Pakistan and the Future of U.S. Policy

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A spreading Islamic insurgency engulfs theamorphous and ungoverned border betweenAfghanistan and Pakistan. After initial victories bythe United States and the Northern Alliance inautumn 2001, hundreds of Taliban and al Qaedafighters fled Afghanistan to seek refuge across theborder in Pakistan’s rugged northwest. Since2007, the number of ambushes, militant offensives,and targeted assassinations has risen sharplyacross Afghanistan, while suicide bombers andpro‐​Taliban insurgents sweep through settledareas of Pakistan at an alarming pace. For betterand for worse, Pakistan will remain the fulcrum ofU.S. policy in the region — its leaders continue toprovide vital counterterrorism cooperation andhave received close to $20 billion in assistancefrom the United States, yet elements associatedwith its national intelligence agency, Inter‐​ServicesIntelligence, covertly assist militant proxy groupsdestabilizing the region.

Instead of “surging” into this volatile region, theUnited States must focus on limiting cross‐​bordermovement along the Afghanistan‐​Pakistan frontierand supporting local Pakistani security forces witha small number of U.S. Special Forces personnel. Toimprove fighting capabilities and enhance cooperation,Washington and Islamabad must increase thenumber of Pakistani officers trained through theU.S. Department of Defense International MilitaryEducation and Training program. In addition, U.S.aid to Pakistan must be monitored more closely toensure Pakistan’s military does not divert U.S. assistanceto the purchase of weapons systems that canbe used against its chief rival, India. Most important,U.S. policymakers must stop embracing a single Pakistanileader or backing a single political party,as they unwisely did with Pervez Musharraf andthe late Benazir Bhutto.

America’s actions are not passively acceptedby the majority of Pakistan’s population, andofficials in Islamabad cannot afford to be perceivedas putting America’s interests above thoseof their own people. Because the long‐​term successof this nuclear‐​armed Muslim‐​majoritycountry depends on the public’s repudiation ofextremism, and our continued presence in Afghanistanis adding more fuel to violent religiousradicalism, our mission in the region, as well asour tactics, our objectives, and our interests,must all be reexamined.

Malou Innocent

Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute. She recently came back from a fact‐​finding trip to Pakistan.