Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
For those who missed, it’s worth looking closely at Barack Obama’s latest comments on Pakistan made in a speech this week in which he repeats a call for the United States to shift its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ”This is the area where the 9/11 attacks were planned. This is where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants still hide. This is where extremism poses its greatest threat.”
His plan is to rethink U.S. policy towards Pakistan – which has traditionally depended on cooperation with the military rather than civilian governments — to bolster the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people, condition aid to Pakistan on its action against al Qaeda, and show Pakistan that America is on its side.
But then comes the rub. If the United States has intelligence about al Qaeda targets hiding in Pakistan then America should act if Pakistan will not, or cannot do so, he says. So far that has meant sending in unmanned Predator aircraft to fire missiles at suspected Islamist hideouts, often leading to civilian casualties and outraging Pakistanis who feel their sovereignty has been violated.
So is there a contradiction in Obama’s commitment to Pakistan? Can the United States win over the people if it is also firing missiles at targets in its territory? Here is the whole excerpt:
With NATO saying it is nearing a deal to use Russian land and airspace to supply its security forces in Afghanistan, I’ve been trying to work out what this could mean for Pakistan.
In the Asia Times Online, former Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar quotes U.S. military spokesmen as saying that about three quarters of all supplies are currently sent to Afghanistan via Pakistan. ”On the face of it, Washington should jump at the Russian offer of support to the NATO mission in Afghanistan,” he writes. “Pakistan has proved to be an unreliable partner in the ‘war on terror’. The growing political uncertainties in Pakistan put question marks on the wisdom of the US continuing to depend so heavily on Pakistan for ferrying supplies for its troops in Afghanistan.”