U.S.-Pakistan Relations: Thinking about the Long Term

It’s Time for a New Smart Power Approach

To chart the deterioration of ties between Washington and Islamabad over the last two years, as well as the conundrums gnawing at Obama administration officials, consider the following: Despite Pakistan’s official designation as a “major non-NATO ally,” its egregious double game in Afghanistan is increasingly fueling talk in U.S. policy circles (here, here, here and here) about the necessity of “containing” it and even launching unilateral military raidsinto its tribal areas.*

Dampening the impulse for a tougher line, however, is the fear that the Pakistani state is in ever-present danger of collapse and vulnerable to a jihadi takeover.  A raft of new books, with such titles as Pakistan on the Brink and The Unraveling: Pakistan in the Age of Jihad , underscore the widely held view that the country is coming apart at the seams.  According David Sanger’s new book, Confront and Conceal, President Obama worries about Pakistan’s disintegration and the resulting dispersion of its nuclear stockpile.  Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta reiterated this concern the other week. Continue reading

The Next Showdown in U.S.-Pakistan Relations

Fresh tests await the epically dysfunctional partnership

Last month’s agreement on NATO supply routes provided some hope that the two-year long free fall in U.S.-Pakistani relations was at an end.  But new serious tests await the epically dysfunctional partnership.

One sign of the tensions that remain is Islamabad’s mounting accusations that the U.S.-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan has turned a blind eye to Pakistani Taliban fighters who launch attacks into Pakistan from sanctuaries in Afghanistan.  One such attack last month resulted in the deaths of at least 13 Pakistani soldiers, seven of whom were decapitated.

Given Islamabad’s egregiously duplicitous actions in Afghanistan, the complaints must strike many U.S. officials as highly ironic and perhaps even tinged with poetic justice. Continue reading