Pakistan: Can America square the circle?

February 20, 2008

Scanning the U.S. media for reaction to the Pakistan election, two themes stand out.  One is a U.S. desire to reach out to the newly elected political leaders in Pakistan and bolster a return to civilian-led democracy. The other is the U.S. need to shore up the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban – even if it means pursuing them aggressively inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas.  One may turn out to contradict the other.

The New York Times says in an op-ed that the United States must invest in Pakistan’s people – its schools, courts and political parties — to build popular support for tackling al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Reuters Washington-based Asia Correspondent Paul Eckert quotes Barack Obama, among others, as saying a democratic Pakistan will make “a better ally in the fight against terror and extremism.”

Compare that to a piece in the Washington Post about a missile strike by a CIA-operated Predator drone that killed a senior al Qaeda commander inside Pakistan last month.  ”Having requested the Pakistani government’s official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval,” it says. Significantly, it adds that  this could be a model for future U.S. operations.

Attacks by Predator drones are already highly controversial in Pakistan. So how does the United States build ties with democratically elected allies in Pakistan if it is also launching missile strikes on Pakistani soil without asking permission from those same allies? It seems hard to believe that either the government or the army would welcome unilateral U.S. action. So how will Washington square the circle? 

  

5 comments

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Firstly sideline Musharaf and get the democratic government onboard. It has been US’s foolish perception of Musharaf, who has been foul playing the US with double standards. His so called army orchestrates these chaotic and disturbing situations that make the West realize their need. US should only work with the new government to cater their goal and not the army. It has worked with the same people in the past, so it shouldn’t not be difficult at all. The new elected government through dialogues will have a much better success rate when talking to tribal groups in convincing them to drop their support and harboring of extremists in the region. Using force is not always the best option although may be need for isolated situations. If that’s the case, military backing is needed to a poorly equipped and trained Pakistan army. I even favor targeted strikes inside Pakistan as long as the source of information is credible, Pakistan government is in the loop and US is willing to take responsibility for errors if any. For long-term, injecting money at the same time in development projects like schools, roads, clean water etc. will bring in positive results and a change in people’s ideology.

Posted by M Dawood | Report as abusive

The election of Obama as the next President of the USA is the best possible solution to the problems of both Pakistan as well as the USA.Not only has he said what you quote above in this article,we in Pakistan know that he previously also stated that should terrorists be identified within Pakistan territory and US troops needed to take action against them he would not hesitate to so order.
Here is a guy who is truthful and is playing no games.We in Pakistan can live joyfully with the like of him.No double speak and therefore no contradictions.
This is exactly what the late Shaheed Benazir Bhutto also agreed with.And now Zardari has clarified the matter further by stating that the war against terror is misconcieved as a war of the west;infact it is our own war because we are the biggest sufferers of it,s effects resulting from the ever increasing bomb blasts in our cities.A message general Musharaff could never sell to the people.Obama is indeed right.A, democratic Pakistan will make “a better ally in the fight against terror and extremism.”
As for the removal of Musharraf ,it become an issue only after the sacking of the judiciary. Now that the cat is out of the bag, there is no way the people will accept any government which supports Musharaffs continued stay as President-till the judiciary is restored.
Hopefully after that a way out of the current impasse would be possible.

Posted by Hassan Abbas | Report as abusive

[...] George W. Bush allowing them to target suspected Islamists there. A Pakistani who commented on  my last post on U.S. policy towards Pakistan was more sanguine. Writing about Obama’s threat to go after al Qaeda in Pakistan, he wrote: [...]

Pakistan never may develop till there is no democracy.
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John
Wide Circles

Posted by John Cena | Report as abusive

I am also agree that The election of Obama as the next President of the USA is the best possible solution to the problems of both Pakistan as well as the USA.

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asif

Wide Circles

Posted by asif | Report as abusive

Pakistan day by day going toward donfall due to the non voilence and non democracy.
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Mac
Wide Circles