The Ghosts at the Table: As these and other analy: sts’ views reflect, it has become evident that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship cannot be discussed without acknowledging the ghostlike presence of India and Afghanistan.
In an article in September’s Foreign Service Journal, “Pakistan: Washington’s Blind Spot in Afghanistan,” Malou Innocent, a policy scholar at the Washington-based Cato Institute, underscore’s the United States’ heavy reliance on Pakistan, “which allows 70 percent of U.S.-NATO military supplies to travel through its territory into landlocked Afghanistan.” Innocent identifies the dilemma for U.S. Pakistan policy in terms of the Afghanistan engagement thus: “In the long term,” Innocent says, “an alliance of the world’s largest democracies would be mutually advantageous, particularly given India’s sizable population, burgeoning economic potential and leverages against what former U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair has called a ‘more military, aggressive forward-looking’ China.” But, as she points out, “a long-term policy of engagement (by the United States) with India will likely make Pakistan less inclined to cooperate with the United States in the short term.”
“¦U.S. objectives toward Af-Pak tend to be seen principally through a military prism”¦
Frank Schell, Richard E. Friedman and Lauren Bean take a different approach in “American Foreign Policy toward Pakistan,” which appeared in the Chicago-based National Strategy Forum in August 2009, attempting to more clearly focus U.S. Pakistan policy within its regional context. Policy towards Pakistan should be centred on the shared U.S.–Pakistan objective, which is to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda: “U.S. objectives toward Af-Pak tend to be seen principally through a military prism, or as some might say, through the target acquisition sensors of a Predator drone.” However, in the post-9/11 days, the report says, U.S. policy towards Pakistan “evolved into support for democracy, drug interdiction, maintaining the dictatorial Musharraf and Karzai governments, winning over warlords, averting disintegration, and now fighting a rejuvenated Taliban insurgency to prevent the takeover of a nuclear-armed nation while protecting the Afghan countryside.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistani objective has in large part been to secure foreign aid and to assure regime survival, the report concludes, with just enough engagement with the Taliban to placate the U.S., but not enough to provoke a domestic crisis or coup d’etat by Taliban members or sympathisers within the army and ISI: “Further, Pakistan has used the strategic threat of India to justify the high profile and voracious appetite of its professional army, the most respected and capable of its institutions, and to rally public opinion behind various military and civilian governments.”
“¦the Pakistani objective has in large part been to secure foreign aid and to assure regime survival”¦
Schell et al. note that there is a widespread perception in Pakistan that the U.S. is interested only in its own selfish objectives, such as counterterrorism, military engagement with the Taliban, and the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons, rather than in the underlying social causes of unrest in the country. Some Pakistanis attribute U.S. interest in Pakistan to the country’s shared borders with China and Iran and its proximity to Russia and the Caspian oil region. The presence of the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan is identified as a cause of instability in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now renamed “Khyber-Paktunkhwa” by Islamabad, in view of the conflict being pushed into Pakistan.
“There is also a view that the lack of hands-on monitoring of U.S. aid, administered over decades, has contributed to a culture of corruption of major proportions, with very little support getting through to the intended recipients. Furthermore, some observers maintain that the U.S. will abandon Pakistan as soon as U.S. objectives are substantially met — above all, suppression of the Taliban and its influence. In the meantime, the U.S. is perceived as supporting an unstable and corrupt Pakistani government, all the while professing its commitment to democracy. The street in Pakistan reportedly harbors anger toward its own government and toward the United States, which it considers a facilitator of corruption. The Predator drone strikes, with their collateral civilian casualties, have incensed rural populations. The intelligentsia is generally less anti-American than the street, although it continues to be cynical about the U.S. and its intentions,” the Schell report says.
“¦that U.S. funding is directed at equipping the Pakistan army for a new type of warfare, and not for more armor, artillery and aircraft to be deployed against India.
As far as recommendations go, Schell et al. propose the following 10 steps:
“First, it must be recognized that there is no quick fix; it may take a decade or more to stabilize this part of South Asia. . . . There is no reason to assume that this generation of U.S. political leaders will have the world view, technology and ability to assure a positive outcome.
“Second, the focus of the Pakistan government, as well as that of the U.S. and other countries that seek a stable Pakistan, should be on offering a message of hope to the people of Af-Pak as a counter to the Taliban and other extremists’ recruitment and appeal. This is a battle of ideas for the minds of young people who have no alternative prospects in life. With a renewed effort at effective public diplomacy, leveraging global telecommunications, the U.S. may be able to sway public opinion in its favor and strike a blow to the Taliban stronghold.
“Third, the long-term solution is the provision of social services to the Pakistani people. . . . There should be a major branding effort to identify the U.S. as the source of these services, including a robust media campaign. It must also be understood that the underlying social conditions in Pakistan and the ‘haves versus have-nots’ conflict are the root cause of unrest in Pakistan. Poverty will continue to burden Pakistan in the absence of a comprehensive national strategy led by their government. Thus, U.S. aid should be directed at education, public health, food and basic social service needs and at rural reconstruction projects to provide opportunities for employment.
India needs to offer a positive and public signal to Pakistan. It must recognize that if Pakistan disintegrates, it will have a failed nuclear-armed territory on its frontiers with a likely hostile and unpredictable orientation.
“Fourth, a new humanitarian aid distribution and oversight mechanism must be developed and should involve official U.S., foreign NGOs, or neutral party advisors as monitors. . . .
“Fifth, the U.S. should emphasize and accelerate the training of the Pakistan army in CI (counterintelligence), HUMINT and psychological operations. Continued military aid should be subjected to the same control and scrutiny as humanitarian aid, so that there is confidence that U.S. funding is directed at equipping the Pakistan army for a new type of warfare, and not for more armor, artillery and aircraft to be deployed against India.