’d like to see is the Pakistani government take out those training camps.
Logan: And if they won’t?
Obama: Well, I think that we’ve got to work with them so they will.
Logan: But would you consider unilateral U.S. action?
Obama: You know, I will push Pakistan very hard to make sure that we go after those training camps. I think it’s absolutely vital to the security interests of both the United States and Pakistan.
Again, it’s not that it’s never dawned on Musharraff or the Pakistani government that cracking down on al-Qaeda and Taliban training camps is a good idea. It’s that they fear the entire region would turn against the Pakistani government, with additional questions of loyalty of the ISI.