Time for a Radical Reset with Pakistan | Ted PoeJames Clad
For years and, we would say, for decades, the United States has acquiesced in a toxic relationship with Pakistan, putting up with this nominal ally whose military and security leaders play a lethal double game. Most dangerously, the “game,” if one can call it that, involves headlong nuclear-weapons production and exporting Islamist terrorism.
Successive U.S. administrations haven’t found a way out of this, playing instead the theater of “shared interests” with Islamabad, even when Pakistan’s links with insurgents imperil American lives in Afghanistan while feeding wider instability in central Asia.
None of this is news. Congressional testimony over the years plus expert analysis from in and out of government monotonously reinforce the point: Pakistan has become a quasi-adversary, receiving hundreds of billions through the years in direct and indirect U.S. support, a strange hostage-like arrangement in which we pay Islamabad to do what it should be doing anyway to protect its own domestic security and buttress Afghan stability.
Successive Pakistani military leaders have held their country’s civilian governments on a tight leash. The Pakistani military plays to its various constituencies in Washington very well—especially defense corporations, some residual voices in the intelligence community and parts of the foreign-policy establishment for whom “maintaining access” in Islamabad edges out realism.
Repeat: None of this is news. Each new generation of senior U.S. commanders thinks it can square the circle, relying on “personal” links with Pakistani army corps commanders. Then some new subcontinental crisis erupts, and the immediate need to influence Pakistan pushes aside longer-term goals. For years we looked the other way as Pakistan acquired nuclear-weapons capability, going through the kabuki dance of annual nonproliferation certification.
If none of this is news, what can be done? Colleagues from both parties, in both the House and the Senate, have tried to attach conditionality to successive aid packages for Pakistan. We have supported these moves, which invariably fail.
Conditionality goes back many years. In the weeks after 9/11, for example, the United States offered a grant of many hundreds of millions to Pakistan, on the basis that the money would go towards education reform. Our ally used it instead to write down some of its massive foreign debt. And few forget the wink-and-nudge annual certification that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons—which, of course, it was. - Read More