While today’s move by Pervez Musharraf to step down as Pakistan’s army chief may assuage some tensions in the embattled nation, the resurgence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban both in and around Pakistan continues to pose an enormous security threat and reflects the greatest reversal suffered by the United States since operations against them began in 2001. Many blame the Musharraf regime for not doing more to combat terrorism, despite receiving significant U.S. aid, but in a new report Carnegie Endowment Senior Associate Ashley J. Tellis contends that if the United States wants a stronger Pakistani commitment to the “War on Terror,” it must first recognize that Pakistan’s poor performance cannot be attributed simply to malfeasance by Pakistan’s military elite.
In Pakistan—Conflicted Ally in the War on Terror, Tellis argues that Pakistani counterterrorism efforts have been impeded by Islamabad’s military ineptitude, Pakistan’s political deterioration, a lack of public support for “Washington’s war,” and the ineffective Afghan government. He says that the majority of Pakistani military officials, despite fears over domestic repercussions and long-term U.S. interests in the region, support operations aimed at defeating terrorism.
Tellis presents a number of policy recommendations to strengthen counterterrorism efforts, including:
• Convince Pakistanis of their own self-interest to defeat terrorism,
• Demand the systematic targeting of the Taliban leadership within Pakistan,
• Assist Pakistan with technology and training to monitor critical border crossing points,
• Link counterterrorism support funds to specific tasks, rather than simply reimbursing Islamabad,
• Double U.S. aid to Afghanistan, and
• Challenge NATO to meet its security obligations and commit to combat operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Making U.S. aid conditional on Pakistan’s performance in the war on terror would only inflame Pakistani public opinion and embarrass moderate Pakistanis who cooperated with the United States, says Tellis, while recent suggestions by U.S. presidential hopefuls for unilateral military action could re-cast Pakistan an adversary.
“If unilateral military action were to become the announced policy of the United States, such a policy would likely conclude eventually in the designation of Pakistan as an adversary of the United States. Whatever Islamabad’s failings may be, the prospect of having to treat a large and precariously poised Muslim state, armed with nuclear weapons and with an unsavory record of proliferation, as a mortal adversary should give pause to even the most jaded politician.”
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About the Author
Ashley J. Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues.