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How to Deal with Pakistan

12:05 PM, Jun 10, 2011 • By JEFFREY DRESSLER
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Over the past decade, the U.S. has promised and delivered billions of dollars in aid, military hardware, and counterinsurgency trainers in order to secure Pakistan’s support for the U.S.-led effort to establish a secure and stable Afghanistan. This won Pakistan’s cooperation on a range of issues, including attempts to address their own militant issue (Pakistani Taliban) and willingness to let critical supplies for the ongoing war transit through their country. However, the Pakistani security establishment’s support for proxy groups only increased when the U.S.’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan appeared to be on the wane. What reversed the momentum of the insurgency was an aggressive counterinsurgency campaign in the south starting in the summer of 2009 that degraded the Quetta Shura Taliban’s forces. For the first time since the overthrow of the Taliban, Pakistan may now be beginning to doubt its strategy of employing proxies to secure its interests in Afghanistan.

Now Washington has momentum on its side. As soon as the security situation in southern Afghanistan allows, forces must be reallocated to the east for a full-scale offensive against Pakistan’s proxies there, the Haqqani Network and Hizb-I Islami. This is a determined insurgency, closely allied with and supportive of al-Qaeda’s global jihadist agenda. Accordingly, it is unlikely that President Obama can successfully achieve his objective of defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan without dismantling the groups upon which they operate in Afghanistan’s east. This is perhaps the only course of action Washington can pursue to change Islamabad’s calculus.

If Pakistan can no longer count on its proxies to achieve its objectives, it may be persuaded to abandon support for these groups, and instead play a more constructive role in Afghanistan’s political process. This would accelerate efforts to establish security in Afghanistan’s south and east and would signal a more productive relationship with the United States, one based on mutual interest and respect rather than the distrustful, transactional relationship that currently exists.

Jeffrey Dressler is a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, specializing in Afghanistan and Pakistan security issues.

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