Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Pakistan Problem

The basic problem with Pakistan is that America needs them despite their concurrent actions that undermine American interests.

I'm not willing to say the American-Pakistani alliance is over (well, on the way to being over). But yes:

Pakistan crafted a strategy of cooperating with the U.S. in Afghanistan without going so far as to anger its Islamist elements. It walked a very fine line, and the government frequently went too far one way or the other. The United States understood the Pakistani dilemma and saw a stable and vaguely pro-American Pakistan as more important than a total commitment of Pakistan to the American war. Each was forced to get less than it needed from the other.

It is certainly true that the collapse of the USSR has freed democratic India to forge closer ties with America. And that threatens to isolate Pakistan as the odd man out.

Yes, Pakistan can look to China. But China is more focused on building up their economy to bolster their legitimacy. I'm not sure if China wants to take on the huge job of propping up Pakistan.

So I don't see the end of reasons for America and Pakistan to cooperate.

America does need Pakistan's help to prevent Afghanistan from being a haven to launch terror attacks abroad.

Pakistan does need American weapons and switching over to China after losing American support to maintain the weapons will not be easy.

And Pakistan can't afford to let "tame" Islamists gain too much power lest they go feral and turn fully against Pakistan.

Further, America does offer a way out:

"Our expectations are straightforward: Taliban and Haqqani leadership and attack planners should no longer be able to find safe haven or conduct operations from Pakistani soil," said Army Col. Robert Manning, who is the director of defense press operations at the Pentagon.

"This suspension is not a permanent cutoff at this time," Manning said. "Security funding and pending deliveries will be frozen, but not cancelled or reprogrammed at this time."

And I noted that America has long had to settle for a frenemy Pakistan who I've long described as the "black sheep" of our alliance structure.

Remember, even though pressuring Pakistan to be better is fully valid and needed, Pakistan could be far worse:

But I will caution that if Iran looked like Pakistan--a nuclear power with a troubled relationship as a frenemy--we'd call our Iran policy a tremendous success.

And we do need Pakistan for supply lines to Afghanistan.

And some help with Afghanistan is better than full opposition.

Yet we need more help from Pakistan to shut down jihadi sanctuaries in Pakistan that enable Afghan jihadis to fight on. That's the real point of a "regional" strategy for Afghanistan.

Perhaps the alliance is doomed to eventually end. But for now I imagine we'll muddle along. Because we both need to.

As an aside, the crucial role of Pakistan in if we are to resolve the problem of jihadi warfare in Afghanistan is one reason I rejected the notion that America was "distracted" from Afghanistan by the Iraq War. Half a million American troops in Afghanistan would still confront the Pakistani sanctuaries keeping the war going. And be reliant on Pakistan supply lines.

We'll see if Pakistan will take decisive action against the jihadis in Afghanistan who have shelter in Pakistan.

UPDATE: This kind of faux outrage is not a path to resolving the Pakistan problem:

Pakistan's army chief told a top U.S. general the nation "felt betrayed" at criticism that it was not doing enough to fight terrorism, the military said on Friday, after U.S. President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of "lies and deceit".

The nation of Pakistan is betrayed by the fools who sponsor jihadis as a means to maintain power and wealth at the expense of the rest of Pakistan.

America is their only hope to escape that betrayal.