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January 21, 2010

Defining What We Want in Pakistan
Posted by Patrick Barry

I have to say I agree with Gregg Carlstrom – it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Pakistanis have balked at Secretary Gates' call for the Army to extend its campaign against militant groups to include the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network.  For that to happen, there would have to be a profound change in the way Pakistan calculates its national interests.  With that such an unlikely possibility, Gates is probably better off doing what Carlstrom recommends and shifting attention to the need for Pakistan to consolidate recent gains in Swat and South Waziristan.

Michael takes the Army's preference for mopping up groups that actually threaten its country as cause for pessimism, but I disagree.  He may have a point insofar as Afghanistan is concerned.  But when it comes to Pakistan, why should this be such a bad thing?  Shouldn’t we want Pakistan to solidify its hold over territories once controlled by militants? Just because the U.S. and Pakistan don’t “share interests,” on the question of militants primarily interested in destabilizing Afghanistan, doesn’t mean they can’t see eye-to-eye on the militant problem that threatens to unravel Pakistan. 

More broadly, it strikes me that the tendency of U.S. policy makers to leap over Pakistan’s problems to get to Afghanistan is based off an incorrect read of the balance of U.S. interests on either side of the Durand line.  Looking at Gates' comments, it's fair to infer that the Administration views stability in Pakistan as instrumental to success in Afghanistan.  But it’s actually the other way around.  The main reason stability in Afghanistan is so important, is because right next door there’s a country with a population of 160 million people, severe economic woes, an arsenal of nuclear weapons, a violent insurgency bent on toppling the state, AND to top things off, an international terrorist group responsible for 9/11. 


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What an excellent article. For the first time it seems the writer has shown empathy with a poor country whose peace has largely been destroyed because of bad US policies in the past.

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