Pakistan Dilemma for Obama and Europe

Pakistan Dilemma for Obama and Europe
Op-Ed France 24
The idea that success in Afghanistan requires a new focus on Pakistan is misguided. Besides providing money and counterinsurgency training to the Pakistani army, international actors are powerless to influence the state.
Related Media and Tools

The security situation in Afghanistan, as a whole, continues to deteriorate. The Taliban now exercise almost complete control of the countryside in the south. The rural communities living in the south are left alone with no functional Afghan institutions or state to protect them from the increasingly violent confrontations between the Taliban insurgency, on the one hand, and the international coalition on the other.

The situation around Kabul is more complex, and there have been a few positive developments. The road to the south is more secure than it was a few months ago and the French had a tactical success in the Sarobi district in March 2009 - unfortunately an isolated win on the national grid.

Most worryingly, the Taliban are increasingly entrenched in the north of Afghanistan, once considered an insurgency-free area. Although they are still few in number, the Taliban operate efficiently in launching targeted attacks against Afghan security forces. The passivity of the international coalition forces in the north, particularly the German troops in face of this building insurgency is worrying, considering that it poses a major strategic threat to the overall success of international efforts in Afghanistan.

There are encouraging elements to be found in the Obama administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and the surrounding region. The strategy promises more resources, more money, better reinforcements, and the promotion of a civilian surge. The newly-created position of Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan will allow for an additional dimension of international engagement in the region and redefines what the goals of the war should be.

However, when considered as a whole, this supposedly ‘new’ strategy amounts to little more than recycled policy from the late Bush years; it is a waiting strategy without any credible long-term objectives. Unfortunately, those who have so far a clear, well coordinated, and coherent strategy are the Taliban.

The idea of refocusing attention towards Pakistan is misguided. The Pakistani government has no influence in the Swat valley region and faces the constant threat of destabilisation by armed groups. Besides sending money and training to the Pakistani army to fight counterinsurgency, international actors are powerless to influence the state. It is crucial to focus immediate attention on Afghanistan; Pakistan can be negotiated with once it has been secured, and not vice-versa.

There is a role for the EU and member states in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, but current policy approaches have failed to adequately analyse the situation and devise appropriate responses. Establishing the authority of the Afghan police will bolster the state against the threat of insurgency, provide a crucial sense of security to Afghan people, and it is an area where European states can actively help. Corruption and personal bias are rampant in the judicial system in Afghanistan and any efforts to foster dialogue and cooperation between international actors and the judiciary are to be welcomed.

Ultimately, the EU and member states should focus less upon troop numbers, quotas, and aid, and should instead investigate whether the caveats of those already working on the ground in Afghanistan could be improved to allow for more robust forms of engagement in counterterrorism and reconstruction efforts.

This piece originally appeared in  France 24.

End of document

About the South Asia Program

The Carnegie South Asia Program informs policy debates relating to the region’s security, economy, and political development. From the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan’s internal dynamics to U.S. engagement with India, the Program’s renowned team of experts offer in-depth analysis derived from their unique access to the people and places defining South Asia’s most critical challenges.


In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.