Saturday, June 08, 2019

Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan - The National Interest

The stability of Afghanistan—and the denial of its territory to terrorist groups—requires a good-faith Pakistani agreement to cease backing extremists, and after nearly two decades, this means, coercing Pakistan.

S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was in Washington, DC last week to brief Capitol Hill on his ongoing talks with the Taliban. The senators were unimpressed, and with reason. There any many flaws in Khalilzad’s plan: It revives the pre-9/11 formula of legitimizing Taliban rule in exchange for a Taliban pledge to close terror camps; it undercuts the legitimacy of the elected Afghan government; and it discounts the Taliban’s long history of insincere diplomacy and fleeting commitments. The biggest problem with Khalilzad’s approach, however, is it ignores a simple fact: There can be no peace in Afghanistan so long as Pakistan chooses to undercut Afghan stability and support extremism. The missing piece to the Khalilzad strategy, therefore, is how to bring Pakistan to heel.

Why Pakistan Supports Radicalism
Pakistan has been a problem for decades. While a Cold War ally, the distrust toward the United States among ordinary Pakistanis and the country’s elite is pronounced. Pakistani officials understand that the Truman administration only allied with Pakistan after India spurned the United States. Pakistani officials have also convinced themselves that Washington betrayed their country in both 1965 and 1971 when the United States did not come to Pakistan’s rescue during its wars with India. From Pakistan’s perspective, India was the aggressor and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) obliged the United States to enter the conflict. From the U.S. perspective, however, Pakistan initiated the fight, the United States was therefore not obliged and, regardless, U.S. forces were busy in Southeast Asia.

The 1971 secession of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) shook Pakistan to its core. After all, Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic state, but Bengali succession showed both how potent ethnic nationalism was, and how it posed an existential threat to the country. It was then that the Pakistani military broadly and the Inter-Services Intelligence specifically concluded that Pakistani security depended upon the spread of radical Islamism so that religion could trump ethnicity as the primary identity across the country.

This impacted Afghanistan for the simple reason that Pakistani authorities fear a strong, stable Afghanistan could become a magnet for Pakistan’s own Pashtun minority. After the Soviet invasion, Pakistan channeled aid exclusively to more religious rather than nationalist Afghan groups empowering the “Peshawar Seven” Mujahedin over a far broader array of anti-Soviet opposition. The United States had little choice but to go along since delivering aid to Afghanistan was even more dependent upon Pakistan than it is now (given that Iran was in the throes of revolution and Central Asian states were still under Soviet domination).

So what to do? Neither President Donald Trump nor, for that matter, the American electorate wants to stay in Afghanistan into perpetuity, at a cost of more than $30 billion per year. That, however, does not make negotiating a bad deal or a thinly veiled surrender wise. The United States is in Afghanistan for a reason—to prevent its territory from being used by Al Qaeda or like-minded groups to strike at the United States. To abandon Afghanistan to a force that cooperates fist-in-glove with Al Qaeda simply negates the sacrifice already made. Nor are Britain’s Irish Republican Army negotiations and Good Friday accords a useful analogy for the Afghanistan peace process for the simple fact that Northern Ireland never bordered a country like Pakistan.

If the Afghan peace process is to succeed, then the United States must bring the full weight of leverage to bear on Pakistan in order to win a cessation of Pakistani support for the Taliban. Despite decades of tension, and occasional sanctions mostly applied over the nuclear issue, the United States has many options in its diplomatic arsenal as yet unused in its quest to compel Pakistan to reduce support to the Taliban or to raise the cost of defiance. - Read More


Winning in Afghanistan Requires Taking the Fight to Pakistan | The ...


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