Considering what may be the toughest foreign policy quandary of Barack Obama’s presidency, Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security reminds us of a famous credo:
“We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
George Bush said that on 11 September 2001. And whatever you think of the former president, not distinguishing between transnational terror groups and the individuals, groups and states that sponsor them makes a high degree of sense. What to do, then, about a country that, on the one hand, supplies much of the intelligence that allows the United States and its allies to target al-Qaeda but, on the other hand, most certainly also sponsors transnational terror groups to promote its own foreign policy? That’s our Pakistan problem in a nutshell, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that U.S. policy toward Pakistan is schizophrenic….
Maybe we should invade (or threaten to invade) Pakistan’s tribal areas, suggests former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad :
The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programs for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent…. [T]he Obama administration should be forcing Pakistan to make some choices — between supporting the United States or supporting extremists.
Wait! Bad idea, argues a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker:
[T]he U.S. should not carry out cross-border military actions, which I strongly resisted as ambassador. They are clearly counterproductive, and not just because we hit the wrong target. If NATO can carry out military actions in Pakistan from the west, Pakistanis wonder, what stops India from doing the same from the east? There are other options, including drone strikes, which the U.S. is now coordinating more closely with Pakistanis.
So it goes with Pakistan. I wish I had a pithy summary for this debate, but it defies simple solutions. For the moment, our policy seems to consist of heavy drone strikes, private pressure, and lots of giving the Pakistanis more of what they want.