Some interesting reading. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/962sandw.asp
To begin with, numerous senators spoke of the Afghan-Pakistan border area as though there were no border--forces poured into Afghanistan would somehow directly affect what was going on in Pakistan or, alternatively, the real al Qaeda was on the Afghan side where U.S. troops could get at them. Speaking ethnographically, of course, there is no border--the Durand
Line that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan cuts the Pashtun nation just about in half, and the porous border has seen decades of happy smuggling. But the border is very real both to our forces and to their enemies. Our troops know that they cannot cross into Pakistan, and the enemy knows it too. That's why the bases of the "real" al Qaeda are not in Afghanistan--American troops in Afghanistan report very few al Qaeda fighters and those they do come across are mostly operating out of Pakistani bases. The al Qaeda bases that harbor Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and the other al Qaeda leaders plotting the attacks against which the Intelligence Community warns are in Pakistan--principally Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Chitral in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).
This supplies some context around McCain's criticism of Obama's proposal to strike inside Afghanistan. Here's a link to Obama's side of the story: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/367/. From reading the above article, my reading of the situation--and I'm obviously no military expert--is that when Obama advocates "taking action" against Pakistan, he means minimalist strikes with special forces and Predator drones against specific Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan. McCain is more aware of the scope of the problem and assumes Obama means something big enough to actually dent Al Qaeda (which would probably entail ground troops moreso than bombing, a literal invasion, but being a pilot McCain speaks in terms of bombing first) and simultaneously threaten Pakistan's sovereignty. Obama's camp accuses McCain of twisting Obama's words, but in actuality McCain is simply overestimating Obama's military competency: Obama may be right that special forces operations and Predator strikes would be diplomatically feasible, but they simply wouldn't be effective. Obama is showing his inexperience.
Another interesting quote from the Pakistan article:
To the question, "Is there really nothing we can do unless we send more troops?" the answer is unequivocally that there is something we can do. Congress can do it, in fact, and very quickly. Pass the supplemental defense appropriation that would allow development money to flow reliably to our soldiers in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. The advantage of Afghanistan's poverty (for us) is that a little money goes a long way. American soldiers have increasingly been leveraging development funds to starve the insurgency of recruits in a way similar to what has worked in Iraq (but tailored appropriately to conditions in Afghanistan).
Apparently some of the institutional competency gained in Iraq is transferring to other regions. [Blog readers, if you exist: please take a moment to peruse http://www.spiritofamerica.net/.] That's good news.
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