Comments and Analysis from John Robertson on the Middle East, Central Asia, and U.S. Policy
Monday, September 26, 2011
Immovable Object (Pakistan) Deflects a Very Resistable Force (USA)
In Time mag, former CIA analyst Robert Baer on the dilemma of US-Pakistan relations and why the Pakistani military is not going to back down:
At the core of the problem stands a simple proposition: Pakistan doesn't trust us with Afghanistan — and from Islamabad's perspective, not without cause. We took a strategic decision to invade a country central to their national-security doctrine without seriously consulting them, preferring to think in terms of an Afghanistan of our dreams. Nor did we take into account their strategic interests and the proxies through which they have pursued them. The Soviet Union made the same mistake when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
Having failed to prevail a decade later, we now have two choices, neither of them particularly attractive to Washington. We can attempt to destroy the Haqqani base in North Waziristan by invading Pakistan. But to do that effectively would require more troops than we currently have in Afghanistan. Doing so would obviously destroy whatever relations we still have with Pakistan, with profoundly dangerous consequences in Afghanistan and far beyond.
Alternatively, we could hash out a settlement with Pakistan, which would inevitably mean accepting the Haqqanis and easing out Karzai in any political settlement to the conflict. Such a deal would also potentially bring in Afghanistan's other neighbor with real strategic interests in the country — Iran. Iran can be unpredictable, but it's by no means certain it would accept true Pakistani-American collusion in Afghanistan. In the mid-'90s, Iran was all but at war with the Taliban, and if Iran isn't consulted on a settlement, it could play the spoiler.
Accepting Pakistan's postconflict agenda and backing off on the Haqqanis at Karzai's expense is too bitter a pill for Washington to swallow in an election year, so we'll muddle through for another year. But when the U.S. finally leaves, don't be surprised to see the Haqqanis in Kabul.
And as for the Haqqani "network's" influence, and the Pakistani military's ties to them (and why they're not about to sever them, no matter how much Mike Mullen huffs and puffs, or Lindsey Graham rattles his ever-brandished saber), see this recent report in the NYT.