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July 14, 2008

Pakistan's Vicious Circle
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Because we have no cohesive policy for the Pakistan/Afghanistan frontier, where both a reconstituted al Qaeda and Taliban continue to assert themselves, the situation there has devolved into a vicious circle of blame and unaccountability devoid of progress or substantive solutions:

North West Frontier Province governor Owais Ghani said such actions could make it impossible for the government to keep struggling against militancy.

The US is frustrated with what they see as insufficient efforts by Islamabad to fight militants on the Afghan border.

That has fuelled Pakistani concerns of increased US intervention.

We are really at a point of strategic stalemate there where neither side knows exactly how to act without angering one-another or endangering an area of tactical importance. We can't attack militants there without undermining the Pakistani government. And the Pakistani government can't act because their political situation is so precarious to begin with. And yet when we do try to act and pick up the slack, this happens:

[North West Frontier Province governor Owais Ghani] said that he would be "deeply concerned" about any increase in unilateral US airstrikes in tribal areas.

"This has a great backlash in the public sentiment, public opinion," he said. "It seriously undermines the much needed backing of the population.

And that's just trying to deal with the Pakistani aspect of the problem:

"Today Afghanistan is a narco-state, that itself is a huge contributor of instability in Afghanistan."

Mr Ghani said Afghanistan was "a failed state now, which means it's a long term problem."

"Placing all the blame at Pakistan's doorstep is wrong."

Stability between the two countries was linked, he argued, and there would be no peace in the tribal areas without peace in Afghanistan, which required talking to the Taleban.



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The problem with the Bush administration's policy with Pakistan is that it relied upon only upon the current Pakistani president and made no attempt to contact oppositional figures inside the country. The United States has to some have a contingency plan if Pakistan implodes and in order to stabilize the situation in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the future administration must work the regional powers of India and Iran.

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