“¦Pakistani military and civilian Ã©lite also fear that the United States may collaborate with India, naÃ¯vely or deliberately, to weaken Pakistan, by supporting governments in Kabul”¦
- Pakistan’s cooperation continued to be identified at the policymaking level in the United States as the key in Washington’s efforts to eliminate the Taliban militia in Afghanistan and maintain an extremely shaky Hamid Karzai regime there. Whether Pakistan was positively and explicitly identified in this way or it merely seemed so in the absence of any other policy remains arguable. It is possible that Washington’s “policy” was sheer desperation.
- After procuring Islamabad’s continuing assistance to eliminate the Taliban from Afghanistan, the United States must protect Pakistan from a socio-political takeover by a Taliban-like orthodox Islamic militia, which made its appearance as early as in 2005.
- Washington would work toward bringing in a democratic system in Islamabad, albeit slowly and carefully, while acknowledging at every step the commitment of the present pro-Washington military leadership in Pakistan to the well-being of the United States. This eventually occurred in 2008, but not before the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. That assassination—and the tell-tale signs of the involvement of the Musharraf regime, on whom the Bush administration had depended without really trusting in its “war or terror”—further eroded U.S. trust in Pakistan.
- Washington must protect Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf physically from hostile forces within Pakistan and also make available to him some financial aid to help Pakistan’s flagging economy. Washington succeeded in this area, but the financial aid did not help the Pakistani people as much as it helped the Pakistani military.
Many walking the corridors of power in the United States are now concerned about the future of the U.S.–Pakistan relationship. Although none of these policymakers, or the analysts they listen to, have a clear view as to how to improve it, they have been busy formulating “what the United States must not do” rather than what the United States could do. An example of this is worth quoting at length.
They interpret Indias goals in Afghanistan as a strategy of encirclement of Pakistan, punctuated by the tactic of promoting instability among Pakistans restive Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi populations.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 1 October 2009, the New America Foundation’s Steve Coll stresses that the success of Pakistan—”its emergence as a stable, modernizing, prosperous, pluralistic country, at peace with its neighbors and within its borders, and integrated economically in South and Central Asia—is obviously important, even vital, not only to the United States but to the broader international community.” Coll then points to “one obstacle to the emergence of such a Pakistan”—namely the deeply held views of the Pakistani military and security elite. But his subsequent explanation of these views reads like a justification.
For instance, one deeply held view within the Pakistani security services is that Washington will abandon the region once it has defeated or disabled al-Qaeda. “Pakistani generals correctly fear that a precipitous American withdrawal from Afghanistan would be destabilizing, and that it would strengthen Islamist radical networks, including but not limited to the Taliban, who are today destabilizing Pakistan as well as the wider region,” says Coll. “Alternatively or concurrently, sections of the Pakistani military and civilian élite also fear that the United States may collaborate with India, naïvely or deliberately, to weaken Pakistan, by supporting governments in Kabul that at best are hostile to Pakistani interests or at worst facilitate Indian efforts to destabilize, disarm or even destroy the Pakistani state.”
Coll continues: “The Pakistan military’s tolerance of the Taliban and similar groups is rooted in a belief that Pakistan requires unconventional forces, in addition to a nuclear deterrent, to offset India’s conventional military and industrial might. This self-defeating logic of existential insecurity has informed Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan because Pakistani generals have seen an Indian hand in Kabul since the days of the Soviet invasion. They interpret India’s goals in Afghanistan as a strategy of encirclement of Pakistan, punctuated by the tactic of promoting instability among Pakistan’s restive Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi populations.
“Pakistan has countered this perceived Indian strategy by developing Islamist militias such as the predominantly Pashtun Taliban and the Punjab-based Lashkar-e-Taiba as proxies for Pakistan in regional conflicts and as a means to destabilize India. As for the U.S. role, Pakistani generals see it as inconstant and unreliable, based on the pattern of here-and-gone U.S. engagement in the past, and they also tend to believe that the U.S. is today lashing itself, deliberately or naïvely, to Indian strategy in the region.”
In other words, in the service of stabilising Pakistan—and in the process the region—Coll virtually endorses Pakistan’s accusations that India is “promoting instability among Pakistan’s restive Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi populations” and, as an adjunct, justifies Islamabad’s developing of terrorist jihadis in order to keep Pakistan’s “enemy,” India, from undoing Pakistan’s stability.