Does the solution to Afghanistan’s problems lie in Pakistan?

Does the solution to Afghanistan’s problems lie in Pakistan? The American and Afghan governments seem to think so. Admittedly, that line of thought is true to some extent. However, a weak Afghan government and the U.S. presence also contribute to exacerbating security issues in the region as Islamic militancy has been on a constant rise within Pakistan since the start of U.S. war in Afghanistan as many Pakistanis see themselves as engaged in someone else’s war. America and Pakistan may not share similar interests in Afghanistan, yet Pakistan also needs a somewhat stable Afghanistan for the sake of it’s own internal security, otherwise its risks constant attacks on its own people and threats from separatist Pashtuns in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa among other things.

Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA officer and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institue, wrote in an article in The New York Times last Thursday that America needs a new policy of containment towards Pakistan.” We must contain the Pakistani Army’s ambitions until real civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy”, wrote Riedel. The military he criticizes is the same one that the United States has been supporting and dealing directly with for decades. While Riedel critiques the Pakistani government for not being a “real civilian” regime, his suggestion for change in American policy towards Pakistan are still focused on negotiation with the military rather than offering any insight on engaging with the civilian government.

“Military assistance to Pakistan should be cut deeply”, continues Riedel, “Regular contacts between our officers and theirs can continue, but under no delusion that we are allies.” Although I do not support the U.S. military aid to Pakistan, if the American’s believe that Pakistan’s military is the major force that can limit terrorism in Afghanistan and India then limiting military aid would only disable the military in performing their task, or push them to being more openly antagonistic towards Afghanistan, India and the United States.

I find it counter-productive for the United States and Afghanistan to focus on only one aspect of the problem. Yes, the Pakistani intelligence agency has tendencies of playing the dual game, but rather than speaking about the whole picture that includes reforms within Afghanistan to stabilize the government and the issues with U.S. strategy in the region, Karzai and the United States have shifted their entire focus on the Pakistani army’s perceived influence over the Taliban as key to peace in the region.

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One thought on “Does the solution to Afghanistan’s problems lie in Pakistan?

  1. Nice post…and yes, the solution to Afghanistan does depend on Pakistan, though not in the way Washington would mean that. Washington needs to recognize that Pakistan and Afghanistan have both conflicting national interests and intertwined national interests: they are inevitably partners in a complicated dance, or to put it more formally, the two constitute a complex-adaptive system that is evolving in response to the actions of each.

    More realistically, both India and Iran need to be encompassed in the calculation of what policies will be effective vis-a-vis either Pakistan or Afghanistan.

    Any effort to make any one of these states primarily a U.S. ally or enemy will be doomed from the start. The path to stability and good governance almost certainly starts with recognition that the U.S. is peripheral to this region. U.S. insistence on labeling “good guys” and “bad guys” is just going to fan the flames of unrest; U.S. military presence does the same. Washington should search for a regional compromise that would offer each regional society some benefit over the long run and be satisfied to see U.S. involvement decline and the region’s states focus on their own internal development.

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