How to Deal with Pakistan?

Dealing With Pakistan
By H.D.S. GREENWAY, New York Times, December 21, 2010

’Tis the season to bash Pakistan. That’s the message that leapt from the Obama administration’s Afghan strategy review last week. It’s Pakistan fault that we Americans are not winning the war, so we better get tough with Pakistan.

We “will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorists safe havens within their borders must be dealt with,” said President Obama. Others, such as retired Gen. Jack Keane, put it more bluntly: “Don’t just put a finger in their chest, put a fist in their chest.” But the message is the same — “U.S. Will Widen War On Militants Inside Pakistan,” headlined the New York Times. “Pentagon Planning More Attacks With Drones And Commandos.”

There can be no doubt of what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, called — in Pentagon-speak — “the criticality of Pakistan in terms of overall success.” But is putting a fist in Pakistan’s chest really going to solve the “criticality” issue?

Pakistan is already permitting drone attacks on its territory — attacks that kill as many or more civilians than militants. It has also allowed limited U.S. special operations within Pakistan. Eighty percent of U.S. war material passes through Pakistan. Put a fist in Pakistan’s chest, as we did in September when a cross-border operation killed three Pakistani soldiers, and you may see some of this support dry up.

I recently drove past the hulks of burned out oil tankers by the side of the Grand Trunk Road headed to the Khyber Pass, torched by militants when Pakistan temporarily halted the convoys in retaliation for our incursion.

One might ask General Keane: What is it you don’t understand about closing the Khyber Pass? What chance would you give either the short-term or long-term sustainability of our Afghan effort without Pakistani cooperation? One hundred dollars worth of gasoline passing through Pakistan costs one thousand to ship though Central Asia.

So let’s stop all this talk of cleaning out the sanctuaries ourselves if the Pakistanis won’t. The United States doesn’t need to get involved militarily in another Muslim country.

The U.S. is extremely unpopular as it is with the Pakistani public. Do we really think we could prevail in the mountains of the Northwest Frontier with the whole countryside up in arms against us? If you really want to destabilize a nuclear-armed Pakistan, that would be the best way to do it.

Pakistanis feel, with some justification, that they are being scapegoated. “I’m not saying we are entirely innocent,” a member of Pakistan’s intelligence service told me, but after nine years of failing in Afghanistan it is easy to “put all the blame on someone else.”

Or as Lt. Gen. Asif Malik, commander of the Pakistani Army 11th Corps responsible for the tribal territories, told me: Organizations such as the Haqqani group are not completely dependent on Pakistani territory. They, and the rest of the Taliban, can operate quite well in Afghanistan without sanctuaries — to which the deterioration of security in northern Afghanistan attests.

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