The Pakistani government never controlled the tribal regions in Northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border. The Pashtun tribes are fiercely independent and reside in rough mountainous terrain. It’s a poor operational environment for any military force.

The Taliban formed in Waziristan and regenerates its forces in the region’s madrassas.

The Pakistan military waged a war between 2004-6 against the Pashtuns in the tribal areas to suppress the Taliban. In 2006, the Pakistan government agreed to a ceasefire so long as the Taliban expells foreign militants and polices its own territory.

Last winter, the Taliban had a falling out with some al-Qaeda affiliates, namely the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks and Pashtuns distrust one another. It appears that the Uzbeks offended some local Pashtuns and the local Taliban commanders retaliated against the IMU. After a few months, it appeared that 200 or more Uzbek militants were killed in the small war and many more fled the area.

On the other hand, it appears that at least one cluster of al-Qaeda leaders, including Zawahiri, are provided safe harbor in Waziristan.

The recent incident at the Red Mosque brought the tribes and Pakistan back to war. The Taliban terminated the ceasefire agreement and is setting off suicide bombers. The Pakistan military moved over 10,000 troops to the region so far, and may enter Waziristan shortly.

What can we do about it? Not much.

Lee Hamilton suggests the US invade Pakistan. Brilliant. No, wait, retarded.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, who also served as the vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, says the Iraq war distracted the United States when it had al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on the run in the tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He says it’s now time to finish the job.

“This has to be carefully calibrated, worked out with the Pakistanis, but I am very concerned that you have a safe haven in Pakistan today where they (al Qaeda) can regroup, rethink, and get ready for more attacks,” Hamilton said on CNN’s “Newsroom” on Wednesday.

Let me make this clear. We are discussing invading an American ally. Should we at least consider the repercussions first? Pakistan will be 100 times worse than Iraq.

The idea that Iraq was a “distraction” is a non-sequitor. It did not affect force deployments to Afghanistan or Pakistan. Additional forces in Afghanistan would not have improved the security situation there, nor would it have eliminated the Taliban in Waziristan. Al-Qaeda has already been chased out of Afghanistan.

What are our options?
1) Let Pakistan contain the Taliban to Waziristan while the US prevents Taliban attacks on Afghanistan
2) Encourage Pakistan to invade Waziristan and risk an Islamist uprising
3) The US invades Waziristan to destroy the Taliban and suppress the tribes.
4) Limited US airstrikes

The US can only deploy a limited number of special forces, the 10th Mountain Infantry and perhaps the Airborne divisions. This is not sufficient to subdue the vast region with a COIN strategy. How could we even supply them? Logistics in a land-locked mountainous region is difficult and that’s an understatement. The invasion would provoke the tribes and the Taliban who can raise anywhere up to 10million possible combatants. Any uprising would destabalize the Pakistani government. Nor would US invasion will not be supported by the Pakistanis.

As far as limited interventions go, airstrikes alone will not break the Taliban. The Taliban easily regenerate forces if airstrikes are not followed by infantry. The US may assist a Pakistani led invasion of the region with airpower and intelligence, but even this has risks. The Pakistanis like to pretend that this is an internal issue and they do not want to be associated with the Americans.

This is ultimately a Pakistani war. The Pakistanis can pressure and contain the Taliban. If the Pakistanis strike Waziristan, US will serve as the Anvil in Afghanistan. Our current containment strategy has worked so far to limit the crisis and prevent a widespread war. It’s a cautious strategy because it reflects our limited options.

Unfortunately, many politicians are reckless in their calls for war on Pakistan. For some godforsaken reason, they claim that Iraq was a mistake but want to plunge us into a vastly worse war. There is no solution to the Waziristan problem.