Posted on 07-12-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

What a difference from the Musharraf years, when the former Pakistani dictator peddled his b.s. and nobody in Washington bothered to check him.  However, by the end even the Bush administration lost patience with him starting covert drone attacks and looking the other way when street protests forced him into exile.  After years of ignoring the problem the Obama administration is essentially throwing down the gauntlet.  One of the concerns with the Afghanistan surge was that the Taliban could execute a strategic retreat to its Pakistani hideouts.  Now Pakistan evidently faces the choice of dealing with insurgents in its territory of having American drones do the job.

Neither option is particularly palatable to Pakistan.  Reeling from a wave of terrorist attacks, a move against the Afghan Taliban could make the situation worse.  On the other hand, its bruised national pride will find it hard to bear expanded American strikes inside its territory.  Another concern is that the civilian government already weakened by a pending court challenge to its legitimacy may not survive.  However, the real power in Pakistan belongs to the Army-ISI nexus.  While presenting them with stark choices, the administration has tried hard not to alienate them.

President Obama’s Afghanistan speech did not spend too much attention on Pakistan.  However, Pakistan is the key to resolving the military portion of the Afghanistan problem.  The Taliban’s safe havens that have existed with relative impunity over the past decade and beyond have to go if the Afghan surge is to have any success.

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