How Should the U.S. React to the Kidnapping of Warren Weinstein?
by RYAN MAURO
December 6, 2011
On August 13, a 70-year old Jewish-American named Warren Weinstein was kidnapped from his home in Pakistan. Ayman al-Zawahiri has released a tape claiming he is in Al-Qaeda’s custody and his fate will be decided by whether the U.S. gives into his demands. He’s believed to be under the control of Pakistani Taliban commander Tariq Afridi, who operates out of the tribal town of Darra Adam Khel near Peshawar, but there are reportedly no credible leads on Weinstein’s exact location. What is the United States to do?
The first thing the U.S. must do is inform Pakistan that it will be held responsible for Weinstein’s fate. This would not have happened if Pakistan lived up to the same responsibilities that all of the world’s countries are expected to. If there is any intelligence service that can find Weinstein, it’s Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service. Should it fail to do so, Pakistan should receive just as much blame as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. There are specific, long overdue punishments that Pakistan must face if Weinstein’s life is lost.
The second action that must be taken is to ideologically pressure Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan. This is an opportunity to bring attention to the goodness of America and the evil of the Islamist terrorists. Weinstein is not an enemy combatant. He is not even near the age to become a combatant if he wished. He is an aid worker who has devoted his life to helping others, especially Pakistanis. He set up scholarships for students in the tribal areas to study the gem trade. He’s helped improve the dairy market. His job was to develop Pakistan. His story should become known to all Pakistanis as an example of how America is helping them and the terrorists are hurting them.
The U.S. must also use the kidnapping to embarrass Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and to stop them from using it to try to appear strong. The U.S. and its allies must emphasize how cowardly of an act this is and depict it as an act of weakness. The fact that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has to resort to kidnapping 70-year old aid workers should be used against them.
Muslim governments that covet their ties to the U.S. should be asked to pressure their imams to condemn the act. Again, Weinstein is not an enemy combatant and even some anti-American Islamists will view his kidnapping as uncalled for. Although I do not agree with all of his suggestions, former Egyptian terrorist Tawfik Hamid makes a wise recommendation. He says that Islamic scripture should be used to condemn Weinstein’s captors. It is important that the U.S. do everything it can to stir debate within the Islamic world about such events.
Unfortunately, the odds are not high that Weinstein’s life will be saved and so a response must be prepared should the terrorists kill him.
The U.S. must steal the headline from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The world’s headlines should not read, “Al-Qaeda Kills American Hostage.” They must read, “Al-Qaeda Kills American Hostage; U.S. Launches Massive Strikes on Terror Havens.”
When President Obama came into office, he was given a list of 150 terrorist camps inside Pakistan. Some have since been destroyed but plenty remain, along with safehouses, front businesses and other terrorist entities. The U.S. must immediately respond to the announcement of Weinstein’s death with military action that demonstrates our strength, makes terrorists (and those who do business with them, such as the kidnappers who may have sold Weinstein) second-guess the wisdom of their actions and raises the cost to Pakistan for taking the enemy’s side. By doing this, Al-Qaeda will be prevented from having any boost in morale or prestige. His death must be remembered as something that brought misery to Al-Qaeda and its allies, not joy.
The U.S. should also have a strategy that becomes incrementally more aggressive towards Pakistan. If there is any information indicating that Pakistan is protecting Zawahiri or Commander Afridi, it should be released. If a specific ISI operative is tied to them, his assets should be frozen. Further cuts in aid to Pakistan must happen. The target list for the drone campaign should be expanded and U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be permitted to return fire across the border. Our troops deserve to have the threat to their lives minimized and sites used to kill them should not have immunity.
If Pakistan’s behavior does not immediately change, the State Department should reverse its decision to not include the country on its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” for violations of religious freedom. The case of Asia Bibi, a mother who has been sentenced to death for criticizing Islam after converting to Christianity, should be taken up. There should be open discussion in Congress about designating the ISI as a terrorist group, as was done with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or at least its S-Wing that is most involved.
Richard Miniter offers some additional ideas. He suggests eliminating our dependency on Pakistan by building a supply route to Afghanistan through India, preferably in secret. Allies in central Asia should be used to airlift supplies. The U.S. can also insist that AT&T and other companies change their business arrangements with Pakistan in order to financially punish the country.
The hard truth is that the U.S. isn’t doing everything in its power to save Warren Weinstein or our soldiers in Afghanistan. Pakistan must be forced to do everything it can to find him and if his life is taken, he deserves to be honored with more than condolences.