Saturday, June 11, 2016

OPINION: Breaking the Pakistan-Taliban Alliance - ZALMAY KHALILZAD

In foreign policy, there are key moments—“golden hours”—when events create a finite window in which to achieve important things. Sometimes they are obvious, like in the aftermath of a successful military operation. More often golden hours are fleeting and apparent only in retrospect, when policy makers realize that they missed an opportunity.

Based on my discussions with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials in Kabul in recent days, I believe that the killing over the May 21 weekend of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a U.S. drone strike has created a golden hour in which to finally secure Pakistan’s cooperation in stopping support for the Haqqani network terrorists and for the extremist Taliban.

To have such a decisive effect on Pakistani policy, however, the U.S. and Afghanistan must follow up on Mansour’s death with additional steps that escalate pressure on Islamabad. Otherwise the opportunity will dissipate.

Opportunities have come and gone before. The last golden hour that could have secured a verifiable Pakistani break with the Taliban was after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. From the moment the U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban in 2001, through 2004, when Afghans voted in a landslide for the election of PresidentHamid Karzai, U.S. credibility was sky high.

Washington then squandered this opening. When initial indications emerged that Pakistan was offering sanctuary to the Taliban on its soil, Washington was reluctant to take decisive steps. As a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, I participated in countless circular debates on whether such sanctuaries even existed, whether they had been authorized by Pakistan’s then-president, Pervez Musharraf, and whether the issue was important enough to risk rocking the boat with Islamabad.

My view was that Pakistan was playing a perfidious and dangerous double game and needed to be called on it. But because of factors such as the (actual or supposed) important Pakistani contribution to the fight against al Qaeda, Pakistan’s role as transit route for supplies to our troops in Afghanistan, and its own (however halfhearted) campaign against Pakistani Islamist extremists—senior U.S. officials either ignored evidence of Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban or treated it as a cost worth tolerating. One result: Senior Taliban leaders were soon living openly in Pakistani cities like Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta. - Read More 


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