Pak-US relationship: limited options

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, might have given a tough message to Pakistan when he recently visited the country but in Washington he made it clear that abandoning Pakistan was a “dangerous” option to pursue. “I think the worst thing we could do would be cut them off,” said Admiral Mullen. If the US distanced itself from Pakistan, “10 years from now, 20 years from now, we go back and it is much more intense and it's much more dangerous,” he asserted. It is obvious that Admiral Mullen does not want the US to repeat the same mistake as in 1989 after the Soviet troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. As soon as the Soviets left, the US left Pakistan to fend for itself vis-à-vis the Afghan jihad. From 1989-2001, Pakistan indulged the jihadists in Afghanistan for its own strategic depth doctrine. That this policy turned out to be not just self-destructive but had negative results for the region and arguably the world is no secret. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Americans now realise how big a blunder it was to leave Pakistan alone to deal with the jihadi mess.

By engaging with Pakistan, the US is looking for better results. What is important, though, is to nudge our military and intelligence agencies away from the double game they have been playing for far too long. If this does not happen, then the post-withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan might be grim – either the Taliban will agree to a power-sharing formula with the Karzai regime or they might take overall control of the country. In either case, attacks like the one that took place in Dir on Wednesday could escalate. A statement by the Pakistan government said the foreign secretary had “stressed the need for stern action by the Afghan army, US and NATO/ISAF forces in the area against militants and their hideouts in Afghanistan and against organisational support for the militants”. Hopefully, what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander; Pakistan must also stop cross-border terrorism.

The Americans have limited options when it comes to Pakistan. We, on the other hand, do have some options but have chosen the most dangerous option of all: running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Pakistan is not in a condition to form an ostensible alliance with the US while actually sabotaging the US’s efforts in Afghanistan through the Afghan Taliban. The risks of annoying the only superpower in the world are immense. It is important that our security establishment understands this before it is too late.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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