Rather than focusing on the configuration of Pakistan’s parliament, which tells us very little about that country’s security and political future, we should concentrate on the condition of the Pakistani military in its fight against Islamist insurgents — a fight that many Pakistani citizens believe Washington has outsourced to Musharraf. Thus, while U.S. policymakers must now seek opposition leaders that can bring some semblance of stability to the government, it must also do what it can to help Pakistan’s military in its fight against Islamic militants.
Maintaining open relations with the Pakistani Army is critically important to the security of South Asia. Pakistan’s proximity to NATO operations in Afghanistan, knowledge of the intricacies of Pashtun tribes and status as the only Islamic nuclear state all necessitate an avenue for human‐intelligence sharing and assistance in counterterrorism operations.
But since 2003, when the Pakistani Army began fighting insurgents by deploying more than one hundred thousand troops to the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, more than seven hundred Pakistani troops have been killed in clashes with militants. According to Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Steve Coll, desertions and mutinies are increasing, with a number of low and midlevel Pakistani soldiers openly sympathetic to al‐Qaeda and the Taliban. Furthermore, some officers now admit that morale has not been this low since the Indo‐Pakistan War of 1971, when Pakistan split in two and lost its province of East Bengal, which became Bangladesh.
According to Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Pakistani Army has not demonstrated the capability to effectively carry out counterinsurgency operations in the volatile North West Frontier Province or in the semiautonomous region of Waziristan. Cordesman also asserts that any prospect of future success “has yet to be validated.”