March 15, 2010Af-PakAfghanistanForeign AffairsPakistanRealismSecurityTalibanUnited States

Sense in Washington

…but outside the corridors of power

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Ashley J Tellis’s testimony before the US House of Representatives subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia is one of the most clear-headed assessments in Washington.

The only lasting solution to this danger is to press Pakistan to target groups such as LeT conclusively. Many in the United States imagine that the fix actually lies in pressing India to make peace with Pakistan; such an outcome would eliminate the Pakistani military’s incentives to support a sub- conventional conflict against New Delhi—or so the theory goes. There is no doubt that a lasting reconciliation between India and Pakistan would be fundamentally in the interests of both countries— and of the United States. To that degree, Washington should certainly use its influence with both India and Pakistan to encourage the dialogue that leads to a resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the vexed problem of Kashmir. But, unfortunately for those who advocate pressing India, the impediments to a lasting peace in South Asia do not emanate from New Delhi. Rather, they are incubated in Islamabad, or to be more precise, in Rawalpindi.

So long as the Pakistani Army and the security establishment more generally conclude that their private interests (and their conception of the national interest) are undermined by a permanent reconciliation between India and Pakistan, they will not rid themselves of the terrorist groups they have begotten and which serve their purposes—irrespective of what New Delhi or Kabul or Washington may desire. This fact ought to be understood clearly by the Obama administration. Once it is, it may push the United States to either compel Pakistan to initiate action against LeT or hold Pakistan responsible for the actions of its proxies. If these efforts do not bear fruit, the United States will have to contemplate unilateral actions (or cooperative actions with other allies) to neutralize the most dangerous of the terrorist groups now resident in Pakistan. Doing so may be increasingly necessary not simply to prevent a future Indo-Pakistani crisis, but more importantly to protect the United States, its citizens, its interests, and its allies. [Tellis/US House of Representatives (pdf)]

Another sound assessment comes from Fareed Zakaria:

Pakistan’s military retains its obsession with India — how else to justify a vast budget in a poor nation? It has still not acted seriously against any of the major militant groups active against Afghanistan, India or the United States. The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Lashkar-e-Taiba and many smaller groups operate with impunity in Pakistan. But the Pakistani military is doing more than it has before, and that counts as success in the world of foreign policy.

Such success will endure only if the Obama administration keeps at it. Some believe that Pakistan has changed its basic strategy and now understands that it should cut ties to these groups altogether. Strangely, this naive view is held by the U.S. military, whose top brass have spent so many hours with their counterparts in Islamabad that they’ve gone native. It’s up to Obama and his team to remind the generals that pressing Pakistan is a lot like running on a treadmill. If you stop, you move backward — and most likely fall down. [WP]



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