Pakistan: The Wavering Ally

Ryan Crocker was U.S. ambassador to both Pakistan & Iraq from 2004-2009, he most certainly knows the region and its ambitions regarding American presence.  His latest speech reveals the limited range of policy options that constrains Pakistan.  This is not good long term news for the American AfPak theatre of operations.  Pakistan does not have operational control over its own region, regional goals or its clandestine intelligence services.  This makes for a very wily ally.  Crocker reveals much needed realism as we begin to enlarge our mandate over an unworthy ally.

The United States did what every anti-war liberal loves:  WE LEFT  PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN AFTER OUR ENGAGEMENT WITH THE SOVIET’S IN THE 1980’s.  WE HAVE SIMILAR HISTORY IN INDOCHINA.  NEVERTHELESS, THE GEOPOLITICAL IMPACT OF LEAVING A REGION WAS A RADICALIZED TALIBAN.  Although I do not think historical analogies are rigid, the Taliban emerged from an Afghan civil conflict that Islamabad wished to have conformed to its own domestic interests, mainly the need for ‘strategic depth’ relative to the unrealized ambitions of India.  India has not interest in either Afghanistan or the Punjab region which is the Durand line, the line that separates India from Pakistan.  Although there are ethnic, tribal, religious and nationalist rivalries that dominate the Punjab region they are not informed from expansionist aims of New Delhi.  Chronic underdevelopment and extremism still dominate this region as they have since Churchill wrote “The Story of the Malakand Field Force”.  A story about this region and its rivalries.

How else to put it:  short term pressures risk undermining long term strategy.  Never in Pakistan’s six decades has it ever had long term strategic commitment from the United States.  Not to mention our history of leaving the region!

What does Pakistan fear?

Given its domestic disunity, its own rivalry with India, Pakistan maintains a posture of fear based on the need for continued survival.  Pakistan has always had difficult relations with Afghanistan as witnessed throughout the lives of Curzon, Churchill and many others who dominated Downing Street during the 19th century.  Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.  They are also the largest ethnic group in Pakistan.  The drawing of the Durand Line only help cement ethnic, tribal and religious sentiments.

What Congress and the American people must understand is the role Pakistan is going to play in this region, specifically its role in ‘the long war.’

We have to admit:  we’re midwifing and childrearing a Nation into Modernity.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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