The Asianist

Balanced and fact-based analysis of Asian affairs

Posts Tagged ‘us pakistan relations

STRATFOR’s George Friedman on the Endgame in Afghanistan

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STRATFOR’s George Friedman reads the tea leaves on the Afghanistan endgame and US-Pakistan relations:

In the end, the United States will leave Afghanistan (with the possible exception of some residual special operations forces). Pakistan will draw Afghanistan back into its sphere of influence. Pakistan will need American support against India (since China doese navy to protect Pakistan’s coast). The United States will need Pakistan to do the basic work of preventing an intercontinental al Qaeda from forming again. Reflecting on the past 10 years, Pakistan will see that as being in its national interest. The United States will use Pakistan to balance India while retaining close ties to India.

A play will be acted out like the New Zealand Haka, with both sides making terrible sounds and frightening gestures at each other. But now that the counter-insurgency concept is being discarded, from all indications, and a fresh military analysis is under way, the script is being rewritten and we can begin to see the end shaping up. The United States is furious at Pakistan for its willingness to protect American enemies. Pakistan is furious at the United States for conducting attacks on its sovereign territory. In the end it doesn’t matter. They need each other. In the affairs of nations, like and dislike are not meaningful categories, and bullying and treachery are not blocks to cooperation. The two countries need each other more than they need to punish each other. Great friendships among nations are built on less.

Read the full thing here. And get The Asianist’s take on US-Pakistan relations here and here.

What The US Should Not Do About Pakistan

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With the arrests of several CIA informants by the Pakistani government and reports that top generals are demanding that army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani distance himself from the United States, the temptation in Washington will be to lash out at Pakistan for betrayal and take various retaliatory steps. The US Congress House Appropriations Committee, for instance, has decided to withhold most of the billion dollars in aid Washington doles out to Islamabad.

As US officials such as Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen have said and The Asianist has argued before, this is a short-sighted approach. Like it or not, the US needs Pakistan, not just in Afghanistan, but for broader regional stability and security. As in all its relationships, Washington should be prepared to make short-term adjustments to ensure their long-term viability.

The wisest course would be to give Pakistan some room to breathe. Its military and intelligence services have come under harsh criticism in recent months for either being pawns of the United States or incompetent institutions. That seething discontent has built as the list of incidents has widened: the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis after he killed two Pakistanis, a US Navy Seals raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, and a sophisticated terrorist assault on a Pakistani naval base.

In other words, the Pakistani state, in its role as an ally (to whatever degree) of the United States against terrorism, now faces a serious threat from terrorists willing to topple a US stooge amid some of the fiercest anti-Americanism in both the military and among the population. The fate of Gen. Kayani, who is reportedly less anti-American than most of his other colleagues, hangs in the balance.

In such a state of crisis, the logical solution for Pakistan’s military would be to create the perception of distance from the United States to cool some heads and perhaps buy it some bargaining room with terrorist outfits in Pakistan that usually target the United States rather than the Pakistani state.

And that is exactly what it is doing. Its army leadership has offered to reduce its reliance on US military aid and training, set limits on US intelligence operations, and has now arrested CIA informants.

This is no doubt a hard pill to swallow for the United States. But Washington’s main interest right now is to see a return to a stable Pakistan with a military that has regained its footing to be a partner in the future. And the alternative: potential state fragmentation with a paralyzed military, chronic levels of anti-Americanism and sophisticated terrorists in a country with nuclear weapons, is a scary one even to contemplate.

Written by Prashanth Parameswaran

June 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thinking About US Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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Following the siege on Pakistan’s naval airbase in Karachi, the voices calling for isolating or punishing Pakistan are growing ever louder. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.

From what has been revealed thus far, it is probably true that the militants penetrated the high-security naval facility with insider information; and perhaps even assistance from ex-servicemen or serving military personnel. This pattern of jihadist activity supported by elements of the Pakistani state is deeply troubling and all too familiar, given the recent killing of Osama bin Laden by American forces less than two miles from a prestigious military academy and sixty miles from the capital. The incident is also worrying because it illustrates that jihadists seem increasingly bent on targeting crucial parts of the Pakistani state, which raises questions about the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Despite all this, those calling for the United States to isolate Pakistan, cut off assistance, or strong-arm Pakistan into ‘neutralizing’ its nuclear arsenal (whatever that means), are wrong. Like it or not, history has shown us that sanctions and isolation towards Pakistan only exacerbate mistrust, increase anti-Americanism and deepen Islamabad’s insecurity and consequent reliance on jihadist groups.

Furthermore, as others have argued, the jihadist strategy in Pakistan is designed to create the perception that the country’s security forces are unable to protect an increasingly failed state, thereby prompting the United States to increase its own military footprint in the country and increase pressure on Islamabad. This would further fan the flames of anti-Americanism, fill the ranks of jihadist groups and commit Washington to yet another quagmire. The United States should not take the bait, even if some hotheads inadvertently are.

A more nuanced strategy for the US in Pakistan needs to begin with a firm grasp of Washington’s interests in Pakistan and South Asia more generally. Washington not only wants to avoid Pakistan serving as a base for terrorist groups to attack the US or an actor in further illicit WMD proliferation, but sees its future economic and political development and further cooperation with India as a crucial part of a stable South Asian region. Realizing these interests requires an approach that achieves balance in geographic focus, time horizon and dimension. If the elements of the strategy outlined below seem trite, that is because they are. Most reports on US-Pakistan relations (see for example here and here) contain roughly the same recommendations, and there is a risk that they oversimplify complex policy problems and complicated ground realities. They are nonetheless worth noting to ensure the right mindset moving forward.

Simply put, the strategy the US should pursue in Pakistan has three parts: contain extremism; construct a long-term relationship with Pakistan; and create the space for regional peace and development.

First, the US should help Pakistan contain extremism to ensure that it does not act as a breeding ground for terrorist attacks in the US, cause a collapse or severe disruption of the Pakistani state, undermine the security of Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal, or stoke tensions and potential conflict with India. Given the divisions within the Pakistani state, divergent interests and deep distrust between the US and Pakistan, and the dominance of anti-Americanism in the country, this will likely be pursued through a range of alternatives, including military assistance, information-sharing, targeted drone strikes and and other covert or clandestine operations.

Second, the seeds must be sown for a broader long-term partnership between the US and Pakistan to promote trust and to further the interests of both countries. Potential avenues for cooperation should include new initiatives such as an agreement in US Congress to grant preferential market access to Pakistani textiles, increasing IMET program opportunities for Pakistani military officers, and reforming the way US assistance is disbursed and the programs it targets so that is is more transparent and effective.

Third, since the roots of jihadist extremism lie in Pakistan’s insecurities vis-a-vis other countries in its neighborhood (eg. the potential threat of a two front war with India and Afghanistan), any sustainable solution needs to have a strong regional component. That includes trying to foster peace between India and Pakistan, continuing to forge a strong partnership with India, and encouraging greater regional economic cooperation.

Perhaps most critically, even as it draws down from Afghanistan, Washington must ensure that the Afghan security forces are adequately equipped, and that political reform is sufficiently broad-based, in order to prevent civil war or the return of a Taliban-dominated state that could further destabilize Pakistan and lead to conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad. While policymakers are quick to point out that spending billions of dollars a month in Afghanistan is not sustainable for the United States, they should also remember that neglecting Afghanistan is not a sustainable solution either, since that approach in the 1980s turned the country into a breeding ground for terrorism and led to September 11. And while it is easy to be pessimistic about Afghanistan, there is growing evidence that pursuing negotiation may be a workable option, and that Afghans are feeling more positive about their country than they did in past.

In David Ignatius’ new work of fiction, Bloodmoney, the director general of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), General Mohammed Malik, muses about how Americans’ specialty is lying to themselves. The seething resentment toward Pakistan and the knee-jerk aversion to further resource commitments in the AfPak region in Washington may prevent the United States from pursuing a multi-dimensional, long-term strategy in Pakistan today. But US policymakers should not mislead themselves into thinking that anything short of such an approach will fix a fraught US-Pakistan relationship and lead to a more stable South Asia tomorrow.


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