Do What About Pakistan?
Spurred by Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Pervez Musharraf’s resignation, Robert Tracinski has an article at Real Clear Politics titled “What To Do About Pakistan?”. There are three components to Mr. Tracinski’s ideas:
- Win in Afghanistan
This is a distinctly “chicken and the egg” sort of proposition. I’m not entirely sure how one goes about winning in Afghanistan without a cooperative government in Islamabad leading the way on the Pakistani side of the border. Both presidential candidates seem to favor increasing our troop strength in Afghanistan, presumably using forces re-deployed from Iraq.
I’m not convinced a “surge”-type strategy is suited to the situation in Afghanistan. The conditions there are much, much different than those in Iraq. It’s larger and wilder and preponderantly rural.
There’s an extremely delicate line to be drawn in Afghanistan: too few troops and you accomplish nothing, too many and you make the same mistake the Soviets did.
- Fight a Covert War
In this part of Mr. Tracinski’s proposals he suggests recruiting Afghan proxies and arming them to take the war into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Pat Lang, who knows more than a little about that part of world, has noted that the Afghans are more than capable of taking all the aid and arms we’re willing to provide, doing little, and, indeed, working with the Taliban on the other side of the Pakistan border. Once we’ve bought our Afghan proxies how do we ensure that they stay bought?
- Play the India Card
Here’s how Mr. Tracinski describes “playing the India card”:
I have long advocated “playing the India card” by pursuing a commercial, cultural, and military alliance with India, as a strategic counterbalance to China–and to Pakistan, India’s bitter rival.
The commercial and cultural connection between the US and India is already strong and growing, and it forms the base for the diplomatic and military aspect of the alliance, which is just beginning to grow. The US has recently concluded a deal with India that will allow US support for India’s civilian nuclear energy program, in exchange for our acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons. We have also agreed to sell India a decommissioned and retrofitted American aircraft carrier, and we have started a program to train Indian fighter pilots.
Not coincidentally, India has also been courting the Karzai government in Kabul, seeking an alliance with Afghanistan. (This is why a recent terrorist bombing attack in Kabul targeted the Indian embassy.) The irony of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban is that it is driving the Afghan government into the arms of Pakistan’s arch-enemy.
So we can send a not-so-subtle message to the government of Pakistan: cooperate with us in suppressing the Taliban, rooting out al-Qaeda, and supporting the government of Afghanistan–or wake up in a year or two and find yourself encircled by an Indian-Afghan alliance backed by the United States.
I’d be interested in the reactions of those better-informed than I on India to this idea but my sense is that the Indians are only a little less wary of us than they are of the Pakistanis. Will they be willing to participate in this game?
My own view with respect to Pakistan is that thinking of it as a Westphalian state is deeply misleading and that as long as we are limited to thinking of it so while neither the Afghans nor the Pakistanis are laboring under any such handicap our efforts along the Durand Line are likely to be frustrated. Perhaps some more highly inforrmed ideas will emerge in the comments.